The Magic of Howell Mountain Wine!
When you are a passionate wine lover like I am, you get great joy and excitement when you get to immerse yourself in the study of great wine paired fine cuisine. That is exactly what we did last month showcasing the fine Cabernet Sauvignons made at Lamborn Family Vineyards, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China.
Our honored guest was owner/farmer Mike Lamborn who along with his sons Brian and Matt run the estate and renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett (who made 14 vintages of Screaming Eagle) makes the wine.
Most of the 4.5 million visitors to the Napa Valley each year visit wineries on Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail, where the famous Cabernets are ripe, smooth, rich and lush. The wines made by Lamborn and their neighbors on rugged Howell Mountain are very different expressions of Cabernet. It may be the rocky earth and the red volcanic soil that drain so well, or the high elevation which yields more sunlight and cool afternoon breezes; reasons aside the wines are different. The Lamborn wines are packed with intensely flavored dark fruit that is concentrated and focused; a combination of power and Heidi Barrett elegance. The wines bare resemblance to some of Bordeaux greatest; wines like Ch. Latour, Ch. Montrose, Ch. Leoville Las Cases and Ch. Pichon Longueville. These wines require and reward patience.
Seven different vintages of Lamborn Cabernets were served during our wine and culinary adventure; Five of them consi
dered very good or great, along with two very challenging vintages in Napa. It was a great experience to taste all of these fine wines in different stages of development with exquisite food. Here are the highlights with comments on the wines.
To Quote Alex Allegrier the former owner of Lucas-Carton in Paris “A Great Menu is Like a Piece of History!”
November 2nd at The American Club in Hong Kong.
2005 and 2008, Served with Lamb Belly and butternut squash. The 2005 was without question the most perfect wine served on the trip because it is entering the “drinking window” at 12 years old, The ripe fruit is still young and fresh but the tannins and acidity have fallen and integrated perfectly; a beautiful wine in perfect balance and harmony with plenty of life ahead! 2008 was a difficult vintage by California standards; a bit of frost and uneven blooming resulted in lower yields and lower sugars, resulting in wines a bit Bordeaux-ish in style. The wine shows strong, bright, linear fruit with racy acidity with lots of spice; a great success for the vintage and great with the fatty Lamb Belly.
November 3rd at “The Secret Room” in Hong Kong.
This incredible dinner was a Silvio Berge production; “The man who puts Dreams on the Table”, and he really does!
2013 in California is one of the greatest vintages I’ve ever tasted; tremendous amounts of sweet fruit with great structure, freshness, balance and incredible persistence on the finish. For a wine that can age 20-30 years that California fruit is delicious even young and was paired fantastically with the Duck Orange and Chestnut Soup with Truffles. Next was the outstanding 2010 another big, broad wine with dense, dark fruit with hints of chocolate and powerful structure while showing great potential, but it was delicious at seven years of age on this evening with Chinese Pork Belly.
November 4th at Joyce East in Taipei, Taiwan
Outstanding food and service abound at this French inspired restaurant. One of the most interesting pairings of the trip was a Black Truffle Risotto Ball with 2013 Lamborn Zinfandel; an explosion of great flavors! This was followed by 2010 deliciously paired with Slow Smoked Coffee Bean Quail. It was poetic justice that the last wine served on this trip was in my opinion the most impressive. 2011 was the worst weather vintage in California since 1972; in fact many grapes in the southern half of the Napa Valley never fully ripened and some were never even picked! Served with the Grilled Rib Eye the 2011 Lamborn wine so dam impressive; the wine was indeed ripe, but not in the exotic style of 2013, 2012, 2010 2009 and 2005. The wine showed strong, masculine attack of dark fruit with the aromas of the red volcanic soil and racy acidity, very much in the same vein as the 2008. There was no way I could have guessed 2011 if I tasted this wine blind; hats off to Heidi, Lamborn and the magic of Howell Mountain.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season with lots of California wine.