After hosting a busy and bustling tasting with 49 loud and happy participants, most of whom bought bottles and asked Robert to sign, we rushed off to have dinner at Long Beach's famous steak house, 555 East. Located in downtown Long Beach, this establishment has a cozy decor that harkens to the days of old, full of dark wood, black and white tiles, and brass. I had dined here once before and noticed that they had a great and complete wine list. Tonight, we chose this restaurant because Robert Eymael loves California red wine - "full of fruit and alcohol, I love it," he says. So we put away our previous idea of Vietnamese cuisine and German Riesling, in favor of rotwein and steak.
The wine flowed, and so did the conversation. I found myself in that frame of mind where I felt, yeah, this is why I'm in the business! This is the best part, being in the midst of people that make great wine and the people that sell great wine, enjoying the best dining that money can buy, with fun people that truly love wine and that glorious experience that wine brings. If you don't like this part of the business, then there is pretty much no reason to be in this business, I say!
We enjoyed two bottles of California rotwein. One of them gave me a "wine moment," which I really had lately. The first of the two reds we had was 2005 Justin Isosceles. You might recall that I did blog about enjoying a 1994 Justin Isosceles about 2 months ago at a wine dinner, a finely cellared wine that had great complexity and flavor. Last night's 2005 was not like that at all, and was in fact, more like what one would expect from a Paso Robles wine, very extracted, very grapey, very thick-appearing in the glass. I burst out laughing when Randy described it as creme de mure (blackberry liqueur). It kind of was! The aroma was of sweet brown sugar sizzling on a pan, that sweetness one gets from toasted American oak barrels. The wine wasn't bad, it had sippability, and it grew on a person the more one sipped on it. But I didn't end up finishing my glass.
Robert Eymael liked it - he said he really liked California's style of reds, and they were relative bargains next to France's wines. Of French wines, he said he prefers Chateauneuf du Pape, in particular, he mentioned Vieux Telegraph. He also said he likes Bordeaux, but to get the quality of wine one desires, the wines are too expensive. We nodded in agreement. Robert also mentioned that he was not a fan of Burgundy or Pinot Noir in general.
Now, onto the second wine. That was the epiphany moment - this was a wine not on the wine list - a last bottle. Randy ordered it and it was decanted. When I stuck my nose into this glass, I could not get it back out - it was that kind of wine that demanded to be noticed and enjoyed with ample time by the olfactory senses. Just smelling the wine over and over again made me fall in love with it. It made me want to be just with this bottle of wine and Johan and that was it. It made me want to know the name of this wine. Napa Cabernet? You've got to be kidding! The aroma told the story of a French wine. Before I could see the bottle, Robert Eymael was already saying it was like a Pauillac. That made sense. The aroma was like what you want all Cabernets to smell like. Not like berries or jam, not like eucalytus or mint or green peppers. Just pure Cabernet, at its most elegant and refined and perfectly aged and not a day too old or young. Just like that. And that was still before I put it to my lips.
And so when I tasted it, it did not disappoint. The texture was there, a touch of earth, a touch of gravel but not too much, and just silkiness and medium body, a bit more richer than one would expect a Bordeaux to be, but so unlike Napa Cabernet or Southern Hemisphere Cabernet that we are used to tasting. Of course, that's an unfair comparison - I don't typically get to taste 1997 vintage Cabernets from anywhere.... maybe Don Melchor or Penfolds Bin 707 after 10 or 11 years of careful aging will give me that - in fact, I'm pretty sure that I can get that good feeling with those wines after a decade. But at any rate, the wine that made me fall in love with wine again was 1997 Clark-Claudon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. What structure, what finesse! And of course, fruit was there, but in a non-bomb fashion, nice savory-style fruit that lingers on the palate.
After smelling and drinking this wine, the other one, the Justin smelled and tasted even more clunky and fruit-bomby.
Ah, what a night! All the elements of fun, rolled into one. Wine geekdom, wine maker, wine sellers, and eatin' and drinkin'!