After 2 years of wondering, "Hey, how come they haven't asked me to lab rat?!?" I finally get my chance. Of course, it happens on my busiest day in months. First, I had a follow-up visit with my internist; I'm at that age when the blood test results aren't always good. Last time my sugar was too high, as was my LDL. Also tested my thyroid — I'm hypo and recently had my Synthroid script raised to 100 mcg a day. But I digress!
My bottle arrived about 3:20 PM, a 2008 Ramsay North Coast Pinot Noir, and I had to leave the house at 3:45. Good timing, Fedex! I put it in my bag and went to my 4:15 appointment with my massage therapist. We didn't discuss wine. I had to work from 6 to 9, then some friends who play in a bluegrass band, the NYCitySlickers, had their first CD release party at Rodeo Bar in Manhattan. "Perfect!" I thought, "I'll be a Stealth Lab Rat! I'll smuggle the bottle in" meaning if I'm going to smuggle a bottle of wine into a bar to taste with my meal, I'll have to be like Paul Giamatti in Sideways ("If she orders merlot, I'm leaving!"), no not that part, the part where he drinks the special pinot he's been saving for a special occasion, with the hamburger he orders in a greasy spoon diner.
I arrive at Rodeo Bar about 9:40 PM, the Slickers are playing (great, great band!) and my reservation was for 10. I ask one of the waitresses where my table is for 10 PM, but she can't find my name, seats me anyway at a table for 4 in the back of the music room. Decent sound, but I can't see the band unless I crane way up in my seat. My table mates, now my best friends, Paolo and Svetlana, he from Brazil, she from Russia, (Vladivostok of all places!) tell me the Rodeo steak is good as are the baby back ribs, special tonight. Paolo & Svetlana are regulars at Rodeo Bar. They don't know much about who's playing, but they know what they like. They like the Slickers…
Partner Claudio arrives shortly before 10. I'm drinking a Makers Mark, he orders a vodka tonic and a buffalo burger. I order the tonight's rib special. "Don't take that wine out of your bag, " Claudio warns, "the sound mixers are right next to our table!", and of course, I ignore him. I order a glass of the house pinot noir (undistinguished) to go with my ribs, but really, I'm planning to drink the Ramsay. I quickly down my wine, then I lean over like I'm fishing in my bag (and I am) and grab hold of the Ramsay. Screw top! Perfect. I pour some into my empty house pinot glass and sniff.
The nose is earthy: hints of dirt, moss, mushrooms. Claudio thinks so, too. In fact, the nose portends a very fine wine indeed. Unfortunately, the Ramsay doesn't quite live up to expectations. The color is a beautiful ruby. The first sip is a little sweet and fruit forward, but leaves a nothing burger of an aftertaste. Perhaps a hint of grape juice flavor. Claudio thinks it's bitter, but I don't taste bitterness; though we're very compatible, our palates aren't. I screwed the top back on and put the bottle back in my bag. 15 minutes later, another try. Drinkable, and a bit better, but not great. A decent accompaniment for the ribs, however, the strong, sweet taste of barbecue sauce, sort of renders the Ramsay a bland accompaniment.
It's now after 11 and we're heading home. We pay the bill, and we flag a taxi outside.
Back home in Brooklyn, I unscrew the bottle cap and pour a couple of fingers. No significant change in taste and aroma, though the wine has mellowed a bit. Nose still earthy, color is fine, but again, that taste. Is it fruity? Bitter, as Claudio thinks? Or just not distinguished.
Then I pour the wine through a Vinturi. Again, the wine mellows a notch, but just a notch. Flavor's still a bit raw, but overall, it's still an undistinguished wine.
So here's my verdict. If you are able to cellar your vino for 3 or 4 years, I think the Ramsay Pinot is quite possibly a wine with potential. Great nose & color; taste will likely improve with cellaring, even after 1 year.