November 16th Wine dinner
Cafe Matisse, Rutherford New Jersey


Well, five of us got together last evening for an impromptu dinner tasting featuring a number of excellent wines. The venue was Café Matisse, which is located in Rutherford, New Jersey. This was my first visit to Café Matisse and it was indeed a memorable experience. Special thanks goes to Steve Manzi who coordinated the event.

Now, for the causalities of the evening, there were at least eight bottles of wine opened for the five of us. On top of that, there were at least a half dozen additional bottles that we never got around to open. Given the reputation of the participants involved, this excessiveness should not be a surprise to anyone.

For starters, we opened a '98 Rochioli Chardonnay then moved to a Chateaunef du Pape, followed by the two vintages of Lynch Bages and concluded with four luxury Shiraz wines. To my notes:

'89 Rayas- Mature nose of smoke, spice and dark cherry like fragrances are readily perceptible. In the mouth, the wine is fully mature and flavorful with a slight touch of acidity detectable on the initial and mid palate.

'90 Lynch Bages- Medium/high neck fill with a very dense, fullish ruby color showing no signs of maturity. My first words on nose alone were "oh my". Loads of hedonistic Paulliac fragrances suggesting minerals, cedar, cassis and lead pencil aromas explode from the glass. Much more evolved aromatically than previous examples. On palate impression, the wine literally coats the lining of the mouth with super concentrated flavors of jammy ripe fruit, leather, cedar, game, minerals, and truffle like flavors. Can be consumed today or over the next 15 years. An outstanding bottle and possibly the best Lynch Bages that I have ever tasted! My third tasting note. Score it “94+”. Who says that I don't like Bordeaux anymore?

'96 Lynch Bages- High neck fill with a similar color and a stunning aromatic impression found in the 1990 Lynch. In then mouth, the wine shows medium coarse tannins with good core fruit flavors and a medium full concentration. Slightly acidic but finishes very well. The ’96 Lynch is a very good bottle but simply does not possess the depth of fruit and complexity of the '90 Lynch. Drink it over the next 10 to 15 years. My first tasting note. Score it “90”+

'98 Dutschke “St. Jakobi”- Deep, black and purple color. Fragrant and flavorful with good core fruit flavors, fine extract and a moderate finish. Slightly outclassed by its bigger brother, the Oscar Semmler, but no slouch either. Drink it over the next eight to ten years. My eighth tasting note. Score it “92+”

'98 Dutschke “Oscar Semmler- Out of the gate, the Oscar Semmler seemed to posses all the qualities of a near perfect wine…that is, until we opened the '98 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz! Deep purple color leading to a stunning nose suggesting road tar, crushed blackberry like fruits, Licorice, moderate toast and spice. On the palate, the highly extracted well-endowed wine shows remarkable concentration and impeccable balance. The wine is literally oozing with hedonistic richness. Highly concentrated "seamless" flavors and superb balance make this one of my favorites of the evening. Has all the components to make one an instant fan. Can be consumed today or 10 to 12 years from now. My third tasting note. Score it “96+”. Got to get me more of this.

'98 D’Arenberg Dead Arm- Deep purple color leading to a restrained nose suggesting road tar, crushed blackberry like fruits, Licorice, moderate toast and spice. In the mouth, the '98 Dead Arm shows plenty of power, extract and grip to go along with a good dose of medium fullish "coarse" tannins. Certainly the best Dead Arm that I've ever tasted. Hold for two or three years. My first tasting note. Score it “94+”!

’98 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz- Deep color of ink and oil. 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 50 to 60 second residual sensation. There were also significant underlying tannins present. However, they were not obtrusive or coarse tannins. The wine is nowhere near ready, but it can be consumed today with a great deal of satisfaction or cellared for 15 years or more. My ninth tasting note and possibly the best bottle to date. Score it “99”! Awesome juice.

There you have it.