Dinner With A Friend

By Glen Frederiksen

One of my favorite parts of the world wine community is the camaraderie that we all share with one another. I know of no other special interest group that reaches out to make new friends as easily as those who profess a passion for wine.

Over the years, this has taken me around the world. I have met up with fellow wine travelers and enjoyed countless get-togethers of food and wine throughout Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Closer to home, I have traveled to cities across the United States and Canada, often staying a few nights with people whom I have met through the many online forums for the wine-obsessed. Likewise, I have hosted quite a few visiting wine lovers in my home. Good times, all.

This week, a wine friend from Toronto, Canada found his way to Las Vegas, so of course we had to get together for a glass bottle or three while he was in town. Actually, we (over)did it three nights in a row. Such is the way of those who follow the Wine Muse.

Our first night was dinner at the appropriately named restaurant Marche Bacchus. I have written about my many besotted nights there in the past (follow this link). Owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt are first ballot inductees into the Wine Friendliest Restaurants Hall of Fame. The wine shop, at the front of their sprawling French bistro establishment, is the best in Las Vegas, carrying all kinds of cult wines that are usually only obtainable from the winery direct for those on a mailing list.

I won’t bore you with the bite-by-bite of the dinners we enjoyed – the food was, as always, exceptional. I know why you are reading this – to hear about the wine we had. So let’s get to it. Two of the wines were purchased at the restaurant, the other two were brought by us.

2007 Ammonite Brut Champagne, Grand Cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Selection Greg Linn. Winemaker Pierre Gonet has fashioned a winner. The mousse is fine and persistent. In the nose, toasted bread leads to full, oily lemon scents. This follows through in the mouth, where a rich, creamy impression carries through to a long, mouth-watering afterflavor. With only 300 cases made, this is a rare bottling to make it to our neck of the woods and I, for one, am glad it did.
Marche Bacchus Price: $115 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 92

2012 Peter Michael Chardonnay ‘Ma Belle-Fille,’ Knight’s Valley
Here is another wine you rarely see at a retail wine store. Deep straw in color. This white is already well-knit together, showing aromas and flavors of clove, clarified butter, toast, cashew, ripe stone fruit, citrus oil, and a sense of liquid minerality. On the label, the alcohol is listed as 15.6%, but there is no trace of heat – just a warm, happy feeling after every sip.
Marche Bacchus Price: $115 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 94

1996 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
This was my friend’s contribution to the evening’s festivities. After replanting in the early 1990s, the 1996 Heitz Martha’s was the first release in five years. If you expected this to be youngish, light, and less complex due to the replanting, think again. This is classic Heitz Martha’s, in full maturity. A deep opaque ruby color in the glass. A mélange of aromas waft from the glass, including cedar, mushrooms, eucalyptus/mint, and ample lush black currant and berry fruit. I remember tasting this on release and wondering if it would blossom with time. Wonder no more.
Current Market Price: $135 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 93

1998 d’Arenberg Shiraz ‘The Dead Arm,’ McLaren Vale
This was my contribution for the evening. From one of the most venerable estates in Australia, this is their top-of-the-line Shiraz bottling. In the glass, it was an opaque black/ruby color. Tremendous scents of mushrooms, cedar, currant, and dark chocolate seduce the nose. On first sip, it expands on the palate, showing both power and finesse. Want to fool your French snob wino friends? Throw this ringer into the mix and see which First Growth they think it is!
Wine Auction Price: $63 (February 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 95

The side-by-side of the two older reds was educational, as they could have been twins. A reminder that, in fine older reds, the secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors all funnel down to a similar profile.

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