Monday, September 15, 2008

Dinner Party

Saturday night was dinner party night. We all enjoyed the friendly company, great food and excellent wines. To start, we opened a few favorites and moved on to a nice selection of Cabernet Sauvignon from California and South Africa.

It was great getting together with everyone as most of us had not seen each other in a few weeks or months because of the busy summer schedules, baby's arriving and mayhem at work.

Here are the wines and my scores:

NV Perrier Jouet Champagne, France $25-35 Score: 91
NV Raventos i Blanc - Brut Cava Reserva, Spain $12-16 Score:88
2007 Argiolas Costamolino, Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy $9-14 Score:91
2006 Los Vascos Chardonnay, Chile $10-14 Score:85
2005 Rocket Science Red Blend, Napa Valley $35 Score: 90
2005 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon, Franschoek Valley, South Africa $40 Score:94-96 (too young to tell, but tasted twice with different notes)
2003 Vincent Arroyo Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA $50 Score: 93
2005 Tom's Caldwell Cuvee - Score: Blech! Hand made gimmick wine from the Caldwell Vineyards

Both bubblies were great in different ways. They contrasted each other in color, texture and flavors. The Perrier Jouet was a gold in color with green flecks, a toasty bread and baked apple nose. Rich in flavor, the PJ was generous on the palate with brioche, baked pears, and granny smith apples - quite delicious and lots of bubbles, classic champagne! The Raventos Cava was lighter straw yellow in color, with crisp pear and citrus on the nose, and a slight hint of fresh bread. On the palate was more of the same pear, lemons and limes - the acidity was precise and cleansed the palate, excellent with the hors d’vors!

The 2007 Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino from Sardegna is our house white wine. I have to say for the money there is no other white wine in the world that I would rather have for around $9-12 a bottle. Costamolino is 100% Vermentino. Vinfied only in stainless steel, it sees no oak. For those not familiar with this grape it has many great qualities of some of the best white grapes. If I were to take those best traits and try to create a “theoretical blend”, it would be something like this: 35% Pinot Grigio, 40% un-oaked Chardonnay and 25% Viognier/Roussanne. It has the richness and minerality of un-oaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay, but without the oak or over-ripe sweetness. The Costamolino has the mouth feel and floral aromas flavors of Viognier and Roussanne, and the apparent lightness and essential acidity reminiscent of a Pinot Grigio.

The Cabernet lineup was eclectic and varied, with 3 different styles to compare against. We will start with the more austere and work our way up the concentration and ripeness scale.

The most austere of the 3 was the 2005 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon from the Franschoek Valley in South Africa - this was my contribution and a wine Lisa and I first had on our honeymoon this past May - it as the BEST wine we had on the whole trip. However this one was not ready and I should have opened something a little bit older. At least I have a few more of these to lie down and not touch for a few years. I went back to my notes from the trip and then realized the wine had been open 24 hours when we last had it at the winery. It was much more generous and more reminiscent of an Oakville Cabernet from Napa to me at that time. However for now it was closed up and more reminiscent of an old world Bordeaux - classic in style with a touch more oomph, or fruit and extraction. I still decanted the wine for about 3 hours before we started to drink it and it was still super tight, but generous enough to show what this wine will become with a few more years of age. Check back in maybe 5 years, this baby can easily go the distance of 12-15 years from the vintage date!
The next wine, a 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the Vincent Arroyo Winery located in Calistoga, CA, was a notch up in ripeness and size. More a classic example of what Cabernet was before riper wines became all the rage, this wine is more reminiscent of an older Napa style, the wine is a classic example of what wines in the early to mid-nineties were like. Though I am lost at the alcohol level of 14.7%, then again this was a really hot year too. Some wineries still adhere to this style or a style with less alcohol, but the rage now is for riper fruit, riper tannins and higher alcohol levels - big wines! The Vincent Arroyo displays pure fruit flavors, supple tannins and an acidity not common in many Napa wines, some herbs, cedar, dusty cherry and mineral notes also highlight this wine's flavor and aroma profile.

The last wine was the 2005 Rocket Science Red Blend from Caldwell Vineyards located in Coombsville, CA in the far south east region of the Napa Valley. This wine is not 100% Cabernet, but a blend that also consists of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Tannat. The Rocket science was dark and brooding, a big wine that was probably in the high 14 or low 15%'s. The palate consisted of brambly black cherry and rich currant flavors, almost like a baked black cherry pie. The Fine grained tannins completed the wine's smooth finish.

All in all we drank a lot of great wines, nothing too expensive, but most you would never find on your local grocer's shelf.


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