Weekend Treat…My First Wine Auction

I have always known that this is one of the best opportunities to hunt down some really good deals. But I have always been intimidated by it because part of me know that it can be expensive. Since being elected to the post of Cellarmaster for IWFS of Singapore, I knew I have to take this step into a wine auction to find good wine at good price for the society. So a couple of Sundays ago, I attended one with a few excellent wine collecting friends. I was still feeling skittish. My good friend G was there and he put together a short list for me and himself to watch. I did some research on the pricing of the wines that we have narrowed down, but can’t compare to G and KS’s (another good friend) impressive memory of market trading price and vintage quality of wines. G did all the bidding while I tracked and did quick calculation of final total cost (to include commission and tax) of wines to ensure we are within our planned budget. My goal on next auction….research more and be brave.
Wine Auction 3-001
This auction was a long one. With more than 400 lots, it was still ongoing when I left after 5 hours. There were moments when a string of lots didn’t interest us, good friends shared with me about their auction strategies, how I can use it professionally,  and about bidding with like-minded friends so that we do not outbid each other.
Wine Auction 2-001
In the end, with lots of patience, intensive whispering of strategies, and some elbow and shoulder grease, we scored some really good labels at really good prices (can’t share as I share the purchase with a few individuals) such as

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1990 Frederic Esmonin Gevrey Chambertin – 6btls
Chateau Leoville Barton 1979 – 6btls
Chateau de Fieuzal 1990 – 12btls
Chateau La Lagune 1983 – 12 btls

Can’t wait to attend the next one soon.

Savoured…Villa Sorriso

I have laughed and cried (Monk & Mindy), have been mesmerised (Awakening) and touched (Dead Poet Society) by, and definitely have gotten drunk through Robin Williams.
I am very sad by his passing. Like many, I grew up watching him. When I was much younger, I love his comedy. When I got older, I admire his serious sensitivity without losing his unique sense of humour and creative wits. For many years, he battled with depression, an illness that cannot be underestimated. Despite of that, one of his many moments of brilliance and clarity, he purchased a vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains area of Napa and Sonoma Valley in 2000.
Appropriately known as Villa of Smiles (Villa Sorriso), it is a 640-acre Napa ranch, of which 18.4 acres are planted with vine of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Although no wines were produced directly from the grapes of these vines, they have found their way to Robert Craig Cellars’ Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Affinity blend for 20 years. I have been working with Robert Craig Cellars’ wine for about 10 years, and it is comforting to know I have savoured some of his smiles and laughter that he has shared on this land, and been intoxicated by his spiritual presence of grace and gentleness.
The property was put up for sale again early this year. Maybe it was purely a business investment, maybe he found beauty in the land, maybe just maybe. But with all that he has been so well-known and well-loved, I will remember him through Villa Sorriso, maybe an opportunity to walk through the vineyard like he probably once did.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, you are now in the front seat.

Savoured…The $30 Challenge

Where I live, prices of wine can be high. In fact prices of wine are even higher in some of the neighbouring countries with duty on tax as high as 500% on value, alcohol level and so on. The only exception is Hong Kong which has now become a haven for wine purchasing due to the exemption of duty and tax.

Our tax and duty on wine is about $9.50 to $11 per bottle, depending on the alcohol level. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax and duty. I think you get the idea how much we pay for a bottle of good whisky or vodka. *.*

So most of the time, we (most of my wine collector friends) do not really give any thoughts to purchase and taste $30 or less wine, well maybe a few sips at weddings or cocktail functions. So when I was invited to join a group of wine connoisseurs and collectors for a $30 challenge, I could not say no, In fact I was thrilled. When we (especially the different groups I am with) do not think twice to drop serious dollars for wines we love to drink, it is easy to forget to consider that there might be good wines, diamonds-in-the-rough types. Maybe not every wine, but most must have started at that price level, maybe not quite be $30, but humbly I am sure.

