“This is one of the greatest wine tastings there was and probably will be in this city” – David Lawrason
Last night, September 17th 2012, I was fortunate to participate at a Penfolds ‘bring your own bottle’ event, giving GrapeSelections lots of material to write about. The premise of the event was to appreciate Penfolds customers, by inviting them (us) to a free dinner where the patrons were to bring a luxury–line bottle from their cellar and share it along with stories behind each bottle. The event was held at the House of Moments establishment and was hosted by Peter Gago, chief winemaker, together with David Lawrason, VP of wine at WineAlign.
Double decanted – wine was poured off into a decanter to remove any sediment, then decanted back into the original bottle.
As we entered the venue, we surrendered our bottles to be inspected for quality and double decanted, before they were placed at our table. We then proceeded into the lounge, received a glass of 2010 Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling or 2009 Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz and went on to mingle with the other guests. Together with my friend Mike (who provided a bottle of 2005 Penfolds RWT – our ticket to the event), we spoke to David Lawrason, who was welcoming all the guests; my wine-affictionato friend Tyler Philp with his wife Jacquie; Bryan McCaw from WineAlign and I finally met Julian Hitner, a member of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada and a frequent contributor to WineAlign.
“Now this is art”
While mingling, we had a chance to try 3 different appetizers: oyster; cold vegetable with Marsala sauce roll; poppy seed tuna tataki served on beet crostini and wild mushrooms croquette.
Once all the bottles were double decanted, we received the signal to head over to the tables that we were assigned to (the organizers knew in advance which bottles we were bringing and sat us down in order to even out the wines between the tables).
Once seated, David Lawrason introduced the event and Peter Gago, Penfold’s chief winemaker; mentioning ‘one of the defining moments in Mr. Gago’s life was the decision to move away from teaching chemistry and mathematics and take on the challenge to study oenology and viticulture at the age of 29’ (another inspiring story that I heard within the past couple of weeks). Peter Gago then took over and described the above-mentioned wines and talked a bit about his beginnings at Penfolds. Both men spoke briefly to not keep us from the 3 course dinner and wine ‘tasting’ that was to follow.
The complimentary ‘starter’ was 2009 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay. This wine, aged in French oak barriques for 9 months, is a medium bodied with appealing aromas of green apple, supple zest and faint vanilla and oak. It is balanced with nice minerality, crisp acidity and a clean finish. Food friendly or sipping wine. Score 90 pts.
The three course menu:
– Lobster butter yaki with seasonal veggies paired with Yattarna followed by lemon sorbet solely to cleanse the pallet
– Roasted lamb chop with Burdock, Amaranth and crisp sprout leaves
– Cheese platter with 7 different types of cheese with fruits, olives and cherry tomatoes
“If you don’t like your wine at your table, don’t blame me, you brought it”
– Peter Gago
Now, what a sight what a delight: A line up of Grange from the vintages 1972, 1999, 2x 2004, Bin 707 vintage 1998 and two RWT – 2005 and 2006 vintages. All this wine easily well over $2500, not including the Grange 1962 and 1998 Vintages and 1962 Coonawarra Cabernet and Kalimna Shiraz that some of us got to try.
While we were eating and tasting Peter Gago, David Lawrason and Bryan McCaw went from table to table and spoke to us. Us guests were doing the same plus bringing wines to other tables to showcase them and allow other people to sample. As the night was wrapping up, I managed to talk with Peter Gago who let me try a 1962 Coonawarra Cabernet and Kalimna Shiraz that came in a 6 oz bottle; have a great conversation and get some mentoring from David Lawrason, get some insights into WineAlign from Bryan McCaw; make some new friends and to chat with my old ones and sample their wine – thanks Tyler for the 1998 Grange sampler.
Normally, I am pretty good at taking tasting notes, but this was just too good, I was just too excited and so managed to take only few tasting notes described below. I must say that all the wine in top condition was exquisite, none scoring less than 92 pts and each having good structure with forward fruit, well balanced tannins and acidity; each showing intense aromas distinct from bottle to bottle in a spectrum corresponding to the progression of the wine’s evolution – from clove, allspice, leather, cedar-box, mushrooms, tobacco, smoked bacon and pecans to oak, black currant, bubblegum and sweet vanilla.
The 1972 Penfolds Grange, that came in 738 ml bottle in which the wine was aged for some 39 years, was a medium bodied, aged wine, with intense aromas of smoked bacon, clove, allspice, faint liquorice, and dried figs/dates. Though harvested 40 years ago, the fruit was surprisingly full. It is needless to say that it was perfectly balanced – harmony between fruit, acidity and tannins. The finish was extra long and will stay in my memory for lifetime. It is also needless to say that its score was off my charts – somewhere in the range of 94+ pts.
The 1962 Penfolds Grange was a medium bodied wine, though on the lighter side, that is showing signs of being too senior, none the less it still had intense aromas of cedar-box, tobacco leaf and mushrooms. Again, a well balanced wine with a long leathery finish. Score 92 pts.
The 1998 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon was a medium bodied, integrated wine that I would have guessed is from the 2005-06 vintage based on how youthful it was. It had intense aromas of black currant, bilberry, bubble gum, liquorice oak and sweet vanilla. Extremely well balanced with a long to extra long vanilla finish. This wine should age well for another 10-20 years. Score 93-94 pts.
With that I would like to thank Peter Gago and Penfolds for hosting this event as well as Bryan McCaw and David Lawrason for organizing it.
A special thanks goes to my friend Mike for the ‘ticket’ to the event.