Expectations ran high leading up to this event. We had been salivating, plotting and mapping out what we would do when the doors finally opened to Wine Spectator's Grand Tasting. And when it did open, I almost heard angelic music playing in the back of my head as my eyes woke to the heavenly rows of legendary wine producers offering a pour of their ethereal liquid.
As I walked pass the rows, I could not believe my eyes at the caliber of wines presented. Perhaps it was the humbling experience of pouring your wine next to such esteemed producers as Gaja, Chateau Lafite, and Harlan Estate that pressured every other winery to put their best foot forward. I was at once in awe and petrified.
I gleefully advanced from table to table much like the way children run from house to house during Halloween, as fast as I can so that I can accumulate as many treats as possible.
While I could spend an entire week detailing all of the great wines tasted, in consideration of my beloved busy readers, I'll provide a concise 'Best Of' summary. Before I start, I must note that these are the best wines 1) of the ones I tasted, there were several tables I was not able to cover, 2) this list represents my very humble opinion, and 3) the prices listed range from release to auction rate.
Best California Red
Schrader Cabernet Sauvignon "Old Sparky" 2006 ($100-$200)
Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyards
Elegant, voluptuous and extravagant, if I had to chose one wine as the 'Best of the Best', the Schrader "Old Sparky" would be it.
Best Pinot Noir
Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Cuvee Natalie Silver Belt Vineyard 2007 ($125-150)
Medium-bodied with well-integrated notes of black fruits: raspberry, cherry and blueberry. Nice finish.
All of the Chateauneufs showed well, especially the 2007 vintage, it was very difficult to single out any but these two were of particular note.
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 2007 ($60-$85)
Bold, and elegant showing layers of cherry, kirsch, black raspberry, and lavender. Beautiful length.
Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 ($70-$248)
Elegant and powerful
Bordeaux is one category that I have little conviction in critiquing. For one reason, the astronomical prices have made first growth Bordeauxs cost prohibitive, hence my limited experience with this region. Second, it's difficult for a novice to appreciate the potential of these wines, which sometimes need as much as 20 years before reaching a drinkable state; several of the Bordeauxs poured were as young as 4 years of age. Third, most all of the first growth Bordeauxs at the tasting event ran out of wine, so I'm going to rely on the option of a trustworthy fellow attendee.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac 2003 ($400 - $1975)
A fellow trustworthy attendee mentioned multiple times Chateau Lafite Rothschild was the best wine out of all the presenters. No tasting notes, since I did not taste.
Chateau Latour Pauillac 1995 ($395 - $1350)
Of the Bordeauxs, I was only able to taste Chateau Latour, which was quite good, but is not going to persuade me to open my wallet for that price tag.
Gaja Langhe Sperss 2004 ($233-400)
This is my favorite producer of Italian wines. It is such quality wines as this one that inspired my collection of Barolos years ago. This is a beautiful and elegant wine with well-integrated tannins, concentrated fruit and long finish.
Best Italian (ex Barolo)
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 2004 ($280-$775)
Stunning, bold, elegant showing many layers of fruit, beautiful concentration and length.
Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Unico Gran Reserva 1999 ($251-$450)
Complex, earthy, dense, and smoky.
Two Hands Ares Barossa Valley - McLaren Vale 2006 ($156-$200)
Extravagant fruit, plush texture, rich with complex layers of oak, fruit and herbs. Nice long finish.
Torbreck RunRig Barossa Valley 2005 ($157-$225)
Full-bodied, opulent, dense with several layers of blackberry and blueberry notes.
Best Dessert Wine
Chateau Climens Barsac 2005 ($60-$194)
This is a magical dessert wine with a strong floral nose, seamless notes of honey, fresh stone fruits, orange blossoms and a hint of tropical fruits.
Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 1998 ($181-$466)
While I did not have a chance to taste this wine, I'm listing it because of its reputation for consistently producing great wines.
Best New Comer
Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 ($75)
I'm looking forward to seeing upcoming wines produced by Kathryn Hall, the new releases indicate a bright future for this winery.
Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 ($52)
I had somewhat of high expectations for Kosta Browne. For a winery that consistently scored in the mid-90's by WS, and has appeared on WS's Top 100 list mulitple times for the 2005 wintage, I was sorely disappointed. As it happens, Robert Parker rated similar 2005 vintage wines for Gary's and Rosella's vineyard in the mid-80's. I haven't tasted the 2005 vintage, but based on the 2007, I'll side with Robert Parker's assessment. At the very least, I'm going to extrapolate that the wines are inconsistent. I've been on Kosta Browne's wait-list running three years now for the opportunity to purchase their wines, and I'm happily relinquishing my spot.
At the end of the evening when the clock struck ten, it was evident that the people who had a taste of these ethereal juices were not ready to leave. Suddenly the floor of men adorned in fine business suits and ladies in cocktail dresses resembled something similar to a messy crowd of college students at the local dive bar. Over the speakers, the floor was given a ten minute warning, followed by a five minute warning, and then an abrupt and official announcement "Okay, ladies and gentlemen," the speaker said this very loosely, "we're closed." And the crowd still in its merry state continued drinking, rushing to squeeze in a few more sips, begging for a few more pours; to which the host deployed a large wait staff to seize wine glasses and escort people out. It was quite a humorous scene.
Now that I've shared my wine tasting experience with y'all, I'd love to know about your most memorable or top wine(s).