Tango tasting #1

Last week was the inaugural wine tasting at my new company - Tango. The place is so cool, the head of HR actually asked me if I would conduct wine tastings! All I have to do is come up with a theme, bring wines, whatever I decide, and talk about them. For a relatively small startup, more than twenty people signed up for the "Tango Winos" wine group, the execs jumped in too - why not?! - three of them are French! The company paid for nice Riedel glasses and for the food. At Tango, we get breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, catered from popular local restaurants, suggested by the employees. But the cost of wine for the tasting group is shared among the participants. (It's a good tactic to discourage frivolous "drive-by" drinkers, even if the company were willing to pay for it.)

I arranged the wine tasting to go with the dinner on Wednesday at 6pm. Since so many people told me how much they loved big, thick, juicy Napa Cabs (and on the flip-side, how they were suspicious of Merlot), for the first wine tasting I elected to do Bordeaux varietals from around the world, paired from the food from Left Bank, dutifully delivered by our super-nice office manager Yaacov. There are, of course, five principal Bordeaux varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Carmenere is also allowed but I never see it used in Bordeaux blends. Similarly, Malbec is hardly ever used in Bordeaux anymore - it has found a new home in Argentina. You can also see Malbec still in major use in Cahors, France (known as Auxerrois) and Loire Valley, France (known as Cot).

The roster:

  • 2003 Napa Cab ($80, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paul Hobbs)
  • 1997 Bordeaux from Left Bank ($40, Chateau Langoa-Barton, 3rd-Growth from Saint-Julien, Cabernet Sauvignon based wine from the real Left Bank, not the restaurant)
  • 2005 Bordeaux from Right Bank ($36, Merlot based wine from Cotes de Castillon, Chateau d'Aiguilhe)
  • 2009 Chinon ($17, Cabernet Franc based wine from Loire Valley, Domaine Grosbois "La Cuisine de ma Mere")
  • 2007 Super-Tuscan ($25, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and a splash of Syrah from Bolgheri DOC, Antinori "Tenuta Guado al Tasso il Bruciato")
  • 2006 Malbec from Argentina ($20, Carmello Patti)

It was largely a beginner crowd. The group's faves were the 97 Langoa-Barton and the 2003 Paul Hobbs, but the Super-Tuscan did well too. Surprisingly, some folks really liked the Chinon, even though it was the most herbaceous of the bunch. The Chinon was definitely made more approachable by the generous 2009 vintage.

I thought that the 2005 Chateau d'Aiguilhe showed very well - lifted by the great 2005 vintage - still young, dense, very balanced, and tasty. The 1997 Langoa-Barton was a wine of restraint, elegance, and contemplation - at the height of maturity, showing nice combination of fruit, leather, and Autumn leaves, a classical Bordeaux, though not a great wine, a bit light and muted - a lovely product of the weak 1997 vintage in Bordeaux.

Paul Hobbs was raisiny, and many people obviously liked that. Not me.

I spoke of the grapes, regions, and flavors, and got applause in the end. What more can one want?! Tango rocks!


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