Well, Tammy and I were trying to decide what kind of take out food we were going to have, when the telephone rang. The caller (one Steve Levy a.k.a. Showboat) asked me if we would like to join him at his favorite BYOB for an impromptu tasting and dinner. Sure, I said and two hours later we met at Café Panache for dinner.  For starters with the appetizer course, we opened two Bordeaux from the '82 vintage (not a bad year at all). One was an '82 Magdelaine with the other being a '82 Pichon Lalande. Normally, these two would headline most tastings, but not last evening! To my notes:

'82 MAGDELAINE ST.EMILLION PREMIER CRU CLASSEE Low neck fill showing an overall light to medium ruby color. This example showed considerable color delineation versus the bottle that I sampled last October. Nonetheless, this wine was great from the get-go and only improved with additional air-time. The bouquet suggested smoked leather and light black fruit fragrances. In the mouth, the wine is light to medium bodied with a round, elegant candied sweetness to it's taste. Again, the palate like the nose was much more evolved than previous examples.

'82 PICHON LALANDE Medium neck fill showing a medium ruby color. This Pichon Lalande was less than a perfect bottle. Specifically, the nose was off and the palate impression showed metallic and steel like flavors that I don't normally associate with Pichon Lalande. A minor disappointment…that is, until we poured the…

'96 BURGE FAMILY DRAYCOTT RESERVE SHIRAZ High neck fill. The Burge Reserve shows deeply pigmented "syrup like" colors of black and purple. The aromatic impression of the '96 Burge Reserve was absolutely stunning and simply must be experienced to be believed! A sensational nose of Raspberry compote, licorice and toasty oak fragrances explode from the glass! On the palate, the wine is a dead ringer for the '91 Grange! No, I'm not kidding! First of all, the Burge Reserve is perfectly balanced as well as seamless! It shows a depth and purity of fruit found it few wines. The palate mirrored the nose with a "creamy" mix of (extremely rich and intense) sweet, silky, black fruits, raspberry and vanilla. Add to that a medium full texture with non-obtrusive background tannins and a substantial finish. This is a decadently rich, super concentrated effort from the Burge Family that will drink and improve over the next twenty years!

'95 ARMAGH High neck fill showing a deep, dark, dense opaque purple color. I have six tasting notes on the '94 but this is only my second tasting note on the '95. While I love the '94, the '95 Armagh is even bigger and better and will surely outlive the sensational '94 Armagh. The '95 Armagh showed a slightly deeper color than the Burge Reserve did and cuts a fuller more complete profile than the '94 Armagh. The bouquet while somewhat tight and ungenerous does offer up deeply scented aromas of dense raspberry fruit, minerals and spice. In the mouth, the '95 Armagh shows plenty of power, extract and grip. It is sooo thick and unctuous that it has a port like consistency. It is also perfectly balanced and should drink and improve over the next twenty-five years. This Armagh may ultimately surpass the effort of the outstanding '94 Armagh but it will require at least another five years or more of bottle age to show its true potential.

Conclusions: At about one half to one third the price of Grange, I have already placed my order for five cases of the '96 Burge Reserve and may ultimately purchase the entire allocation for the State of New Jersey. Guess you could say that I like the wine!


On March 14th., Tammy and I braved the season's biggest snowstorm for a whiff and a taste of five Australian luxury red wines. As he usually does, Steve Levy called at the last minute and invited us to attend another impromptu dinner and tasting featuring the likes of the '96 Burge Reserve Shiraz, '96 Burge regular Shiraz, '96 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz, '94 Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz, and the '97 Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz. Not letting a minor thing like snow get in our way, we decided to join Steve and his three guests. I should add that having the right wines at the tasting was also a motivating factor. We started with the Springflat Shiraz, moved to the Burge and concluded with the Leasingham and the Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz. My only regret was not bringing my own tasting glasses. The restaurant's tasting glasses left a lot to be desired. Nonetheless, the quality of these fine wines showed through. For those who don't know, all of these wines (except for the Classic Clare) are imported by the Grateful Palate, one Dan Phillips. To my notes:

