Toasting New Master Sommelier Okubo

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - August 10, 2011
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That fat lady has sung! No, it’s not the end of the world. It is an end of a long and arduous road as well as the beginning of a new one full of potential for Patrick Okubo, Master Sommelier. This past week Okubo became one of only 117 Master Sommeliers in the U.S. and 180 worldwide. He joins Chuck Furuya and me as the third MS currently residing in Hawaii.

The examination is one of the most strenuous in the field, and attaining the MS takes years of study, dedication, tenacity and, of course, tasting/drinking. I have had the fortune to see Patrick in his studies and watch him grow in skill and knowledge. So you can imagine how happy and proud I was when he passed. And not only did I get to welcome Patrick to the ranks, but we got to celebrate with a few great wines.

So what did we drink to celebrate? We drank quite a bit. You know, Master Sommeliers do actually drink. We don’t only swirl and spit. Here are some highlights: 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal is as fine a young Cristal as I can remember. It has a ton of sweet, ripe fruit with an intense flavor. The finish is elegant yet penetrating. If you have some, you can easily hold on to it for another 20 years if you like. If you don’t have any yet, do yourself a favor and splurge on one.

The 2000 Masseto is the “Petrus of Italy” 100 percent Merlot from Tenuta Dell Ornellaia. This wine seemed so youthful. I jokingly commented that it reminded me of Napa Valley Merlot, but oh so much more depth and earthiness. I bet if I blind-tasted Patrick he would have thought it was younger and maybe from the old world. But we’ll have to leave that one alone. Another Italian that was singing was the 1997 Tignanello. Even after decanting for more than an hour the wine was rich and handsome. Lots of fruit and herbs in the wine showing its Sangiovese side with a warm and satisfying finish.

For Burgundy freaks like me it was yet another treat to have 2004 DRC Echezeaux. I was told it was decanted eight hours prior, but didn’t drink like it was tired at all. It had nice, soft, red-fruit juiciness along with sweet vanilla and the telltale wet earth that is Burgundy. It was very refined, sexy even. We also enjoyed a bottle of 1999 Vogue Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru, which was still young and tight. It took a good half hour in the glass to start talking to us and it had a pretty melody to sing. Sweet cherries, spices, a hint more vanilla and a plush, earthy and velvety texture greet your palate. It takes a while to reach its peak, but doesn’t stay there long.

Now, for the Bordeaux lover in all of us, the 1982 Chateau Figeac was lovely. This St. Emilion showed the beauty of a 29-year-old and sophistication of maturity. Nice, ripe fruit along with mocha and anise wafted from the glass. It had a silky texture, and I think it’s peaking. If you like really mature wines as I do, you’d love the 1961 Chateau Canon. This was more of the earth and place than of fruit. The fruit had fully melded with this lovely truffle and mineral scent that takes me to another time in Bordeaux. The tannins are almost completely softened and it was a treat to drink.

And perhaps the star of the evening (outside of Okubo) was the 1946 Macallan! I can’t remember a better single malt Scotch except maybe the last time I had a vintage Macallan. It is absolutely mesmerizing with hints of smoke, caramel, hawthorn blossoms, ginger root, chamomile, anise ... the list goes on. And when you taste it, the flavors come in waves like “the set” in surfing. It continues to build and lasts seemingly forever on your palate. It is simply phenomenal!

Congratulations, Patrick. You deserve it. And by the way, did I mention it was his birthday the same day he passed the exam? He’s 29 and is currently the youngest Master Sommelier in the U.S.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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