Friday, February 26, 2010

Blind Bordeaux Challenge XV.

We held the 15th of the Grand Crew's blind "competitions" at the Stockbroker's Masseto a few nights ago, the first for 2010. The Vigneron won the previous challenge (14th November 2009) with a surprisingly good '99 Trotanoy. Unfortunately, the morning of the challenge, Mrs. Stockbroker and I were taken ill. She opted not to attend (surely in a worse condition than I at the time), while I (foolishly) loaded up on medicine and sallied forth*. We were 7 in all that night.

*My palate was, obviously, not at its best that night as, aside from being loaded with medicine, I developed severe chills in the latter half of the evening - so you may want to discount my tasting notes' accuracy to a certain degree.

The Grand Crew

With the ladies.

We started off with pours of the Stockbroker's Cerdon de Bugey Caveau de Mont St-July - a simple and joyful strawberry-fruited bubbly from the Jura region composed of poulsard and gamay. I "discovered" the delights of Bugey Cerdon at Aux Lyonnais in Paris many years ago and started ordering the subject wine from K&L Wine Merchants for under US$15/bottle. I think the price has risen to around US$18/bottle now, but it's still an absolute steal for such a bright and fun bubbly.

Together with the Cerdon de Bugey, we were served a few pass-arounds including Parmesan Crisps and some type of Somosa.

Thereafter, to go with our starter courses - mine a platter of White Asparagus Wrapped in Jamón Serrano with Truffle-Hollandaise Sauce, we had some...

2007 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Kabinett - Ordered off Masseto's wine list at P2400. Very clean, pure and well-focused, floral off-dry peach and ripe lemon with a cold-stony minerality. Very nice indeed - Doc, Mrs. Doc, my wife and I particularly favored it and Doc promptly ordered some from supplier Brumms Quality Wines, Inc. shortly thereafter.

That said, Masseto's mark-ups on their wines are, honestly, very reasonable (I'm not just saying that because the Stockbroker and some other co-owners are friends of mine), and, considering the corkage charged, if one goes to Masseto and wants to enjoy this wine, it makes more sense to buy it off the list because the gross expense is the same, plus the bottles at Masseto are already well-chilled and perfectly stored.

As a pairing, asparagus has always been difficult for me - that is, until sometime in early 2005 when I joined an International Wine & Food Society dinner featuring many white asparagus dishes all paired with various rieslings from Germany, Austria, Alsace and the new world. The subject wine was a fine match, its crisp and neat fruitiness and bright acidity gave cut and lift to the earthy truffle-hollandaise sauce, nice counterpoint to the jamón Serrano's slight saltiness and its cold-stony minerality ran with the asparagus itself. Now I'm curious how this dish would go with a drier German riesling halbtrocken. We shall see (after I am finally rid of this damn flu).

This, for me, was the dish and pairing of the night. The Doc even went so far as to less-than-half-jokingly name this riesling kabinett as his wine of the night. I wouldn't argue with him in that regard.

Next course is not on the regular menu, but, having enjoyed it so much at the Stockbroker's year-end dinner for the Usual Suspects, I had made a special request for Tippi's Fidueà with Prawns and Squid. With this, we had...

2007 Brewer-Clifton Sea Smoke Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay - The Stockbroker's bottle. Big and rich white, showing off somewhat creamy baked apple, pear, leesy and toasty oak/vanilla notes. There is also a good dose of minerality and a hint of honeysuckle to this. This chardonnay seemed to have quite a kick in terms of alcohol - well, either that or the wines' mixing with my meds was already getting to me.

The competing reds were then poured. We noted that not all the glasses were identical in size, but, due to the waitstaff's being terribly busy with a big Citibank function, we didn't ask to change glasses. I had these alone and with a few bites of my main course of Breaded Veal Chop with Mixed Greens.

File photo since I forgot to take a picture of my main course that night.

Wine # 1 - Nose: heavy perfume of mint, chocolate, wet tea leaves, sweet plum and violets with tamarind surfacing after around 15-20 minutes. In the mouth: flavors mirrored scents; fruit was very ripe with a slightly raisined character, lots of chocolate in this, big, full, powerful and dense. I eventually ranked this as my 1st place wine.

