I admit to being a little nervous about getting back into the offline saddle, but once we were seated, the wine was poured and the conversation started to flow that nervousness dissipated. It was a lovely evening and Noize did us proud with well-executed food and excellent wine and food service. I've posted a couple of pictures of the food. I had cheese not dessert, so if anyone has a photo of the dessert please post it. The flights worked really well - there was plenty of diversity but also enough coherence that it was all very satisfying. The usual generosity of forumites was on display. Roederer Champagne Cristal 2008 ****(½) Laser-like focus and intensity on the nose and palate here and very much 2008 in character with the fruit riding a tautly stretched wire of acidity. Super-fresh and detailed on the palate with serious length. Nicely medium-weighted. Probably a little too young for prime-time but outstanding on the night. Rioja Reserva blanco Vina Tondonia Lopez de Heredia 1996 ***½ This was a glorious bottle of Tondonia blanco – fresher than the 1999 drunk recently and closer in style to the taut and energetic 1998. This had the usual complexity and character of Tondonia blanco with bitter orange on the nose and the gently oxidative flavours on the palate. Nicely fresh. Held up in the glass over nearly three hours too, as did the Gran Reserva blanco. Rioja Gran Reserva blanco Vina Tondonia Lopez de Heredia 1994 ****½ The Gran Reserva was a step up in complexity and intensity and as is often the case, a lighter colour than the younger 1996 Reserva. Pure and intense on the nose and the palate, with the oxidative character dialed back. There are hints of white flowers on the nose and a honeyed nature to the fruit paradoxically without any sweetness of course. This will go on and on, but I like the Gran Reservas at this age – there’s just so much energy and intensity to the wine. One of the great white wines of the world without doubt. Cornas Chaillot Allemand 2001 ***½ There’s a very good colour here with an intensity that belies nearly two decades of age. Annoyingly, there is some brett on the nose which never really blows off and which suppresses the fruit aromatically. On the palate it is a **** wine though with a lovely line, a light yet layered texture and soil tones and smoked bacon rind woven through the very pure dark red fruit. The tannins are pretty well resolved. My other bottles of this vintage have not had any brett by the way, Côte-Rôtie Côte Blonde René Rostaing 2003 *** This is a very enjoyable wine now at its apogee with seamless quite sexy fruit both on the nose and palate. The nose has some baking spices sprinkled into the lovely red berried aromas. The fruit on the palate is crystalline and pure without the soil tones you get in Cornas – and so very Côte-Rôtie in character. There is ripeness and luxe here and relatively low acidity, but blissfully no elevated alcohol or baked character to the fruit. There is the faintest hint of graininess to the remaining tannins, but they are very well resolved and I’m beginning to think that at the high end Côte-Rôtie did very well indeed in 2003. A Jim Agar Côte-Rôtie Clusel-Roch Grandes Places 2003 drunk last year was also very good indeed. The Rostaing Côte Blonde is one to drink now though I think. Hermitage Le Gréal Marc Sorrel 2004 ****½ This was a superb, large-scaled wine with the broad shoulders of Hermitage setting it apart from the Cornas and the Côte-Rôtie. What I loved about these three wines is that they all spoke distinctly of their appellation. The wine is dense and gummy (in a positive way) on the palate with a really layered feeling. Gumminess is something I also detect in Cornas from time to time. There are notes of both tar and cinders towards the emphatic finish. This is a very accomplished wine indeed. Evolved and ready to go as are most N. Rhone 2004s. Marc Sorrel is probably only second to Chave when he gets it right. Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley Robert Mondavi 1997 ***? I struggled a bit with this bottle. I have had some great Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve wines over the years so I know that this can be a great wine, but there was a lot of brett on the nose, to the extent that it was very muddled. It seemed a bit brewed and mute on the palate too - there were some pleasant coffee notes but also hints of bitterness. Impossible to rate really – I will be interested to see if other diners got on better with this one. Château Léoville-Poyferré St. Julien 2001 **** Here was another poster child for the 2001 vintage. Immediately fragrant on the nose with cigar-box and tobacco leaf together with deliciously cool red fruits. That cool, crystalline red fruit runs on to the palate which is appetisingly fresh and lifted. Good length here but elegance is the order of the day. This is modern claret at its best. Château Rieussec Sauternes 2009 ***(½) Rich, bright, young, lifted and still essentially primary with notes floral notes combined with apple compote and bitter orange. Pungently fruited on the nose and palate. Château Rieussec Sauternes 2001 More in the barley-sugar register this seemed quite evolved for a 2001. My notes seem to have tailed away at this point so no rating offered.