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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

Bordeaux and Steak at a New York Icon

Château Cantemerle Haut-Médoc 2005

Thomas Matthews
Posted: July 20, 2012

Wine Spectator has been working on a big story devoted to beef (coming in our Sept. 30 issue), so to get in the mood I decided to have lunch at Sparks Steak House, an icon in Midtown Manhattan.

Sparks was established in 1966 by brothers Pat and Mike Cetta; they were wine lovers, and in 1981 Sparks was one of our inaugural class of Grand Award winners for its deep list of classic reds. Pat, a large man with a gruff manner and a heart of gold, died in 2000. The wine program lost its heart, and then the award. But as I discovered, after a long absence, the restaurant maintains its character, and its quality, and the list still offers plenty to drink.

My friend and I ordered the classic steak house meal: prime strip steaks, thick and juicy, with creamed spinach and hearty hash browns. The strengths of the list remain Bordeaux and California Cabernet, and I ordered a 2005 Cantemerle, always an over-achiever in the Haut-Médoc appellation.

The wine was delicious, just in the phase of evolution that I prefer. It still had a core of sweet cherry fruit, but the tannins were softening and maturing notes of tobacco and mineral added depth to the flavor. I rated it 93 points, non-blind. It was a great match with the sweet and gamy meat. We had no trouble finishing the bottle. The fact that it was offered for $80 (compared with a release price, back in 2007, of $33), made it go down even easier.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Château Cantemerle Haut-Médoc 2005 (90 points, $33).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated red Bordeaux.

Josh Moser
Sunnyvale, CA —  July 20, 2012 12:06pm ET
Thomas – I had a business dinner at Sparks back in 2006 or 2007 and we had the 1998 Cantemerle, along with the 2001 Pio Cesare Barolo and 2001 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages. All the wines were fantastic. I think I paid around $80 for the Cantemerle, and just over $100 a bottle for the other two. I love Sparks, and will have to make it a point to duck in for a steak the next time I am back in the concrete jungle.

Josh Moser
Founder of VinoServant

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