Who would have thought that the largest wine cellar open to the US public would be in Sin City? Well, when you put it that way – where else would it be than in Las Vegas?
Ever the intrepid and curious traveller, Brian found out about The Wine Cellar online and we visited it before checking out the final WSOP table (World Series of Poker 2012).
José was our somm for the evening and when he learned I am enrolled in WSET Level 4 he exclaimed, ‘Well, if this is for learning purposes, pick as many as you want and I’ll pour you an ounce or so of each you’d like to try!’ He didn’t have to tell me twice, although I admit I think I double checked to make sure I’d heard him correctly. I selected 11 and the games began.
Starting with the Rieslings, I compared a 2010 Monchof, Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese from the Mosel. Only 8.5% abv, this winery has been in existence since 1177. No, that wasn’t a typo. The palest lemon hue, it was almost water white. Mineral with some light pink grapefruit and citrus, it tasted like pears and was fully sweet. Imagine having this alongside a pear tart or apple strudel… It goes for US$20 a glass. The second Riesling was the 2011 St. Gabriel Auslese also from the Mosel. Medium dry, this 9% Pradikatswein had minerals on the nose and palate, was a pale lemon with green apples and some citrus, although it was difficult to find fruit on. Not surprisingly it was only US$10/glass.
Moving along to the Sauvignon Blanc, I tried the 2009 Loire Valley Comte Lafond Sancerre AOC from Pouilly-Fumé. Dry and a crystal clear pale lemon, the acidity was medium plus and on the nose and palate, citrus, floral notes, hay and rocks. Refreshing and juicy at US$24/glass.
Being unfamiliar with Chardonnays as I rarely buy them, I tried three starting with the Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay from Carneros, 14% abv, 2010. It was the shade of pale gold vegetable oil and had a medium body with creamy mouth texture. Caramel, toast, vanilla and powerful oak complimented the buttered popcorn and nectarine flavours. As it warmed, the oak overwhelmed. US$16/glass.
The second Chardonnay was my favourite – the DuMOL 2009 from the Russian River Valley’s western edge. Unfiltered, it is 14.3% abv and complex. Paler gold than the Rombauer, it was velvety and terribly subtle. Aged in 40% new oak for 18 months prior to release, it showed melon and stone fruit (white peach) followed by apple, nuts and a savoury quality with some light butter. It was US$43 for a glass and the bottle would retail for about C$70. Exquisite.
The last Chardonnay was a Premier Cru Bouchard Père et Fils 2009 from Beaune Clos Saint-Landry in the Côte-d’Or. A little lighter at 13.5% abv it was a pale lemon with light mineral aromas, oak, apple and light stone fruit. Surprisingly light and delicate for a Chardonnay, but then this is the Old World speaking so it’s not surprising. Sublime and cost US$36 per glass.
The Willamette Valley Cristom, Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir, 2008, 14% abv is unfiltered and comes from an estate with five vineyards all named after women in the owner’s family. They pride themselves on their high density, low yield format. Cherry and wood are the first obvious notes, but there is more going on here with red licorice twizzlers, kirsch, strawberry and cranberry. The medium ruby core offers medium – tannins. US$29/glass.
The second Pinot Noir was a Louis Latour Grand Vin de Bourgogne from Pommard AC in the Cote D’Or from 2010, 13.5% abv and retailing at the Wine Cellar for US$39/glass. Medium ruby core with tiny, even and consistent legs. Cherries and wood with medium plus ripe tannins, it was a treat. Who doesn’t love Pinot…
I finished our time at The Wine Cellar with two Cabernet Sauvignons and a Merlot – the two Cabs being from California. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 2009 Artemis hails from the Napa Valley and was the Paris Tasting winner in 1976 – sealing its fate forever more. I’d never tried the Artemis and at US$46/glass, I was glad I could taste it first! I wasn’t disappointed. A crimson-dark ruby cross at the core, it was full of green herbaceousness, cedar and forest floor. The fruit was black, full and juicy – blackcurrant and blackberry and the grippy tannins signal that while it’s drinking now, it could cellar for a time with only more good things to come.
The second Cabernet Sauvignon was the Napa Valley Honig, 2009. The back of the bottle boasts this is a family run and owned winery using sustainable and green farming and solar power methods. This 14.5% abv wine was an opaque crimson with velvety tannins full of red and black fruit – fresh currants and deep purple plums. Very fruity and beautifully balanced with the tannin and alcohol. A ‘deal’ at US $27/glass.
José was trying to close up, but never rushed us. We had ordered a beautiful cheese and meat plate that complimented the red wines in particular and we settled up – only US $38 for 11 tasters – and US$100 overall with generous tip in. The food platter cost more than the wine for heaven’s sake. What a deal. This is the way to do your wine studies homework.
The final wine, Merlot based, was a 1999 Château Simard from Saint-Émilion at 12.5% abv. A medium plus garnet and slightly bricked core, the nose and palate showed cherries, plums, oak and blackberries. Subdued and with no hints of green, I wondered if it may be past its drinking prime?
We settled up with José (he’s been working there for 17 years) and never one to be wasteful, I polished off the glasses I’d enjoyed the most before we headed off to watch the remaining 6 WSOP players hit off 3 to get to the final group.
Next trip to Vegas, The Wine Cellar will warrant another visit – I never even got to the Champagnes, sparklers, Ports, Sherries or Madeiras. I’d better get studying!