Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A DRC mini-horizontal at Bern's Steak House

Ron's birthday is this week so we decided to join him and Bev in a pre-birthday celebration at Bern's Steak House in Tampa on Saturday night last (Bern's is the target of many wine interlopers and carpetbaggers who fly into town to relieve it of its treasures so we try to do our best to ensure that Florida gets its fair share.). Brad Dixon is Ron's regular Somm at Bern's and he proposed that we try a mini-DRC horizontal (Grands Echézeaux, Richebourg, and La Tâche). Bern's has been steadily increasing its prices for these high-end offerings from relatively low levels (when compared to auction actuals) but the wines that he was suggesting had not yet been given the elevator treatment. It did not take much discussion before we piled on board.

Brad Dixon, Sommelier, Bern's

Perceptions of the 2000 Red Burgundy vintage vary but, in general, the reds fared much better than did the whites. BBR describes the year as a red fruit vintage with the wines exhibiting "glorious quality and purity of fruit" and having "lasted better than expected." The tannins and acidity are lower than the 1999, according to BBR, but so is the expected longevity. Further, BBR sees some commonality with the 1997 vintage. Jancis Robinson says that producer was key in this vintage. The wines, she said, are not very concentrated but the "best will provide easy pleasure in the short to medium term."

While we waited for Brad to set up the DRCs, we continued our demolition of the 1975 Dom that Ron had brought along to ease the tedium of the chauffeured-drive from Orlando to Tampa. The Dom exhibited notes of lemon custard, creme brûlée, coffee, nuts, and a slight oxidation. On the palate still lively, with butterscotch, lemon peel, burnt orange, and a hint of tannin. Ron got lemon butter creme brûlée, toffee and roasted hazelnuts and expressed a particular liking for the "slight sherry oxidative notes" that can be found in older Champagnes. He also noted an "amazing acidity and ... nice, fine bubbles."

The first wine tasted in our DRC mini-horizontal was the 2000 Grands Echezeaux. This wine was initially highly floral -- lavender -- to accompany notes of petrol, cherries, and coconut. On the palate this wine was peppery and saline with drying tannins. Initially non-complex, acidic, and lacking a full, round mouthfeel. The finish was medium length. As the wine evolved in the glass, it developed weight but the fruit remained muted and the length remained a challenge. Ron noted cherries and tobacco leaf. He felt that the wine was probably 5 years away from its peak; "It took a while but started to open and strut its stuff." He agreed with my assessment of weight gain over time.

The second bottle was the 2000 Richebourg and this was served simultaneously with my escargot appetizer. The cheese- and garlic-heavy escargot paired well with the wine.


The Richebourg was much darker at the core than the Grand Ech and had a floral nose with tar and petrol at the back end. My first thought was that someone had messed up and put a Barolo in a DRC bottle. As the wine evolved, notes of strawberry, watermelon, cigar box and cedar box became apparent. On the palate, spice, great acidity, and a very long finish. This is an extremely high quality wine.

The 2000 La Tâche was even darker at the core than was the Richebourg. Talcum powder and chalkiness on the nose. Over time the talcum powder evolved into soy. Rose petals tea, coffee, burnt tobacco, smoke, coffee grounds, nutmeg, and menthol. Power and weight on the palate along with bright acidity, non-aggressive tannins, and a long, drying finish. Ron characterized this as "another big step up." In his words, "the aromatics really soared after 1 hour in the glass." My La Tâche was accompanied by a robust Lobster Bisque.

Lobster Bisque

By this time my steak had arrived and Brad suggested a 1949 Canon in mag to accompany. This wine was replete with dried figs, tamarind, and mahogany. Wild red cherries, freshly turned earth, sweet tobacco, and a musty old closet. A little Brett. A herbaceousnes which Brad characterized as a hallmark of aging Cab Francs. A Burgundy lover's Bordeaux. Tamarind on the palate. Its acidity supported a long, sour finish.

Strip, Organic Carrots, Collard Greens, Onion Rings

At this time dessert was on offer but I was done. My table mates went on to indulge. I joined Ron for a 1907 and 1908 Madeira while the wives pursued Cognacs and Armagnacs.

Another excellent night together. The Canon was a little tired and the Grand Ech was low man on the DRC totem pole. The La Tache was, definitively, the wine of the night. So we rolled over to our room at the Epicurean across the street from Bern's while the Siegels began the long trek back to Orlando. I wish them well.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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