August 9, 2023

The 492- point Torbreck vertical

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I have a confession to make: I sometimes enjoy torturing the Candidate a little. As a former candidate, she would be well-exposed to wines from all over the world, and in fact has probably tasted a lot more non-French bottlings than I ever will. But she always seems to want to drink only Champagnes and Burgundies. So in some of our past gatherings, in order to make things more interesting, I have sometimes played the role of Wine Nazi and insisted on "no chardonnay/Champagne no Burgundy/pinot".

After organizing our Aussie tasting last year, I proposed that we do a vertical tasting of Torbreck's RunRig. I had been a big fan of David Powell's wines way back when I first started getting into wine, and RunRig was modelled after my favorite wine - Guigal's La Mouline. I remember being amazed that someone in Australia was making shiraz with this much finesse, and even the most basic offering at the time - named after the Juvniles bar in Paris - delivered plenty of pleasure.

Well, we finally got around to it tonight. I was able to bring out 4 vintages - all of which have been aged for 2 decades or more - while the Film Buff added a slightly younger one. The Candidate had threatened to either boycott the dinner or drink only water, so I reluctantly agreed to add a Champagne in lieu of sparkling shiraz.

We had some trouble figuring out a suitable venue for this dinner, considering the amount of decanter and glassware, as well as cuisine that would be powerful enough to stand up against these big wines. Eventually Monsieur Jamin offered to host us at the I Hate the Handover Club, as they do serve up a very, very good prime rib.

I was a little disappointed, though, that the club insisted that everyone had to have the same appetizers in our function room. Surely the kitchen could have handled multiple options?!

Dungeness crab cake, pickled yellow turnips, coriander remoulade - this was pretty tasty, with the exterior being fairly crispy. The remoulade wasn't too heavy on the coriander, which was just right.

Chilled vichyssoise, caviar, chive - we've got brunoise of capsicums, cucumbers, and potatoes here, and these made the surprisingly thick and viscous chilled soup even more refreshing. I guess the caviar was added to make the vegetable soup more "luxe"...

Whole roasted American prime beef rib-eye - the main event. A hunk of beef that is meant to serve 8 ended up serving the 5 of us who eat beef.


The thick cut of ribeye was really, really juicy. Loved the fat in the middle. We also shared one of the end cuts, which had more charred flavors. Plated together with sides like braised Brussels sprouts, seared broccolini, grilled French beans, ratatouille, and Yorkshire pudding.

French fries - difficult to resist good fries...

Chilled lychee soup, lychee compote and ice cream - I wasn't gonna have dessert but then this caught my eye... I'm a sucker for anything lychee.

Besides the hunk of beef, our attention was squarely focused on the wines - especially those 5 bottles of Aussie shiraz.

1995 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé - classic nose of marmalade, really nice with just the slightest hint of Chinese salted plum, savory and mineral, really lovely with some vanilla. Good acidity here but also got the roundness as well as complexity on the palate.

2016 Kumeu River Chardonnay Mate's Vineyard - I drank this about 1 hour after this was poured in the glass. Pretty flinty, toasty, definitely buttery. More than 2 hours after opening, this was showing a really big and toasty nose. Sooooo good!

1997 Torbreck RunRig - decanted about 1 hour after opening and served 45 minutes after decanting. Lots of coconut butter on the nose, very sweet, some smoke and grilled meats. Tannins have definitely softened. Second pour 2½ hours after opening gave us a wine that was nice and very rounded on the palate, but still with great concentration. The wine was more complex now, with a little more oak and some leather on the nose.

1999 Torbreck RunRig - decanted about 1 hour after opening and served 45 minutes after decanting. Bigger toasty nose, more minty. Leaner on the palate and more concentrated, a little more closed compared to the 1997, and showing a higher alcohol level on the palate. Really sweet on the palate with a little vanilla on the finish.

2001 Torbreck RunRig - decanted about 30 minutes after opening, and served a little more than an hour after decanting. Nose was pretty metallic, sweet but not too overripe.

2002 Torbreck RunRig - decanted about 30 minutes after opening, and served a little more than an hour after decanting. Minty, sweet on the palate. Wine was mature enough now to soften it on the palate but still retained enough structure. After more than 2 hours in the decanter this improved with some acidity on the palate.

2004 Torbreck RunRig - opened and decanted about 1½ hours before serving. This was really fragrant and minty, slightly jammy on the nose, and really sweet on the palate. So well balanced after around 3 hours in the decanter - not too hot and ripe and nicely balanced with the acidity.

My ranking of the vintages tonight: 2004, 1999, 1997, 2001, 2002.

This was definitely waaaay too much wine for us. We didn't manage to finish any of the bottles of RunRig, and some bottles were taken home almost half-full. I'm really glad we did this, and it just shows what an amazing winemaker David Powell is and what he could do with very old vine shiraz. I really look forward to enjoying more of his work.

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