Meadowood Restaurant - U.S. Navy Seal Foundation Charity Dinner
This two-part event held at Napa Valley's Meadowood Resort featured a Masterclass with wines from my cellar followed by a dinner prepared by Meadowood's Michelin three-star chef, Christopher Kostow, to accompany the Châteauneuf du Papes also donated from my cellar. We exceeded our goal, raising nearly $350,000 for the U.S. Seal Foundation, which provides education, housing and other services to the families of U.S. Navy Seals who have been injured or killed. I sent out six bottles of each of these wines for both the Masterclass and the dinner to accommodate the 72 guests. I would like to thank Meadowood proprietor, Bill Harlan, Philip Norfleet, and the entire staff at the Meadowood for donating their time as well as the evening's cuisine to make this such a great success. Everything was carried out flawlessly, and their generosity was remarkable. This event encompassed two events, a sit-down Masterclass with eight different Bordeaux wines presented, with me discussing them and interacting with the guests, and a sit-down, less formal dinner at the Meadowood Resort with nine different styles and cuvées of Châteauneuf du Pape.
I chose younger vintages of Bordeaux simply because of the logistics of shipping six wines of each across the country, and not wanting to deal with issues of sediment or cloudy wines. The two wines closest to full maturity were the Monbousquet 2000 and Haut Bergey 2000. The 2000 Monbousquet is typical of that St.-Emilion owned by the Perse family. It exhibits lots of roasted herb, chocolate espresso and coffee bean notes intermixed with black currants and cherries. This expressive, exuberant, medium to full-bodied 2000 is just reaching its full plateau of maturity. Totally different, and more classic is the 2000 Haut Bergey, which comes from a beautifully situated, under-the-radar estate in Pessac-Léognan. Notes of burning embers, scorched earth, black currants, plums and spice box emerge from this Graves-tasting wine. The other 2000 cuvées included the dense, rich, promising 2000 Palmer, which reveals long-term potential, and the spectacular garage wine, the 2000 Péby Faugères, which comes from the best parcel of the larger Faugères vineyard. Some critics of Péby Faugères and other garage wines like it did not think they would age because they were so rich and concentrated early-on, but this is one example of how beautifully these wines have become, even though they are not fully mature. The 2000 Palmer would certainly be considered to be more classic, but the Péby Faugères is loaded. It is a full-bodied, opulent, beautiful wine that positions itself brilliantly between the bold, exuberant flavors of Northern California Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots, and the more austere, restrained, classical French model. We only had one 2001, an underrated vintage, especially for wines that are beginning to drink well in 2014. The 2001 Pavie Decesse is one of the larger scaled efforts in this vintage, being boldly styled with lots of crushed rock, black currant jam, cedarwood, camphor and incense characteristics. Opulent and rich, it is just beginning to reveal some secondary nuances. We had three wines from the controversial 2003 vintage. In the Médoc, certainly in Pauillac and St.-Estèphe, this vintage could hit remarkable heights of quality. The perfect 2003 Montrose and perfect 2003 Lafite Rothschild will go down as legendary efforts in this vintage, and both should evolve for 40-50 years. Both exhibit the fat, succulence and super-rich fruit that was obtained in the Médoc, and are such brilliant examples that it is hard to contrast the many disappointments in this vintage that occurred in Graves, Pomerol and St.-Emilion. The St.-Emilions that turned out well were those from the limestone hillsides that were not affected nearly as severely by the drought and torrid temperatures during the historic summer of 2003. The 2003 Pavie is one such wine as the vineyard sits on the Côte Pavie, a gorgeous slope of decomposed limestone trending to more sand and gravel at the bottom of the slope. This wine has settled down nicely as it was exuberant and controversial in its first 4-5 years of life. Now, the baby fat has begun to fade and the classic terroir (often considered to be the second-best terroir of St.-Emilion - after Ausone) is beginning to strut its stuff. The wine is revealing some minerality, even in this super vintage. Full-bodied and rich, it should hit its plateau of maturity in another 5-10 years, where it should remain for at least two decades.
With dinner, the Châteauneuf du Papes were served in the sequence in which they are listed. We started with the fully mature Henri Bonneau 1999 Réserve des Céléstins Châteauneuf du Pape, which reveals lots of beef blood, lavender, cedarwood and roasted Provençal herb notes in a full-bodied, fleshy, rich, complex style. Chapoutier's 2003 Châteauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac (100% old-vine Grenache) exhibits lots of wild strawberry and kirsch notes as well as an unctuous texture. It appears to have put on more weight and structure since I tasted it early on. A stronger than expected showing came from the 2000 Les Cailloux Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire. Fully mature and unlikely to get any better, this wine offers up notes of black raspberries, cherries, cedarwood, roasted meats and dried herbs. It is a full-bodied, fleshy, rich beauty. Another wine that seems to get stronger and stronger every time I return to it (I've drunk several cases of it) is the 2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape. A classic Châteauneuf, it possesses full body, moderately high alcohol, and a classic combination of ground pepper, roasted meats, lavender, Provençal herbs and a boatload of kirsch liqueur-like fruit. Silky smooth and round, it is ideal for drinking now and over the next 10-15 years. The complex 2001 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée des Felix from Bois de Boursandisplays blueberry and raspberry notes intermixed with hints of Asian soy sauce, underbrush and balsam wood. Made in an intriguing and distinctive style from a much cooler year than 2003, this beauty is just coming in to full maturity. Made from old-vine Grenache, the 2001 Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Chaupin reveals plenty of black raspberry, kirsch and black currant notes as well as an unctuous texture, medium to full-bodied power, and a style that is just now becoming fully mature.
We finished with three wines that are the densest of all these wines, but also less evolved and charming. The 2001 Vieille Julienne Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes boasts an inky/blue/purple color along with lots of charcoal, blackberry and black currant fruit, licorice, and graphite notes, even though no new oak is used in its upbringing. The 2003 Pégaü Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Réservée shows the vintage's immense power, ripeness and unctuosity. A classic, old style Châteauneuf du Pape with plenty of kirsch liqueur, lavender, Provençal herb, pepper and roasted meat characteristics, this is a complex, full beauty. The densest and most progressive/modern-styled wine is the 2003 Pierre Usseglio Réserve Deux Frères. Part of this cuvée is aged in small, new oak barrels, and the result is a dense purple-colored, full-bodied, unctuously textured, thick Châteauneuf du Pape that is two to three years away from its peak. It should last for another 10-15 years, although all of these 2003s need to be carefully monitored because of their fast-track evolution.
As for the food, Chef Kostow created a brilliant meal to accompany these wines.
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