Monday, August 22, 2022

The Ultimate Wine Tasting: Iridium and Lineage

Precious and rare – top-end wine and good friends.

A Promise Kept

The Cabernetor (also known as Steve) has been my good friend for more than two decades. Through the years and miles, the friendship has endured.

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One of our great adventures was traveling to Napa for a visit to Sterling Vineyards (as part of the Wine Bloggers Conference. We were joined by our spouses (my wife, the Green Dragon, and Steve’s wife Glorious T).

At Sterling we took part in the Platinum Experience, traveling to the winery via aerial tram and then continuing to elevate our experience by tasting some incredible wine. Nothing could top what we experienced next: the first vintage of Iridium. Iridium is the flagship Sterling wine produced only in the best vintage years. It has also been served as the official wine of the Emmys.

To make our escapade even more astounding, winemaker Harry Hansen poured the wine and discussed the process as we sipped. The Cabernetor snapped a photo of the three of us during this treasured memory.

A couple of years ago I encountered a medical challenge that has tested me to the core. Even though we moved to North Carolina and he’s still in Ohio, Steve was there every step of the way to encourage me to overcome the problem through diet, exercise, and prayer. Some of the challenges were mind-numbing, but Steve kept me on track.

He also had leverage. He kept reminding me that he had a bottle of Iridium to open up when I finally beat this thing. That promise was brought up each time I I faced another wrinkle in my medical saga.

After months of trying to schedule a trip to Ohio to see Steve and Tracey (Glorious T), we finally finally made it. I was packing with me valuable cargo: a bottle of 2017 Lineage, the first and only 100-point wine I’ve tasted.

An Evening With The Stars

Lineage comes from Livermore Valley, a region that we think doesn’t get enough attention. Steven Mirassou, a sixth-generation winemaker from America’s oldest winemaking family, has a goal to make one of the truly great Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the world. He struck paydirt with the 2017 Lineage. Renowned wine critic Steve Heimoff awarded the 2017 Lineage an unprecedented 100 points. Heimoff remarked that of the thousands of Cabernet blends he’d tasted over the course of his career, “None have been better.”

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Lineage was part of an epic tasting at our house that featured Livermore Valley wines paired with gourmet bites. It was a show-stopper.

While Lineage includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab Franc, Iridium is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sterling winemaker Harry selected the very finest lots of Cabernet from vineyards spanning Napa Valley. These grapes come from Sleeping Lady Vineyard in Yountville and Calistoga’s Frediani Vineyard, to name a couple.

Iridium is one of the rarest elements on earth and it is treasured, just like Sterling’s Iridium. Made in only the very best vintages with the finest and most intense expression of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Iridium is considered by many to be the pinnacle of winemaking perfection.

Perfection Uncorked

To open the evening we uncorked the spectacular Paul Berthelot “Eminence” Premier Cru Champagne. This was followed by our soup course with the 2020 Clos Bellane “Altitude” rosé as the pairing. With wonderful hospitality, conversation, and wine, we were ready to progress to the main course.

All the culinary treats were prepared by Glorious T. For the main dish, we had an elevated “surf and turf” with salmon and beautifully cooked steak.

Before we poured the wines, which each had been decanted, Dragon made the comment that it would be interesting to see which was best. Oh, I thought. That’s not the point of this soiree. “This isn’t one versus one,” I said in a wine-inspired mood. “This is one plus one!”

The Lineage and Iridium are both smooth and balanced on the palate almost beyond words. The 2017 vintage of Lineage was limited to 3,984 bottles and is broad and rich with multiple layers. Oak plays its role but doesn’t dominate the pleasing black cherry and red fruit note. There is a whisper of mint. The finish is elating.

Iridium, Iridium, what a sensational wine. The sleek bottle with a reflective top and shoulders looks like it is ready to launch to Mars or be placed in an art museum. With the first sip, it envelopes the palate like a velvet glove. Iridium has an amazing array of flavors from chocolate mint to blueberry pie. Threads of cedar, floral, and leather intertwine for a sensational experience.

The evening progressed out to the deck and then down to the OSU-themed basement. A thrashing on the ping-pong table then ensued. To maintain my self-esteem, I won’t say who thrashed who. The evening wound down with the 2018 “The Vice” Cabernet Sauvignon from Mount Veeder. Alas, my tasting notes radar was malfunctioning at that point.

Who knows what the future may bring, but in this triumphant moment good friends opened wine that rocked. It will be remembered on down the years.

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