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From The New World: 1996/2006 Ridge Monte Bello, 1988 Dominus, 1991 Mondavi, 2006 Colgin…

July 14, 2012

The wine theme for this dinner drew its inspiration from Kieron’s return from the New World. Naturally, there’s an unspoken rule amongst Bacchus to drink either well-matured wines from well-known estates, or any vintage from cult producers, and I think what we had this evening, 9 July 2012, at Jade Palace was fairly consistent.

Dinner began with an Alaskan King crab, frog legs and soon hock fish, all washed down with the less commonly found 2009 Kistler Hyde Carneros Chardonnay (courtesy Kieron). This weighty chardonnay was rich in notes of tropical citrus, melons, honeydew and pomelo that were more dense towards the finish, well supported by a crystalline minerality that turned more austere over time, providing excellent contrast to the creamy buttery texture. Very, very fine although it still doesn’t quite measure up in true complexity to a true Burgundy. But it is quite superb in its own right.

Moving on to the reds, we paired the 1988 Dominus with a 1991 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (courtesy Vic). The Dominus, aired in bottle and decanted only just before serving, was the distilled essence of a great wine, stripped of all unnecessary frills and decoration. What was remaining was just pure fruit, still remarkably fresh and vibrant, the tannins and wood no longer evident, just missing initially in the classic dryness of a Bordeaux though making up for it by gaining in weight and intensity over time, becoming more youthful and exciting. Outstanding. In contrast, the Mondavi, still a very dark red, was immediately heavier with a trace of sweet plums, showing great concentration and weight without being jammy, beautifully open yet bursting with youthful vigor even after 21 years. It became incredibly complex after some time, developing some semblance of Bordeaux dryness and just got better and better. Superb. But perhaps best to lay away another 10 years?

As Daniel had confessed that he’d brought a spoiler, we drank his blinded contribution alone as the third red. Aired in bottle, this wine displayed the classic stamp of the Old World, noticeably lighter in color but remarkably open and fresh on the nose, giving off high-toned lifted aromas of predominantly red fruits of immense purity with a slightly pronounced medicinal overtone towards the finish. I was amazed that some people at the table were spot-on in calling it a Rioja, for it turned out to be the 1994 Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja, apparently an estate with a cult following amongst lovers of classic Rioja. Excellent.

It made sense to taste the pair of Ridge Monte Bello side-by-side, both of which were almost identical in color, a dark impenetrable red.  The 1996 (courtesy Kieron) had, perhaps, just a trace of bricking at the rim and a modest bouquet but it was absolutely glorious on the palate, full, rounded and open, saturated with warm, ripe plummy fruit that was immeasurably complex, but it was clear that this wine was nowhere near its peak and would probably evolve at a glacial rate. On the other hand, the 2006 (courtesy KP), expectedly, was generous in top-drawer fruit that was already developing into a highly polished wine but, at this stage, still primal and concentrated with a pronounced vanilla coat. Great potential, of course, but it ain’t giving anything away. And finally, we were treated to a Californian cult, the 2006 Colgin (courtesy Hiok) which, at this stage, shared more similarities than differences with the latter Ridge – dark inky red, weighty and full-bodied, gripping the palate in a tight grip of dense vanilla, varnish and emulsion, culminating in a hot spicy finish, hardly surprising in view of it’s 15.6% alcohol. If there are one or two take-home messages from this tasting, it’d be that Californian wines keep very well indeed and, in fact, demand to be treated in the same manner as their Bordeaux counterparts, to be drunk only after 20 years.

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