It was not simply to go to a supermarket and pick up the first $30 on the shelves. As we are a bunch of curious, critical and possible cruel group of people, we looked for wines that were made from unusual grape varietals, unexpected blend, or unexpected wine growing region for the usual grape varietals. All were served blind and we had to guess grape varietals, vintage, and wine producing regions over local zichar cuisine.
$30 challenge_white
This first pair of white was quite intriguing. The one that got us stumped was made from an unfamiliar grape: Jacquere. I thought it was oxidised and the colour was quite dense. We guessed every possible grape varietals we thought might be close, but just not Jacquere. I thought it was a Spanish white that might have been oxidised. It seemed that this wine needed to be drunk very young and vintage 2009 was considered over the hill. So now we are hunting down another bottle to taste again so that we can decide if it was indeed oxidised.
$30 Challenge_Red 1
The next pair was reds. I brought a NZ red of unusual blend from this part of the world. When I last visited NZ, I was amazed by how grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon are tasting. It maybe due to global warming or the vines are maturing, but they have come around with more complexity and maturity in flavours instead of being green and stalky which I encountered more than a decade ago. So when I found a Malbec/Merlot blend, I felt that this would be a good blind. In terms of character, it was quite Grenache-like, soft, fruit forward, smoky and lip-smacking yumminess. And guess what, it was priced at $26.50.
The Valpolicella was a big wine, too big in my opinion. Although it was opened for quite a while it didn’t soften till we were almost done with dinner. The size and sweetness will definitely appeal to novice drinkers and a good intro to getting to know wine further.
$30 Challenge_Red 2
I was glad that there was a California wine in our selection. Entwine Merlot was made by the Wente Family and it really showed its country of origin. Soft, fruit forward sweetness and flavours smoky notes, and big in style without being too overwhelming.
The Australian Shiraz was the most un-shiraz-like for its nationality. We thought we can spot a young Australian Shiraz from a mile, but this little black bottle stumped us. It didn’t have the green pepper, black pepper, candied-like upfront sweetness, and in your face style that it is known for. I am not a fan of Australian Shiraz, but I must say, this was not a bad one.
The final bottle may be the only bottle I not sure about. It was rather one-dimensional, short to mid length and fell quite quickly. It had fruit such as plum and cherry, and the tannin was quite soft laced with characteristic of dried leaves, wood chips and dried flowers. It may have been too dry for me.

We agreed that we had the most fun sourcing for potential bottle to surprise each other. But I still believe that life is too short. I try to drink as well as I can.

Weekend Treat…Skinny Jeans

Not quite a treat because I do not need to wait for weekends to wear jeans.

Skinny Jeans
But I realised that i have not worn jeans this week, and will not be doing so this weekend either. It is turning out to be a 7-day work week for me, and I will share with you soon why it is so soon.  Don’t worry, it is a good thing.
Here in my part of the world, we are enjoying a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday. And I have planned to sleep in till the $30 wine challenge dinner in the evening. That will be the day I put my jeans back on.

At the meantime…HAPPY WEEKEND.

Spotted…Fedora and Moustache

Every once in a while, I am reminded that it really takes all sorts. Initially I thought he was rude, but after a chat about wine, he became quite charming.
Fedora and Moustache
I was having a meeting with Marie of FFW during Vinexpo when this gentleman simply walked behind her booth, attempted to pour himself some wine. He didn’t stop there, he proceeded to ask Marie about the wine even though Marie was in the midst of talking to me. Well, we sort of shrugged and put our conversation on hold to take care of him and his friends. He could be a potential clients for Marie, which was the whole purpose of Vinexpo.

Maybe it was the fedora or the moustache, or maybe they were slightly high on alcohol. We were so forgiving.
With what have been happening around the world, a little more forgiveness may be in order.

Savoured…Happy 70-ish Birthday

When I am 70, I would still love to drink this well.
A couple of months ago, we celebrated a dear friend’s 70ish birthday during one of the regular wine group dinner gatherings that I am a member of. My bad, I must have drunk too much or had too much fun, I forgot his exact age. But I know he is in the 70s.

Nothing start a party like a Champagne.
Dom Perignon 2003-001
And so to adhere to the rule of starting from light to heavy, this became the obvious first red:
Ch Figeac 1964-001
The grand dame has aged rather gracefully. Sure, she has lost some of her rosiness and she should, but she was still interesting. Like a classic, there was dried rose petals sweetness laced with savoury notes, stewed plum, well-worn leather, and cedar shavings, slightly medicinal. Gently fading, not faded.

The next few Bordeaux were younglings by comparison, but full of potential with patience.

