Last night I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 52nd birthday with dear friends. The theme for the dinner was lamb, so the obvious choice for wine was Syrah/Shiraz. Little did I know how overboard my friends would go with their choice of wines. Lucky me…
We started the evening off with a very old (30+ years) bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee Champagne. It was slightly maderized (notes of sherry) and the bubbles were a little thin, but the nutty, toasted brioche flavors were still alive and kicking and nicely offset by the mellow acidity.
Juxtaposed against the Krug was the 1990 Bollinger RD Champagne, still young at 21 years, the green apple fruit was complimented by the tangy acidity and perfect balance. The bubbles were bright and tight and delivered wave-upon-wave of flavor over the entire palate.
Time to chow down on Rosemary infused lamb chops, corn fritters (family recipe), grilled salmon and grilled onions. Here’s the Red Wine Line Up:
2003 Mitolo G.A.M. Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia – Should have decanted it six hours before serving it. A massive wine with so much black fruit up front and lovely notes of mint and dark chocolate on the back of the palate. The finish was ridiculously long. Just a hint of black pepper at the end. It did evolved a little in the glass, but alas, it did not last long as the night was young and we were still thirsty. I would like to revisit this wine in about 4-5 years.
2002 Torbeck RunRig Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia – A little more refined than the Mitolo – and by a little, I mean a wafer thin mint more. It was a big wine that displayed jammy black fruit and violets on the nose. Blackberry, black plums and dark currents jockeyed for position on the palate. The firm tannins and fine acidity held it all together but the wine was still five or six years too young to be drinking. The good news is that it cut through the fattiness of the lamb like a laser. And the peppery finish lingered long after the glass was empty.
2006 Sine Que Non Raven Syrah, California – The label sports the following quote; The raven says, “I am dark and lovely… because the sun has tanned me.” You’ve got to hand it to winemaker Manfred Krankl – he knows how to make a dark and lovely wine. The bouquet was boasting an interesting combination of roasted coffee and sweet black fruit. In the mouth, the wine seemed to literally expand on the tongue, exploding with flavors of concentrated black fruit, black fig and mocha. The long, long finish was refined and lush – which was really surprising, given the weight on the front of the palate. This was probably my favorite wine of the evening, but I could not imagine having this wine without food.
2001 Domaine Vieille Julienne Vieilles Vignes, Chateauneuf du Pape, France – It’s a shame we did not drink this wine before the Aussies and the SQN. While this is a lovely wine, it simply got lost in the lineup because it was so elegant. The flavors of dark cherry, currents, coffee and spices were all superbly integrated on a earthy frame. While the wine felt elegant, the tannins were just a touch too soft to counter the rosemary infused lamb. I’d like to try this with mushroom risotto.
2003 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France – I am a Francophile by palate, and I normally love this wine, but, once again, it had the unfortunate luck to be stuck so far back in the evening as to be almost – and I cannot believe I am going to say (type) this – invisible. The bouquet of warm dark fruit compote was intriguing, but while the flavors of dark cherry, spicy plum, smoky cedar and tobacco were beautiful, the mouthfeel was simply too elegant for the gunfight it was shoved into. Once again, this lovely wine would be great to have on its own or with simply prepared game.
1986 Rieussec Sauternes, Bordeaux, France – The only sticky of the evening, it was a welcomed break from the big reds. Unctuous-yet-elegant, the flavors of coconut and honeyed apricot dominated the front of the palate. Notes of peach cobbler and honey glided in on the perfectly balanced finish. Abundant acidity kept the wine light and focused. A great end to a wonderfully decadent evening.