Mark de Vere, noted Master of Wine from Constellation Wines, recently hosted a blind tasting seminar of global first growths. Basically he took the Constellation portfolio and matched it against some of the top wines from around the globe. De Vere kicked off the discussion about how New World wines, like Mondavi that I had tasted earlier that afternoon, were producing world-class wines that could go against the great wines of the world. I love these blind tastings because it gives me a huge wake-up call about how much more I need to learn about wine. Today was no exception.
Our first flight was based on the Chardonnay grape. The first wine, which was later revealed to be a Kissler 09 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay ($120) was very creamy with a toastiness, lemon, minerality and richness. I liked it, but not as much when the price tag was revealed. We moved to my personal favorite, an Old World French Burgundy from Louis La Tour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru ($120) with more structure, minerality and vibrant fruit. The last wine was the Francisco Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay from Sonoma, which was the value/price winner at $40. It was a typical California chardonnay. For me, the Old World took home this one except on price.
The next flight was Pinot Noir and we tried several wines very different in style. Our first was the 08 Domaine Jean Grivot Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru ($150). Lots of vegetal notes, herbal, roasted beet, earthy and aromatic. It was an interesting wine, but one that needed food to sing. Our next wine was the 08 Wild Horse Cheval Sauvage Pinot Noir ($60). It was full of bright fruit and jamminess with almost a lushness to it. The final wine was the 09 Kosta Brown Gaps Crown from Sonoma ($200). It had lots of soft fruit and almost a cherry cola taste but it was lush and soft. I loved this wine. Score one for the new team, but this one came at a price!
Then the big boys came out. The first wine was a 07 Chateau Margaux (priced between $600-$1,000). Lots of earthiness, barnyard, cedar, structure and elegance. I could just smell this wine for days. It was a wonderful expression of what an Old World wine could be and got my vote. We moved into a 08 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($135) that I had tried with much success earlier that day. Our last wine was a 08 Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon ($255) which came out of the same To Kalon winery. It was a rich, full wine. All great expressions, but how can Chateau Margaux lose?
We then moved into dessert wines. We had the Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes ($85) that was honeyed, smooth with notes of mushroom and a great balance. The second was the Dolce Napa 07 with its apricot and big fruit. The final tasting was the citrus, intense, orange blossom and passion fruits contained in the Inniskillin Vidal Gold. I actually liked all of these, but the Inniskillin was special.
We then got to taste some special portfolio wines from Clos du Bois and Mondavi specifically. The 01 Clos du Bois Briarcrest was elegant with lots of berry and tasted fantastic. This was a big black fruit, cabernet style. I went through a vertical of Mondavi cabs – 1978, 1995 and 1998. These wines aged well – no two were alike, but they were all fabulous.
It was another fun tasting. Thanks to Mark de Vere, Republic Beverage Company and Constellation Wines.