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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top vintages of Beaucastel at Lotus of Siam

A trip to Sin City is not complete w/o a jaunt over to Lotus of Siam, the Thai lover’s paradise that is fawned over by all gustatory geeks alike. While I wouldn’t consider myself a Thai nazi by any stretch of the imagination, the barrage of dishes that I, Jack Bulkin and my wife, Ejehan, dove into were nothing short of mesmerizing. There was fantastic intensity of flavor, judicious spice and a delicacy in texture that was pulled together so seamlessly in each dish that I could not stop myself from eating, irrespective of my impending intestinal demise. The location is as unassuming and modestly priced as any ‘best kept secret’ around (though that cat has been out of the bag for quite some time now), and the foods (when the heat is dialed down accordingly) worked remarkably well w/ the robustly flavored, unoaked Chateauneuf du Papes from Beaucastel. While I am a ‘wine first, food second’ kind of guy, I can honestly say I haven’t stopped thinking about….gasp….Thai food.

Jack generously donated the ’90, I the ’01 and the ’98 we purchased off Lotus’ top notch list for a song. Although the ’98 and ’01 were somewhat uncharacteristic in style for Beaucastel, I found them to be absolutely breath-taking Chateauneuf du Papes that are likely to spur some controversy from fans of typical Beaucastel. While the ’90 revealed characteristics that were more identifiable to the ‘house style,’ it was certainly not cranking in high gear, although it made quite a comeback in the final stretch of the evening.

While Jack stumbled away into the unknown, I chased my wife away from her nemesis, the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, which nearly caused us to default on our newfound mortgage. While most of my Vegas stories are unfortunately not wine related, I hope a few bottles of Beaucastel will satiate your reading thirst for the moment.

Beaucastel Vertical:

This storied vintage was the chameleon of the night, morphing not only in color, but in profile. The faint, transparent ruby hues seemed surprisingly progressed, showing a bit more wear and tare than expected, but time in the glass brought out deeper saturation in color, as well as intensity of flavor. As the 18 year old Chateauneuf picked up steam, sweet raspberry, fresh garrigue, tapenade, tanned leather and spicecake notes danced from the glass. This opulent vintage showed surprisingly elegant and medium in weight, w/ good depth and a bloody, tar-laced grip shutting the door on the finish. This doesn’t seem to be the most representative of Beaucastel’s performance in ’90, but it was a solid showing even though it wasn’t Beaucastel’s A-game, 93 points.

Although the ’98 was a tad stubborn and extremely youthful at first, its notable quality was never anything short of classic. A blockbuster nose of pure kirsch liqueur, bittersweet cocoa powder, melted licorice, rose petals and melted asphalt powered from the glass, turning the dial up a few notches. The sweet attack unfolds its silky, sultry layers of sappy fruit into a controlled gush of powerful, hedonistic delight. Even though it was closed initially, this is a ’98 that simply seethes a character that dormancy can’t deny. The only troublesome issue w/ this vintage is the bottle variation, as there are decidedly inferior bottles that I, and several others have tasted which bare no resemblance to the greatness of this wine, 96 points.

While I haven’t tasted 80s or 90s Beaucastel vintages in their youth, I am convinced this is the most profound year for the Chateau’s base cuvee since the ’89, albeit in a style that some traditional fans of the estate may find to be atypical. While some bottles have been a bit more restrained than others, this showing was flat out ostentatious. A heady, massively endowed wine that overflows w/ fruitcake, date bread, brandy soaked figs, warm ganache and damp earth aromas that smell like a Grenache lover’s paradise. Full bodied and crammed w/ uncanny extract, glycerin and flavor, yet always retaining poise and balance, managing its broad shoulders beautifully. I simply couldn’t get enough of this wine last night and although I’ve found it to be a profound wine each one of the 8 or 9 times I’ve had it, this was by far, the most thrilling, Henri Bonneau-like showing yet. There is a tremendous life ahead of the ’01 Beaucastel, and it’s a wine I look forward to following for many years to come, 97+ points.


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