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Wrist-Slashing Time

Jim G

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Two evenings at Chateau Rockwell:

Night one started with truly the most spectacular acrobatic catch I’ve ever witnessed as Don grabbed my plummeting bottle of 90 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese (dropped from my hand) in mid-flight to save it from the tile floor and a tragic demise.

Then, at dinner at Restaurant Eve in Old Town Alexandria, we drank:

’86 Cheval Blanc—I’m still a Bordeaux novice compared to Don, but he loved it too. Classic Cheval, to quote the Donald, not outstanding length but still a fine representation of the domain, drinking well now but no signs of decline.

’83 Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle—Don claims to have had far better bottles; this one was disappointing, four-square, varnishy and drying out.

’97 Ch. Musar (.375)—A controversial wine. It was noticeably cloudy, which muddied the wine. I found it, although simple, still a decent drink from an average vintage; Don thought it sucked—I recall the descriptors tinny and metallic.

’00 Pegau—We both liked this wine—probably near its peak, IMO, and not the most finesseful style of C9P, but plenty of intense, sweet, relatively unadulterated fruit that was enjoyable in moderation ( I could never drink an entire bottle of this stuff).

By the way, the cooking of Chef Cathal Armstrong is worthy of mention—one of the best meals I’ve had in D.C. in recent years.

On night two we learned that Don’s spectacular catch of the prior night was less consequential than we had thought. The Donnhoff was a dud – tired and uninteresting This bottle was, BTW, purchased on release from a reputably reliable source (i.e., David and Josh).

’95 Claude Dugat Charmes-Chambertin—Don asked me if I had a camera on my cell phone so I could photograph him pouring the remains of the bottle down the drain. Although the Dugat was initially camouflaged by my leek and pancetta risotto with seared scallops, eventually we finished the risotto, revealing the Dugat in all its magnificent mediocrity. A nose lacking in nuance followed by a clunky mid-palate and aspirin -like finishing acidity.

Not to pick on Tanzer (Parker probably rated the wine as high or higher), but I couldn’t help but take a peak at Steve’s review of the Dugat on release: “. . . . Dense and extremely concentrated; this shows an almost painful intensity today yet has no rough edges. Pure Pinot sap. Totally convincing grand cru. Builds and builds on the palate and aftertaste.” (94 pts.) Seven years later, the only thing I’m convinced of about this wine is that if you own it, sell.

As I write, Don and I are nursing a ’96 Willi Schaefer Gracher Domprobst Spatlese. It started out promising but within 30 minutes became close to impenetrable, dominated but its acidic finish. Hopefully it’s just a stage, or maybe our palates were fatally tainted by last night’s Musar.



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There’s something evil in the air: this fleet of wines the past two nights showed incredibly poorly (except the Pegau C9). The Cheval was good but even that wasn’t what it should have been. Now we’re drinking the 02 Cristom Jessie Vineyard which Josh Raynolds raved about. This is the 4th wine from my case and the first 3 showed well, but this isn’t. It’s unseasonably warm and humid in DC, and there has been extreme low pressure with tornado warnings in the area - either the wines or our systems have reacted negatively, perhaps to the weather or perhaps to the massive dinner we had at Eve last night. Nothing, but nothing is showing well tonight, and I'm going to recork, stash in fridge, and open a beer. That Schaeffer should have been no-brainer good, if a bit shut down. This is one of “those” nights where you want to sell your entire fucking wine cellar.



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