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No matter how much you know about wine regions, varietals, and vintages you never really know what’s in the bottle before you taste. Worse, the wine you pour in this moment, may not be the wine you drink in the next. Your odds might be better in Vegas.

In looking over the lineup for our Wednesday night dinner/tasting it was clear which would be the stars: Two Second Crus Bordeaux from the 1990’s, a 2001 Barolo from Luigi Baudana, or perhaps the Rioja Gran Reserva 1986 were the obvious candidates. The rest of this impressive list would be interesting side-notes. In the pre-event sampling, all were showing well.

The 1997 Leoville Barton was everything we expected—classic cedar, cassis, and forest floor, although a bit short on the finish because 1997 was not a great vintage.

The 1995 Leoville Marquis de Las Cases exhibited well-preserved fruit and so much lively minerality I thought it was a Super Tuscan, but it lacked the characteristic truffle notes I’ve experienced with other vintages from this producer.

But the Barolo, Barolo, you difficult, unpredictable enchantress who promises so much and delivers occasionally. This 2001 was restrained on the nose and more advanced than expected for a wine still in its relative youth—aeration did little for it. A good wine, but it didn’t stand out.

The surprise of the night, the show stopper, the hand’s down winner (if I were the judge)—the 2000 Trimbach “Hommage à Jean” Pinot Gris. A gorgeous, complexly-layered stunner with exuberant melon and honey flavors and a spine of acidity that sends flavors surging in the mouth like the waves of a wind-tormented tide. Full bodied velvet, and just enough residual sugar to keep it in balance, this is what Pinot Gris at its best tastes like. Pinot Gris is a much underrated grape usually vinified as the insipid quaffer—Pinot Grigio. What a waste. Only in Alsace do they know how to work with this grape. Oregon take note.

These enticing wines were supported by a lovely dinner of pistachio-crusted Kurobuta pork prepared by Randy Smerik’s team at Solare, a fine Italian restaurant in Liberty Station. The appetizer, a Parmigiano Reggiano souffle served with zucchini passata and extra virgin olive oil infused with basil, was especially noteworthy. The passata (an uncooked puree) was concentrated and bursting with flavor. Kudos to the chef who conceived it.

And special thanks to the two members of the society who generously donated two of the wines we tasted.

Here is the complete line up:

Laurent Reverdy Sancerre 2012
Michel Leon Gewurtztraminer Alsace 2011
Trimbach “Hommage à Jean” Pinot Gris Alsace 2000
Leoville Marques de Las Casas St. Julien 1995
Leoville Barton St. Julien 1997
Marques De Caceres Gran Reserva Rioja 1986
Ambrosini Subertum Super Tuscan 1997
Domain Habrard Crozes-Hermitage 2009
Luigi Baudana Barolo 2001
Les Pensees de Pallus Chinon 2010
Domaine Tempier Bandol 2010

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