Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Grand Crew's Blind Bordeaux Challenge XVI: Doc 2peats with a Sonoma.

Last night, the 9th June 2010, was our little group's Blind Bordeaux Challenge XVI. For those not familiar, this is a friendly competition among the Vigneron, Stockbroker, Doc and I, held 3-4 times a year (as schedules permit), wherein each of us brings a bottle of red to be served blind and voted on as the best. No restrictions on vintage, price or origin; the idea being that any wine can be brought to challenge this group's Bordeaux-centric palates.

These blind challenges are held over dinners with our wives, the one bringing the winning wine and his spouse get to be treated to the dinner by the non-winners (i.e., the LOSERS), and reigns as "King" over the others until dethroned by subsequent vinous battle. The only non-Bdx wine to have won so far was the Stockbroker's 1994 Dominus in Blind Bdx Challenge XIII.

The usual pre-competition group shot - everyone is still friends.

The traditional venue is the Old Manila restaurant of the Manila Peninsula Hotel (where all but 3 or 4 of the 16 challenges have been held). Doc won the last Challenge with a 1982 Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste, and the rest of us were hot after his crown.

The Stockbroker, Mrs. Doc and the Vigneron.

My wife, unfortunately, wasn't feeling too well after the OMGD 3rd Kaiseki Dinner the night before, so we were only 7 in all for the subject Challenge. By the time I arrived, everyone else was there making headway into the Doc's...

1996 Champagne Henriot - We went through a couple of these from Doc at his place on the 20th May 2010. My notes, still applicable, were as follows:
1996 Champagne Henriot Brut Millésimé - Excellent, full, hefty, robust, yet lively, vibrant and light-footed fruit vintage Champagne from an excellent year. Founded in 1808, Champagne Henriot, to this day, is family-owned and run. Notable ripeness, complexity, indulgent layering and lovely, bracing acidity make for an impeccably balanced and impressive champagne. This bubbly calls to mind wild honey (in the nose), lightly spiced, fat pears, apple, moderately dried apricot and citrus, fresh brioche and hints of underlying milkiness and white chocolate (the latter two from the pinot noir most likely). Excellent verve in this. Love the weight and roundness. Undoubtedly one of the best champagnes I've had the past year together with Bernie's 1988 Dom Pérignon.

NB: Subsequent pours from the decanter showed more pronounced citrus/lemon and fine, white mineral notes. The bubbly seemed to have sharpened its focus as well and become more streamlined.
Doc and Mrs. Stockbroker.

Rabbit Amuse Bouche

Before I even made a material dent in my glass of welcome bubbly, the Doc poured me another of...

2007 Domaine Gilbert Picq & ses Fils Chablis Vaucoupin - Doc's bottle. I've come across the name of this producer a few times, but know nothing about them or their wines - much less have I had any (to the best of my recollection). Doc mentioned as he poured that "this should be your style of Chablis". Indeed, it was. Dry, clean and neat, tense, nervy, subtly minerally, the ripe, steely, flinty, cold limestone-touched, bright, fresh, ripe fruit comes off with remarkable purity and definition, unsullied by much oak (new or otherwise). Acidity is mouth-watering. Lovely Chablis. Definitely my type, and it lent needed cut and lift to my bowl of Lobster Bisque.

At the tail-end of my soup, the Stockbroker poured me some of Premium Wine Exchange's recently available signature Napa chardonnay:

2006 Kistler Kistler Vineyard Chardonnay - The Stockbroker's bottle. What a huge contrast in styles of the same grape. Mouth-filling, big, hefty, notes of creamy vanilla/oak, honeysuckle, some orange blossom, butterscotch and moderate minerality permeate the buttery baked/ripe apple, pear, hint of citrus, with mild underlying orange rind. Heady stuff. The Stockbroker commented that this would be my wife's kind of chardonnay, and he's right.

The table laden with the competing reds, already poured, awaited as we finished our starters.

Mrs. Vigneron jokingly raised the issue of the wives getting smaller pours than the husbands. Doc assured her that everything looked "equitous" to him.

The reds were finally served. The Stockbroker and I lost no time in analyzing before the main courses were served so as to avoid the aromas of the latter from interfering with the wines' respective bouquets. I was well into my second pass at the reds before my 400gm Grilled Rib-Eye Steak arrived.

Leaning away from the table and food aromas, most all of us finished our notes, filled in our ballots and submitted them to Mrs. Vigneron for tallying (4 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd place, 2 points for 3rd place and 1 point for 4th place).

My own hastily scribbled notes on and rankings of the competing wines (made throughout 5 passes):

Wine # 1: Toast, fullish body, smooth, soft cherry, raspberry, smooth, long finish. I ranked this 3rd place. It turned out to be a 2001 Château Figeac (the Vigneron's wine).

Wine # 2: Initial scents of rust, plum, smoky cedar, lightest in body amongst the 4 reds, light on its feet. Aggressively herbaceous notes and bell pepper emerge later. Medium finish. I ranked this 4th place. It was later revealed to be a 1992 Dominus (the Stockbroker's wine).

Wine # 3: Dark chocolate, crème de cassis, violets, black cherry. Notes of wet tea leaves develop later, emerging past mid-mouth and into the finish. Full-bodied, lush and moderately generous. Good harmony and balance. I eventually ranked this 1st place. It turned out to be a 1995 Château Mouton Rothschild (my wine, decanted for aeration for 2½ hours at home then returned to bottle for transport to the evening's venue).

