The Oenarch Dinner - Bicycle Restaurant

A fun night that allowed me to recalibrate my palate (after my return from the Rhône Valley) with a bevy of brilliant 2001s, primarily from California. This was my first visit to the Bicycle restaurant, where British chef Barry Rumsey is doing an impressive job. The food was excellent. The beggars purse of lobster and sea scallops was terrific, as was the rack of veal. Even the filet of buffalo had a great deal of flavor, and I'm generally a traditionalist when it comes to eating meat ... I want the real deal ... beef.

The flight of Champagnes was delicious, with the Clicquot rosé terrific and the Krug Grand Cuvée sensational. I don't know what lot this is (that's the problem with these non-vintage blends), but this was a great, full-bodied Champagne.

The flight of 2001 California Chardonnay-based wines (with one French ringer) was interesting. For me, the winner was the Hyde Vineyard offering from Ramey, followed by the Paul Hobbs Diner Vineyard Chardonnay and the Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Champ Canet. There was not a disappointing effort in the flight save for the Ramey Hudson Vineyard, which appeared to be a bit tired, possibly from an off bottle.

The 2001 California Cabernet Sauvignons revealed the vintage's brilliance. There were several surprising performances. The 2001 Pine Ridge Stag's Leap District was the finest wine I have ever tasted from this estate, and it was nice to see it did not have that tart, phony acid edge to it that so many older vintages reveal. The same could be said for the Silverado Reserve, a wine that was much more manipulated in the past. This bottle was natural, full-bodied, and intense. I do not know anything about Palmaz (other than the fact that Randy Dunn makes the wine), so I do not know whether the bottle was bad, or the wine just did not show well. Some great regular bottlings of Cabernet include the Shafer.

In the second half of the flight we had three magnificent Cabernets, the Ramey Jericho Canyon, the Paul Hobbs, and the Plumpjack Reserve, which I thought was nearly perfect. The Turnbull and Rudd Estate both performed well. Surprisingly, no one picked out the Roc des Cambes as a ringer. It exhibited more new oak than the California wines, and for that reason probably slipped through as a California effort rather than French. In fact, it had more new oak than any of the other wines, which is somewhat ironic. Sadly, the Pride was corked. In any event, 2001 is a great vintage for North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon and even though we did not have many of the top Reserve bottlings, these offerings proved just how marvelous this vintage is.

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