This past Saturday the WLDG's own Oleg O. summoned vinohounds from across the Northeast to gather at his feet for a bacchanalia to bear witness to his astonishing potency. The guest of honor and visible evidence thereof, Rachael Jade, vintage August 1999, bore silent but happy witness to the assembled winos, merely smiling inscrutably at this vast display of vinous machismo.
Upon arrival we were advised that it was wise to pet only the Good Australian Cattle Dingo-Dog, and to leave the somewhat "nervous" Evil Australian Cattle Dingo-Dog to her own devices, assuming, of course, that we enjoyed keeping our digits attached right where they were. This advice seemed sound, and we followed it closely. Very closely, even given the almost hypnotic reverence these toothy semi-feral beasts displayed toward their testosterone-soaked master. In this house, it is eminently clear that Oleg is the Alpha Dog. The rest of us could only look on in awe at his manly dominion of the animal kingdom.
After some frightfully butch milling and chatting, we settled down to start the balls rolling with a white and some bubblies:
Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux 1993: Pale straw-tan color; bright, slightly creamy lemon-oak on the nose. Sipping it, light minerals, fairly crisp, but some nice sauvignon-style fruit seems to be struggling under the weight of a Home Depot-load of buttery oak. Where are the noisy power tools when you need them?
Domaine Pinson Chablis Montmains 1997: pale tan; spry, minerally nose--rainwater, soft ginger ale, velvety-smooth; tastes tangy-crisp, bit of baby fat, light pear-apple notes, but more minerally than fruit-fruity (not that there's anything wrong with that...). Pleasant, open and smooth.
We compare and contrast two virile 1990 sparklers:
Moët & Chandon Cuvée Dom Perignon 1990: smooooth city--velvety & restrained nose of light stone & pear sandwich with honey glaze on freshly-baked bread. Medium-weight and silky in the mouth, with Tiny Bubbles that bring Don Ho nostalgically to mind.
Bollinger Grande Année 1990: Darker than the Dom, richer, bigger, creamier nose--creme soda, hint of orange rind. Very crisp, with some sharp acidity that is balanced by the wine's size. Toastier baked-bread aromas, bit of nuttiness, chalky limestone minerality. Yum. I like this one better for its rough richness, although it's not nearly as refined and silky-elegant as the Dom. A manly brew.
This being done, Oleg unveils three GREAT BIG bottles, the connotations of which I will not dwell on:
Château La Mission-Haut-Brion Graves 1979 (magnum): Rich medium-dark ruby red, with only a tiny hint of brick at the rim, this is a surprisingly young-looking wine. Soft, velvety nose, complex and beguiling--rich cassis, violets, graphite, oregano, smoke. Medium-weight mouthfeel, a bit soft, flavors are a medium-light silky stream flowing down my gullet. This wine is truly ready to drink, and it's a pleasure to do so.
Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Backus Vineyard 1985 (magnum): Medium-dark garnet, another young-looking wine; rich, smooth nose of earthy cassis, chocolate, pizza herbs & a light mintiness. In the mouth simpler than the LMHB (well, duh), medium-rich muted cassis and light espresso flavors, turning a bit tarry on the finish. A rich, nicely balanced stately cab.
Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve 1992 (magnum): Deep, dark garnet, big fruity nose--cassis, blueberry jam, toast & smoke, lush and slightly candied. Big ol' fruit bomb, rich and meaty-fleshy, fairly soft mouthfeel, densely fruity, slightly tarry. Slaps you in the face with a blueberry & cassis-filled sock, but sometimes I like that kind of thing.
Now the red meat comes in, hot from the grill, and we tuck into it in our finest Henry VIII fashion, dropping scraps to the surprisingly chilly canine noses that tend to keep popping up in the most indelicate places. Oleg is summarily informed that next time he must include a warning that short skirts on the wimmin folks are strongly discouraged. In penance, we send him to raid the cellar for fresh supplies.
Simi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 1991: Dark, impermeable purply-red; concentrated cassis on the nose, bit o'cocoa. Medium-crisp, clean, rich cab that seems a bit generic in this company.
Inglenook Reunion Napa Valley Red Table Wine 1984: Medium-dark ruby red, showing a bit of browning around the rim; a slightly funky note hovers above the body of soft cassis & light menthol; one of them wimmin-types opines that it's corked, but is hooted down by the testosterone-maddened masses. A medium-bodied, slightly sharp wine with some hollowness on the midpalate.
Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet Monthelie 1997: A wine that has some friendly, spicy fruit, but again it's a bit lost under a blanket of buttery oak. There is a nice lively nose, and some nice pear & peach notes on the midpalate, but they're a little smothered.
Domaine Provenquiere Chardonnay Vin de Pays D'Oc 1997: One of Mr. Andrew Scott's bargain finds, this is a crisp, light, pear-apple-fruit-salad kind of wine that sits happily in my mouth, tangy-fruity and simple, but appealingly fresh, juicy and non-oaky.
Now we came to the test of sweeties, but while we were waiting, Oleg, for reasons known only to him, poured us some strange brown carbonated beverage that smelled of raisins and old socks, apparently a Russian treat, although my grasp of Cyrillic being a bit feeble, I couldn't read the label on the 2-liter bottle. I was encouraged to take a note on this. Here is my note:
After this less-than-optimal response I was told that this was only the fermented-bread-and-raisin version of this delight, and that the version with the horseradish in it was much better. Too manly for me. I lose face.
Out came the sweeties, on we rolled:
Wittman Westhofener Steingrube Albalonga Beerenauslese 1996: Rich yellow-gold, hinting towards amber; spritzy apricot nose, hints of orange rind; crisp and zingy, sweet lemon-citrus taste, more apricot, medium-thick and pretty sweet, but with a lot of zing, some really nice firm acidity to keep it from cloying. Not terribly complex, but a nicely-balanced zippy mouthful, without a hint of blop, just sleazeriffic. Sweet, sweet albalonga... takes away the pain.
Weingut Schneider Merler-Königslay-Terrassen Beerenauslese 1976: Deep amber, heading towards orange; sprightly nose--kerosene, honey-mango, caramel. Crisp and sweet, nicely balanced, although perhaps a little tired, with a slight bitter tang on the finish. This is a very decent wine, although the fruit fades quickly.
Château Climens Sauternes-Barsac 1986: pale yellow color, very light; nose is equally light, soft and creamy vanilla, lemon, hay & a mess o'botrytis. Soft and delicate in the mouth, creamy, vanilla-caramel, interesting light lemon-pineapple notes flit around, but this wine seems very soft and a bit flabby and woody after the two Germans. I come back to it later in the evening and find it more rewarding.
Kloster Machern Wehlener Abtei Riesling Eiswein 1989: Sweet stony-honey nose; on first sip--sweet fancy Moses, this just dives right under my tongue and squeezes--minerals, apricot, honey and gland-pinching acidity. Medium-thick and smoothly fruity, but just too shrill. I keep tasting and tasting this one, not sure if I like it or not. It has a lot of character, but I just can't take the acidity. My tongue is cringing even now as I type, just thinking about it.
Amazingly enough, the sleazy albalonga takes the prize on this night as the consensus favorite sweetie, with the Climens taking my second prize but being put last by the group as a whole.
With Lisa taking a slightly alarming shine to her, young Rachael Jade takes one last victory lap around the living room, queen of all she surveys. We pay obeisance, dissuade the proud papa from the time-honored shooting-wildly-into-the-air celebratory ritual, and instead end the evening on a quiet note, witnessing the beginnings of a very young life, then draining our glasses.