Our fine wine dinner group met at the Finch & Fork restaurant located in the Canary Hotel, a Plimpton property in downtown Santa Barbara. The wait staff included a personal friend to most of us and he insured we were properly served.
Our wine theme was champagne, white Burgundy and reds from the Southern Hemisphere. As it turned out, the latter all came from Australia with the exception of 1 dessert wine.
Thirteen of us shared appetizers before ordering our own entrees. The wines included:
1st Flight of 4 champagnes:
NV LAURENT-PERRIER CUVEE ROSE- this consistently fine bubbly is such a treat giving wonderful floral and fresh red fruit notes in the nose as well as in the taste which is easily identified as strawberry, raspberry and red cherry with a dollop of spice and hint of toast; it`s elegant, charming and satisfying in every way.
2004 BOLLINGER GRANDE ANNEE BRUT- from one of my favorite houses, this falls into the tradition of fine champagne in the classic style Bollinger has offered for decades; this bottle shined brightly with fine acidity, a great taste profile of toasted brioche laced citrus with lemon and lime most prevalent; it`s full bodied, has great mouthfeel and provides a bounty of sensory pleasure.
NV JEROME PREVOST la CLOSERIE les BEGUINES EXTRA BRUT- sometimes this is labeled NON-DOSE and it comes from 100% Pinot Meunier which is what I immediately detected in the aromatics and taste profile; although this variety is usually used in small percentages for added acidity, body and richness, there is a fruit character that has more stone and orchard fruit and in this case, peach and pear along with a spike of honeysuckle; overall this bubbly was pleasant and satisfying, rich and full bodied.
2007 CHAMPAGNE COLIN CUVEE GRAND CRU BRUT- pretty serious in all dimensions here; the color is a darker yellow, the nose is full throttled citrus with definitive acidity, both verified when tasting; honeyed lemon dominates this full bodied, long finishing treat.
2nd flight of 5 white Burgs/ 1 Chardonnay:
2014 HENRI BOILOT CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE GRAND CRU- such a grand treat, this just reeked of being from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey and in a blind tasting, that is what I would have gone with; it hit all of the sensory pleasures with even a colorful pale yellow hued color; it had a perfume with loads of minerals, spiced, honeyed floral and orchard fruit, with spicy citrus and especially lime and ginger infused peach taking over upon tasting; it had a pronounced creamy texture and lasted forever on the palate; beautifully balanced, this was as good as it gets INMO and my #1 WOTN so far out dueling the Bollie.
2008 BILLAUD-SIMON les CLOS CHABLIS- pretty typically a Chablis with hints of flinty/ steely aromatics, followed by minerals, apple and pear, all continuing on to the back end and in balance.
2014 DOMAINE ANNE GROS CUVEE MARINE HAUTES-COTES de NUITS BLANC BOURGOGNE- dominated by floral, citrus and tropical notes, this mineral inundated delightful wine had bright acidity and a stature of elegance.
2007 HOSPICE du BEAUNE JEAN-MARC ROULOT CUVEE BAUDET MEURSAULT GENEVIERRES 1ER CRU- this was really good starting with the nose which contained some spicy toasty citrus with lime and then lemon coming in; the acidity is bright and embracing, the fruit taste comprises toasty honeyed citrus and baked apples; it had such a good texture and held on for a long finish; great bottle.
2010 HENRI BOILLOT CLOS de la MOUCHERES PULIGNY-MONTRACHET 1ER CRU- youthful pale yellow color, flint and minerals in the nose, herbal, grassy lemon notes in the taste, bright, racy acidity, decent mouthfeel and a complete finish completed the deal.
2013 KONGSGAARD NAPA CHARDONNAY- I`ve had a few of this over the years of past vintages and this is the first for the 13`; unlike some of the previous experiences, I found this to be nicely balanced and quite appealing; as before, it`s a serious, concentrated, full bodied Chard; this had a huge nose and taste to match including toasty clove laced apple, pear and passion fruit; it is rich, lush and creamy and has layers upon layers of unfolding treats developing in the glass over a brief time; loved it.
Third flight of 6 Aussie Shiraz:
1998 DUTCHAKE ST. JAKOBI BAROSSA VALLEY SHIRAZ- unfortunately, this bottle was inundated with Volatile Acidity and on a night with a plethora of wines to drink, I moved on.
1998 d`ARENBERG THE DEAD ARM McLAREN VALE SHIRAZ- more of the same as this also was a full on hit of VA.