It turned out to be the Stockbroker's 1995 Antinori Solaia Tuscan IGT. This was the 2nd time the Stockbroker really challenged this Bordeaux-centric group's palates with a Tuscan IGT, the first time was in Blind Bdx Challenge XI with a 1999 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia (which I also happened to vote 1st place as it was the best pairing with my meal - prompting the Stockbroker to comment that I apparently have a palate tuned to Super Tuscans).

Wine # 2 - Bouquet of cedar, truffle, blackcurrant, plum, cherry and dark chocolate. In the mouth: dark chocolate, gravel, cassis, plum, cherries, violets, cedar. Rich in flavor but lighter-footed than Wine # 1. Halfway between medium and full body. Finish a bit shorter than Wine # 1, but a good length anyway. I voted this my 2nd place wine. It was eventually revealed to be the Doc's 1982 Château Grand Puy Lacoste.

Wine # 3 - Dense, ripe, deep fruit, some truffle, cedar, cassis. Medium in the mouth, with flavors of plum, cassis, violets, cedar and a bit of leather and chocolate. Good purity. Seemed quite restrained. I ranked this 3rd place. It was the Vigneron's 1996 Château Montrose.

Wine # 4 - toasted wood, gravel, tar, cherry, crème de cassis, violets, cedar. There is a pronounced smokiness to this wine. Medium-bodied. Good mid-palate push/drive, but the finish is clipped with drying, woody tannins. Unresolved and young. I ranked it 4th place and it turned out to be my 1999 Château Mouton Rothschild (decanted for over an hour).

As always, Mrs. Vigneron tallied the votes and announced the winners.

The Results:

1st Place - Wine # 2, the Doc's 1982 Château Grand Puy Lacoste with 21 points (3 votes for 1st place, 2 votes for 2nd place, 1 vote for 3rd place and 1 vote for 4th place).

2nd Place - Wine # 3, the Vigneron's 1996 Château Montrose with 18 points (1 vote for 1st place, 3 votes for 2nd place, 2 votes for 3rd place and 1 vote for 4th place).

3rd Place - Wine # 1, the Stockbroker's 1995 Antinori Solaia with 16 points (2 votes for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 1 vote for 3rd place and 3 votes for 4th place).

4th Place - Wine # 4, my 1999 Château Mouton Rothschild with 15 points (1 vote for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 3 votes for 3rd place and 2 votes for 4th place). I noted that only my wife ranked my wine 1st place and Mrs. Vigneron ranked it 2nd - so, I commented that only they had the noses and palates for 1st growths that night.

Thus the crown passed to the Doc...

...the bottles going up on Masseto's wall.

It only remains for me to note that 3 vintages of Mouton Rothschild have been entered in our Blind Bordeaux Challenges (an '86 of the Vigneron in Bdx Challenge II, a '96 by me in Bdx Challenge V and now this '99 of mine in Bdx Challenge XV) all of which failed to win. I also note that in a blind tasting of 10 '99 Médocs several years ago, I ranked Châteaux Margaux, Latour and Lafite as 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively, and ranked Mouton Rothschild 7th. The Vigneron chided me for even trying again with a Mouton as, historically, it doesn't do well with this group. Ok, now I really know.

In any event, it was a fun night, chills, trouncing and all.

Hail to the new king! Until the next....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2 Monday Afternoon Tuscan Reds.

Monday, 22nd February 2010, I arrived at Caffé Caruso little before 4pm from the office and was lucky enough to have a few glasses of wine with the guys (who were in various stages of tipsy by the time). Unfortunately, Jojo had already left.

After a starter glass of 2004 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay (Miguel's roero Arneis was already all gone by the time)...

1997 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva - Admirably firm structure and typicity. Leanish with great backbone. Earthy, cherry, leather, hint of tobacco leaf, violets, cedar, slight anise nuance and a hint of roast meat. Clean lines all the way to the finish. Very nice indeed. Wish I had some food to go with it.

2003 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara - Rene's bottle I believe. I do not think this was decanted. Young, vigorous and stylish, showing the vintage heat. The fruit is rich and deeply-veined; probably this saw a bit more (new?) oak because of that. Full-bodied, plush, concentrated, black cherry, dark plum, spicy wood notes, hint of underlying black coffee. Heady stuff, especially since I didn't have lunch that day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saturday Night Tapas & Traditional Riojas at the Vecins'.

