A wonderful wine story: The world’s number one auctioneer (in his field) and the president of his firm were coming to Blackjack Ranch to join us for dinner. I wanted to be sure they had a memorable evening. In coordinating our dinner plans, the two gentlemen mentioned in passing that they had recently purchased a Screaming Eagle 2002 (Napa, $1500 to $2500 per bottle) and were looking forward to tasting this wine for the first time to see if the wine lived up to the hype, ratings and price tag. I decided to give them a preview of their treasure and treat them to their fantasy wine but from the more highly regarded 2001 vintage. Dinner at Mattei’s was fantastic as always and Jeff Nichols prepared a grazing menu that wowed all of us. My guests agreed to taste three red wines blind with our series of dishes. All three were bagged with capsules removed and labeled A, B, and C as were the corresponding glasses. After initial tasting, my guests were told one of the three wines we were drinking was a Screaming Eagle. Their eyes lit up but no one correctly identifed the Screaming Eagle, or was able to pinpoint the appellation of origin of any of the three wines. You probably know where I am headed with this; wines A and C tied for first place with B finishing third. A was my Harmonie 1997 (Robert Parker, 93 points, sold out since 2000). B was the Screaming Eagle 2001 (Robert Parker, 99 points, $1200 to $1500 or more, per bottle). C was my Harmonie 2003, the wine offered here. This tasting once again exposed the subjectivity of scoring by the critics. With friends visiting from Orange County ten days later, the opportunity arose to continue the comparisons. The 100 point Lafite-Rothschild 2003 (now $750 to $900 per bottle) was next on the agenda. On a different night, with different bottles, the results were the same. Every single one of us agreed the 2003 Harmonie was the better wine. It is simply more concentrated, more complex and a more rewarding wine to drink. It would be foolish of me to post the above on my website if it wasn’t completely true and if I wasn’t challenging you to conduct similar tasting experiments. If you ask yourself why I chose to compare the 1997 and 2003 Harmonie to the 2001 Screaming Eagle rather than the 2001 Harmonie (one of my favorite babies), it is because in 2001 I chose to indulge my own fascination with American Oak and the wine is identifiable by nose. I figured by “surrounding” the vintage of Screaming Eagle, the “average” age would make for a level playing field. In the comparison of 2003 Lafite versus the 2003 Harmonie the oak regiment was equal. After seven patient years on the waiting list, I was finally allowed to purchase Taransaud French oak for the 03 harvest, and Taransaud is my first choice for making a great Bordeaux blend elixir. Lafite has been buying their first choice of French oak for a century or two, so in my opinion, the ground rules were fair. After all, the Lafite is known for its finesse and breeding and generally shows well relatively young. To carry this absurdity to yet another level, I suggest comparing the Harmonie 2003 to my single favorite Bordeaux, Chateau Lafleur. Don’t be shy, pour the Harmonie 2003 together with the Lafleur 2000 (Robert Parker 100, Lafleur’s highest rated wine of the last 25 years). Auction goers currently seem delighted at the opportunity to purchase this wine in the $15,000-$20,000 per case range. Go ahead and enjoy these two wines side by side. The ultimate equalizer in the wine world is cost. If cost were no object, we’d all drink Cheval Blanc 1947 on a daily basis with a little 1990 Romanee-Conti and/or LaTache thrown in from time to time for variety. Rather than actually play the SuperBowl each year, they could just award the championship trophy to the team with the highest ratings. Do you get my point? So there it is, I have thrown down the gauntlet by encouraging you to conduct your own comparisons of Harmonie 2003 to any of the greatest wines of the world from recent vintages. If you do it fairly, I think you will see that in my eighth vintage, dedication, creativity, and experience all came together inside a 750 ml bottle. We have packaged it in top-of-the-line French glass with a beautiful commemorative black label in order to convey this belief. Robert Parker (Issue 154): “Wisted’s finest achievement with this Bordeaux-blend appears to the 2003 Harmonie, a blend of 85% cabernet and 15% merlot. This riveting effort can stand up against the best Napa/Sonoma proprietary blends. In fact, it sets a new standard of excellence for what can be achieved in the South/Central Coast. A dense purple color is followed by a Medoc-like offering revealing notes of cedar, bay leaves, black currant liqueur, licorice, and new oak. Rich, layered, full-bodied yet elegant, precise, pure, exceptionally well-focused flavors inundate the palate. This beauty requires 3-5 years of cellaring, and should last two decades.” This is one of the highest scores he has ever awarded a Cabernet Sauvignon or blend from the Central Coast. The Harmonie 2003 will always be regarded as one of the all-time great Blackjack Ranch wines.
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