We kicked off our Spring tasting schedule in style with a spectacular 1955 Bordeaux dinner at Le Bernadin, one of New York’s finest restaurants. I am ashamed to admit it, but it is actually the first time that I have ever eaten at Le Bernadin due to the fact that the cuisine is mainly seafood, which is not really one of my favorite things. I mean, I am starting to eat more fish here and there due to the amount of set/tasting menus that I seem to encounter, but I would rarely, ok never, order seafood on my own outside of an occasional tuna/salmon tartare or cooked shrimp (after this night, that is) something or other. I have actually enjoyed a couple of real fish dishes within the past year, including an incredible Dover Sole dish at Michael Mina’s in San Fran, and I think some John Dory dish I had recently. However, I think that fish is, well, fishy, and I generally do not enjoy it. While we are on the topic of my quirky eating habits, celery and cooked spinach makes me gag, and I am not big on the texture of mushrooms, although I love the flavors and adore truffles of course, and NO clams, oysters, scallops etc. I guess you could say I am a meat and potatoes man who drinks a little better than my brethren in this esteemed category. Anyway, after this evening at Le Bernadin, it is safe to say that I will be there more often, as the meal was incredible, including the shrimp, lobster and yes, Eric Ripert can make some magic with meat as well. It is no wonder that Le Bernadin was atop the Zagat Ratings this year along with Bouley as best food in New York City, although they should add Shea Gallante and Cru to that short list of exquisiteness next year. Those are a few of my favorite things.
Ok back to the Bordeaux and the 1955 vintage in particular. We had a great lineup of wines, including a very rare flight or two of Pomerols, and the 1955s should be mentioned in the same breath as 1961, 1949, 1948 and 1947 when it comes to Right Bank legendary vintages. For some reason, the 1955 vintage has been below the radar relative to those other great years, but make no mistakes about it, 1955 is a great Right Bank vintage. There are some good lefties. as well, some sumptuous southpaws that you will read about shortly, but it is definitely a right.eous vintage, a la 1998 as a recent comparison of a vintage where the Right Bank wines excelled more than the Lefts in general, of course. We started with a 1955 Ducru Beaucaillou, which had a beautiful nose at first with some ripe cherry fruit, musk, olive, earth and vanilla ice cream aromas. There were nice earth and cedar flavors, on the drier and earthier side. Jim and Wendy were both feeling the mocha and coffee. side of the wine’s personality, but Ray was quick to dismiss it, saying the nose gave me high hopes but the palate dashed them.. There were pleasant olive flavors and good acids still, and as the wine changed in the glass, a lot of caramel and raisin aromas came out. The wine did head south fairly quickly and became angular and even a touch sour, but for the first 20 minutes I actually preferred it to the Lafite, which proved to be a better wine. This bottle of Ducru was clinging to being very good and definitely a wine to be consumed within the first thirty minutes of being opened (90). The 1955 Lafite Rothschild also had surprisingly ripe fruit in its nose, but more in the black cherry direction. There was also an herbal edge, not a negative one, along with nice earth, although it was more dirt than earth if you can imagine the difference. The palate was dirty, earthy and gamy with some wild action and leather flavors. The finish was noticeably longer than that of the Ducru in this very good and ashy Lafite (92). The last wine in this first flight was a 1955 Latour, which had a very dirty nose. Mike felt it was a touch maderized, and there was a general sense of disappointment with this bottle at our table. The nose still had a lot of black fruits, a touch of sap, some carob, nut and that stinky, dirty edge. The palate was chalky, fine and long but should have been better. There were olives, some rust and more acidity here than the others so far. Wendy noted a lot of alcohol, and the wine clearly had the best raw materials so far, but it did not seem like it was all that it could be, at least as this bottle was concerned (93+?).
We stepped it up a notch in flight number two, beginning with an outstanding 1955 Mouton Rothschild. The wine had a great nose with the sexy, peanutty, minty Mouton spice signature, if you will. The nose was also meaty, perfumed and aromatic with a gorgeous side of Kalamta olives in that ripe, fleshy, purple, olive way. There was also coffee and tobacco in its complex nose, and the palate was round, earthy and medium-bodied. The finish was nice, the acids and alcohol excellent, and the flavors were mainly cedar (95+). The 1955 Haut Brion was full of bacon Cote Rotie, as Rob observed, and Ray found it had hickory bones.. There was an earthy and chocolaty edge as well with a coffee/espresso milkshake side a la the 1928, but there were more twinges of stalk and herb here. The palate was very gravelly and earthy; Mike noted that it ended drying. and that the wine was powdery. in its personality. Wendy was all over the beef jerky, and it did have that Worcestershire splash, and Jim called it smoked meats, and it was very smoked. The wine was over the top smoky and gravelly, Rob found it on steroids, and someone noted loads of tobacco, and I found some lit cigar. Mike was still complaining about its dryness, finding it too dry, and I saw how this wine could rub some people the wrong way. I have had better bottles of this wine, and it wasn.t an off. bottle, but it was very gravelly and earthy (94+). Unfortunately, the 1955 La Mission Haut Brion was corked (DQ).
