I was privileged to attend the gala tasting at Herzog in Oxnard. Present were many solid examples of wines, but few standouts, in my opinion. Others, however, were wowed by many of the wines. Standout wines for me were the Covenant Chard and Cab, the Chard more than the Cab. (no, I didn't get the vintages, because I was just making an overview). There was a Corton-Charlemagne there, didn't compare. In fact, no Chardonnay did. There were several rarities among Herzog Cabs. Though good, they mimic the general lack of structure, especially acidity, that characterized most of the wines present. Stilll they presented some very fine flavors, which seemed like they would have benefitted from 2 or 3 egg whites per barrel. Which is not to say that they weren't enjoyable, or that there weren't many enjoyable wines, because there certainly were. I liked the examples of Malartic-Lagraviere present, and the Leoville-Poyferre present better than the vintage of Pontet-Canet being shown, though all three were good wines. Generally, I found the red wine exhibited medium to light body, and often had excessive tannin profiles. Many had fruit in the nose but interference by too much tannin in the mouth, coupled with lower acidity than I would have liked. Here again, I was probably in the minority. A young Chateau Guiraud exhibited excellent balance and character, while having slightly too much bitterness for my complete enjoyment at this stage- however, the bitterness may very well dissipate in the foreseeable future. Although there were many Sauvignon Blancs from several different sources, each one I tasted had varietal character, which is a definite improvement. Pinot Noirs from various sources, including a Clos Vougeot, were lighter than I liked, and lacked as much fruit as I would have liked, but typically retained their varietal character as well. I enjoyed some Syrahs and Cabernets as well, from a variety of sources.
I think the wine tasting itself was a success. I didn't taste anything that I would have considered to be bad wine. In fact, just about everything exceeded the average quality of kosher wine 10 years ago. It probably comes down to matters of vintage and style more now than simply the bad winemaking of the past. I guess stylistically, I'm still out on the edge compared to most, enjoying more body, structure and fruit than most consumers.
To me, the best part of the day was Todd's food, from 2 ceviches and a host of charcuterie to kobe mini-burgers (I reserve the term "slider" for White Castle, which alas, I never had). Duck pasta with copious quantities of shaved truffles. Tacos and various other concoctions. Tuna Tartare and home smoked salmon and quail egg pizza. Rhum Baba with chocolate frozen custard and blueberry trifle and chocolate truffles, etc. While sometimes I thought things underseasoned, the quality of everything was excellent. All in all, a fun day, and a pleasure to meet Joe Hurliman and Jeff Morgan, as well as seeing old friends and acquaintances from Royal and elsewhere.