These are strange, frustrating, and unpredictable times. Faced with the restrictions of a pandemic, it would have been impossible to assemble our usual tasting group in one home and not violate social distancing rules, so we were tempted by the obvious choice of cancellation.
But we were also steered by the desire to connect with friends, especially in this time of isolation, even though it would be through a screen and separation of vast distances. We've also been doing this for so many years and wanted to mark the time, with Kristin noting that "this feels like we need a little pin in this timeline."
Since being able to taste the same bottles would have cost each of us a minor fortune, we decided on a loose format guided by memories of happier times and comfort. Tasters brought wines that come with a story, or go-to favorites that are associated with familiarity.
It was also an opportunity to connect with Gilles and Joyce, two guest tasters who now live in California, and therefore aren't part of our regular lineup anymore.
Wines are listed below are in order in which they were presented.
A.R. Lenoble Champagne Brut Rosé Terroirs Non-Vintage. David brought this one because this category of wine is the one he would choose if given the (outrageous) decision of having to take only one wine on a life raft fleeing a sinking ship. It's also the type of wine he uses to mark financial milestones (both good and bad). Restrained in style, almost lean and chalky, but tasting like a bouquet of fresh red roses and citrus. About $55.
Catena Malbec High Mountain Vines 2012 (Mendoza). Joyce's selection for the night, since this is one we have all had together, a familiar classic, but also because it was her go-to selection at a dinner after a polo match, where she was in charge of picking the wine. Always a sold choice, and an excellent value. About $22.
Lincourt Pinot Noir Rancho Santa Rosa 2015 (Sta. Rita Hills). Andy's pick. He shared a slideshow of a 2010 California trip to visit Gilles, and photos of their trip to the Lincourt winery, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica. This also brought back memories for Andy of the movie Sideways. Andy noted that the flavors were correct for a Pinot Noir, but also found little bit of rubber tire. Relatively light. About $25.
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1999 (Napa Valley). Selected by Gilles for the memories it brought back of Thursday evening wine tastings at The Wine Cellar in Boston (with Ali & Andy), but also at other gatherings with the rest of us. Gilles bought a case of this at half price during Mondavi's brush with bankruptcy. The wine was holding up well, with notions of chocolate and perfectly ripe strawberries. Thick texture. About $125.
Le Colombier Vacqueyras Tradition 2017. Ali's choice because it reminded her of a trip to France as a 26-year-old, where the world of wine opened up to her, as well as a more recent trip to Provence with Andy. Ali said it was "just okay", and tasted new, with notions of black pepper, blackberries, cassis, and some plastic notes. Worked well with the Comté cheese. About $18.
Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2018 (Priorat). Reminded Kristin of a 2012 trip to Barcelona, where at a restaurant she and David kept ordering a lot of tapas, and a waiter remarked "this looks like such a happy table" at the bounty before us. Smelled very fresh and vibrant, but with plenty of dark cherry, coffee, and licorice notes. About $22.