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Touring the Grand Tour

Posted: Apr 30, 2007 1:20pm ET

A cute, petite blonde was staring at me at the Grand Tour in Atlantic City. She obviously wanted to say something to me but felt embarrassed, so I walked over and said hello.

“Hi,” I said to her. “You having fun tonight?”

“How do you figure out what to taste here?” she asked with a pretty smile. “There is just so much wine to taste ... my husband and I were trying to figure it out.”


Anyway, I told her that I always start with the first-growths, and then go through areas that I am interested in, but don’t get to taste much, which in Atlantic City were Malbecs from Argentina.

The first-growths were a good bunch this year. I thought the best for tasting—even drinking—was the 2001 Latour followed by the 2001 Mouton. They showed wonderful perfumes of crushed fruit, minerals and flowers. Mouton had a hint of chocolate as always and it was a little bit more ready to drink. They were classy wines.

The Malbecs were eye-openers. I love the way they are so rich and juicy, with loads of character, verging on jam, but then they have such fresh and silky finishes. Malbec, as my colleague James Molesworth has written, is setting the tone and reputation for Argentina. Nowhere else in the world is making Malbecs as exciting as those in Mendoza.

I tasted about a half-dozen or so Malbecs, or blends thereof, from Achával-Ferrer, Altos Las Hormigas, Bodega Catena Zapata, Cheval des Andes, Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier and Terrazas de los Andes. All were outstanding, but I have to say that I love the opulence, almost flamboyance of the Catena Alta Malbec 2003. Que bueno! Rico! It shows loads of crushed berries that turn to fresh flowers on the nose, and follows through to a full, soft and caressing palate. Love it. 93 points, non-blind. It’s a young wine that gives lots of pleasure now, but I am sure it will improve with age for another 10 years, minimum.

I wish I had had more time to taste, but I was busy talking. That’s what’s fun about the event. If the owner or winemaker is there, you can taste and learn about what you taste, straight from the mouth of the horse, if you will. For example, Frédéric Engerer, president of Château Latour, was pouring his 2001 in Atlantic City. He was mobbed at the event—the rock star of it all.

Also, the Italian selection was superstrong. I couldn’t believe that Aldo Conterno was pouring his Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2000. That is so rare and so excellent. It was rich and powerful yet sleek and racy, as it should be.

I hope I can catch a few of the things that I missed in Atlantic City next weekend in Las Vegas.

After the tasting, I had dinner with some friends at Specchio, the high-end Italian restaurant at Borgata. We drank a bottle of 1999 Masseto, the bombshell pure Merlot from Ornellaia. What a wine. It was exactly as I remembered it—rich and subtle, with mineral, berry and spice character. It was still very structured and powerful. Needs time. But what concentration and class. I would give it one more point than what’s published in our database. We were all so sorry to see the end of the bottle ...

James Scoptur
WI —  April 30, 2007 3:21pm ET
This is off topic, but i have a bottle of Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2000 sitting around and was wondering how long it could age for and when would be a good time to pop the cork? Also, any food pairing suggestions? I read somewhere it is best as an after dinner drink. Thanks for the help.
Kevin Krawchuk
Vancouver B.C —  April 30, 2007 3:39pm ET
Hey James,When you taste that Oh so very special wine, do you enjoy the sample or use the bucket? If I had your job, I would require a wheel chair by the end of the night! ;)Cheers,KK
Timothy J Giordano
NJ —  April 30, 2007 8:43pm ET
This was our first wine tasting event and we had an amazing time. We weren't sure what to expect and were greatly surprised. The wine was superb, the audience of tasters was fun and unpretentious, and the food was unexpectedly good. The only problem was holding a glass of wine, a notebook, a plate of food, and silverware with no place to sit except the floor. The cost of the ticket was well worth it. We tasted many wines - the 2004 Haut Brion, the 2001 Latour, the 2001 Mouton, the 1999 Lafite, the 2003 Les Forts de Latour, the 2002 Cos (at which I saw James), etc. We thoroughly enjoyed the Mouton, both Latours and the 2001 Allegrini Amarone. However, one's taste buds can only handle so many wines. I would thoroughly recommend the event for anyone from the neophyte to the connoisseur.
James Suckling
 —  April 30, 2007 10:12pm ET
Tim: What was your favorite wine of the night?
Frank L Hugus
Danville, California —  April 30, 2007 11:16pm ET
Now wait a minute. The '99 Masseto, in a restaurant, had to cost what,....$500-$700 a bottle? Did you order off the wine menu or did you bring it in from the show floor and pay $30 corkage?
Roberto Cassis
Guayaquil - Ecuador —  April 30, 2007 11:55pm ET
Hello James!I agree with you about argentinian malbecs, there are fabulous,one of my favorites is Altos Las Hormigas Reserve 2002, 2004 and 2005.Which one you taste at the Grand Tour and what do you think about Terrazas de Los Andes Afincado 2004?
Daniel Grotto
May 1, 2007 4:19pm ET
Hi James, this was my fourth WS tasting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The highlights for me were the '99 Lafite, the '00 Conterno Granbussia, and the '03 Chapoutier Hermitage. The Hermitage really stood out -- incredible tropical flavors, balanced by surprising acidity and a mineral tang. My only complaint is three hours isn't nearly enough time to taste everything I wanted to taste!! I wish WS would make available a list of the specific bottlings and vintages being featured, even if its just a few days before the event. It would make planning a whole lot easier!
Timothy J Giordano
NJ —  May 1, 2007 4:29pm ET
James: Our favorite was the 2001 Mouton, which was much smoother and less tight than the Latour with lots of fruit coming through. I actually liked the Les Forts de Latour better than the premier cru. We went back and tasted the Les Forts a second time, with a plate of desserts in hand for the sweet young lady pouring the wine. She was very appreciative of us speaking to her in French. Our tastes lean more towards Pauillac and Margaux than the other appellations. We did try the 99 Margaux and 98 Palmer; however, the 2000 Giscours was much better than either of them. It was really a great time.
Julio Lasmartres
Mendoza —  May 1, 2007 5:27pm ET
James: Thanks for stopping by the Argentine section at the great show the magazine set up in AC. I am glad you enjoyed all the wines and wrote about them in this blog. As a country (Argentina) we are still in the process to build awareness for high quality wine and opinions like yours help to achieve this. Bruce Sanderson¿s article about Buenos Aires (latest edition) was also very descriptive and informative if you are planning a trip down there.Roberto: the Afincado Malbec 2003 was the one poured in the show. The 2004 will be released in a couple of months in the U.S.
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  May 2, 2007 5:00pm ET
Well James, I've got two of the 2003 Catena Alta Malbecs on Molesworth's recommendation. Now I can't wait to try one and cellar the other for a few more years!!! Whoohooo!
Steven Eisenstein
Far Hills, NJ —  May 2, 2007 5:24pm ET
I have attended every one of these events held on the East Coast and I have a plan of action it took me a lot of errors to develop. Always head straight to the buffet or you will end up spending an hour in line for it. Do the champagnes right after the buffet and a couple of whites, then the first growths and wines of interest. End with the ports. My notes tell me I got up to 50 wines this time, down from 76 in New York last year but there were some real winners with my favorites in each category being....champagne-Bollinger......red-Latour and dessert-Disznoko. Hmmm, maybe I'll head to Vegas for the Venetian event Saturday.

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