The Odd Couple

I am forced to say something about these two wines from last night. Obviously–if you watched my stories–there were considerably more-prestigious French classifications and somewhat more-reputable new world wines present on the bar. This wasn’t a contest or a varietally-themed tasting, the only theme was: bring old stuff you are not expecting much from but NEEDS to be opened. I think just about everything at the tasting could have easily been dranken 5 years ago. Several mildewy labels, a couple cork issues, a little sediment from day-of transport, and a few disappointments across the lot. But these two:

The Olivier came out hot & heavy as crowd favorite from the beginning with its huge bretty nose, gorgeous and packed with dense fruit, leather and asphalt, making everything else a the table positively austere by comparison. Initial bottle-funk was actually just a tad *too* much and I decanted it, where it continued to blossom all night while the other Bordelais–also decanted–just got boring-er and boring-er.

The Villa Mt. Eden opened up exactly where you would expect: A little less rich and round than you might predict from Napa, but beautiful tertiary, fruit *probably* declined to just-past prime, glimpses of oak along with wisps of Rutherford mint, euc, and dust. It wasn’t mind-bogglingly super-gorgeous, merely calm and steady and good. Not decanted, but kept snug in bottle.

Then something weird happened.

About 2 hours in, with a dozen or so bottles open and lots of revisiting and pouring and dumping and conversation–these two wines NOT receiving the brunt of the discussion: passively in the sidelines of the the limelight–the rotation of comments involving: “Those two are still my favorites” started picking up pace. The two wines had morphed into a seamless unit–literally IDENTICAL–requiring intense concentration to tell apart in the glass. The Napa a tiny bit softer in the mid-section, and tannin not *quite* as firm, but had managed the sort of complexity in the nose–and mouth–the Leognan had breathed out to. And visa-versa. Stylistically–and regionally–it seems impossible: How could a 23-YO Napa from a “Vintage-of-the-Decade” ever show the sort of emotion a Bordeaux from a so-so year could? How did the vast separations of earth and briar polish to such alignment? How is a Graves at 22 showing the sort of lush cherry and berry a $25 Napa exudes? I suppose recent classification could be an argument? Maybe barrel programme? PARKERIZATION? Villa Mt. Eden ALWAYS being a sleeper? Under-priced Olivier? Quite a pair–and and alignment of universes not occurring often in one’s lifetime.

1998 CHATEAU OLIVIER Pessac-Leognan Bordeaux 12.5

1997 VILLA MT EDEN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 14.3
(This is no longer a winery, but merely a brand–changing hands several times and currently dealing in mediocre Pinot and Chard)

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