Wine # 4: Minty, smoky cedar, dark plum, cassis. Good acidity. Full-bodied. Fresh blackcurrant, vanilla/oak. Licorice notes, subdued at first, came on just a tiny bit too strong as the wine was "worked" in the mouth - making me rank this 2nd place. It was a 1994 Peter Michael Les Pavots (Doc's wine).

Post-analysis time.

Mrs. Vigneron tallies the votes as always.

The Results:

1st Place - Doc's 1994 Peter Michael Les Pavots with 22 points (3 votes for 1st place, 3 votes for 2nd place 0 votes for 3rd place and 1 vote for 4th place).

2nd Place - My 1995 Château Mouton Rothschild with 21 points (2 votes for 1st place, 3 votes for 2nd place, 2 votes for 3rd place and 0 votes for 4th place).

3rd Place - the Vigneron's 2001 Château Figeac with 14 points (1 vote for 1st place, 1 vote for 2nd place, 2 votes for 3rd place and 3 votes for 4th place).

4th Place - the Stockbroker's 1992 Dominus with 13 points (1 vote for 1st place, 0 votes for 2nd place, 3 votes for 3rd place and 3 votes for 4th place).

NB: both the Stockbroker and Vigneron identified the Figeac as St-Emilion; the Stockbroker identified his wine and ranked it 3rd place; both the Vigneron and I mistook the '92 Dominus for an aged St-Estèphe; the Stockbroker noted that the '95 Mouton Rothschild could possibly be a Napa and the Vigneron guessed it to be a '90 left bank.

The Competing Reds

The Post-Competition Shot

Well, it was another victory for California that night (this time from Sonoma), the second time in all 16 Blind Bordeaux Challenges. It doesn't sound like much - a 12.5% batting average - but, significantly or not, only 3 bottles of Cali were ever entered and 2 have come out as winners - both times beating a 1st growth*. Not a shabby track record, come to think of it. The Vigneron seemed slightly bemused. For sure, he will have something else up his sleeve next time.

*In Blind Bdx Challenge XIII, the Stockbroker's '94 Dominus tied in points with my '99 Latour, so, per our rules, in such cases, the less expensive wine prevails.


Anonymous said...

ha,ha,ha.....great last photo.

Martin "BerlinKitchen"

Anonymous said...

Hello Noel,

I've never met you, but I've been hooked on your blog for a couple of months now.

Hope you don't mind my asking, but how do you guage the hours/length of time for decanting? I may be doing some injustice to some of my bottles...

Many thanks and keep up the good you do!


Noel said...

Hi, JJ.

Rest assured I don't mind at all your asking.

There's no hard and fast rule as I'm sure you know - it really depends what wines are being opened (age, origin, cepage, maker, bottling, etc.). For our purposes, I assume we are talking about decanting for aeration and not for removing sediment.

Generally, though, for wines I do not feel I know enough of, I follow or, at least, use as a springboard the advice of the winemakers themselves. This I do for expensive bottles that I am not very familiar with (for obvious reasons). In these cases, I contact the winery or, if I can, the winemaker him/herself - either through e-mail or if I happen to bump into a proper person (e.g., at the last Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, I took the opportunity to inquire from the de Montille booth how long to decant a bottle of their 2001 Pommard Les Pezerolles - the fellow said it is still very young, but, if I must open it now, decant for aeration for at least 1 hour).

French and Spanish wineries/winemakers, in my experience, are usually quite attentive in responding to such queries even if one doesn't know any "insider". I'm sure those from the USA would be too, but I've never had occasion to try.

Again, generally, unless I "hear" otherwise from the winery/winemaker, when it comes to Burgundies or Bordeaux with a lot of age, I do not decant at all (for fear of missing out on the bouquet). I pour off a glass or two, let that/those sit and the bottle itself acts as a decanter for aerating the rest of the wine.

In all cases, however, I open the bottle, sniff, maybe pour a bit into glass, sniff and taste. From there, I go by "feel" but always take care to check on it every so often to see how it is coming along. In my experience, even bottles from the same vintage and maker can behave differently from one another - especially if they are opened at different points n time.

Another important point in decanting for aeration is to keep the decanted wine at the proper temperature. I do this at home usually as it is not always possible when out and about. I pour into the decanter (if the wine is around 15 years old or older, I cover the decanter's mouth with plastic wrap), then stick it in my wine fridge.

If you have any specific bottles in mind, please feel free to e-mail or otherwise contact me and I'll help however I can.



Anonymous said...


sorry this is totally unrelated to your post. but i remember one of your blog entries had to do with a private dinner prepared by this shy female chef who has a separate website where we can get escargot...

i hope this rings a bell, was hoping to get her url.

thanks :)

- april

Noel said...


Her name is Farah of Le Canard d'Or. Try placing orders through or e-mail at


Anonymous said...

Hi Noel,

Thank you very much for that very thorough explanation! Wow!

Greatly appreciate it.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Anonymous said...

thanks! been hankering...

- april

Anonymous said...

Hi again Noel,

Pardon my ignorance on blog sites, but can't seem to find your email addy. Thru what address may I send you some queries?

Much obliged,


Noel said...

Hi, JJ.



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dietas para bajar de peso
Paso # 4: Decide cunto tiempo deseas seguirNo debes seguir
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