Relatives and Friends Living Nearby are Invited Over for Hors d'oeuvres

Normally what I do is just pull out a huge assortment of wines that make no rhyme or reason but allow people to taste through as many different kinds of wines as possible. It is always an education, not only for them but for me as well. This day, I barely had a chance to go through everything. I noticed the wines that were drunk first by a group of people who only have a casual interest in wine (none of them are Wine Advocate subscribers).

The wines that were drunk first were the Australians, followed by Oregon Pinot Noirs and Alsace whites. Interestingly, the wines that I ended up drinking glasses of that night and the following night were the three Barolos and the Spanish wines, the least favorite wines of the group in this unscientific polling. As for the sparkling wines and Champagnes, I am never impressed with California sparkling wines. They are narrowly constructed, somewhat green and compressed. Even lesser houses from Champagne make better wine, and that was evidenced by the above offerings.

I can't comment on the Belles Soeurs and Beaux Frères wines, but I will say the 1994 is an amazing wine. The 1988 Calon-Sègur, a sleeper wine in that vintage, is a great wine that still sells for a reasonable price. I don't agree with friends and relatives who ignored the spectacularly complex 1985 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano or the 1985 Altare Barolo Arbarino. I can understand no one wanting to drink the 1989 Einaudi Barolo, because it is huge, massive, brutally tannic, and needing another 8-10 years. You have to be a masochist to enjoy it, but I certainly admired it, and I'm glad I own a few bottles. All the Zind-Humbrecht wines were sensational, with the 1989 Pinot Gris Rangen a baby, the 1989 Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer an extraordinary expression of minerality in a Gewurztraminer and a delineated style that normally one doesn't see with Gewurztraminer. Interesting to contrast the 1983 Gewurztraminer Hengst made by Olivier Humbrecht's father. It had a more earthy style, but still very much alive, which is amazing for a Gewurztraminer of that age. Other nice wines were the stunning 1989 La Dominique and the explosively fruity 1998 Torbreck Descendent and the 1998 Fox Creek Shiraz, both huge crowd pleasers. The three wines from Abadia di Retuerta all were extremely young and backward. I actually followed them over the course of the next three days. There was no oxidation and subtle developments were noticeable each day. At first the wood appears elevated, but by the second day, the wood is gone and the fruit comes forward. The Palomar is 50% Tempranillo and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Negralada 100% Tempranillo, and the Valdebellon 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. These should prove to be splendid, but they need another 7-8 years of cellaring, with the possible exception of the Palomar, which is on a faster evolutionary track.

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