I joined a small wine-tasting group for dinner at Solera recently. This Spanish restaurant in midtown Manhattan has long been a favorite, so I was looking forward to the meal, especially since the theme of the tasting was red wines from the 1999 vintage.
Angel de la Fuente is the group’s leader; an investment banker from Madrid, now living in New York, he founded the Solera Blind Tasting Fraternity two years ago. This time the guests included Pablo Alvarez, who runs Spain’s iconic Vega Sicilia winery, and Jean-Louis Carbonnier, who represents Bordeaux’s Château Palmer, along with Solera owner Rufino Lopez and group regular Torey Riso.
The meal was delicious. I particularly enjoyed zucchini blossoms stuffed with morcilla (a delicate, flavorful blood sausage), then lightly fried. There was jamon, of course, and the main course was a deeply flavored roasted baby goat, an excellent match for the maturing red wines.
The seven wines were tasted blind along with the meal. When Angel had tallied our preferences, the bags came off. Jean-Louis’ favorite was the 1999 Palmer, youthful, focused and still very structured. Pablo picked his 1999 Valbuena 5 Reserva, ripe yet elegant, with sweet fruit and spices. My first choice—and the overall favorite of the group—was the 1999 Don Melchor, the top Cabernet bottling from Chilean leader Concha y Toro. It was rich and bold, with plenty of fruit to balance cedar and tar notes, and still has plenty of life. I rated it 95 points in this unorthodox blind setting. It testified that Chile has earned its standing in the world of wine.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Puento Alto Don Melchor 1999" (92 points, $47).