Tasting at Pinot Blanc restaurant in St. Helena, California

At a tasting with wine collectors at the up-scale Napa Valley bistro, Pinot Blanc, the brilliant 1997 Marcassin Chardonnay and 1997 Pinot Noir were both exquisite. The Chardonnay flirts with perfection, and the Pinot Noir is a dead-ringer for a California version of a great Bonnes Mares. Wouldn't I love to see some of the disingenuous terroirists who put down California at the expense of their sacred cows in Burgundy put Marcassin's Pinot Noir in a blind tasting with the finest grand crus. Would they acknowledge the results ... doubtful.

I love a great old Bordeaux, but the 1929 d'Agassac was too old for my taste. Mushroomy notes mixed with dried fruit and faded flowers were all that was left. The great deception of Pétrus, particularly in vintages from the mid-eighties is certainly apparent in the 1985, an herbal, light effort that is no better than a Bordeaux cru bourgeois or Côtes du Rhône. Lacking substance, it must be one of the most over-priced wines in the wine universe. Léoville Las Cases was not making wines in the early sixties at the same quality level they have achieved over the last twenty years. This was one of the better showings for the 1961 Las Cases, a wine I have tasted at the château and liked even less. At this tasting, it was medium-bodied, very St.-Julien-like in its cedar, mineral, and spice box characteristics, classic, elegant, restrained, and measured. It should drink well for another seven years.

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