Last Sunday, Sarah Covey, our Redwood City store manager invited the team over to her lovely home in Emerald Hills for a barbeque. It was a wine locker party; the idea being that we would all bring a few bottles of those wines from our collections that are hard to find an occasion for. The wines ran the gamut from blue chips that were meant perfect for an all pro-tasting to the truly odd! As always, more of the wines than we hoped showed very well… It is always when one thinks that one is getting rid of a strange wine that it turns out to be wonderful!
The grill was full of good stuff; Jim Barr made his famous burgers and folks brought steaks and many different sausages. Chris, Jim’s wife, baked excellent home-made burger buns and folks brought salads, macaroons, cakes and everything else one could hope to eat. The bottles outnumbered people by at least two to one! The lineup was extensive, varied, wonderful and weird!
2001 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, Pessac-Léognan
My wine of the night was the 2001 Chevalier Blanc. I have never had a white wine with that age showing so much vitality and fresh fruit and acidity, yet still presenting incredible depth of flavors and lasting for minutes on my palate! I would love to see how it tastes down the road too.- Heather Gowen
This star bright, nearly green colored white wine would have fooled me for current release blind. It had both sweaty Sauvignon character and lanolin-like Semillon flavors. It delivered on the promise of top end white Bordeaux with perfect medium body, and fabulous high toned length. Proof that 100% new oak is not always a bad thing! –Gary Westby
Jim Barr’s favorite dry white of the night.
Jean Josselin "Cuvee des Jean" Brut Champagne
Very fresh, very Pinot, very fun! This bright, refreshing, red cherry fruit style Aube Champagne was great to return to between glasses of big, savory red wine. –Gary Westby
2007 Pyin OO Levin Starwberry Wine, Burma
I don’t know where this bottle came from, or how it ended up in my cellar, but it surprised me by just tasting like good, simple, strawberry wine. Burma- who knew? –Gary Westby
1990 Gaja Barbera d'Alba "Vignarey"
This woodsy, evolved, black fruit style Barbera was outstanding with my hot Italian sausage! Thank you Alex for bringing this 26 year old in its prime to the party!- Gary Westby
1999 Domaine Jean Tardy Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru "Les Boudots"
I made the mistake of drinking all of my bottles of this too early, and I owe a big thank you to Jim Barr for not only having the appropriate patience but also the generosity to share it with us. At this time, Tardy was share cropping these old Pinot Noir vines for none other than Meo-Camuzet. It had a great beet like, savory NSG nose, which carried through on the pallet impressively. It was sweet and full bodied, with texture that only time can bring. Wow! –Gary Westby
2007 Ridge Vineyards "Monte Bello" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
A baby, but ripe enough to enjoy with grilled fair today, this was the darkest, most powerful wine of the night, yet did not lack grace… Monte Bello truly is a magic site. I think I would have guessed 2005 top class St. Julien blind. All of that new American oak had been absorbed by the power of some of the greatest Cabernet the golden state has planted. This wine had it all, and finished with silky, ripe integrated tannin. –Gary Westby
Jim Barr’s favorite red of the night!
2004 Clos de la Tech "Domaine Docteur Rodgers" Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
Most disappointing would definitely have to be the 2004 Clos de la Tech PN. Although I can sometimes appreciate juicy, fruit-forward Pinot, this was just showing all the holes and faults with a little age--my take away: if you have to drink ripe, over-extracted Pinot, drink it quite young. –Heather Gowen
This thick, sarsaparilla filled Pinot was quite tannic. –Gary Westby
2008 Painted Wolf Pinotage Swartland
Pinotage is always controversial, and this milky, burnt rubber smelling bottle brought out lots of conversation. I found it hot, a little hollow, but not nearly as strange as they come! –Gary Westby
Jim Barr’s least favorite wine of the night.
Etim Ranci Montsant
This blend of Grenache and Carignane was made like Madera in demi-johns exposed to the elements, and blended across time in a solera. I found it very soft for an oxidized style. It was nice enough, but was flabby compared to real Madera or Sherry. –Gary Westby
2004 Vereinigte Hospitien Scharzhofberger Kabinett
This was a huge Kabinett, solidly in the Spatlese zone and had a rich white peach nose, great polish and a blue slate finish. –Gary Westby
1985 Estancia Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
This was one of the few tired wines of the night. It had a faded tea leaf nose, but still had good texture. It was short finishing, but not terrible.
2004 Edgewood Canyon Alexander Valley Syrah Magnum (Jim Barr- winemaker)
I was NOT surprised that many of the stars of the night were brought by Jim Barr, including his very own 2004 Edgewood Canyon Syrah. It had rich, concentrated fruit with a bouquet of eucalyptus, black pepper and blackberry. Its tannins were so smooth and lush, and it grew more and more interesting throughout the night (yeah, I kept going back to it). It was refreshing to see a wine born not of demographic studies, marketing strategy or graphic design, but out of an unadulterated passion for wine-making. Well done, Jim. –Alex Schroeder
My best experience ever with a domestic Syrah… Too bad none is for sale!!!! This magnum had an amazing, smoky, camphor and meat nose backed up with great medium bodied poise and refreshing acidity. I thought it tasted like a properly aged Alain Graillot and have never had anything like it from California. –Gary Westby
2003 Bonny Doon "Old Telegram" Mourvèdre
This simple, short but tasty Mourvedre had a distinct Betty Crocker cake mix nose, nice enough balance and showed some appropriate development. –Gary Westby
1982 Bully Hill "Love my Goat" Red Wine, New York
We knew there was trouble when the cork offered no resistance to my corkscrew (or oxygen) and we had to push it in. It poured out a viscous rusty yellow color, smelled of dust and oxidation, and offered my palate NO pleasure. I hate to generalize, but I might avoid wines that have pictures of goats and New York on the label from now on. - Alex Schroeder
2000 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Auslese
This was a great example of many German wine producers favorite style of sweet wine- a big, non-botrytis auslese! This polished wine had great fresh yellow apricot fruit, rich texture, no petrol notes at all in spite of its 16 years, and a top class slatey, high acid finish. Thanks for opening this Sarah! Leakers from Germany forever!
1976 Von Plettenberg Winzenheimer Rosenheck Riesling Beerenauslese
This was classic, rich, thick 1976 German juice. While not particularly elegant or complex, it had very good dried apricot flavors and a ton of power.
Jim Barr’s favorite dessert white of the night.
1980 JW Morris California Port
This had had a lot of dried fruit character and even a little old zin like rubber to it. In the mouth it had a lot of ripe, sweet, dark fruit- this stuff was more than alive… It has time in hand! I don’t think they are going to put the winemakers of the Douro out of business, but this sure was a great after dinner drink.
1970 Warre's Vintage Port
This was my wine of the night. Sarah generously opened this up- and all though it had leaked and the cork was a horror show, the wine inside was transcendent. This 46 year old was a kaleidoscope of complexity with spice, dried fancy fruit and rooty depth. The finish was near endless and the tannins were completely evolved. I hope I am in such good shape when I turn 46 in a couple of years! –Gary Westby
Jim Barr’s favorite dessert red of the night.
I was happy to let Uber do the driving after this huge lineup!