As Halloween was fast approaching with thoughts of carving pumpkins on cool nights, our Mondial sought to study some red wines to help warm the senses. Our subject was syrah and the plan was to follow it around three continents of the world. The itinerary was to start in California, proceed through France, and conclude in Australia. This enological trip found home in the elegant tasting room at Vintner Select in Mason, Ohio. With their wine library and Riedel display as a backdrop, we were to sample exemplary realizations of winemakers efforts accompanied by some culinary wizardry from Chef Dave Avalos of the Chokolate Morel restaurant in Mason.
In preparation for our studies we whetted our palates with glasses of Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition NV and tapas of smoked mackeral and Drambuie pate. One of many petite châteaux trickling into the USA in recent years, Egly-Ouriet own 100% of their vineyards and all are in Grand Cru territory. A high percentage of the vineyards are planted in pinot noir, with some pinot meunier. A yeasty, full-flavored almost bready flavor with a persistent long finish matched well with the tart and salty appetizer.
We then sat down to the first of three flights to taste through the evening. The start gave us California wines, featuring Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate 2000, Havens Syrah Cuveé d’Hospice 2000, and Alban Vineyards Estate Syrah Loraine 2000. All had individual characteristics; the Qupe showed a brightness reminicent of a northern Rhone while the Havens was in a more classic California style with cedar and lavendar in the nose and a smooth silky feel. This wine came from the annual Hospice du Rhone that takes place every spring in Paso Robles and Gordon was the successful bidder of an entire barrel of this truly unique bottling. The Alban exhibited a complex nose of wood and chocolate followed by deep fruit in the body that made it exceptional. For our break we had a complex combination of Anjou pear , fig and blue strudel with spiced squash reduction providing an interesting contrast of flavor and texture.
Our second flight brought us to the elegance of some of the best the Rhone valley has to offer. We started with Cave de Tain Hermitage Gambert de Loach 2000. A mix of mushroom and fruit in the nose gave way to great ripeness and prominent oak in the finish. The cooperative of Cave de Tain was started by Gambert de Loach when he bequeathed his property and this top wine is produced from that vineyard in Hermitage. The entire range of this producer has happily improved in quality through recent vintages. In our middle glass was the rare and highly sought after E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline. The 1991 vintage was given a 100 point rating by Robert Parker and proved a high moment for the entire tasting. Showing wonderful balance, it had fantastic smooth tannins and fruit after twelve years aging. Finally we sampled a long cellared Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 1983. Known as a good vintage for Hermitage wines, the Chave had a complex and mysterious aroma with the acidity to act as a foundation where fruits and tannins were still evident. This implied there was still a lot of life left in the bottle. After these marvelous wines we sampled sweet red pepper prawns with mashed yam and black bean sauce.
The third flight continued around the world to Australia, where many believe the finest manifestations of this grape have made their true home. We did not get Penfold’s Grange or any of the other famous names but rather tried some of the myriad of labels from “Down Under” inundating the world in recent times. Majella Shiraz Coonawarra 2001, Rockford Basket Press Shiraz Barrossa Valley 1999, and Dutschke Shiraz Semmler 2000 filled our glasses in the final round. Duck confit tartlets with corn pudding and pablano espresso mole sauce gave the palate an intriguing accompaniment to match with the wines. The Majella showed a great nose with lush fruit and a medium body to go nicely with the food. The Rockford started floral and went to big characteristics all around that seems indicative of better Austalian wines. The Dutschke was also from Barrossa and seemed to step up a notch from the others. This was a serious wine! Gordon sadly informed us that this vintage was no longer available but 2001 bottlings were soon due to the market at a lesser price but, perhaps, at a better quality.
After we concluded our wine trials, chef Dave provided his partner’s signature Chokolate Torte with port infused caramel and fruit chutney to everyone’s delight and mutterings of “Atkins be damned!” as we enjoyed every bite. This evening brought a new chapter to the local Mondial and hints at a bright future and joie de vivre for our bailliage. Vive the Ordre!
J.T. Mayer, Vice Chargé de Presse