I still have a couple articles in the mix from last year, one featuring an amazing Petrus vertical in Sao Paulo, and, of course, my wines of the year 2019 article which is quickly becoming outdated lol. They’re coming! I have been on the road for 28 days this January for a variety of reasons, featuring Hong Kong, Europe, earthquake avoidances and my usual, mandatory New York City visit to celebrate the birthday of The Hedonist. Hollywood Jef and Jetski basically hijacked The Hedonist’s week, which was quite alright since he was invited to everything. The first night I joined was hosted by Tom Terrific in his beautiful home, and the beautiful theme of 1978 was selected.
Champagne service began with a bottle of 1978 Roederer Cristal, which was quickly deemed a ‘perfect ’78’ by Big Boy. It was full of orange rind and rust aromas with a nice sweetness to it. Lord Byron Jr. found ‘a lot of bubbles’ in this round and tender Cris. It was quite creamy with a touch of soda to it. Dapper Dave noticed its ‘rounder’ qualities (93).
The 1978 Roederer Cristal Rose was less bubbly than the original, with more mature notes of strawberry shortcake and powdered sugar. It was round, creamy and a touch dirty. Wild Bill found it ‘tasty’ with its lovely, honeyed finish (91).
A pair of whites came quickly, beginning with a bottle of 1978 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne. It was smoky and toasty, with lots of smoked corn in a maize, Native American sort of way. The palate was smooth and nutty with its toastiness persisting. It was just starting to turn the corner, but it remained very pretty as it began to sunset. For its age, I thought it was really good despite getting a bit mossy (93).
The 1978 Niellon Chevalier Montrachet showed great floral qualities immediately with lots of acacia and honeysuckle. It was very tropical, exotically so, and its palate was rich, creamy and luscious. Secondary flavors of vanilla and caramel emerged in this perfectly aged bottle of white Burgundy. Lord Byron Jr. hailed it as ‘oily’ and ‘unctuous.’ Each sip made me appreciate this profound wine even more. It got some pretty high scores from some distinguished tasters; Jetski was in 99 point territory and the Curious Gourmet gave it 98. Jetski quickly backpedaled, but both of them – and the wine – pulled me up a point in the end (98).
The reds began with a 1978 Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses. Dapper Dave admired its ‘musky’ elements while I was digging into its very complicated nose. There were great tangy, bing cherry aromas, and lots of black and purple olive qualities emerged. It had lots of energy with great spine and a leather smack to its palate, continuing its round and tangy themes in the mouth. It got more smoky and stayed complicated (95).
The Premier Crus continued with a divine 1978 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques. It was a super sexy bottle that was musky, oily and tangy with a wealth of red cherry sex appeal. The finish was so long and sensual with great earth flavors and a nutty finish. It made me smack my lips, and its acid lingered in my belly like a warm fireplace on a cold night. Its gritty, long finish had me excited (98).
1978 In the House
Rhone Death Match
The 1978 Ponsot Latricieres Chambertin was minty and mild by comparison to the other red Burgundies. Dapper Dave found it ‘lean for a ’78,’ and I thought it was ‘just OK’ with black fruits and earth flavors. It was chalky, stony and dry (92).
The 1978 Dujac Charmes Chambertin was musky and sexy with all of that ’78 Dujac goodness. There were delicious olive and dark chocolate flavors. Jetski found it ‘edgy,’ and it got riper in the glass. It also had a chalky finish and proved to be about as much as one could do with this terroir (94).
The 1978 Roumier Bonnes Mares once again delivered an immaculate experience. It had a smoky nose full of deep, dark purple fruits. This oily red was a 99 point wine from the get-go with its smorgasbord of delicious fruits. It still felt so young but was so open, with great length and grit. This wine had impeccable concentration and zip, and it lingered on my palate effortlessly and endlessly (99).
The 1978 DRC La Tache was another ‘wow’ wine. It was packed with menthol, rose, white smoke and light game, as in just right light. There were leather and slate flavors on its muscular and unfurling finish. This bottle of LT had it all. Lord Byron Jr. was hesitant to give it the elusive 99 points, but while the ink in his pen dried up, most of us had no doubt (99).
We migrated south to the Rhone with a perfect bottle of 1978 Chave Hermitage. It had all the great violet fruit and white pepper that great Syrah should have. Small purple flowers breezed through its nose. Someone declared it ‘animal’ with a French accent for some dramatic flair, and Dapper Dave found it ‘very primary’ with some ‘savory bacon.’ Minty secondary edges developed, and the wine was so fresh, it was almost too young. Lord Byron Jr. thought it was ‘open for business,’ going so far as to say it was the ‘best bottle (of this) he’d ever had’ (97).
The 1978 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle was deeper and sweeter than the Chave. It had more intensity, and more noticeable alcohol and acidity. There was big fruit and flesh to this rich and decadent red, which was more noticeably darker and at first more impressive. In the end, style often trumps substance (96).
Hard at Work
The Happy Recap
We traversed the Alps over to Piedmont with a ripe and rich bottle of 1978 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva. It had a some jammy goodness to its nose with celery soda aromas. It was a sweet and sappy wine that became gamy and brown sugary (95).
The 1978 Giacosa Barolo Collina Rionda Riserva was ‘so fresh underneath,’ underneath its corkiness, unfortunately. The lift to this wine was incredible, and the texture was unreal. It would’ve been in the 97-99 point category but alas just a (DQ). It was pretty badly corked.
The 1978 Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was full of ‘cinnamon’ per one guest. It was long and dry but lifted like the take-off of an under-control rocket. This was clearly a great wine with great acidity and a zippy personality. The usual tar and leather were joined by black roses and Grandma’s secret spices. Mamma mia (99)!
The 1978 Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline was deep and meaty with menthol, violet and bacon – that superior signature of La Mouline. It was chocolatey on the palate, but the cheese kind of stripped it a bit; don’t serve cheese with your red wine! It regained its footing after the cheese went away and kept getting better and better. This was another superlative bottle on what was clearly a superlative night (98).
One final wine arrived, a mystery wine that Big Boy deemed ‘somewhere between strong and extremely strong,’ which was quite accurate. It had great bacon and mint aromas, with the perfect ‘zippy zip’ I wanted at the end of the night. It wound up being one of the best bottles of 1990 Chave Hermitage that I have ever had, firing away on all cylinders in all its rich and decadent glory (98).
There were three 99-point wines and four 98-point wines on this amazing evening; that doesn’t happen that often. If there was any doubt about 1978 being a spectacularly and universally great vintage before this night, none remained. A big thanks to our host, Tom Terrific, and a big Happy Birthday to The Hedonist! It was a great way to kick off drinking season in New York City in 2020, a fitting beginning to a Bicentennial celebration!
In Vino Veritas,