Saturday, October 4, 2014

Krug, Yquem, Sassicaia, and more! - Epic 5-year anniversary tasting at Tango

September 2014 marks the fifth anniversary of Tango, the mobile tech company in Mountain View, where I am the VP of Engineering.

As mentioned previously, besides my main job, I also run the "Tango Winos" wine tasting club there as an extracurricular activity and as a management "thank you" to employees. We do this quarterly, paid 100% by the company, with focus on higher-end great wines of the world, something that employees will not usually (perhaps ever) drink. Forty people attended the latest one, which is a lot for barely a 200 person start-up. The tasting, served with catered dinner, was a ton of fun for everyone, and is the only corporate wine tasting event of such caliber anywhere in the Valley, AFAIK, which makes me particularly proud to do this at Tango. What made this tasting even more special was the 5th anniversary of the company, so we upped the ante with famous bottles at $200-$500 each!

I prepared a venerable array of 7 wines, 3 bottles each, with the exception of d'Yquem which we "only" had two bottles of, poured to the top-scorers of the wine quiz at the end of the tasting (yes, there is a quiz! :) All the bottles were in perfect condition without flaws.

Tasting impressions

2000 Krug Champagne - nose and palate: incredible power, bubbles going strong for 2 hours in the glass, toasted brioche, almost tannic and grippy on the tongue, so much material in there, candied lemon peel, ginger, my wine of the night. ($200/btl)

2011 Domaine Trapet Pere & Fils Chambertin Grand Cru - Trapet family are the second largest land-owner of the grand cru vineyard of Chambertin with 1.9 ha (closely following Armand Rousseau's 2.15 ha) - one of the greatest vineyards in the whole world. Usually the larger the holding one has within a vineyard, the higher the chances of making a better wine, as the producer can pick and choose from more supply, while declassifying imperfect material into lesser cuvees. Trapet has a very solid reputation for wines that are supposed to be less approachable in their youth and blossom over the long haul. In recent years, Trapet is known to have further cut down on new oak and the quality has been on the rise. I was quite excited in anticipation of tasting this wine for the first time. Nose: stems, very fragrant with hints of flowers, I am nearly certain that with time it will turn into roses. Palate: inevitably silky but currently marked by gritty tannins. Long finish, red fruits, earthy / floral / stemmy / root veggies, intense and focused. Right now, it comes across as more flowers and vegetables than fruits, but the sap, intensity and purity bode well for the evolution in the bottle. I can imagine how a riper vintage ('09, '10, or '12) should produce an even better wine. ($250/btl)

2011 Maison Ilan Chambertin Tete de Cuvee Grand Cru - riper nose, darker color. Palate: sexy ripe cherries and raspberries, some earth and roasted beets, hints of chocolate. Riper, richer, sweeter, darker than Trapet, comes across as more modern, a bit more plummy. A touch of roasted beets really balances out the richness of the fruit. The crowd favorite. For me, Trapet was leaner and more earthy / floral,  more fragrant and pure, but both wines had impact, intensity and promise. This is a very trendy producer right now among Burgundy geeks, due to limited production and the exciting story of the owner - Ray Walker - the only Californian to have ever established a winery in Burgundy and the only American to have ever made Chambertin, impressively having secured contracts for grapes from some of the most prestigious appellations, of which Chambertin is at the top of the list. While there is no new oak used in any of Ray's wines, the Chambertin was aged in used oak for over two years, which rounded it out. We were privileged to taste this wine - a very respectable, even impressive effort. ($300/btl)

It's interesting to see the obvious color difference between the two Chambertin's. Just from that, one can deduce some of the flavor profile characteristics mentioned above.

2009 Arnaud Ente "La Seve du Clos" Meursault - nose: lemon brulee. Palate: rich, spicy, classy oak, medium acid, intense and weighty, but not enough acid for me to make this exciting or lively, a bit heavy and flabby, which makes sense for the vintage. This is an expensive ($160-200/btl) culty village level burgundy from 100-yr old vines. I could taste the intensity, but this should be much better in a better vintage (for whites, probably any vintage after 2006, except 2009).

2011 Sassicaia - love it! deep inky tannic, full-bodied but elegant, great Italian acidity, deep berries, blueberries, blackcurrants and olive/rosemary/herb-inflected nose and palate, more intense than I recall 2010. Tasted the 2011 four times in the last 1.5 months, it has progressively shown more intensity and tannins, which I like because I am going to put it aside for 20-30 years (in a magnum) for my son's birth-year collection. This was my second favorite wine of the night, after Krug. ($180/btl)

2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia - typical high-end Napa cab, this is weighty, full-bodied, sweet fruit compote (compared to sleeker Sassicaia), dark-red/blue fruits, rather than blacker fruits of Sassicaia, medium-to-low acidity, plums, very clear (enjoyable) note of tobacco, tannins. I had enjoyed the 2010 and 2011 that I have tasted in the last year slightly more, particularly 2011 which due to a cooler year, had more focus and acidity. ($160)

1990 Chateau d'Yquem - nose: apricot marmalade. Palate: silky toffee, vanilla, honey, apricot. Beautiful amber color. Delicious. That said, this $500 wine didn't strike me as significantly better than the 2005 Chateau Guiraud or Suduiraut ($50-$100 wines) I had recently. Perhaps the silky texture of d'Yquem was more extra-ordinary, but it could have been due to age as much as quality or pedigree. Overall, this was very nice, but not worth the $$ premium, IMO. A privilege to taste, nonetheless.

Indeed, it was a special tasting, and of the several annual Tango wine tastings, I hope to have an excuse for this level of connoisseurship at least a couple of times per year. Work hard, play hard, right?! Enrollment to the Tango Winos club is open to everyone in the company. And yes, we are hiring! :)

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