September 28, 2021

91 do re mi

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Earlier this year I saw an opportunity to acquire two bottles of wine from auction that would make an interesting pair. 1991 was the last year that Joseph Phelps made an Eisele Vineyard bottling, following the sale of the vineyard to the Bart and Daphne Araujo. Similarly, Araujo made its first wine in 1991, so this was the only year when a comparison between the two wines could be made. There were magnums of both wines on offer at auction, and I made sure to place the winning bid for both lots. I was, however, somewhat surprised that the price of the Phelps was nearly double that of the Araujo. Clearly I had overpaid for the Phelps...

When I took delivery of the wines, though, I was shocked to see that the Phelps was actually a double magnum. That explained the pricing, and I felt a lot better. But I was now faced with a unforseen problem: how would I go about organizing a tasting for these? I had initially planned to grab a couple of friends to pop the two magnums, but now with a DMAG, I clearly needed more participants. And with more people, more wines were needed. It would no longer be just the two Eisele Vineyard wines.

Thankfully I do know a few lovers of Californian wines, and we rounded up a big enough group for a horizontal of 1991 Napa cabs. A friend who often hosts wine tastings made arrangements with Beefbar, and chef Andrea Spagoni put together a selection of dishes for us.

Tuna, avocado crunchy taco - tasty, but I probably should have asked for a substitute instead of tuna.

Pata negra ham: 48 month Simon Martin bellota

Kobe beef, paprika, sesame seeds sauce mini burger - slurp. A hint of sesame made this a little unusual.

Black Angus beef, mild jalapeño sauce - a little bit of a kick. Surprisingly this seemed more fatty and tender.

Toasted green tea risotto, red prawn - this was pretty interesting. The red prawn was lovely with some smoky flavors, and I did taste a little bit of green tea in the risotto. And it's good that the tea was subtle and not overpowering.

Homemade sea urchin tagliolini - my friend wanted to have this as he loves the dish, and coincidentally so do I. So the two of us split a portion. Still my favorite dish from this restaurant.

American Prime Black Angus rib-eye cap, 120-day corn-fed - this was so, so tasty, with the right amount of seasoning, and the meat was succulent and tender.

Korean "Short Horn" striploin, dried pasture and grass-fed - in comparison this seemed a little more plain from being leaner, but was nevertheless delicious.

Baby carrots

Eggplant parmigiana - pretty interesting.

Creamed spinach


The lineup tonight was pretty interesting. In addition to my contribution, there were a few other 91 Napa cabs as well as a very nice Champagne to start us off.

1970 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon, dégorgée le 19 Septembre 1996 - really lovely with savory notes of Chinese preserved plums. An hour after opening this was showing sugar cane notes.

2000 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Allen Vineyard - leather, stewed prunes, almost of hint of savory notes on the nose. So fragrant with eucalyptus.

1991 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard, from magnum - served without decanting 45 minutes after opening. Really fragrant with savory black olives and a little stewed prunes. Showing better more than an hour after opening, and displayed more elegance.

1991 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineard, from double magnum - decanted 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to serving. Also showing slightly savory black olive and tapenade notes, but definitely fresher, more meaty and concentrated.

1991 Joseph Phelps Insignia - served without decanting almost 2 hours after opening. WOW! This was fucking beautiful! Minty, showing much bigger nose of fruit, with cigar smoke. My wine of the evening.

1991 Philip Togni - served without decanting almost 2½ hours after opening. Lovely and open nose, sweet with big, toasty oak. A little green capsicum later. Feels a little cloudy, but very nice.

1991 Abreu Madrona Ranch - served without decanting more than 3 hours after opening. Big, smoky and toasty nose with green peppers.

This was a really fun evening. All the wines showed well, and we discussed the different possible reasons why we felt the Phelps Eisele outperformed the Araujo Eisele. For me, though, I was just happy to have gotten rid of these bottles from my cellar, and having the opportunity to taste the Phelps Insignia alongside was definitely very cool.

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