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Today's Wine Tasting Note

© Copyright 1998 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Dinner in New York City:
'The $10-and-under Olympics'

Mike Bassman

Mike Bassman bags a few bottles.

Tatou, a pleasant French bistro in Midtown Manhattan (151 E. 50th St.) that offers a wine-friendly bill of fare and rational "corkage" on its Monday evening wine-dinner special, was the venue for a sizable offline gathering this week -- a crowd of 20 wine lovers descended bearing dozens of wines.

The theme of the evening was "$10-and-under Olympics," with each participant submitting one or more wines in this bargain-basement price range thought to offer exceptional value. Under the supervision of Mike Bassman, who deserves an ovation for taking on not only the job of organizing the event but also brown-bagging and marking some three dozen wines, the evening proved both interesting and educational, not to mention being a heck of a lot of fun.

The whites were served with appetizers including tuna carpaccio, smoked salmon tartare and a chef's selection of oysters, and with a first course of wild mushroom pappardelle, Hudson Valley foie gras or duck confit salad.

Tatou
Tatou's charming dining room, with a chamber trio providing quiet entertainment.
The reds circulated with the main course of filet mignon, steamed lobster or pan-seared codfish; and the sweet wines went with desserts, creme brulee or a chocolate confection.

After rating 11 whites and 20 reds (two of which were corked), we gave up the game and pulled the bags off the sweet wines; a handful of "over-$10" bottles also made the rounds at that point.

Following are my notes, with the brown-bagged whites and reds presented in my order of preference, with my ratings based on a 20-point scale:

WHITE WINES $10 AND UNDER

(Tasted "blind," ranked in order of my preference.)

Pichot 1996 Vouvray "Peu de Moriette" - Bright gold. Mint and almond aromas, odd but appealing. Quite sweet, balanced by snappy acidity, bitter finish with a honeyed whiff of botrytis. Unusual, intriguing. 17/20

Chateau de Campuget 1997 Costières de Nîmes - Pale straw color. Very pleasant herbal and grassy aromas. Green-apple flavor, tart and lean, structured with cleansing acidity. 15.5/20

Trimbach 1987 Alsace Riesling "Cuvée Frederic Emile" - Pale greenish-gold. "Petrol" and piney aromas; tart-apple flavor, clean and fresh, near-dry and full-bodied. Not really an under-$10 wine, entered in this sweepstakes based on a distress-sale price. 15/20

Chateau de Poyet 1995 Muscadet de Sévre et Maine Sur Lie - Pale straw color. Musky melon aroma; clean and tart if simple flavor, bitter-almond finish. 14/20

Domaine de la Done 1996 Terret - Pale straw color. Light melon aroma. Dry, yeasty flavor, a hint of almonds. 13.5/20

Chateau la Blancherie 1995 Graves Secs - Light greenish-gold. Lovely floral perfume; off-dry flavor, attractive orange blossom, but a bit on the thin and soft side. 12.5/20

Pine Ridge 1997 California Chenin Blanc-Viognier - Very light straw color. Pleasant perfumed apple scent. Juicy apple flavor, off-dry and tart. Simple. 12/20

Carmenet 1996 Saviez Vineyard Napa Valley Old Vines Colombard - Pale straw color. Cheesy, earthy, "dirty socks" aromas detract. Tart, slightly sweet; tastes better than it smells, which isn't saying much. 10/20

Domaine René Monnier 1996 Les Coutures Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne Chardonnay - Pale greenish-gold. Citrus and burnt-sugar aromas; soft, off-dry, short and hot. 9/20

At the table

The New York contingent at the table.

RED WINES $10 AND UNDER

(Tasted "blind," ranked in order of my preference.)

Abadia Retuerta 1996 Rivola Sardon del Duero - Inky dark reddish-purple. Leathery and herbal notes, anise and an intriguing whiff akin to the "garrigues" of Languedoc. Juicy, sweet fruit follows the nose, clean, dry and long. 17/20

Montecillo 1994 Crianza Viña Cumbrero Rioja - Clear garnet. Lovely black-cherry aroma. Sweet fruit flavor, tart acidity, dry and full, with brown sugar notes in the finish. Very nice indeed. 16.5/20

Clos Roche Blanche 1997 Touraine Cabernet Franc - Dark day-glo purple. Very herbaceous, stemmy aromas. Green, juicy and herbaceous on the palate, peppery fruit, complex and appealing. 16/20

Cline 1996 California Zinfandel - Clear garnet. Jammy berry fruit aroma. Bright candied fruit flavor, oaky vanillins, peppery and warm. 15/20

Chateau de Campuget 1997 Costières de Nîmes - Dark ruby. Plummy fruit and spicy oak aromas. Tart, juicy black fruit flavor, a touch of spice. 14/20

Navarro Correas 1992 Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark garnet. Herbaceous and oaky aromas; flavors consistent with the nose, smooth and dry. 13.5/20

E. Guigal 1995 Cotes-du-Rhone - Clear ruby color. Cotton-candy aroma, Beaujolais-style. Very peppery flavor, juicy fruit, almost seems sweet. 12.5/20

Laurel Glen 1996 REDS - Dark garnet. Light berry fruit aroma. Juicy raspberry flavor over balancing lemon-squirt acidity. 12.5/20

