Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
The Emperor Caymus is stark buck nekkid with all his junk hangin' out...
September 22, 2010
Ok, first off, it wasn't Fleming's fault. Really. They tried so hard. The service was amazing. From Managing Partner James, on down to each and every waiter (who introduced themselves to each guest!) they all made every single guest feel welcomed, valued and perfectly attended to. Chef Nixon executed the food admirably and I sent each plate back empty! Bravo to you all.
They even struggled with the technology to try to make the "Interactive Dinner with Caymus" to be something interactive. However, well the best laid plans, executed as well as possible, just don't always work.
Let's face it. Even the most well behaved adults just get loud and distracted after a couple or four glasses of wine. One huge, loud table dead center made any hope of hearing, much less interacting with Chuck Wagner and Fleming's Wine Director (and a favorite person of mine) Marian Jansen op de Haar, on the screen, vanish. I did write a question for Chuck ["If you could define the "house style" of Caymus in a few words, how would you describe it?" Seriously, I really wanted to know because I can't believe anyone actually makes wine in that style for any reason other than marketing] I never could even hear if they got my question, much less what the answer might have been. James told me that there was a woman there as a representative of Caymus, and she was probably going to come over and say hello and answer my questions. She never did. When I tried to introduce myself at the end of the evening, she was so engrossed in conversation with her table mates for the evening, I gave up trying to get her attention. So much for any interaction with Caymus. Why am I not surprised?
Which leads me to the most disappointing aspect of the evening. The wines. OK, before the hate mail hits, I just have to say that Chuck Wagner is a genius at one thing. Marketing. He clearly read the Stanford University study that proved that when you tell someone a wine is more expensive, they will automatically perceive it to be of better quality. Sadly, to yr mst humble &Obdt Svt here, that genius is clearly lacking in the bottle.
Conundrum 2008. Ick. Sweet, cloying with acids out of balance. Odd copper finish and just a mess in the glass. Even two women at my table with me didn't care for it. At $20 a bottle retail?? WTF?
Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2007: Ick but not as icky as the Conundrum. Hugely green nose, like a bunch of leaves got crushed with the fruit. A buttery thing clearly from Malolactic. More of the same on the palate. Green fruit, oddly acidic, more green leaf and a flabby character that was at odds with the acid, and not in balance. At $20 a bottle retail and double that in a restuarant? feh.
Special Selection Cabernet 2000: Oaky dense nose. Zero fruit. More oak on the palate, tannins and acid with no fruit at all. Ten years old and over the hill or in a dumb phase that is nearly a brain dead phase. $125 retail and $250 or more on a wine list. No way…that aint right.
Special Selection Cabernet 2008: A huge fruit bomb. Much fruit on the nose, chewy over ripe fruit on the palate plus dense oak and salty tannins. The palate was dense and muddy and the over ripeness of the fruit became more pronounced with air and time. $100 retail and $250 on a list. No way…Hell no.
At this point, I blended some 2000 and 2008 together to get something much better…but still, should I have even had to do that?
They then brought out a "gift" from James of some of the Special Selection 2005. Beefy tones on the nose and palate. Dark fruit and a bit tannic. This one showed more Bordeaux in style, with cherry tones and thinner fruit. Not bad and best wine of the night, but…$150 retail, $300 on a list. Hell no…give me a break.
Come on people. Wake up and trust your own palates. Try this: do a blind tasting with Caymus and something comparable but half the price from Napa.
I guess I have to be "that guy" who says the "Emperor has no clothes". Hell, he's stark buck nekkid with his junk hanging out there.
I wanted to like the wines. I really tried. To you all who adore Caymus, I'm not sorry. I'm just being honest and fair. They ain't worth the price of admission in todays market environment. Not to me. When I see all the Bordeaux I can buy for less money. Hell, the 2005 Lynch Bages I had in June is only $75 and so much better and will age much longer.
But to Fleming's for trying, and for as lovely an evening as it was, wines notwithstanding…Bravo and my thanks to you all.
Austin Wine Guy