The theme for this month's wine tasting was the "tasting of the 95s". No, not the vintage 1995, but the score 95 . . . that is, each bottle we tasted had received a 95 rating from either the Wine Spectator magazine, or the Wine Advocate, the publication headed by Robert Parker.
All wines, save for the Port, were tasted blind. Six different countries were represented, as well as at least six different grape types. Wines ranged from three years old, to over 12 years old.
While most of these wines were very good, tasters felt that perhaps only two or three were worthy of the high praise of 95 points. The Italian Merlot was particularly disappointing, followed by the rather mediocre showing of the Port. Most enjoyed were the Chateau Pavie for its extraordinary balance, and the Shiraz from Two Hands, having amazing richness.
The minerality of the Chardonnay had most tasters guessing it was from France, and nearly everyone thought the Barolo was a Pinot Noir.
Ramey Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard 2005 (Carneros – Napa Valley). Complex aromatics, featuring butter, pineapple, bananas, vanilla, popcorn, minerals, and vinyl. Great acidity to support a complex palate, with an intriguing texture. David noted "cold steel", while Kristin found "limestone on a mountain". Creamy, rich finish, where the oak shows up a little. About $55.
Falesco Montiano 1997 (Lazio). Cloudy, almost dirty appearance. Notes of rubber, pine mulch, soap, ashes, strawberries, cinnamon, molasses, and prune on the nose. Andy found "wood studs that I've been cutting through", along with "museum". Tart attack, with flavors of sour cherry and vegetables. Ali felt that it was like "the color brown" and "used dishwater", while Andy fount "salt water". David described it as "faded and brown". Tasters generally felt that this might be past its prime. Made from 100% Merlot. About $85.
Anderson's Conn Valley Right Bank 2005 (Napa Valley). A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, this showed red fruits on the nose, with chlorine, butter, strawberries, and a dusty/rustic quality. Lots of alcohol to go with the flavors of plums, black cherry, dark chocolate, and crab apples. Gilles decided that it "tastes like lipstick", and that there is "something metallic about it". Andy noted that it was like "sticking my tongue on a nine volt battery". Caramel on the finish. About $50.
Chateau Pavie 1998 (St Emilion). Unfiltered. Aromas of dark fruit, licorice, caramel, port, and leather. David felt that it "smells like midnight". Mouthcoating and intense, with refined tannins. Robust, with dark fruit, smoke, and a long layered finish. Gilles felt that it was "a conversation stopper", and Kristin said, "I want to hug it". Joyce described it as "rich and tapestry-like", and that "it keeps talking to you". David felt that it was "a thinking person's wine". About $200.
Pio Cesare Barolo 1997. Orange/rusty color. Showing spearmint, eucalyptus, mushroom, herbs, pine trees, moss, star anise, and leather on the nose. Kristin described aromas of "cast iron skillet". Creamy palate, with caramel, roses, and pepper flavors. Lots of personality, lively, and interesting. Andy felt it was "regal", but Gilles thought it was "forgettable". About $75.
Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden 2003 (McLaren Vale). Unfiltered, and looking very thick and dark. Aromatics included blackberries, butterscotch, chalk, crème brulee, vanilla, violets, allspice, and dark soil. Joyce found "serious fruit", while David noted "wet forest floor". Kristin noted "autumn leaves". Gilles said, "I would wear this as a perfume". Syrupy, massively rich palate showed chocolate, vanilla, and crushed fresh berry flavors. Kristin found "coffee ice cream". Ali snuggled it, and said, "I want to bathe in it". Slightly hot. Surprisingly good with food, especially full-flavored and rich foods. Andy correctly identified this as an Aussie Shiraz. About $65.
Quinta do Vesuvio Porto 1995. Flowers, playdough, cardboard, jam, cloves, vanilla, and caramel on the nose. Tasters found Robitussin, celery, and cherry flavors. Smooth, soft texture. David was disappointed by the "overwhelming cough syrup flavor". About $60.