August 25th. Tasting at Aldo Cuccina
featuring nine top wines

Eight of us got together last evening for a tasting dinner where we proceeded to open some of the finest luxury Shiraz offerings in recent memory. A number of these thoroughbreds were opened some sixty hours (that's right) in advance of dinner. Others, like the '98 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz that were not opened and decanted in advance, definitely should have been. Nonetheless, all the wines were terrific!

Special thanks goes to Al Chaby whose Burgundy palate has now been totally devastated due to the mass consumption of these "OZ" monsters. Also, Jeremy Allen for his generous contributions including the Fox Creek offerings as well as a half dozen or more bottles that were never poured. Needless to say, Jeremy is now my new best friend. To my notes:

'98 Armagh- We started with this wine, which may have been a bit of a mistake. Quite simply, it was like getting run over by a bus. A big bruising over-the-top style of Shiraz showing great power, extract and grip for the long haul with plenty of stuffing as well as a few rough edges. Hold for one to two years. My first tasting note, score it "96"

'98 Dutchke Oscar Semmler- I've had this wine on numerous occasions in the past where it showed remarkably well but at this tasting it was a bit overshadowed. While Oscar doesn't carry the weight or finish as well as some of the other "big boys", it is certainly has a lot going for it. It showed a supple, fruit forward personality with soft tannins and a short to moderate finish. Drink it over the next three years. My seventh tasting note, score it "92"!

'98 Noon Reserve Shiraz- A wine that has perplexed me in the past. This example however was decanted some sixty hours beforehand and was showing exceptionally well! Dense port like color leading to a deep brooding bouquet suggesting crushed blackberry/raspberry compote, licorice and black plum. In the mouth, the highly extracted well-endowed Noon Reserve shows remarkable concentration, tremendous extract and impeccable balance. Hold for two to three years. My fourth tasting note, score it "99"!

'99 Kay Brothers Hillside Shiraz- I absolutely love this style of wine and was so impressed when I first tasted it that I ordered an additional case after my first sip. The take no prisonerís bouquet offers up a fabulous mix of cocoa, licorice, spice and toasty new oak fragrances. Gorgeous palate of concentrated and sweet Raspberry/Blackberry fruit and underlying toasty oak melt in the mouth. Drink it over the next five years. My sixth tasting note, score it "95"!

'98 Greenock Creek "Seven Acre" Shiraz- Another wine that was very good but perhaps a bit outclassed in this lineup. Nose comes across as a bit mute at first but slowly emerges over the course of the evening. In the mouth, the wine shows a medium full concentration with ripe, black plum like fruit and a moderate finish. My third tasting note, score it "93".

'00 Summerfield Reserve Shiraz- more refined and certainly not as massively structured as some of the others but outstanding nevertheless. Beautifully textured showing outstanding core fruit and flavor. Tannins are background rather than to the fore and the wine can be consumed today with a great deal of satisfaction or laid down for five to seven years or more. My fourth tasting note, score it "96"!

'97 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz- Another wine that was decanted well in advance of dinner. The deeply scented bouquet suggests ripe black fruits, licorice and smoky oak like aromas. Gorgeous palate of concentrated but sweet Raspberry/Blackberry fruit and pepper and underlying toasty oak melt in the mouth. Add to that a strong dollop of licorice-flavored fruit. Delicious right now and a real treat to drink. Shows the stuffing and backbone to last another five years or more. My tenth tasting note, score it "97"!

'98 Fox Creek "JSM"- Supple, balanced with sumptuous flavors suggesting licorice, black plum and roasted vanilla bean. Terrific right now and not likely to improve with additional age. Drink it over the next three to five years. My sixth tasting note, score it "95"!

'98 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz- A brooding giant! I was fortunate to have had this wine several times before it completely shut down and I'm here to tell all that it was awesome. Today however, the wine is very much in a backward, ungenerous state. Nose offers up focused but tight aromatics suggesting black plum, licorice and hot tar. In the mouth, the '98 Fox Creek Reserve was a brute and definitely closed for business. What it did show were primary core fruit flavors suggesting currants and plums. Add to that black pepper, earth, and leather. The wine appears to possess all the components to be great and simply requires a bit of bottle age to come around. Hold for three years. My ninth tasting note, score it "98"!

There you have it!