Pictures2Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 2009
By comparison, it exuded bright ruby hue with youthful purple tint. It wore a brand new leather jacket offering just ripen dark fruits and smoke of a just lighted cedar shavings. It was not quite ready with firm acidity, notable hard tannins,  and tight fruit structure. I would have love to taste it 18 hours later.

Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou 2005
It was ravishingly bright of deep ruby hue. Wonderful aromas of savoury spices, game, floral perfume, caramel, jammy red fruits and smoked meat. It took a while for me to taste the wine because I was so in love with the aromas. Then it embraced me at first sip with fleshy just ripen red fruits, and smashed plum and baked sweetness. Beautifully round and lush. Took me a while to put the glass down.

Chateau Pedesclaux 2005
Bright ruby hue with inky core. Revealing a conservative aromas of leather, rubber, sweet ripened cherry, blackberry, forest floor, and blueberry jam. Spices made its presence upon sipping showing firm and vibrant dark fruit acidity. Very enjoyable now.

Chateau Margaux 2002
The wine was aptly opened about 4 hours before we got to drink it. 14 years of cellaring was not not long enough to fade the dark youthful hue. First whiff revealed musky, wood, sweat, celery stalk, and savoury spices with a firm sense of masculinity. Gaminess made its first impression on the palate, followed by fleshy meatiness, savoury, sweet nuts, and steamed fruits. Seemed to have dulled out with weight or still tight, not quite ready to be drunk maybe?

Pictures1Chateau Haut Brion 1995
It showed some ageing with amber hue on the edge. Barnyard like aromas with notes of game, musk, wax, cedar chips and baking spices. Flavours were more revealing with notes of spice, red fruits sweetness, oak, and leather. The finish was slightly bitter of medicine and graphite. Every time, I revisited, I was getting rather different flavour notes. Quite a chameleon.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1995
Compared to the Haut Brion, this looked more youthful with tint of deep blue core. Aromas were quite tight with hints of violets, nut, dark fruits such as blueberries and blackberries, firm leather, dusty minerality and austerity of tar. The flavours echoed the aromas with notable firm acidity, restrained sweetness and texture that seemed rather aggressive, firm and chewy.
Definitely needs at least 10 more years for it to give.

Chateau Petrus 2004
It showed impressive bright ruby hue. It presented itself at first whiff of graphite-like minerality, mint and lead, accompanied with warm tone of burnt rubber and bullish approach (not sure why I wrote this in my notes?). Flavours came through brighter with red sourish sweet cherries, lip-smacking vanilla cream, and racy acidity (rather fast and furious type). This was my first Petrus, fingers cross that it will not be my last.

Chateau Y quem 2004
My view on Y quem has always been DO NOT DISTURB FOR AT LEAST 20 YEARS. The sweetness of a dessert wine should not be too upfront and make you cringe. This didn’t quite did that, but I thought it would be perfect in about few more years. It revealed notes of melon, honey, vanilla cream, nuts such as hazelnut and almond, nougat, oak and citrus rind like bitterness on the finish. There is a sense of effervescence and bite. For me, everything just needed to mellow out a little more, but very delicious nonetheless.

I left this alone from the collage because for me, this was THE WINE of the evening, not just for me, but for several of others as well.
Ch Cheval Blanc 1999-001
At 15 years old, it showed density in colour with brilliance. Fruit notes didn’t stand forward, but leather and sweat made its presence first (without swirling). Aromas of blackberries, dusty blue fruits, mint, cedar wood and game came through with a little agitation. I could not stop smelling the wine because it was simply divine and intoxicating. When I was finally done smelling it, I sipped and found taste of black and red fruits, savoury spice, and stewed like sweetness (was thinking of bacon and egg with splash of worcestershire sauce). As expected, the tannins were still firm but elegant.

I am working towards a luxurious morning of Cheval Blanc with Bacon and Eggs one day, preferably before I turn 70.

Spotted…Being Cool

What do you do with a tricky cork?
Being Cool-001
It can be a frustrating, but it is even more important to keep your cool.
If you love old wines, it is almost inevitable that you meet a cork that will challenge your patience, wine-opening skill and sense of coolness. So don’t give up, keep your cool and you will definitely be rewarded. All else fail, decant.