Dinner at Home

Dinner began with a brilliant Chardonnay, the 1999 Marcassin Upper Barn, which I believe is the last vintage this estate made of this wine from a vineyard owned by Jess Jackson. Notes of honeysuckle, pear, and brioche soared from the glass of this light gold-colored, medium to full-bodied Chardonnay. It is still young, with good acidity as well as tremendous flavor intensity. We then moved to a group of Pinot Noirs. Marcassin’s sensational 1998 Marcassin Vineyard resembles a Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes from Morey-St.-Denis. Notes of fresh mushrooms, forest floor, sweet plums, blueberries, and raspberries along with a natural texture, full-bodied freshness, and superb fruit as well as length are found in this beauty. It should continue to drink well for another 5-6 years.

I purchased four Kosta Browne Pinot Noirs from one of the Mark Squires’ Bulletin Board members (who graciously offered them) since I am unable to find them in the state of Maryland and I have been wanting to taste them since they have been getting such rave reviews. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. They are not bad wines, but I had read that they were “massive,” “syrupy,” and “opulent,” and none of these wines were. In fact, three of them seemed to have unnaturally high levels of acidity as well as simple, one-dimensional personalities. With the exception of the Kanzler Vineyard, none of them had much depth. What was there was pleasant, but in a one-dimensional fashion. While all of them were relatively high in alcohol, the lowest was the 14.8% found in the medium dark ruby-hued 2004 Pinot Noir Amber Ridge Vineyard. The wine possesses aromas of dried herbs, and sweet and sour cherries, medium body, silky tannin, tart acidity, and a short finish. It should be consumed over the next several years. The 2004 Pinot Noir Koplen (15.4% alcohol) revealed an identical dark ruby color along with sweeter cherry (to the point of kirsch) aromas, straightforward, medium to full-bodied flavors, but little depth and length. It is pure, with good fruit, but a monolithic personality. The slightly darker ruby-hued 2004 Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard (15.5% alcohol) exhibited more plum, sweet cherry, and barrique smells as well as tart acids, which give the wine a clipped feel. To me, it was out of balance. As the fruit fades and the acidity becomes more noticeable, this wine will become increasingly shrill. By far the finest of this quartet is the 2004 Pinot Noir Kanzler Vineyard (15.2% alcohol). It revealed Burgundy-like forest floor notes intermixed with sweet and sour cherries. Although the acidity is high, this offering possesses a more natural mouthfeel, and more depth than its siblings. All in all, these are good wines, but I had expected much more based on the rave reviews I had heard from some of my colleagues.

Since several of my guests had never had the privilege of tasting a Sine Qua Non wine, we finished the meal with a mind-blowing effort from this Ventura County winery. The 2002 Syrah Heart Chorea, which is essentially the same cuvée as the 2002 Syrah Just For The Love Of It only aged significantly longer in barrel (à la Marcel Guigal’s single vineyard Côte Rôties), was the best bottle I have ever had of this New World Syrah. We were astonished by it. Perhaps it had something to do with the change of pace after the other wines, but this effort boasted an extraordinary bouquet of flowers, chocolate, blackberries, and cassis. The spring flower garden aromas soared from the glass, and the wine was incredibly seamless. My recollection is that this wine spent 3+ years in small barrels, but the oak component is remarkably restrained and subtle as the wine’s fruit and personality dominate. A gorgeously full-bodied, opulent effort with a seemingly endless finish, it is one of the most memorable wines I have ever put in my mouth. It begged for a sensationally grilled steak. It will be interesting to see how long it will evolve and improve (at least 10-15 years), but given how little was made, it will be amazing if any bottles last that long. Wow! What an extraordinary experience.

With respect to the food, the big hit was my wife’s stunning leg of lamb, which was garlicky and redolent with intense lamb flavors.

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