Another session with my tasting group, this time a different cross-section of people banded together, intent on imbibing Bordeaux and, to avoid overkill (as happened in the previous tasting), the host allowed his guests some wiggle room—bringing Bordeaux blends from outside the purview of France from his home in Venice. Our magnanimous host Ari had lent his apartment for the tasting and prepared a Bolognese sauce to cover the handmade pasta he fashioned earlier du jour to compliment the wines in the set when the dinner bell would toll. Trending now: Big reds, sumptuous feasts and furthering a countdown to five hundred, all in luxurious style.

We arrived around 7:30; the environment was small, warm and relatively cozy and the sun was beginning to set—the heat would dissipate soon enough. When we sat down we were the guinea pigs in a blind tasting, consisting of four wines, where we would use deductive reasoning to figure out the mystery wines decanted before us. With a little bit of leading from Ari, we were able to pin the first wine down to two different varietals but ultimately guessed the wrong grape. The Gewürztraminer Grundloch Bundschu (#217) showed itself after being exposed, but what was most surprising was that the wine was in a new world guise, California to be exact. The following taste test (#216) in our sensory exam became a little more difficult to identify. The cross of gold and straw coloring, mixed with the scents of juiced lemons and green peas lead me to think Sauvignon Blanc but the bitter finish threw me off the trail; I doubted myself. It happened to be a bottle of Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc from Margerum. The third wine (#215), was solved in a sniff, detecting some dried spices, olives and meats, clearly an indication of Syrah… and as for the New World guess it just seemed fitting—not so much like the St. Joseph I had had a few months earlier. The fourth and final blind tasting followed suit, a Pinot Noir (#214) that was unmistakable (but I did not peg the winery) from Sarapo Family Wines dubbed Donato from Carneros.

Our buds had gained consciousness and the tasting was under way; we began our expedition with a seven-fifty of 2006  Château de Candale from St. Emilion (#213). The deep coloring was a blend of ruby and garnet shades equipped with a medium intense perfume, redolent of blueberries, rhubarb and strawberry compote that translated on the palate with some character, moderate-plus acidity and a medium finish of fruit.

We transitioned into our second wine of the set, a 2006  Château Coutet (#212) also from St. Emilion, another blend heavy with Merlot, followed by Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. The wine was not as extracted, yielding a medium color depth that hinted more towards garnet with dried cedar and blackberries on the nose. In the mouth the Ch. Coutet had fairly drying tannins, medium body, moderate acidity and a little shorter finish than it’s fellow paysan.

We segued into Happy Canyon—an AVA of Santa Barbara—to taste a bottle of 2008 Piocho (#211) by Happy Canyon Vineyards. The garnet wine gave off aromas of wood spice—vanilla—cinnamon, leather and blueberry but on the buds it was rather jammy with a prevalent dose of berry lingering on the palate but not much acid or anything to give it finesse.

The last wine of the group was from Israel; the 2008 Petit Castel (#210), a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc and Malbec that showed a nice concentration of color in the glass with a whiff of dark fruits, lots of cedar and some asparagus. With an intriguing nose I was hoping for a better finish but instead I got a lot of alcohol out of the wine, which was hard to overlook. The reputation of Domaine du Castel still remains untarnished.

After tasting through nine wines we broke for dinner. We had our gracious host prepare each person’s order of hand made pasta to their tooth. The personal touch was well received and Ari’s pasta and Bolognese were delectable. We ended the dinner and tasting with a little gift from Ari, he popped open a three seventy-five of 2005  Château La Tour Blanche (#210). With its golden coloring, the rich Sauterne gave off luscious odors of honeydew, cantaloupe, honeysuckle and some apricots. The same flavors were present on the palate with a little bit of oak and that long finish was really a great note to leave on, wrapping up another outstanding group event. Not quite a full-fledged voluptuary but I am definitely relishing these tastings.