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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

Throwing A Birthday Bash For Wine Nuts

Everyone loves a good birthday party – or maybe not. I know a lot of people who for one reason or another don’t like to celebrate birthdays. They may think they are just getting older, or don’t want anyone to make a fuss. Are they suffering from self-loathing? I’ll leave that to their therapists.

I love a good birthday party, and thankfully so do some of my friends. One in particular loves to really do it up like no one else. You could say he subscribes to the adage, “Anything worth doing is worth over doing.” And, yes, he is a big-time wine lover.

Every year he picks a theme and invites all of his best buddies (read fellow wine nuts) to party and bring some of their own treasures. This year’s was Chateau Margaux. Some wine lovers may have three of four vintages; others may do 10 or even a dozen. Well, this party had no less than 30 vintages going back to 1957! Yes, that was Chateau Margaux, the heralded First Growth from Bordeaux, the one and the same that many wine aficionados pledge their allegiance, love and pocketbook to. But some other First Growths also crashed the party – 2001 Chateau Latour, 1970 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and even a couple of vintages of Lafite were opened. Did I mention that there were even multiple bottles of the same vintage of Chateau Margaux?

On top of that, there were dozens, literally, of the best that California has to offer, but too many to list – 2006 Screaming Eagle, anyone? Or how about some 2006 Harlan Estate? Also in attendance were 2007 Checkerboard in magnum, 2001 Araujo, 2005 Colgin Cariad and 2009 Scarecrow. These wines are rarely seen and much less drank. And if that wasn’t enough to wet your whistle, how about 1990 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame from Jeroboam, or 1996 Dom Perignon Rose from Magnum? Or, if you are into the sweet stuff or just need a draught for dessert, there were 2000 and 1971 Chateau d’Yquem.

There were some fabulous bottles and, not surprisingly, there were some not so fabulous bottles. Unfortunately, there were some bottles that were not sound. A few oxidized or “cooked” bottles showed up, but there was more than enough to go gaga for! Everyone asked me what was my favorite.

I will start with the 1961 Chateau Margaux. (There were two bottles.) The better one was imported by Cruse and had unique metal netting on it that helps to prevent counterfeiting. The nose was unmistakably aged Margaux. It was a combination of wet coffee grounds, mocha, cocoa nibs, dried plums, currants, sweet baking spices and wet earth. The tannin is completely resolved in the wine, exhibiting a regal velvetiness. I could describe it as a beautiful mature woman in formal wear, elegant and lovely without being ostentatious – stunning.

Along with this supernova, there was a constellation of other brilliant bottles. The 1990 Chateau Margaux is now approaching readiness after 22 years – a truly seamless wine. A bottle of 1990 Pichon Lalande also was utterly delicious, but with plenty of life ahead. Another one that I was really enamored with was 1966 Cheval Blanc. It had this herbal, almost menthol-like aromatherapy nose that stopped me in my tracks. It was also sleek and silky on the palate. From the New World there was a bottle of 1995 Ridge Montebello, which was as good if not better than many of the lesser Margaux. And the afore mentioned Checkerboard was quite impressive, showing complexity, richness and balance.

Wine is made to share and to celebrate life. And, boy, do my friends know how to celebrate! Happy birthday to my friend, and may you have many more.


Recommendations: 2008 Adobe Road Bavarian Lion Vineyard ($89) with a name like this, you would expect it to be hearty, manly and distinct, and it is. Thick and voluptuous, this wine is heady with strong aromas of sweet berries and a lovely vanillin lace. This wine has guts! 2010 Stonecap Chardonnay ($9) It isn’t Puligny Montrachet, but it is utterly pleasing for the money. Lovely aromas and flavors of ripe apple and pears, with some butterscotch to round it out. A terrific bargain.

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