Last weekend, found me trekking back to LA and Ontario CA for the first time since March '08 and although it rained nearly every one of my three days there, there was no shortage of wine, food and great camaraderie.
It all began with getting together with my Port loving friend Andy V. who had planned a wonderful offline at Zucca restaurant. From the Hudson Valley Foie Gras to the Beef Tenderloin, all six courses were really solid. We not only had a plethora of Ports but some fine German Riesling and excellent reds to go along with the meal too.
A few standouts from the evening:
- Getting to see some familiar faces (a few from FTLOP too) Marc Jackson, Alex Rodriguez, Heather Hathwell, Frank Tota, Cris Whetstone and more
- Table wines of note … favorites were Broadbent Vinho Verde, 2004 Niepoort Charme (wow!), a Magnum of 2006 Quinta do Crasto Vinha Velha Reserva, 2004 Quinta do Vale Dona Maria and a beautiful 2005 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese. The bretty 1990 Chateau Angélus … not so much.
- Most interesting Port of the night: 1875 port by Louis Lewin & Co., Cucamonga CA was an experience I will never forget, thanks to Frank.
- Ports that provided significant pleasure: 1970 Niepoort VP, 1966 Krohn Colheita, 1934 Niepoort Colheita.
- Ports that did not deliver on their promise and fell WAY short of expectations: my bottle of 1952 Dalva Golden White, 1955 and 1963 Cockburn's (the latter of which did get better much later, but still …) 1970 Graham's was merely good due to short decant time, a musty but not corked 1970 Taylor VP, a sizzling hot 1967 Vargellas VP, 1940 Quarles Harris was just "good" overall, 1964 Krohn Colheita.
A handful of us wound up searching for a late night snack and hit up the local Taco truck, a phenomenon that I've only heard about until this post-Port prandial experience … like we really needed more caloric intake at that point. Then it was back to Andy's for some extraordinary Cuban cigars after the tacos and re-tasting some of the left over Ports to see how they fared.
The next day encompassed a grand slam at Denny's where breakfast is always right, a brief food shopping spree at Costco and Trader Joe's … which led to a well-deserved nap, after such a Port marathon the previous evening. Later, on Saturday evening Andy grilled perfectly seared NY Strip steaks in his garage, due to the deluge just steps away. We enjoyed the leftover 2006 old vine Crasto from Mag and a worthy and rare, 1999 Quinta do Crasto "Tinta Roriz" which was singing all the right notes in tune with the juicy steak.
Dessert was a bottle of 1890 Burmester Colheita Port which was a bit clumsy, but tasty nonetheless. I've saved a few ounces and will be sharing them with two friends on Friday. I had one tiny sip a minute ago for the first time since Saturday and it has improved. Possibly "travel shocked" due to the flight in the belly of the plane from Seattle to Ontario, after a trip over from the UK just ten days earlier.
After bidding adieu to Andy who dropped me off at my hotel in Ontario where I was sequestered for the next two days, a good night's rest was in order. For at 8:30 on Sunday morning, began the New World International Wine Competition. With 150-ish wines that day and dozens on Monday morning leading up to the medal rounds, it has been one of my favorite venues for judging since 1999.
I am always pleased to be included with this great group of judges, the majority of whom are winemakers from CA, but other vignerons fly in from Texas, Missouri, Mexico and more. I really enjoyed my two days there. Believe it or not, on Sunday night after the vinous palate onslaught, we had "a wine dinner." Yes, lots of wine was offered up as we each brought a bottle to share and attending winemakers donate a few bottles of their wines to the cause. I brought a Warre's 20 year old Otima, as I knew decanting ahead was not going to be an option.
Tasting notes to follow in the next newsletter. Thank for reading!