Dinner with Friends - Chez G-Man

Dinner with Friends promoted Spanish flavors, so I brought some older Spanish wines from my cellar.

We started with a relatively dull, austere and uninspiring 1998 Krug Vintage Champagne. Luckily, the 2012 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes was beautiful, with notes of rose petals, delicate apricot marmalade and honeysuckle. The wine was medium to full-bodied, fresh and endearing. We then progressed from older to younger wines, as the 1960 Vega Sicilia Unico Gran Reserva, at 56 years of age, still had some life in it. Not a lot - and it was clearly drying in the finish, but there remained some nice cherry and cedary notes in the aromatics. The wine is medium-bodied, obviously past its prime, but still dark garnet with an amber edge. Plenty of old leather and cedar wood were found in the flavors and the wine quickly evaporated on the palate, but the aromatics were probably a good 4-6 points better than the overall rating, which accounts for the declining state of this wine.

Oxidized, with hints of Madeira, the 1968 Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva should have been better, but this bottle was off or prematurely aged.

We ended up with three 1998s from Spain. A beautiful 1998 Artadi El Pison Rioja, which still has a dark ruby core, loads of sweet black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, with licorice, tobacco leaf and forest floor. This medium to full-bodied, beautiful wine seems fully mature, but capable of lasting another 8-10 years. The 1998 Clos Erasmus from Priorat also had a dense, ruby/purple-tinged color that in no way revealed its 16 years of age. The wine is medium-bodied and elegant with notes of dark raspberries, crushed rocks and white flowers with medium body, beautiful purity and depth. It seems fully mature as well, but is certainly in no danger of falling into the abyss. The last Spanish wine, the 1998 Numanthia from Toro was powerful, dark and dusty, with blackcurrant fruit, a medium to full body, loads of purity, richness and a wonderful exuberance. This is a mouth-filling, bold and flavorful wine to drink over the next 3-5 years.

The last two wines were great, classic Châteauneuf du Papes. The 2001 Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape Reserve was made from sandy soils and extremely old-vine Grenache, this wine was super-rich, full-bodied and opulent with layers of kirsch liqueur, lavender, and blacker fruits. It cuts a broad swath across the palate and finishes with fabulous intensity and freshness. This should drink well for at least another decade. Our host then produced a 2009 Domaine Barroche Châteauneuf du Pape Pure from his cellar and, like most 2009 Châteauneuf du Papes, it is on a fast evolutionary track. But this wine, 100% Grenache from sandy soils and aged in concrete, displays a flamboyant nose of blueberries, black raspberries, lavender and other floral notes. The wine is full-bodied, lush, opulent and ideal for drinking now and over the next 5-7 years. It is a terrific wine, but it is interesting how evolved and forward most 2009 Châteauneuf du Papes tend to be.

The food was delicious, including the wonderful gazpacho and terrific ceviche, but the headliner for me was the Paella with lobster, made from saffron purchased by our friends when visiting Istanbul. The paella had the crunchy La Bomba rice filled with vegetables, chorizo, and other goodies. All in all, a wonderful way to spend a late afternoon.

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