A week and a half ago, before Phoenix was covered in a 100 mile wide sand storm, I went out to visit a friend of mine that moved out there about a year and a half ago. He seemed to be doing very well with a beautiful house, an in ground pool with a waterfall and a brand new BMW. Best of all, he decided to ditch a laundry room and build a wine cellar. Now this is a little more difficult than one might think out in the desert. Houses don’t have a lot of basements out there so that means it has to be at ground level. Combine that with temperatures in the 110’s for 3 or 4 months and you have one hell of an electric bill. The cellar was filled with many wonderful bottles, mostly old ports. My friend said he basically has the premier collection of port in the United States. He also had several other bottles like an 82 Mouton Rothschild, a couple of magnums of Lafite Rothschild as well as some other goodies. He told me not to worry about buying any wine out there because we can open stuff from his cellar. This was music to my ears because I don’t get to try many old bottles, only once in a great while. The first night was a real treat.
We started off with a 1986 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Laland. We popped and poured this just to try it and it was tight so we gave it some time. After about 1.5-2 hours, it finally opened up. Had some leather, tobacco, currant and spice on the nose. The leather kind of came on strong at first but faded throughout the night. The palate had some dark fruit, dried cherry, earth, and spice. Not a harsh tannin to be found with a silky smooth finish that lasted about 20-30 seconds. Believe it or not, I still think this wine needed more time in the bottle but it is still drinking very well. I gave it 94 points.
Next was our late night wine, a 1970 Graham Vintage Port. As I said earlier, my friend is a real port nut and he actually had a vintage port decanter and some special port glasses he had flown in from overseas. I actually wish I could get some of those glasses! It had a imprint on the stem for your thumb and finger to hold it. Earlier in the day my friend decanted the wine and we tried it but it had some tough tannins. By the time we were ready to drink it, 5-6 hours later, it was perfect.
The bottle he got at auction and it really looked banged up. My friend said that because it is port, he has seen bottles in bad condition but drink great because the wine is fortified and has high alcohol. As you could see, the cork was pretty beat up.
This had nice aromas of fig, dried cherry, raisin and a touch of earth. I could sit there and smell this all day! The palate had similar flavors with chocolate, raisin, fig and dried cherry that just coated your mouth. Had a excellent finish that lasted 40-50 seconds. I don’t get to try that many old ports but I have to say that this is the finest I have ever had. I gave this 96 points.
The next night we decided we were in the mood for something different so my friend cracked open a 1988 Marcarini Barolo Lajerra. I had never heard of Marcarini but I was in for a nice surprise. This had a strong smell of sulfur when we opened it up but blew off over time to reveal aromas of leather, dried cherry and spice. The palate revealed some interesting flavors of dried cherry, licorice, earth and mushroom. It had a nice mix between earthy flavors and fruit. A really pleasant surprise for me! I gave this 94 points.
After the Barolo, my friend thought it would be nice to break out some Cuban cigars and drank some Madeira. He actually had a very special Madeira left over from a tasting he had from a few weeks ago. It was an 1865 Sercial and it was quite the wine. The nose was to die for and I was amazed at the range of flavors it displayed. It’s difficult for me to describe the aroma and flavors because I don’t have much experience tasting it. I never got the producer’s name but after trying this I definitely want to drink Madeira.