Later that day I proceeded to dinner with the same underlying message: there is never enough great wine and always too much mediocre product, the main virtue of which is its alcohol content. At the dinner the hosts were the three Tapanappa partners: Brian Croser, Jean-Michel Cazes of Chateau Lynch-Bages in Pauillac, Bordeaux, and Arnould d’Hautefeuille of Bollinger. (Strictly speaking, it is a partnership of three family-owned businesses.)
The wines, served with a splendid dinner at Circa, were: 1999 Bollinger Grand Annee; 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay; 2004 and 1995 Chateau Lynch-Bages; 2003 Chateau Les Ormes de Pez; 2004 and 2003 Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz; 2002 Petaluma Essence Botrytis Semillon (an outsider these days); and a sneak preview of the superb Bollinger RD 1996.
Terroir is everything for these three producers, and Croser was especially pleased to announce that the Whalebone of that wine’s name, unearthed at the Wrattonbully vineyard owned by Tapanappa (which produces the cabernet shiraz), has been carbon-dated at 35 million years old. The Tiers vineyard has terroir the Burgundians would understand: it is owned by Croser’s wife, Ann, who sells part of the grapes to Petaluma and part to Tapanappa; hence Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay and Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay. (Burgundy is a maze of near-identical family names separately owning small parts of distinguished vineyards.)
As I understand it, Tapanappa gets the best parcel of grapes coming from the top of the vineyard. But, then, one should expect nothing less when only the best will do.
FROM THE REGION
The 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay (95 points, $79.95) is a beautifully crafted wine, notable as much for what it does not say (oak and alcohol) as what it does (silky mouth-feel and great length).