Last night, 20th February 2010, was at Miguel & Ria's place. Since it took long to prepare my Chili Prawns (the slow toasting of the chilis alone takes about 2 hours), I was the last to arrive a little past 7pm. The others were gathered around a table groaning from the weight of many assorted tapas - most brought in from Spain by Miguel.

Miguel, Ria, Aimee and Rene.

Aaron & Jo.

The Tapas

Pan con Tomate topped with Anchovy

Sobrasada and Fried Quail Egg en Croute

Foreground: Torta de Patatas (I requested this from Miguel as it is one of my comfort foods).

Assorted Deli: Bellota de Jabugo Shreds (cut from near the bone), Fuet & Chorizos.

Pan con Tomate

Salmon & Cream Cheese on Toast

Brandada de Bacalao with Peppers on Sliced Baguette

Morcilla de Arroz with Peppers

Chili Prawns


We started things off with Rene's ripely fruited 2009 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, NZ, which, per Rene is produced by the former winemaker of Cloudy Bay, Kevin Judd. This is a very good, brightly peach-and-guava-nuanced sauvignon blanc, the gooseberry and grass notes politely taking a backseat. The wine is very smooth, no edges and the fruit is vibrant, the acidity correct - very neat. It went particularly well with the Pan con Tomate topped with Anchovy and Brandada de Bacalao with Peppers on Sliced Baguette. Very nice and easy to recommend. Available at ZEN Asia.

The next white was from Rioja: 2007 Bodegas Campillo Blanco Fermentado en Barrica - Aaron's wine. He said he wasn't sure of the blend, but we agreed that, as a Riojan blanco, it had to be composed mainly of viura. As the name indicates, it is barrel fermented. The leesy and toasty oak notes are very apparent, but the slightly minerally fruit's freshness, purity and brightness were apparent underneath. As Aaron and the others noted, the wine performed better with food - going nicely, to my mind, with the Fuet, Morcilla de Arroz with Peppers and creamy Barandada de Bacalao.

Ria & Aimee

Los Tintos Riojanos

The first red to be served was my 2000 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva - I opened a bottle of this not long ago during Team Panic's Lunch at Je Suis Gourmand. Though I had made previous notes on this wine, I wanted to revisit it at a relaxed pace. My previous notes were as follows:

Firmly structured but approachable, its fruit somehow didn't seem as well-rounded or ripe as the '99's; a bit linear though, not much of a crescendo to speak of. Still, there was good dark fruit: deep, black cherry, strawberry, leather, bit of licorice, violets and well-integrated wood. Good with the hearty meat course.

Though this bottle was pretty consistent, the differences were (nb: this was decanted for around 45 minutes-1 hour while the previous bottle was not decanted at all): it displayed more of a middle, the fruit was more expressive and vibrant, the cherry had a slight tartness to it, the cedar notes a bit more apparent.

1995 Bodegas Campillo Rioja Gran Reserva - Aaron's bottle. Immediately notable was the wine's subtle power and admirable depth of well-rounded fruit (typical black cherry, bit of kirsch, raspberry, bit of strawberry). The very well-integrated oak is almost assuredly not new and, I think, probably French. Acidity is sufficient and proper. Leather, tobacco, slight licorice, cedar and violet notes are seamlessly intertwined. Excellent push on the palate, it exudes confidence from attack to finish. Many years left ahead of this, it is drinking admirably youthfully at almost 15 years from vintage.

1987 Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Gran Reserva Especial - Rene's bottle. Very nicely mature with incredibly pure and refined cherry and strawberry over a small brook of blackcurrant complexed with notes of wet tea leaves, violets, cedar, hint of well-worn leather. Hallmark creamy American oak nuances of cinnamon emerge towards the back and finish. Very complex wine and well-balanced. Excellent over-all. The word "purity" keeps echoing. At almost 23 years from vintage, this should be able to gracefully age around 8-10 years more, I believe, assuming proper storage.

Miguel & Rene

Miguel then decided to open an even older bottle that required Aaron's and my combined efforts to extract the crumbling cork.

Aaron gets 3/4ths of it out.

I take a stab at it.

The last, stubborn part comes out.