We crossed the river for the next flight, beginning with the only St. Emilion of the night, the 1955 Cheval Blanc. The wine was incredibly kinky and exotic in the nose; Wendy immediately noted Pina Colada, and Ray found it more coconuts and cream, splitting a hair into two. It definitely had this amazing suntan lotion quality, and Rob was admiring how pure. and laser-like. the wine was. Wendy noted some licorice, and Ray was being his usual self, calling it more anise.. There was no doubting its exotic aromas that were bordering on tropical in a candle wax and Mounds (chocolate and coconut) way. Rob noted big banana .94 Colgin-ish, and while I saw what he was saying, the Cheval had more earth, barn and bread than the usual 1994 Colgin, although perhaps in forty years that Colgin will be the same! The flavors were chocolaty, bready, earthy and slaty, and Mike noted marzipan. and took my Mounds and Almond Joyed me back. Rob got slightly critical and was a little disappointed with its roundness and mouthfeel. and also found it dessert wine-like, a la Chambers Tokay.. The wine was kinky, exotic and outstanding (95). We segued into Pomerol with a 1955 Gazin. There was a lot of coffee, hay and rubber, according to Mike. For the first few minutes, there were a lot of impressions going around, but the wine fell off a cliff rather quickly. There was some plummy fruit, splashes of olive and a nice finish with a touch of citrusy flavors that Mike categorized as lemon sours.. It got a little mintier, but Rob and Ray thought it fell apart too soon. Like the Ducru, it was still a very good wine (and barely holding on to its status there), but again another wine that needed to be drunk relatively quickly once opened (90). The 1955 Trotanoy had a great nose, so young, ripe, rich, saucy and sexy. It was decadently plummy and chocolaty, port-like. Wendy observed, and there were beautiful supporting earth aromas as well. The mouthfeel was incredible rich and great withhuge length and texture on the palate. It was a bully amongst its peers so far with a great body, Jim concurred. The palate was the thickest, youngest and heaviest so far. There were loads of minerals and iron on the finish. Rob noted its deeper. level and Jim also got some chewable vitamin C. in this monumental Trotanoy (96+). The 1961 Latour a Pomerol was a controversial bottle, very cloudy in its color but not bad in the nose with its meaty personality and aromas of raisin, plum, chocolate and meat. Ray found some chlorine, which was there, and the palate was minerally, chalky and earthy. Wendy was all over its sesame and white mushroom, while Ray was feeling iron.. The wine was chocolaty and rasiny, but it was obviously an affected and not perfect bottle, as this wine normally scores 98 points on a bad day, and this day was a 94+?, hence my (DQ). Ahhh, the 1955 Petrus. The nose was a bit shy but still full of the Pomerol plum, earth and mineral as well as the breed of Petrus. Mike noted the inky trail. that the wine left, and the fruit was incredibly sweet, subtle yet gorgeous. The palate had much more strength and was sturdy with great mineral, earth, chalk and slate flavors, all balanced by its plummy and chocolaty fruit. The finish on the Petrus is better, Mike observed, but Rob countered that everything on the Lafleur is better than the Petrus, as he was ahead of the curve (as always), just like he is when it comes to the streets of New York. The Petrus was still extraordinary with the breed of a king and more flavors than Baskin Robbins (97). The 1955 Lafleur was stunning, six star wine, as a close friend of mine would say. The concentration of fruit was amazing, buttery. as Mike noted, along with toffee, plum and raisin aromas. The wine was super thick in the nose with that kinky Lafleur spice in the center of its grapy, cherry, chocolaty, pruny and thick fruit. There was gingerbread without the ginger, ash and bloody meat as well. The concentration, power, mass and weight were unbelievable, and the plum, raisin, prune and butter flavors were more than great. It was one of those wines that you never ever forget (99).
The 1955 Fonseca was actually semi-mature. There were chocolate, marzipan, alcohol, nut and caramel aromas and flavors, with lots of alcohol in the belly and a honeyed palate (92).
I was going to write up the 1990 Mega tasting we did with Clive Coates as well in this week’s email, but a little thing called La Paulee happened, and I had two nights in a row where I got home at 5am, and I am in Florida right now to boot, so stay tuned to the same wine channel next week. We are always on here at Acker.