Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Peter Pratt's Summer Tasting

This past Sunday another horde of intrepid wine lovers headed to the secluded Peter Pratt's Inn in Yorktown Heights, north of New York City, to graze on cuts of grilled meats, pounce on fried chicken breasts and feast on roasted potatoes and onions. And, of course, to sample a ridiculous amount of delicious wine, young and old.

I had the pleasure of sitting at the Older California table. Here, we enjoyed wines that reflected the beauty and grace that were the style of winemaking back in the day. Now, if only modern winemakers could tone it down a notch (or ten), pick less ripe grapes and use less oak, we'd be enjoying more food-friendly wines instead of the unbalanced massive oak, fruit and alcohol bombs we see today.

Not one of our bottles was over 14% alcohol, and most reminded me of older Bordeaux, with notes of leather, cigar box and lovely funk, yet maintaining the beautiful fruit that is California's birthright. The 1977 Heitz Martha's Vineyard showed that terroir does exist in CA, with its menthol aromas and sweet black fruit notes. For those who are unaware, there are actual mentholyptus trees in the Martha's Vineyard in Napa Valley, and perhaps this explains how Heitz's Martha's always has that tinge of mint.

Many wine drinkers these days are unaware that CA was trying to emulate Bordeaux at the time. They weren't focused on making fruit bombs that would blow away your palate, they were trying to make balanced wines that were both food friendly and delicious. Now, of course, the situation is reversed, with many Bordelais shooting for excessively ripe (in my book) grapes to make big, bold wines that may or may not age. The jury is out on that one.

Yes, there were a few dead bottles, noteably the 1978 Mondavi Private Reserve Pinot Noir but the wines that survived were delicious and fantastic with the food. Most importantly, you had to make an effort to get a serious buzz off these wines, so you could taste more and enjoy more.

Here's the list of what we tasted at our table (there were other themed tables, such as the self-described Aussie Fruit Bomb Table - I got intoxicated from the fumes when I made the mistake of walking within 2 feet of the table, or the Rhone-ish Table where there were a few gems to be found):

-1998 Taittinger Comte de Champagne= super young but fantastic
-2005 Kunstler Stielweg Old Vines Riesling= delicious, crispy, young
-1978 Mondavi Private Reserve Pinot Noir= DOA
-1977 Mondavi Cabernet= good
-1973 Burgess Cellars Cabernet= surprisingly good
-1979 BV Private Reserve Cabernet= not bad, was hoping for better
-??? Mystery Red (1992 Konrad Charbono Mendocino County)= surprisingly delicious
-1969 Martini Mountain Cabernet= not bad
-1977 Chateau Montelena Cabernet= very good, better than the 1979
-1983 Inglenook Neibaum Reserve= so-so
-1971 German Riesling= delicious, lovely petrol notes and good fruit
-1968 Mayacamas Late Harvest Zinfandel= DOA
-1977 BV Private Reserve Cabernet= delicious
-1980 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace= very good
-1977 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard= my WOTN (Wine Of The Night), fantastic
-1975 BV Private Reserve= not bad, but not great
-Etienne Brana Poire Williams= fantastic as usual, this was the left-overs from the great Irouléguy tasting.

Cigars were smoked afterward, my Quintero Londres Extra matching deliciously with the Brana Eau de Vie.

But most importantly were the friendships made, rekindled and strengthened during this event, with many folks coming out of the woodwork, some of which aren't seen for years at a time. The sense of camraderie was evident, as it always is amongst a bunch of like-minded, passionate souls. For wine is a convivial thing, it brings people together: you can not (or at least should not) drink a bottle alone, and sharing something you love with others who recognize and appreciate it is a small wonder in life.

Ah, crap, I'm getting all philosophical. Here are some pictures before I get all teary-eyed.


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