Non-Burgundy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
The Stannary Dinner Club branched into pastures new with a Burgundy free evening. There was a strong start, with opening two blind wines, Spatburgunders from Furst and Stodden, being held to be the best examples that the table had ever tasted. From there the evening was heavily dominated by the US. A fabulous dish of Wild Sea Trout with Saffron and Dill was accompanied by two hugely contrasting wines but both superb examples of their respective styles. The 2007 Marcassin was big,ripe and powerful but it managed to combine this with considerable finesse and great balance. Expectations were high for this one and yet it managed to surpass them. In stark contrast the magnum of Horseshoe Chardonnay from Rhys took a while to unwind its taut compact personality with a Burgundian reductive component. Too contrasting to make a fair comparison but for many the highlight of the night.
The next flight of Anthill Farms, Freeman and Antica Terra was more mixed with the 2015 Comptche Ridge Vineyard showing its youth. Opening the 2006 Abbey Harris four hours in advance left it at the top of its game but it was up against stern opposition in the form of the 2012 Ceras Vineyard Pinot from Antica Terra. For many the wine of the flight, both for now and for potential for the future.
The big boys came out for the Welsh Black Sirloin with both Sine Qua Non and Paul Hobbs topping 15%. Rare and very exciting wines but both bottles left us with a feeling that there is much more to come. . It was the 1999 Isabelle from Au Bon Climat that took the honours with an earthy, Burgundian character. Probably the wine of the evening that was closest to its drinking peak, but certainly a good distance from any downward curve.
Australia made an appearance for the final blind flight of Chardonnays and it was well represented with the reductive style of Oakridge's 2010 Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay.
So what can be concluded?
Perhaps the highs were not as high as those that the top Burgundies have given us, but the lows were not as low. No faulty bottles but also no underperforming bottles.
The evening very much reaffirmed my belief that the top Pinots and Chardonnays of the US are not just age worthy, but benefit enormously from considerable bottle age. If the evening could be recreated ten years from now with exactly the same wines, then I would argue that all of the wines would only have got better and better. The fact that these wines don't seem to go through an awkward or angular stage makes it all too easy to pull the corks too early. Hopefully some of us will be able to give them the time that they deserve.
Alcohol was muchly debated, and the wines were of contrasting levels, from 12.9% up to a whopping 15.4%. Some carried these higher levels with grace and balance whilst in others it was a little more marked. Regardless, these were wines that put smiles on people's faces and the mood of the room and the empty bottles were evidence of an enormously enjoyable evening.