The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2017

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54  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2017 PORT I t started out innocently enough: a relaxing barbeque, sitting around a table with a bunch of fellow wine connoisseurs. Naturally, we'd all brought a selection of our favorite wines to accompany the steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs being grilled. I, of course, brought some California Cabernet Sauvignons and a Washington Pinot Noir. But when I also pulled out a chilled bottle of Sandeman Porto Tawny 40 Years Old, one in our group exclaimed, "No, not now! That's a Port. We'll have it after we eat." He was unaware that a chilled 40-year- old tawny makes a spectacular aperitif— without the high alcohol of a traditional cocktail—and throws a thick blanket of toasted almonds, raisins and marmalade over the palate to prepare it for a tender sirloin or juicy hamburger. People tend to think of Port as a digestif, when in fact it is one of our most versatile wines (and yes, it is a wine, albeit a forti- fied one). Which leads us to the mystery of Port itself. Few consumers really know what it is. In fact, at this same barbecue, one of my friends—a serious collector of rare Bordeaux—clandestinely asked me, "What's the difference between a tawny and a ruby Port?" Readers of The Tasting Panel know the answer, but many may not be aware of Port's versatility. Which explains why too few restaurants carry it, and when they do, it is often a 10-year-old tawny. There are exceptions, such as Baltaire Steakhouse in Brentwood, California. Urbane, airy and sophisticated, Baltaire stocks Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca 1994 vintage ports, as well as the rare Taylor Fladgate 1966 Very Old Single Harvest Port. In addition, it serves the Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny by the glass. "I love this particular Port," says Chris Scocca, Baltaire's Wine Director. "For me it has much more depth and complexity than the 10 Year Old. It is even more enjoyable than their older tawnies because it overdelivers on flavor." Of course, with tawnies—like late-bottled vintages (LBVs) and reserve Ports— there is no decanting and no sediment and, once opened, they keep for weeks if refrigerated. Interestingly, Baltaire serves its by-the-glass tawny in a snifter rather than a copita. "A snifter has a bigger bowl, making it easier for the aromas to reach the nose," says Baltaire Sommelier Max Goldberg, who works with Scocca. "Copitas are too small; you can't really get your nose into it to smell the bouquet." Diner perception is key. "For the '94, you just need to get the right clientele," says Max. "If you have a table of eight people, selling a glass each is pretty easy. Although people usually drink Port by itself, I can't overemphasize Port's ability to pair with food. Having it with food in the right environment really helps people understand it." Putting Port in Its Place story and photos by Richard Carleton Hacker Baltaire Steakhouse offers Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny as a three-ounce pour in a snifter. "A snifter has a bigger bowl, making it easier for the aromas to reach up to the nose and really work those olfactory senses," says Max Goldberg, one of Baltaire's two sommeliers. Max Goldberg, Certified Sommelier at Baltaire Steakhouse in Brentwood, California, serves Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny. USUALLY THOUGHT OF AS A DIGESTIF, THE RIGHT PORT CAN SERVE AS AN APERITIF OR DINNER WINE

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