T. J. Martell Charity Luncheon
A boisterous group from the music business, in addition to the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame first baseman, Eddie Murray, made for a noisy, exuberant and fun-filled, decadent lunch experience at the nearby Oregon Grille. A collection of wines from all of our cellars resulted in a selection of extraordinary reds, whites and sparklers. One would normally assume that the French Champagnes would be my favorites, but I must say the Schramsberg Reserve 2001 in magnum stole the show. It is an amazing sparkling wine that out-Champagned the Champagnes. I hope I get a chance to taste it again one day.
The white wines were dominated by one of the greatest young whites I have ever had, the perfect 2009 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes. It represents white winemaking at its finest. With great precision, richness and complexity, everything one could possibly want is in this wine. The 2008 Tor Chardonnay Torchiana was good, but was clearly out-performed by the stainless steel, naked Diatom Prum Canyon 2009 Chardonnay, a brilliant tour de force in this style of Chardonnay winemaking.
We then moved to a staggering range of red wines. If my scores look conservative, it is because those wines that got perfect scores were the benchmarks, but I suspect any one of these wines, served by itself, would have scored higher. It’s just that the level of quality was so remarkable, with no corked bottles and nothing that did not show greatness, it is nearly a nightmare to try and put these wines into a qualitative context when you are there to consume them rather than to critique them. That said, they all begged for introspection and analysis given their extraordinary quality. The 2007 Dominus and 2007 Kapcsandy Cabernet Sauvignon State Lane were the most Bordeaux-like. The 2007 Peter Michael Les Pavots was truly remarkable. (For some reason I had forgotten just how great that wine was.) Other 2007s that were perfect included the 2007 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select and the 2007 Abreu Cabernet Sauvignon Thorevilos. They were slightly different, with the Hillside Select filled with power and elegance, and the Abreu Thorevilos incredibly floral with lots of forest floor, mineral and black fruit characteristics. Their greatness put in perspective the 2007 Sloan, which was fabulous and would probably have been rated higher if not drunk alongside the other wines. The same could be said for the 2008 Cliff Lede Poetry and 2001 Screaming Eagle.
The older California reds acquitted themselves brilliantly, from the perfect, still young, prodigious 1991 Dalla Valle Maya, to the 1994 and 1997 Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignons (for those who seemingly find bad bottles, there was no volatile acidity whatsoever in the 1997), to the only Rhône Ranger we had, the sublime Saxum James Berry Vineyard 2007 Syrah/Grenache. Interestingly, it was the Harlans, Dalla Valle Maya and Saxum cuvées that stole the show, with the 1996 Pahlmeyer coming in much closer than one would have expected given the vintage and age of the wine. The 1994 and 1997 Screaming Eagles were brilliant wines in their own right. The 1994 and 1997 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard showed well, although in retrospect, the Herb Lamb Vineyard is by no means as great a terroir as their own estate vineyard IX and their Tychson Hill Vineyard near Vineyard 29.
All of the money raised went for a great cause, the T. J. Martell Foundation. I can’t thank all of the participants enough for their generosity in providing the wines, especially local wholesaler Bruce Gearhart. A special thanks goes out to Eddie Murray fro his appearance. Eddie is not only a great baseball player, but also quite a wine lover (Eddie’s palate zeroed in on what makes these wines among the best in the world) as well as a fascinating storyteller (in total contrast to the unjustifiable reputation he often received from the baseball press during his playing days).
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