'97 WILD DUCK CREEK SPRINGFLAT SHIRAZThis wine was great from the get-go and only improved in the glass. The Wild Duck Creek Springflat Shiraz showed an impressive dark ruby/purple color leading to a distinguished bouquet suggesting medium to full toast, ripe fruit and a cotton candied scented nose. Overall, I had this wine placed third behind the Classic Clare and the Burge Reserve in aromatic intensity. In the mouth, the wine is medium bodied and flavorful with friendly back ground tannins and an elegant candied sweetness to it's taste. My second tasting note on the '97. Score it "92".

'96 BURGE REGULAR SHIRAZ Like the Burge Reserve, the regular Cuvee shows an impressive dark ruby color suggesting ink and oil. However, the nose and palate impression on the Burge regular Shiraz was somewhat muted compared to the Burge Reserve. Specifically, the bouquet showed a funky, earthy aroma that was not detectable in two previous bottles. On the palate, the wine offered up a medium texture showing a good inner core of ripe currant fruit, medium coarse tannins and a good dollop of new oak. Again, this bottle was not as good as previous examples. My third tasting note. I would score this bottle an "87", while I would score the two earlier bottles "91".

'96 BURGE RESERVE SHIRAZ The Burge Reserve together with the Classic Clare showed the best aromatics of the evening. The wine showed a saturated black and purple ink like color. The bouquet offers up a fabulous mix of cocoa, licorice, cassis, vanilla, cotton candy and sweet oak fragrances. The wine literally coats the lining of the mouth with superb, opulent flavors suggesting ripe black fruits, bacon fat, licorice, sweet oak and dense prune and mocha like flavors. The Burge Reserve is perfectly balanced and seamless with a depth and purity of fruit that simply must be experience to be believed! The wine is also moderately tannic with an explosive finish! Drink it over the next twenty years. My second tasting note. Score it 96/97. Now, If I had a better tasting glass, I'd probably give it a 99 or 100!

'94 LEASINGHAM CLASSIC CLARE SHIRAZ The color was a saturated black/purple showing no sign of maturity. The wine required at least thirty minutes in the glass to begin to show it's full aromatic complexity. Simply put, the bouquet was gorgeous! The Classic Clare bouquet roars from the glass showing loads of deeply scented Syrah fruit, spice, cocoa and sweet American oak. In the mouth, the wine is very concentrated and full...but, at the same time, very, approachable, with layers of extremely rich, ripe Syrah fruit and a good dose of medium coarse background tannins. The best two words that describe the '94 Classic Clare's character are "Fruit Bomb". Simply put, the wine does not have any rough edges. In addition, the wine also shows a significant depth of fruit for the long haul. Drink it over the next fifteen years. My twelfth tasting note. Score it "96".

'96 FOX CREEK RESERVE SHIRAZ The Fox Creek Reserve together with the Burge Reserve had the best palate impressions of the evening with the Classic Clare a close second! While the Fox Creek showed excellent color, depth of fruit, extract and grip, the nose was mute. Unlike the flamboyant nose of the '96 Burge Reserve and '94 Classic Clare, the '96 Fox Creek Reserve shows more of a background raspberry compote like component to go along with a restrained bouquet suggesting spice, tar, alcohol and medium to full toast! In the mouth, the Fox Creek Reserve showed perfect balance and a significant depth of fruit to go along with a long lingering finish. Ideally, the wine requires at least another two years or more in bottle. While the Fox Creek Reserve Cabernet is even more backward and ungenerous, the Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz can be consumed today with a great deal of satisfaction! My first tasting note. Score it a "93/94".


