Saturday, April 4, 2015

45th Birthday Tasting - Part 1: Pinots

For my 40th birthday, our dear friends the Fosters gave me an incredible gift: A 2005 Ridge Montebello. I had tasted Montebello once before at Ridge, but never imagined owning one. Bob told me to cellar it for 5 to 8 years. After 5 years, I figured it was ready to taste, and I vowed to bring my best wines to taste alongside it. Anyone that knows me must be shocked to read I actually cellared something for 5 years. My good friend Ted regularly offers to store my special purchases, knowing I'm apt to open them prematurely. The first time I bought a case of futures, I don't think any of them survived to the recommended age of 3 years. But after wasting a good number of bottles, I've mostly learned my lesson.

2007 Marcassin Pinot

We started the tasting with another bottle Bob and Caroline had given me for one of my birthdays: A 2007 Marcassin Pinot. I had never heard of this exquisite, rare wine made by Helen Turley until Bob put it in my hands. After reading about its scarcity, how hard it was to get on the list, and seeing how exorbitantly priced it was directly (let alone on auction) I tried to return it. Bob, of course, wouldn't have anything to do with it. I tried to open it on a couple of previous occasions when the Fosters were around, but could never muster the courage. After breaking the cork (doh) I strained it into my best decanter, and let it sit for 2 plus hours before we all enjoyed this incredible treat.

We then went on to an "at your leisure" Pinot blind tasting of the best my cellar had to offer. All of the Pinots were allowed to breathe 2 plus hours.


Top to Bottom from Left to Right

Our First Bottle
B - 2012 Kosta Browne, Russian River Valley came in first place with an average of 3.30. We first experienced this wine in Las Vegas at Aureole; it’s a great restaurant, but the attraction was the 3 story wine tower with angels that fetched wine in a Mission Impossible-esque way we had seen on TV. We were seated in the swan room and were only able to see the tower in action from the outside and on the walk in and out of the restaurant. On the up side, we did have a swan swimming just outside the window. I was attracted to Kosta Browne on the iPad containing the wine list due to its mention in a couple of "Best California Pinot" searches I had done when looking for places to go. After the half bottle we enjoyed there, we joined the waiting list, and currently purchase the maximum number of bottles a year they allow us to purchase - four.

D - 2012 Halleck Vineyard, Estate came in second place with an average of 3.29, a virtual tie (TM) for first. We encountered this winery on our first trip to the Russian River. It was available by the glass at Stark's Steak & Seafood, a recommended steak house we walked to that was literally on the other side of the tracks from where we were staying. While enjoying a great steak, "Potato Skin" fondue, and truffled french fries, I discovered one of my favorites, the Three Sons Cuvee Pinot. That same night, Sue discovered one of her favorites, the Sapphire Hill Pinot. All Halleck wines are treats in our house, but a bottle of the Estate is a once a year (if that) celebration.

A - 2012 Patz & Hall, Pisoni Vineyard came in third place with an average of 3.11. Ted turned us onto this winery; their Sonoma House was our last stop on our Wine-Train-gift-certificate-inspired adventure to Sonoma and Napa last year. We joined the winery so that Ted could get some Pisoni - it's only available in limited club allocations. We enjoy the wine too, but mostly I blame Ted. :) They offer a billion Pinot and Chard varieties, so you can't help but find some you love; so far it's been an exercise in cellaring.

C - 2012 Thomas Fogarty, Rapley Trail, Henry Ayrtons’ Block, came in last place with an average of 2.22. We were tricked into rejoining Fogarty when they informed us that, while getting their records in order, they had discovered that we never received a club shipment we paid for a number of years ago. While picking up the the shipment, they plied us with all sorts of great wine, "tricking" us into rejoining. We encountered the Henry Ayrtons at a special tasting with the wine maker and owners at Fogarty.

At this point you no doubt realize that the best of my cellar is way too young, and you probably question if I've actually learned to cellar anything at all. You'll just have to take my word for it.

I'm going to cellar one of each of these to try again in two to three years.