The Bernard Roth Archives
We happy that Bernard, who has sampled so many wines, has shared his notes with us. We do have, or have had for sale a few of the wines Bernard writes about, and we include a link to our stock page whenever it is a producer we carry (but since the stock page is kept up-to-date and the wines are sold, don't expect any but the newest of wines to show up in our stock!). Mostly though, since we specialize in County of Santa Barbara Wine and Central Coast Wine, we don't carry a lot of the wines Bernard writes about. But we think it is important that you be able to have an idea what they're like in case you are planning to buy some somewhere, or have them in your own collection. Enjoy.
Here are Bernard's notes from December 5, 1998:
Parker 100 Tasting
The wines were decanted about 5 hours before the tasting and returned to their (rinsed-out) bottles. They were bagged and poured blind. Todd confused everyone (but himself) when claiming to have mixed up the bottles, too, to prevent guessing based on bottle shape.
The tasting commenced about 11:15 in the morning at the Rockenwagner restaurant in Santa Monica. Once all eleven participants were set up, it was quite a sight to behold 132+ glasses (mostly Riedel Bordeaux and Hermitage) arranged at each place around the table. The value of the stemware alone was quite impressive (> $2000 ?).
Each of the twelve reds was poured and individuals pretty much evaluated appearance of all the wines and then their bouquets before actually tasting. It was obvious wine #11 was corked, and wine #5 was musty if not outright corked.
On to the wines. (Unless otherwise stated, the wines were dark purple/ violet in color.) Scores are recorded using Dr. B's fever scale, which starts at 100 degrees for a 100 point wine. Also listed are the group vote (firsts/seconds/thirds) and the score I'd give on a more conventional 100 point system.
[A note on the scale. I rated each of these 100
point wines with a 20 point system, renormalized to the fever scale that
may be inferred by inspection. When rating wines such as these, the 20
point system is geared up a notch to account for my higher expectations.
A 13/20 would be about a 90/100.]
To accompany the first course of House Cured Gravlax with Tzatziki and Melitzana, we had three whites:
93 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rotenberg SGN--Medium amber color. Beautiful botrytis, apricot, honey nose. Very thick, high acid, very sweet (BA-like). Great mid-palate. Very good finish with lingering acidity. 97
The next two courses were: a small section of braised lamb shank on spaetzle with pomegranate seeds and cipollini onions, followed by filet mignon with a red wine reduction and frisee salad with roasted shallots, grapes, and blue cheese. Among the red wines, I think the Rhones matched best with the lamb. None of the reds sang harmoniously with the filet as a young zin or CdP might have.
Dessert was warm plum strudel with vanilla ice cream. The wines:
Too bad about the Musigny. Glad it wasn't my contribution.
The rest of the red wines were generally disappointing in that not a single one was mindblowing. Only the 94 Harlan and 91 La Landonne came close. Each time I have the Harlan, it's better than the previous time, so maybe in time it will merit Parker's 100 rating. The La Landonne seems to have all the requisite components to become a mindblowing 100 pointer in about a decade.
My contribution, the 90 La Chapelle, seemed rather restrained and in need of time to resolve its tannic finish. The 89 Pavillon would have rated a near perfect score had its bouquet been pleasant. Any other experiences out there? The 90 Pavillon was overall more impressive, though I think a better bottle of the 89 would give it a run for the money. The 91 La Turque tasted like its younger vine juice won't quite bring it to the level of La Landonne in 91, even though it packs quite a wallop!
Among the Bordeaux, mass confusion. Although Montrose is one of my favorites, I'd never had the 90 before. Not as searingly tannic as Montrose often is young, this one threw me for a loop. Though it smelled like Bordeaux, it tasted a bit Rhonish. Not particulary lush or forward fruit, it may be in a dumb phase. The 82 Bordeaux were not showing well. Perhaps they should not have been decanted 5 hours early. The 89 Haut Brion looked and tasted older than it is. Many thought this was the 82 Mouton from the color, so perhaps that upped its score, even from me. The 82 Las Cases was pretty ignorable this time out.
Thanks, Steve, for sending us the 85 Sassicaia. Your generosity is duly noted. I hope your mother-in-law has gotten better. The wine was quite fine and had definite Bordeaux-like qualities. Since I'd never had Sass, I had know way of making an educated guess. It would be nice to try it again with an Italian meal.
The dry whites were wonderful with the food. The Z-H SGN is great, but since its sweetness is at the BA level, it would have tasted a little thin and acidic next to the other dessert wine. Fortunately, it was served with the appropriate food course.
The Massandra was quite an experience. Parker says 100 bottles of the elixir were shipped to the US, so I feel priviledged to have had a chance to try it. Not cheap at $300 for 750 ml, still, it is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed if you can find and afford it. It also had the smallest cork I'd ever seen in a regular sized wine bottle. Less than an inch long.
Each of the Kracher, Pithon and Baumard wines is great, very young, and should improve over the next 15-20 years. As great as the 96 Baumard is, I've been praising the 95 as yet a notch up. The 95 could well have earned the WS wine of the year in 97, so it is no surprise that the 96 got top dessert wine in 98! The Ambroisie has the second highest sugar content I've encountered in a wine (behind the 93 Pajzos Essencia). Because of its better acidity, though, I rate the Ambroisie ahead of the Essencia. The Kracher? Well, I'll be gradually working my way through a few others in years to come, and if this is any indication of what lies in store, and for future vintages, then I think us sweet wine lovers will have a ball comparing the best of Austria, Sauternes, Loire, Alsace and Germany. Glory be!
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