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 May 16, 1998:
Pinot Noir/Red Burgundies
The Hitching Post provided a good set-up in a secluded room. Wines were tasted in flights of 3 prior to dinner. We'll get to the wines in a minute, but first the food. We started with appetizers of smoked, sauteed mushrooms and grilled, marinated artichokes with garlic bread. After that, each person ordered separately.
I started with a delicious smoked tomato soup (a bisque) followed by a decent fresh mixed salad with a lot of variety in the greens. A combination of qrilled quail and 2 inch sirloin strip matched nicely to the pinot noirs that remained after the tasting. My wife's grilled turkey breast also went well with the pinots. For dessert, a hot chocolate souffle was rich with very bitter chocolate. Scrumcious.
The HP set each place with 3 large Libby glasses
that were just fine. There were a few surprises from the tasting, so I'll
get right to the notes in the order served. (Paranthetical remarks are
my guesses of the wines during the tasting.)
Step aside, Tom, I'm taking the bloody pulpit!
This was a very interesting tasting. One couple (not Doug) brought the 2 identical Coleman wines unbeknownst to the winemaker. Doug did not pick them out as his. But he did enjoy the corked bottle (he says you can taste beneath the smell, but that's not for me). Doug did bring the other bottle of his wine (the well-regarded BN), but was not able to identify it as his when tasted blind.
The Whitcraft was quite enjoyable. I've had very mixed results with his older wines, so if you've got the 96 N-Block, it drinks well now. It is not worth risking holding it more than a year or two. I'm glad I was able to identify the source of the fruit (BN) since the vineyard produces such a distinctive PN.
The Burgundies did not show particulary well, given that there were 2 Grand Cru and 1 Premier Cru. I thought the Meo was a big disappointment and it rated third from last among the group. The Drouhin was better than I would have expected from this negotiant for a vintage like 89. Like I said, I kept track of the Bertagna I brought, so my score ought to be thrown out. It rated right in the middle of the pack by the group. It was a tad thin for V-R in a good vintage like 95.
The BIG surprise of the night was the Marrimar Torres. As you know, she is of the Spanish family that owns the Torres winery and they have a history of producing good to excellent wines with the occasional world class effort. Their CA operation produces pinot and chards, but it is the chards that have gotten top billing, UNTIL NOW. The 96 is spectacular PN. I'm not sure the earlier efforts give a hint at what they could do in 96, but this is the real thing. This is worth seeking out!
I'd not had Westrey PN before, but I do enjoy their pinot gris, done in the Alsacien style and very good QPR. If their PN is in the $15 range (I don't know the actual price), it would be a good buy.
Foxen. No surprise here. They've been making great pinot noirs from the S&B fruit for a long time. I didn't think it was the best of show, but the locals at the table have been drinking this stuff so long I think they recognized what they liked and awarded it appropriately. But I think a few other wines outclassed it.
The Laurier is unremarkable.
I brought the Dom. de la Madone as a ringer. I lost track of which bag it was in, so I had no idea it was gamay I was drinking. No one else did either. But I had this wine several times in the past. I like it much better than the typical Beaujolais because it is so PN-like. It's a fine burger wine, but thrown into a tasting with top PNs, it couldn't rise to the occasion.
The 95 SB Winery Reserve is Bruce McGuire's best PN yet. I've been in their wine club for years and have tried almost everything from the winery. The PNs are always acceptable, sometimes excellent. But this takes their PN efforts to a whole new level. While outstanding now, it will improve for the next 3-5 years.
Finally, someone donated the double magnum of Ici-La-Bas, but was unable to attend. To bad. We finished it off. Ici-La-Bas is a Jim Clendenen project to make world class wines from OR grapes. Jim is top honcho at Au Bon Climat Winery and has made spectacular PNs from local fruit for more than a decade. The Ici-La-Bas project is only a few years running. I tried the 95 version last year at the Wine Cask futures tasting and was not very impressed. But this wine has picked up a lot of weight and texture and is simply fantastic. I guess the moral to the story is never sell Jim Clendenen short. He's too good a winemaker to put out a disappointing wine, at least these days.
The very smoky grilled foods at the Hitching Post married beautifully with the pinot noirs. Their food is excellent, improved from when I ate there last a few years back.
OK, Tom, you can have your bloody pulpit back! And by the way, I think I saw someone pinch a sawbuck outta the collection basket.
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