1973 Bodegas Berberana Rioja Gran Reserva - Miguel's bottle, coincidentally a birthyear wine for Rene. Last time I had this was from Bernd during dinner at La Tienda almost a year ago. Last night's bottle was from the same batch. My previous notes are as follows:

I used to buy this very same wine from Säntis in the late '90s and correctly guessed that Bernd did as well - the difference being that he kept some bottles to age even more. Pervasive pruney touch to old strawberry, plum, cedar, violets and mere whispers of tobacco and licorice would sum up this wine fairly. Medium-bodied, smoothly mellow, more than fully mature - to be enjoyed now and soonest. A good, old Rioja. I greatly enjoyed this and was very happy to be able to drink it again. Nostalgia in a glass.

With around 10-15 minutes in the glass, this showed a lot of purity as well, no pervasive prune notes at all, the fruit still retains some freshness at almost 37 years from vintage. More strawberry than cherry, whisper of underlying blackcurrant elixir, pinch of tobacco leaf, slight spice and wet tea leaves, cedar and violets. Neat. Much less oaken than the '87 Ygay GRE, marginally lighter in body. Acidity is marginally brighter. Complex enough, but not as much as the Ygay. It actually seemed to rally more as time passed, it didn't fade at all while I finished my glass. This seemed in even better shape than the bottle a year ago. Still, it is fully mature and i wouldn't wait on these bottles much longer. Consume now and soonest.

A couple of shots of chilled, sweetish anise flavored Pacharán, and we made our respective ways home.

Excellent dinner. This is my type of evening - great food, wine and good friends, all enjoyed comfortably and liesurely over an evening's span. Muchas gracias Miguel and Ria, and to all others who shared their wine and company. Most enjoyable night.

Friday, February 19, 2010

International Wine & Food Society (Philippines) 1st Wine Fair.

Last night, the 18th February 2010, was the International Wine & Food Society Philippines Branch's ("IWFS") 1st Wine Fair at the at the Alliance Française de Manille. The event, conceived, organized and almost single-handedly executed by Director Oscar Ong, was very well-attended and received. As far as I know, the intended 60 seats were fully booked by members, spouses and many guests.

L-R: The Stockbroker, Jerome, Keiichi and Miguel

IWFS Directors and Officers in attendance.

In Oscar's words, the purpose of the event was as follows:

This undertaking is the first time in the 27-year history of the Society in the Philippines that it has ever allowed its members in the wine trade to openly market and sell their products directly to all its members in keeping with its desire not to allow membership in the society to be used for commercial purposes and to stay focused on the pleasures of the table specifically that of wine and food matching and appreciation in the company of like-minded friends.

However, we believe that this wine fair, done under very clear and specific guidelines to ensure a level playing field, will provide members in the wine business the opportunity to showcase what they have to offer to the rest of our members and, hopefully, for our members to learn more about the various wines currently made available by established distributors in their midst. If this event proves to be a success, we may continue to stage this annually.
Under the event guidelines, the wines for the Fair were limited to only within the P1000-P3000 per bottle (approximately US$21-US$63/bottle) price range.

The location of each of the 8 participants' booths was based on the luck of a draw held in the presence of the latter's respective representatives, namely:

Bacchus International (Alex Lichaytoo)
Darras + Bowler (Dondi Joseph, IWFS Cebu)
Happy Living Fine Wine (John Lim)
Manny O’s (Manny Osmena, IWFS Cebu)
Premium Wine Exchange (Jojo Madrid)
Silver Secrets (Luciano Zanirato)
Sommelier Selection (Jerome Philippon)
Titania Wine Cellar (Tita Trillo, IWFS Ladies)

Drawing pole position for the booth right at the entrance of AF's Le Coude Rouge was Dondi Joseph's and J-Lab's Darras + Bowler table.

L-R: IWFS Director Oscar Ong, Dondi Joseph, J-Lab and Catha.

Aside from their enviable location and various wines on deck, they had the advantage of having a available to go with the latter the famous Cebu lechon that Anthony Bourdain proclaimed as "The best pig ever".

As to the wines, I started off with the 2007 Corté Riva Vineyards Viognier- an unctuous and concentrated viognier, it is notably plump, quite ripe, low in acid and soft in its floral, faintly spicy, herby and honeyed peach, honeysuckle and apricot notes. Very round on the palate with good heft and an intriguing, slightly oily texture. Quite pleasant, very approachable and friendly.

