Thursday, March 19, 2009

Top Ten Wines

My friend Rob and I took a moment to reflect on some of the best wines we've had, many together, over the years since we really started getting in to wine in college. We picked our top ten faves and added some notes about what we remember being so amazing about the wines and whether there were any memorable circumstances related to tasting them. So, without further ado, here they are:

Matt's Top Ten (mine are in no particular order - it was too hard...)
  1. 1977 Taylor Vintage Port (Purchased from Levi at Liquor Castle, Beverly Hills, now closed. I don't know how many college kids were drinking aged vintage port, but Levi and his charitable wife made us a deal too good to pass up. Youthful and powerful for such an aged wine, but with the balance and complexity I have come to love in Taylor's port.)
  2. 1995 Montelena Estate Cabernet (tasted as part of "Rob & Matt's wealthy industrialist" trip to Napa Valley - classic CA cabernet dark fruit with lots of tannin and a potential for a long life)
  3. 1989 Cordeillan Bages Pauillac (Rob brought this to a dinner at our house a couple of years ago, classic Bordeaux with archetypal lead pencil and eucalyptus notes accompanying black berry flavors.)
  4. 1994 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet (when tasted young upon release at the winery, incredible structure, dark fruits and complexity. When I was a Mondavi stockholder, we could roll in to the To-Kalon reserve tasting room and be set up with a 4+ wine vertical flight of the expensive reserve cabernets. Holy mackerel, those were some good times. Most recently, we opened a bottle of this last year - it was still good to excellent, but I feel that it was in its prime during its youth.)
  5. 1982 Montelena Cabernet (or was it 1980, tasted at our neighbor's 4th of July party, in around 2006. Amazing youth and complexity for such an aged CA cabernet.)
  6. 1996 St. Jean Cinq Cepages (Purchased by Rob in the right place at the right time as a pallet was being unloaded at LA Wine Co. Have had this on several occasions over the years - this wine aged well with black berry fruit flavors and tar notes.)
  7. 2003 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay (A fruity, buttery, oaky, bomb of chardonnay flavors with an excellent overall balance. A prototypical CA chardonnay.)
  8. 1995 Opus One (tasted at the winery with a sizable pour. Dark fruits, amazing length and complexity. Another of the benefits of Mondavi stock ownership.)
  9. 1996 Beringer Chardonnay Reserve (had at a dinner at Rob's. Amazing fruit, but still refined and balanced. My favorite of the Beringer reserve chardonnays, a perennial favorite)
  10. 1992 Taylor Vintage Port (Tasted in half bottle purchased in Buffalo, NY during an extended work stay and served with a Cuban cigar freshly purchased on a trip to Toronto. Fruity and complex, I have always favored the flavor profiles and complexity of Taylor ports)
Rob's Top Ten (in order of preference)

  1. 1995 Sanford Barrel Select Chardonnay (Tasted at the winery and subsequent bottles that were purchased at Sanford. The 1996 is also excellent, but I give a slight edge to the 1995. This wine represents my Platonic ideal of chardonnay: beautiful nose, tropical fruits and pear on the palate, with a buttery vanilla finish - full-bodied, but impeccably balanced. The wine may also get bonus points because it was tasted at the charming, rustic original Sanford tasting room, poured by Chris Boroughs, long before the "Sideways" inspired boom hit the Santa Maria Valley wine country).
  2. 1977 Fonseca Vintage Port (I have been fortunate enough to taste this wine a couple of times, starting in college, one of the times being the result of Sunil having to purchase a bottle for claiming that he failed a final and instead receiving an "A" or something like that. Incredibly complex and powerful port that still tastes young and as if it can last for decades to come. An absolute bench mark. I tend to prefer Fonseca's port style a bit over other houses, like the also excellent Taylor Fladgate.)
  3. 1994 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet (Tasted upon release at the winery at which time the wine was absolutely fantastic! Incredibly well structured with a beautiful balance of currant, plum, cedar, tar and well-integrated tannins. Tasted about a decade later at which time the wine had unfortunately lost some of its luster.)
  4. 1986 Pichon Baron Pauillac (Matt and I purchased a half a case of this benchmark bordeaux in college - yes, weird - and I have been tasting it periodically since. Very complex Bordeaux with distinctive raspberry, currant and pencil lead components. Has aged very well throughout the years.)
  5. 1994 Byron Estate Chardonnay (Tasted at the winery and throughout the years from purchased bottles, including a close to ten year-old bottle. This is chardonnay was absolutely enormous with distinctive Santa Maria Valley pineapple-and-cream flavors - a hedonistic fruit-, cream- and vanilla bomb.)
  6. 1995 Opus One (Tasted at the winery upon release during the "Matt-and-Rob-Wealthy-Industrialists" trip to Napa Valley. Even the equine sight of the Baronesse Philippine de Rothschild could not obscure the beauty of this wine. Very full-bodied and complex, with a distinctive and desirable tar component.)
  7. 2003 Talley Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir (Tasted at the winery upon release. Fantastic pinot, by far my favorite of Talley's releases as it hits a Goldilocks-type balance between pure pinot fruit and full-bodied-ness. Very complex. I still have one bottle - will be interesting to see how this has aged.)
  8. 1997 Andrew Murray Esperance (Tasted at the winery, where it was a little young and extremely tannic, and then about 3 years later where the bottle was at its absolute peak! Very inky dark color, complex fruit and a fantastic finish.)
  9. 1994 Dow Vintage Port (Tasted with Matt in combination with a great Cuban cigar. Huge black-strap port with great tannic structure, but still very enjoyable in its youth. This should have a very long life ahead of it.)
  10. 1996 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay (Initially tasted at the winery, and several times subsequently. Very big, oaky chardonnay that is well-balance and extremely complex. I have liked subsequent vintages as well, but the 1996 is my favorite)

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