For as long as my family and I have been vacationing in Carlsbad (almost 25 years), we have participated in what we fondly refer to an evening of “Wine Madness.” My father’s old colleagues and friends (coincidently, all PhD’s and some of the smartest, most fun people I have ever known) join us to taste a bevy of wines. Everyone contributes something to the lot, and sometimes the wines date back to before my brother or I was born. There is almost always a blind tasting, where the identity of a bottle of wine is covered up and everyone gets a taste and tries to guess the year, grape, region and sometimes the producer (my father is the self-proclaimed master of this). Listening to this group discuss the varying qualities of each wine, interspersed with ramblings on politics, current events, and scientific reasoning is undoubtedly the most entertaining of all nights during our vacation.
Last night we hosted this annual Wine Madness. It was a smaller group, including my family, MM, three of my fathers friends (who are essentially like family to us), and one significant other. We planned a meal of various grilled sausages from Tip Top, spicy baked shrimp, Caprese pasta, corn on the cob, and a green salad – all of which was delicious and prepared in the not-so-stellar kitchen of the condo we rent (great job, mother!).
Before most people arrived, we started off the night with the 2010 Saddleback Rose of Sangiovese that I included in my previously shipped wine package. The color was a light ruby red, and it was pretty dry for a Rose – just how I like it. Then we decided to jump right into the 1979 Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, a “gift” to my brother from our family friends that he stayed with on Friday night. We had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first sniff and noted that it wasn’t completely oxidized! It was actually quite good with an earthy complexity, similar to an old Bordeaux, but it faded as the night went on.
The first guests to arrive (who will be known as Siggy and Debby) brought a selection of white wines, including a buttery 2007 Dehlinger Chardonnay that was accurately described as a Werther’s butterscotch – not my style, but adored by my mother. Siggy also brought a 2005 Dehlinger Syrah, which was enjoyed later in the evening, and was definitely my style. It was slightly peppery with a smooth finish and hints of black olive and plum.
The next guest to arrive was my brother’s “godfather”, Tibor (I’m using his real name here, because frankly I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better nickname). The first nine years my parents knew Tibor, he didn’t wear shoes. He has been known to fall asleep on our beach balcony, laying on top of a boogie board. He is one of the best cooks I know, and knows more about wine than most serious winemakers. He is also a classified genius. In regards to Wine Madness, he almost always brings at least one wine from my brother’s birth year or earlier, and it’s almost always corked. Last night he brought a 1989 Chapoutier Hermitage (oxidized to the point of undrinkable), a 1988 Reserve Chateau Raya Chateuneuf-du-Pape (oxidized to the point that MM could notice), a 1979 Durney Monterey County Cabernet Sauvignon (drinkable, but pretty gaseous), 1988 Gaja “Sori Tildin” Barbaresco (silky with a great nose, but faded after a while – agreed by all to be the best Tibor offering). In the photo below, the wines appear right to left as I have listed them above.
The fourth and final guest (who will be known as Double Helices, DH for short) arrived about 20 minutes before dinner was served, and had a lot to catch up on. He came straight from his office so he brought a couple young whites to soften the intensity of the big reds. DH is known for his ability to often correctly guess the mystery bottle that is used in the blind tasting (though, as he admitted, he is sometimes shamefully off). Last night was the second time in my life that I contributed the mystery bottle, which I wrapped in a brown paper bag sealed with my hair tie.
As people started to taste the wine and throw around grapes and regions, DH and Siggy narrowed it down to a moderately young wine (2005 or younger), with at least some Cabernet in it, but likely not 100%, and from Northern California (which was almost a given considering my locale). They were mostly right, with the exception of the grape blend. I revealed the bottle to be a 2005 Etude Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cab). We unanimously decided that the wine could have held out at least another five years, but was drinking pretty well with notes of espresso and dark fruit. All in all, I was pleased with my selection, as were our guests.
There were several other wines in the lot, but these were the ones worth mentioning. You might be asking yourself, “how in the heck did you manage to drink all of these in one night.” Well, you don’t exactly “drink” the wine – you taste it, as any normal person does during a wine tasting. After all, some of these people did have to drive thirty minutes South at the end of the night, and it was merely a Wednesday. My father insists that the other key to preventing intoxication is to intersperse each tasting with a few sips of bubbly water (Perrier is my family’s water of choice). Needless to say, not one of us was hungover this morning.
And now, I am off to Temecula for ladies lunch and some wine tasting.