Later on, I also tried the 2006 Meerendal The Heritage Block Pinotage - not bad at all, probably the first pinotage I've actually liked. A big red, full-bodied, extremely ripe, jammy, sweetishly spicy (makes me think of very hot weather in the vineyard), deeply-veined dark red fruit over prune, with pretty well-integrated oak (probably a lot of it new). Long, strong wine, but, somehow it was in good balance. Whispers of metal towards the back, but very faint. A pleasant surprise.

I also tried their 2007 Domaine de Longue Toque Vacqueyras - having read in various wine boards that 2007 was a much heralded vintage in southern Rhône (wherein the Vacqueyras AOC is situated), I made it a point to try this and was easily charmed by the clean lines of this medium-bodied, subtly earthy and dried herb-tinged wine. Rustic, honest, not overly wrought, over extracted, over ripe, over alcoholic or over-oaked (actually not woody at all) like many modern southern Rhônes. Nice, honest, slightly rustic - I liked this and got a bottle at barely over P1000. I'd have some venison or wild duck with this.

L-R: Hans Brumann and Markus Ruckstuhl at the Cheese Table.

L-R: Tita Portia, J-Lab, Chinkee Koppe and Miguel.

After the 2007 Corté Riva Vineyards Viognier, before trying any of the reds anywhere, I looked to have a glass of bubbly and wandered over to Happy Living Fine Wine's booth next in line.

Happily, I noticed that they had on deck some...

2005 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs - I have extremely minimal experience with American sparkling wines, but have read many good things about Schramsberg's. Happy Living's Marketing Director, Kathy Yao Santos, urged me to try it, stating that this is the bubbly usually served in the White House - to which I jokingly replied "Oh, this is Jorge Araneta's favorite bubbly?".

Levity aside, I was impressed with how nicely clean, pure, focused, lively, refreshing and playfully charming this all-chardonnay sparkler was. Fresh, vibrant, lightly creamy apple, pear, whisper of lemon drop, small white flowers, nice white minerality. Dangerously drinkable this, I could easily finish a bottle myself at the beach (I think I got 4 servings of this that evening). At only around P1950/bottle, this is a definite buy.

I also got a taste of...

2002 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon - A Napa cab I've also read of but never tried. This is a mellow, comfortable Napa cab, everything seems to be in proper place. Neat, amiable cassis, plum, bit of cherry with well-integrated oak spice notes and soft tannins. Nice, fair depth, it is a very proper and correct Napa cab.

Next stop was the Stockbroker's Premium Wine Exchange booth:

Since I am quite familiar with many of PWX's wines, I went for the new vintage of an old favorite:

2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit de Beaucastel - I've written favorably about the 2005 version before and even included it in my list of favorite locally available wines of 2009. As stated before, this is a product of a joint venture between Châteauneuf-du-Pape star Château de Beaucastel and Vineyard Brands' Joseph Haas. While not (yet?) as meaty or sauvage as the 2005, This is more approachable for those not very familiar with Beaucastel's rather sauvage, animal hallmark notes. Still, there seemed to be traces of worn leather and bacon fat in this halfway-over-medium-bodied, mellow wine's herb-tinged dark red fruit. Another comfortably familiar wine. very nice. I served a glass of this blind to my wife (among others) and she liked it with her main course. I had one as well.

L-R: Lawrie Martin, Edwin Ong, Robert Burroughes and Eric Kahn.

Naturally, Bacchus Int'l had a strong presence, as it always does in IWFS functions. Regular readers know I often purchase wines from Bacchus, lately more Tuscan and Burgundy aside from my favored Alsatian whites by Léon Beyer. The most interesting to me in this line-up was the venerable J-M Cazes' 2006 Domaine des Sénéchaux Châteauneuf-du-Pape which I have written previously about here and here.

Jerome's Sommelier Selection was, of course, also there in force. Having been a customer for several years, I've had all the wines in the line-up repeatedly and have written about every single wine in the above photo at least once. Nontheless, I simply could not help myself from immediately purchasing a glass of the 2005 Domaine Plante d'Or Cour Cheverny Cuvée Salamandre - a true aficionado's wine, I cannot resist the bracing minerality, alluring cold-stoniness and crisp, dry freshness of this romorantin-based wine from Cour-Cheverny in the Loire.