1996 TREVOR JONES WILD WITCH RESERVE DRY GROWN BAROSSA VALLEY SHIRAZ- I got some eucalyptus and mint chocolate on the nose followed by flavorful red and black fruit with a hint of leather and cola in the taste; it was velvety smooth, nicely balanced and long on the finish; very good wine.
1998 FOX CREEK RESERVE McLAREN VALE SHIRAZ- this was magnificent; it nailed it in all aspects including the vibrant purple red color; it had a youthful, energetic, strongly inviting nose with integrated oakiness which is true for the taste profile as well; the black fruit had some crème de cocoa and mint chocolate and about mid palate, some black raspberry, cherry and blackberry came on board; this is big and powerful yet has some finesse to calm it down and into a delightful experience; surprisingly, it`s well balanced although there is enough oak and fruit to suggest otherwise; the tannins are nicely integrated as well offering structure for a long haul; my WOTN if not the 14` Boillot.
2002 MAGPIE ESTATE THE ELECTION BAROSSA VALLEY SHIRAZ- this big boy had a lot going for it; there`s apparent oaky notes, but not to a fault as it`s mostly integrated into the blackberry, black currant and plum fruit along with some mint dark chocolate and licorice; it full bodied and in time should mellow out and offer more elegance than masculinity.
2001 KAY BROTHERS AMERY VINEYARDS HILLSIDE McLAREN VALE SHIRAZ- here`s another big and bad Shiraz that has a lot of vibrancy, structure, depth and complexity and as with the others, it polarizes one to either really like it or really dislike it depending upon one`s preferences; on this night, I`m OK with these intense wines, but this is a rarity for me leaning more toward the finesse and elegant medium bodied wines; it`s really fruity with all black fruit flavors covered including figs; there`s some spice and licorice as well that compliments all; it stays on the palate forever and took a few bites of food and a glass of water to move on with a somewhat “clean” palate.
Fourth Flight of 3 more wines including 1 Shiraz, 1 Shiraz/ Cab, and a late arriving Chardonnay:
1995 CLARENDON HILLS “ASTRALIS” McLAREN VALE SHIRAZ- decanted 1½ hours prior to serving, this treat gave up generous amounts of spicy, bacon flavored blackberry and plum; it was quite concentrated and yet the texture was very satisfying, silky smooth; this has depth with concentrated layers and firm tannins to support its maturation which is forthcoming.
2004 GODOLPHIN UNFILTERED SHIRAZ/ CABERNET SAUVIGNON BAROSSA VALLEY- a blend of 84% 110 to 115 year old Shiraz vines with 60 to 90 year old Cabernet vines; made by Ben Glaetzer as stated on the label, this young stud seemed a bit on the shut down side with somewhat muted aromatics and limited taste offerings; what I did pick up some wood soaked, chocolate covered black currant and stiff tannins especially coming in about mid palate; it needs some time and proper timing; from what I`ve heard about this producer, it should be showing well down the line; it did have a styling front label FWIW.
2012 LEEUWIN ESTATE ART SERIES MARGARET RIVER CHARDONNAY- although I have not had this vintage, I`ve long been a fan of this wine and this bottle fell into the grouping of all of the stellar ones before it; I loved the acidity which was bright and cheery; the spicy pear, apple, lemon and kiwi fruit is so appealing on the front end of the palate as well as steadfast to the back end; all is integrated and beautifully balanced; this consistently wonderful wine is made in 100% new oak yet I do find it to be oaky.
Fifth flight of 2 dessert wines:
NV TREVOR JONES TAWNY BAROSSA VALLEY SHIRAZ- 375 ml.; very intense, concentrated sherry notes with almost an Amarone like raisiny character served up in a syrupy texture which glides all of the juice over the palate and makes for a lengthy finish; A 750 ml. bottle would be a life time supply.
NV KLEIN CONSTANTIA ESTATE VIN de CONSTANCE SOUTH AFRICA- 500ml.; made from Muscat and from a historic producer known for fine dessert wines; the aromatics give off a good hit of sweet red cherry notes, but the taste profile is more of burnt caramel and apricot delivered in a smooth, thick, viscous texture; it`s definitely a sweetie and dessert in a glass on its own.
We had another stellar evening and the usual odds of having many more wines than people, in this case 20 vs. 13. Our group is so dedicated to sharing the passion which is a good formula for success and why this group has been going for about 15+ years on an every other week basis. Life is good.