It started with a bottle of wine and a quite dinner for two Saturday evening. It ended last evening with six of us celebrating part Deux of Tammy's Birthday! The Players:The Grange Master, Steve Levy and his comedic wife Rhonda, Dave Klein and Debra Paster, who I might add contributed the wine of the evening. The Wines: '81, '82, '86, '90 and '91 Grange plus a starter wine. The location: Little Angelo's, A small Italian Restaurant located in the hills of Northern, New Jersey. The Cuisine: Good, but not able to stand up next to the Grange offerings...Although few foods can. [NOTE] Many if not all of these wines could be enjoyed on there own without food, al la the '91 Dominus et al. The wines: All terrific and not a dog in the bunch. Further, I have numerous tasting notes on all these wines and will post MY numerical "Ed" score with each wine. We started with Auzzie Cab that actually resembles an outstanding Shiraz rather than a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon based wine. To my notes:

'92 SEPPELT DORRIEN VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON- (91/92) High neck fill showing an overall deep, very dark ruby and purple color. The bouquet was just absolutely sensational! I had my nose in the glass for what seemed like five or more minutes. Hot Damn! Huge toast, licorice, coffee and jammy dark fruit flavors explode from the glass. On the palate the wine offers up a silky texture with an expansive muli-layered concentration of incredible super-ripe cassis and black fruits. This medium to full bodied wine has only ripe tannins with no trace of harshness. This highly extracted, beautifully textured wine is drinking great now and should hold ten years or more.

'81 GRANGE HERMITAGE- (95/96+) Medium neck fill showing a deep ruby color. The bouquet and palate
impression took a good hour or so to begin to open up and come around. Unlike the purity of fruit found in the nose of '82 Grange, the '81 Grange shows more of an earthy component to go along with a restrained bouquet suggesting tar and black fruit fragrances. In the mouth, the '81 Grange is large scaled, backward and ungenerous with medium coarse tannins for the long hall. However, there is great promise here! In addition to the tannins, the '81 Grange offers up a mountain of highly extracted fruit and background spice. This beefy, hulk of a wine will drink and improve over the next twenty five years.

'82 GRANGE HERMITAGE- (99+) Perhaps the best bottle of wine I have ever tasted!!! Medium neck fill showing an overall saturated black and purple color suggesting ink and oil. A stunning bouquet of rich, ripe, jammy black raspberry fruit is simply extraordinary and hauntingly reminiscent of my previous experience with this wine! On the palate, the '82 Grange is perfectly balanced as well as seamless! It shows a depth and purity of fruit found it few wines. Quite simply, the wine offers up a multi-layered "creamy" mix of (extremely rich) sweet, silky, black fruits, raspberry and vanilla. The extraordinary texture and mouth- feel plus a dazzling level of lushness and intensity make this the wine of the evening!

'86 GRANGE HERMITAGE- (97/98+) Another profound wine made in the same mold as the dazzling '82. High neck fill showing youthful shades of black and purple. The bouquet (at this time) is not as riveting or complex as the '82 Grange, but is by no means far off the mark. The bouquet while somewhat tight and ungenerous does offer up deeply scented aromas of sweet raspberry compote, minerals and spice. In the mouth, the '86 Grange shows plenty of power, extract and grip a la the '81 and shows the purity of fruit found in the '82. It is sooo thick and unctuous that it has a port like consistency. It is also perfectly balanced and should drink and improve over the next twenty five years. This Grange may ultimately surpass the effort of the other worldly '82.

'90 GRANGE HERMITAGE- (93+) High neck fill showing a deep, dark, dense opaque purple color. The nose and palate impression are backward and ungenerous with unyielding mouth-puckering tannins. What it did show was a full bodied earthy/spicy texture with plenty of power and grip. I would have liked to see this wine evolve in my glass, but I'm afraid that it would have never opened up. Hold for seven to ten years. '91 GRANGE HERMITAGE- Well, we never made it to the '91 Grange. So we save it for next Sunday!

There you have it. My favorites of the evening were the '82 Grange followed ever so closely by the '86 and '81.