We drank Bordeaux on the first night, and it was a first growth kind of evening. This is because the guys we were hanging out with have been collecting wine for a long while, and they are generous people who derive pleasure from sharing cellar gems with friends.
1994 Château Laville Haut-Brion.
1966 Château Haut-Brion.
1970 Château Haut-Brion.
1975 Château Mouton Rothschild.
1980 Château Margaux.
Are you kidding me? Fugedaboudit.
I have so little experience with wines like these - with every sniff and sip I am experiencing new thoughts. And on this night, we also drank a great California wine. A bit younger than the Bordeaux wines, but a great wine nonetheless. The 1991 Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. If California used such a system, this surely would be a first growth wine. We drank it last, and it was fascinating to compare it with the other wines.
This wine was 33 years old, give or take, and it was fresh as a daisy. The fruit is still vibrant and sweet. The wine was knit together perfectly, with a rich bouquet of fruit and flowers, and although it felt exuberant, it was also entirely focused and perfectly harmonious in its balance.
Haut-Brion's beauty, to me, comes from its complete and perfect harmony. The component parts are gorgeous - the fruit is pure and delicious, and musky in its age. The minerals shimmer, the finish has a life of its own. And the overall effect is of great intensity, showcasing all of the component parts, and also somehow this quiet sort of harmony. Dunn, and we are talking about a wine that is twenty-one (21) years younger here, does not feel to me as though it will ever have a quiet aspect to it, the way Haut-Brion, or even the more seductive and charismatic Margaux, are quiet.
Dunn's fruit was darker, more brambly, and the acidity was younger, more intense. The thing that stuck out for me, however, was the structure - Dunn was structured differently from the Bordeaux wines. It has bigger bones, literally. The wine is built on a larger frame and then the fruit that goes on that frame is bigger. It's like comparing an offensive lineman with a tight-end. They play the same game, and at times perform similar functions. They can both be great football players. But in the end, they are best at doing different things, and maybe this fascination with declaring one as better than the other is misguided. We are luckly to have both. Especially on a gorgeous summer night in Rhode Island, with friends.