Clos de Tue Boeuf 1996 Pinot Noir Cheverny - Pale ruby color. Herbaceous, light "barnyard" nose. Juicy, tart apple-skin flavor. 12/20

Deakin Estate 1997 Victoria (Australia) Shiraz - Dark reddish-purple. Brooding, plummy fruit aromas. Forward berry flavor with oaky vanillins, a bit hot. 12/20

Chateau d'Oupia 1995 "Les Barons" Minervois - Dark garnet. Spicy black fruit aroma, a bit shy. Tart, juicy fruit, warm and "rustic." 11/20

Mas de Chimeres 1995 Coteaux de Languedoc - Very dark reddish-purple. Distant herbal and anise aromas. Black fruit, tart and rough. 11/20

Liberty School 1994 Paso Robles Coastal Oaks Cabernet - Dark ruby. Simple, plummy fruit scent; soft, perfumed flavor, oaky and hot. 10.5/20

Rosenblum non-vintage Zinfandel Cuvee XVI - Clear garnet with an amber edge. Earthy, forest-floor aromas; jammy berry fruit, possibly threshold sweetness balanced by tart acidity. (The bottle had two corks end to end, an oddity that none of us had ever seen or heard of.) 10/20

Tyrrell's 1995 Old Winery South Eastern Australia Shiraz - Dark reddish purple. Simple, vinous aroma and sweet-tart flavor earns a shrug. 10/20

Sable View 1993 South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark garnet. Burnt-sugar and herbal aromas; juicy fruit cloaked by sulfury "rubber tire." 9/20

Castillo Perelada Reserva 1994 Emporada-Costa Brava (Spain) - Very dark reddish-purple. Pruney, raisiny and anise aromas. Full black-fruit flavor, hot, rough and tannic. 8.5/20

Cousino-Macul 1994 Antiguas Reservas Valle del Maipo (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon - Dark ruby color. Marked cat-spray aroma, bizarre in a red; undertones of cinnamon. Smokey, rubber-tire sulfur. Very unpleasant wine. 7/20

Domaine de la Pastourelle 1996 Coteaux de Languedoc - Corked. Not rated.

Valentin Bianchi 1994 "Elsa" Malbec (Argentina) - Corked. Not rated.

SWEET WINES

(Not tasted "blind," listed in the order tasted.)

Fetzer 1993 California Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling - Bright gold. Honey-apricot aromas; sweet, tart, a tangy hint of volatile acidity.

Martinborough Vineyard 1996 New Zealand Riesling - Pale gold. Apples, honey and volatile acidity on the nose; soft, luscious fruit sweetness on the palate.

Domaine de Coyeaux 1996 Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise - Clear straw color. Delicate peach, orange and floral aromas, delicious. Crisp, sweet-tart, a hint of bitter almond on the finish.

Kalin Cellars 1990 Cuvee d'Or California White Table Wine - Golden color with a rosy hue. Musty, honeyed fruit scent; sweet caramel flavor, oxidized.

Peter Lehmann 1996 "The Barossa" (Australia) Botrytis Semillon "Sauternes" - Pale gold. Shy nose, honeysuckle. Sweet, soft, forgettable.

Domaine Cady 1995 Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin - Pale straw color. Nice earthy, chalky scent; sweet, "cheesy" flavor, tart and complex.

Deinhard "BA" 1994 Rheinhessen Beerenauslese - Bright gold. Pungent honey and floral aromas; sweet, soft and simple. A low-end Beerenauslese from undisclosed grapes; not a Riesling.

Seppelt D.P. 30 non-vintage Trafford Barossa Valley Australian Tawny Port - Clear light amber. Tasty brown-sugar aroma; toothache sweet flavor with a good lemony "grip." Very pleasant dessert wine.

Andrew and Mike
Andrew Scott (left) and Mike Bassman.

OTHER WINES

(Not tasted "blind," listed in the order tasted.)

Cuvee Guillaume 1995 Domaine de Labarthe Gaillac - Very dark reddish-purple. Plummy, peppery; big, juicy fruit, lots of tannin. Time is on its side.

Chateau Duhart-Milon 1988 Pauillac - Very dark garnet. Cassis and herbal aromas, closed and tannic. Needs lots of time.

Karl Lawrence 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Inky dark reddish-purple. Cherry-berry and oaky vanilla aromas; black-fruit flavor with an awful lot of wood.

Hardy's 1993 Eileen Hardy Padthaway McLaren Vale Clare Valley (Australia) Shiraz - Dark purple. Minty and black olive aromas over oaky vanillins. Jammy, peppery fruit, big and chewy.

Tim Adams 1996 "The Fergus" Clare Valley Australia Grenache - Day-glo reddish-purple. Peppery, jammy aromas, typical Grenache. Huge, juicy flavor, tart-sweet and mouth-filling. "Outrageous."

Sparrow Cove 1996 Beatty Ranch Howell Mountain Napa Valley Zinfandel - Opaque. Huge berry fruit aromas; big and brawny (15 percent alcohol), almost Portlike.

Have you tasted these wines?
E-mail me your tasting notes,
and I'll consider adding them to this page.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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