I also made a mental note to get a couple of glasses of the 2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol Classique Rouge (J-Lab also favors this and bought many bottles of it around a year ago) to go with my main course later on, as well, of course, as another favorite - the 2002 Domaine Michel Redde Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Majorum. I am very fond of these wines, especially the latter, and have written about them more than once. Neither of these wines are to be missed - and I certainly had some during dinner that night.

My next stop was Luciano Zanirato's Silver Secrets booth where their 2007 Cordero Montezemolo Barbera d'Alba caught my eye - young, but a solid performance, good with grilled meat I thought, so picked up a glass of this as well as one of the 2004 Cantina Rialto Sagrantino di Montefalco - big, muscular, somber, serious - almost brooding in character, boulders in its structure, good depth - screamed to be consumed with red meat - so I obliged. Both good eating wines.

In the meantime, we had seated ourselves for dinner to have more wine with our meal.

Catha and Nicole with glasses of Sommelier Selection's signature 2002 Domaine Michel Redde Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Majorum - a richer more structured type of Pouilly-Fumé that is made to age. Miguel and Chinkee were surprised when I pointed out to them that this is already over 8 years from vintage. Notably softer and a shade less vigorous than before, but still an excellent white to have with our starter course of Fresh Prawn Salad.

Though I already got my own glass of the 2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol Classique to go with my main course, Jerome generously treated everyone at our table to a bottle thereof to enjoy with our beef.

Miguel cleans out glasses to make room for more reds.

2006 Domaine Tempier Bandol Classique - Halfway between medium and full body, firm structure and healthy acidity makes this nicely balanced wine food-friendly as well (a very important trait to me). A ruggedly handsome, macho red tinged with notes of meat and dried herbs, boasting a fine, firm structure, admirable balance and typicity. This was an excellent match with the honest beef dish. I drank a lot of this.

The 2 Italian reds of Silver Secrets were also good pairings, the '04 Sagrantino di Montefalco - to me - marrying marginally better than the '07 Barbera d'Alba because of the former's formidable structure.

As if that weren't enough, Jerome opened for us another bottle of red, an amusingly named...

2006 Domaine Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Cuvée des Fous - I've had 2 other 2006 Brouilly wines by Lapalu: the 2006 Domaine Lapalu Brouilly Cuvée Vieilles Vignes and the 2006 Domaine Lapalu Brouilly La Croix des Rameaux, both from Jerome at his first Beaujolais NOT Nouveau Dinner. Through these wines (aside from Jerome's Dubost lines of cru Beaujolais), I was already well aware of how very different Beaujolais can be from the mostly insipid stuff poured out every 3rd Thursday of November.

The 2006 Lapalu Brouilly Cuvée des Fous ("wine of fools") displays comfortingly warm and smooth, soft and deeply-veined blackberry, black cherry and a bit of ripe, dark raspberry. Good depth. Charmingly rustic, very nice and easy to drink a lot of.

Our well-lacquered table.

L-R: Ernie Fajardo, Alex Lichaytoo, Freddie Pio de Roda, Othmar Ober, Richard Dalao and Fil Juntereal.

Nearing 10pm, Bernie addressed the crowd, acknowledged Oscar's huge efforts and thanked everyone for coming, especially the members-distributors who participated in the event,... well as Karin Carmona who organized the entire cheese table.

Oscar also took the floor briefly to thank all the participants, recount the purpose of the event and brief the members of upcoming events...

...and was thanked via resounding applause.

After dessert of apple tarte, a few more glasses of red, several cigarettes outside, the evening began to wind down. The last wine for me was Bernie's very mature and softly sweet, melon-fruited Vallformosa Moscatel Bouquet d'Or. Nice way to end an evening.

A bunch of us - Jerome, J-Lab, Miguel, Chinkee, my wife and I decided to go to Masseto for a quick nightcap, but, though we got there before 12, we were informed that they were already closed for the night. Just as well, I suppose, as I really had enough to drink by then.

In any event, congratulations to the IWFS for a very successful and fun event, and, as always, until the next!