The December 9th Wine Dinner
Zarole Restaurant, Ridgewood New Jersey

For dinner last evening, Tammy and I met Steve Manzi and Steve Levy together with their fiancée's Karen and Nancy at a hot new restaurant in Ridgewood called Zarole. I should add that I was blown away by the preparation and presentation of the cuisine at Zarole. I think I can best describe the cuisine as "new American" with a French Nouvelle influence. In my opinion, Zarole is the best of the best and is now on my list for top honors for any restaurant in the State of New Jersey (and I've certainly been to more than a few).

Steve Levy's necktie was a good conversation piece for a good part of the evening. It wasn't the tie itself but rather the wording on it. You see the tie had the drug "Viagra" spelled out in hundreds of places all over the tie. He's such a comedian. Levy also enlightened us as to what the initials E and E stood for in the Black Pepper Shiraz. Unfortunately, this being a public forum, I will not repeat his definition of the "E" words. All I will say is that it definitely had something to do with the desired effects of the aforementioned drug. Back to my notes.

The Ladies: Tammy, Nancy and Karen

The causalities of the evening were six bottles of luxury (au premier) Australian red wines. Specifically, six Shiraz wines. So, what else is new? Actually, this was our first opportunity to taste the 98 Veritas Hanisch, '98 Kay Brothers "Block 6" and the '97 E and E "Black Pepper". Other notables included the '97 and '98 Fox Creek Reserves and the '98 Burge Reserve. All of the wines were showing huge concentrations of background fruit and grip. However, with the possible exception of the '97 Fox Creek Reserve, all were in varying stages of closed. Nonetheless, it was an outstanding dinner tasting and a great excuse to get together with our friends.

Lets see we started with the '98 Kay Brothers "Block 6", moved to the '97 and '98 Fox Creeks and concluded the '97 Burge Reserve and E and E Black Pepper Shiraz. Although I only jotted down a handful of written notes, most of the notes below are from memory. Furthermore, most if not all of these thoroughbreds would have benefited from extended breathing.

'98 Kay Brothers "Block 6" Shiraz- Probably the weakest wine in this line up but no slouch either. Medium fullish color leading to a tight, rather undistinguished aromatic impression. Palate comes across as a bit austere. There is however great promise here with a significant depth of underlying fruit for the long haul. Hold for three years. My first tasting note, score it "94"+

'97 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz- The '97 Fox Creek showed a good bit better than the bottle we sampled just last August at Café Panache. Deep purple color leading to a restrained nose suggesting road tar, crushed blackberry and dark currant like fruits. The palate impression mirrored the nose with exceptionally rich, ripe, SWEET fruit, tar, vanilla and a purity of core fruit flavors that must be experienced to be believed. Wonderfully crafted and singing! My eighth tasting note, score it "97".

'98 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz- This wine together with the Burge Reserve were both noticeably more backward this time around as opposed to the last side-by-side. On the palate, the highly extracted well-endowed wine shows remarkable concentration and impeccable balance. In the mouth, the '98 Fox Creek Reserve is a bit tight, hard and definitely not as open as the '97 Fox Creek Reserve. Hold for two years. My tenth tasting note, score it "97/98+".

'98 Veritas Hanisch Shiraz- Deep color of ink and oil (most saturated of the evening). Restrained nose suggesting crushed black fruits, spice, oak and full toast. Palate offers up super concentrated and highly extracted, "pure" core fruit flavors. Finishes with a 45 to 50 second residual sensation. Hold for two years. Is it better then the '97? Well maybe, but then again, that would be a great excuse for another side-by-side. My first tasting note, score it "98+"

'98 Burge Reserve Shiraz- I believe that the Burge Reserve is now even less approachable than it was in previous tastings. The wine continues to slumber into a closed state. Deep, dark ink like color. The bouquet while somewhat tight and ungenerous does offer up deeply scented aromas of crushed Blackberry/Raspberry compote, licorice and spice. In the mouth, the '98 Burge Reserve shows plenty of power, extract and grip to go along with a good dose of medium fullish "coarse" tannins. Hold for two years. My tenth tasting note. Score it "98".
'97 E & E Black Pepper Shiraz- Not as deeply pigmented as some of the other wines but probably the most backward. Restrained nose and palate. Searing tannins dominate the attack. There is however great extract here with a significant depth of underlying fruit. Hold for three to five years. My first tasting note, score it "96+".
There you have it