A few notes from the editor before I get into this week’s event.
1) The event covered last week took place in 2005, not 2004 as I wrote. Sometimes I forget what year it is, but I never forget a vintage
2) The Latour a Pomerol was not 1961, but rather 1955 like all the rest. There is something about typing the words Latour a Pomerol that subconsciously makes me type 1961. I wonder why that is
3) I sometimes get a little fan mail, and fan mail can be positive, but it is occasionally not. I care to share this anonymous letter with all of my readers regarding last week’s 1955 Bordeaux review:
Did you, by chance, actually read the email below before sending it out to a large mailing list? Frankly, I have absolutely no desire to read senseless fluff like this, or if I did, I would instead just keep a subscription to Vanity Fair. The mailing is in my opinion insulting it sounds as if it were written by Paris Hilton..
Wow, did you see that, Paris? We’re like separated at birth or something. Does anyone have access to her numbers or something? I need to compare some serious crib. notes. Or maybe I should start a wine column with Vanity Fair and I thought that was a respectable magazine, too. Who is that who runs it, Graydon Carter or something? Graydon, let’s talk.
So I wrote the guy back, because his response actually made me laugh. I told him:
We’ll take you off the list, but I am going to quote you in my next article very funny!.
So this guy wrote me back:
Thank you for taking me off the mailing list. I wasn’t sure if you were kidding or not in your message below, but if you do quote me, I’d appreciate getting a copy..
Now, that struck me as even funnier. In one breath he wants off the mailing list, and in the next breath he wants to see my next article because he might be in it! You humans are such strange and vain creatures.
Anyway, he made nice and apologized and sent me his best wishes, so it was a happy ending. I called up Vito and called it off, so no one got hurt. Back to Clive
Clive was his usual warm and fuzzy self, semi-recovering from a five hour lunch from which he came straight to our tasting. Clive has so much experience in the world of fine wine, he could probably have done this tasting with his eyes closed. At times, due to the five hour lunch, it seemed as if he was, indeed, doing this tasting with his eyes closed! Clive gave us a few tidbits about the 1990 vintage in Bordeaux, a refresher course regarding this legendary year. It was a relatively large crop; there were no frost or flowering issues. The summer was benign; autumn was dry and not too warm. It was hard not to make good wine, Clive reasoned. 1989 was much hotter, and many wines suffered from hydric stress in the Medoc and had unripe and astringent tannins as a result. According to Clive, the next satisfactory. vintage after 1990 was 2000. He then warned all of us: Don’t buy 2003!. He continued, Well, 2003 is good if you like Cali Cab, i.e., what I call rough trade. Stick to 2000 and 1990.. Not to beat a dead horse, but I think Clive was touching upon some of the issues I raised earlier this month regarding the style of some of the newer releases, not only in Bordeaux, but all around the world. Anyway, let’s not go there again. On to the wines
We did the tasting in an order selected by Clive, and we started with a bang and some St. Emilions, beginning with the 1990 Beausejour Duffau. The wine had a deep nose full of sweet black fruits, carob, meat, alcohol and olive. Outside of the olive impression, which pointed towards St. Emilion, the wine gave more of a Left Bank impression. The nose got chunkier, more oily and chocolaty in the glass, while the palate was very rich and meaty. The finish was long and longer with a touch of heat. Some bouillon flavors emerged. Clive found the tannins a bit unresolved. and missed the richness and flair needs time.. He gave it a mere 16 frac12; points. Come on, Clive! I secretly wondered since it was an RP 100, maybe Clive suffered from a little vinous envy, as I found the wine to be outstanding (96). The next wine was Clive’s favorite in the flight, and mine as well, the overlooked and almost forgotten 1990 Troplong Mondot. The nose had a early morning bakery, freshly baked bread nose full of plum liqueur, nut, olive and cedar. It was very kinky in its plum aromas, and cassis quickly got into the party as well. Tons of alcohol, Ray moaned. It was a bit masculine for Ray, the Beaujolais aficionado that he is, and Clive quickly dismissed the notion that there was too much alcohol. The Troplong had more minerals to its nose, with a nice palate full of more minerals, game and those St. Emilion olive flavors. Mike noted a lot of cream. and called it one of those rare wines where he got more in the mouth than in the nose. The wine seemed a hair more powerful, ripe and fresh than the Beausejour and got a 17 frac12; from Clive, and from me (96+). The 1990 L.Angelus was very gamy with a little more stink to it, a touch of dirt and shit there at first. The wine was still meaty, heavy and thick, oily in its nose with those black fruits, a splash of wintergreen and those St. Emilion olives behind it. The nose opened up, and the wine got less stinky, and the palate was big, wide and long but a touch gamy and earthy. Clive said there was more sinew and muscle but not to my taste as much 17.. To me, it was excellent but a bit wild and woolly, not better than the Beausejour or even that close for that matter. Remember, my ratings system is exponential (94) . The 1990 Cheval Blanc was unfortunately corked. You could see the incredible texture of the wine behind that, but it was corked enough to disqualify. As Clive eloquently put it, this wine usually gives one a hard-on for a fortnight, but not tonight.. Well said, Clive, well said (DQ).
The Pomerols were next, and we started with the 1990 Clinet. This wine was an early favorite of mine in the mid-nineties when I was first getting into wine. There was still plummy and chocolaty fruit and a sweet, ripe yet stylish personality. The palate was meaty and alcoholic, hot at that moment with lots of slate flavors on its finish. It was not as ripe on the palate with more earth, olive and mineral flavors. Clive noted that the Clinet had a touch too much new oak and extraction for my taste, but I liked the energy of the wine though, and he gave it a 17 (94). The 1990 La Conseillante was pure olive on the nose with beautiful minerals and sexy, refined Pomerol fruit, although more on the mineral side. There was a touch of kink rounding out the nose and lots of olives on the palate, which was not as ripe as that bottle I had in Vegas a couple months back. The bottle held quite well and surpassed the Clinet in time. Clive called the Conseillante a bit of an underachiever given its location (next to Petrus) should be better one-dimensional.. He only gave it 15 frac12; points! Something was going on there between Clive and La Conseillante. I gave it (94+). The 1990 L’Evangile was a little dirty in the nose with lots of earth, bread, hay, plum and dark fruits behind it. The palate was round and rich, very firm and long in the finish. It was in a bit of a dumb spot right now it seemed and got simpler in the glass, or as Ray bluntly put it, it fell apart.. Clive told us how L’Evangile has improved tremendously over the past 15 years, and the location of its vineyards was next to La Conseillante, VCC and Petrus. Terroir does not lie, and this should be one of the best, although the 1990 was tough and a bit tannic.. Only 15 frac12; from Clive, although I gave it (93) . Next up was the 1990 Lafleur, a magnificent wine that somehow only got 17 frac12; points from Clive, which almost caused Ray to pick a fight. The Lafleur made me writeMmmmmmmm.. That superripe, kinky Lafleur style of prune, plum and black cherry fruit penetrated my nose with its sweet and liqueur-like way, accompanied by pure rock, citrus and rain. The palate was enormous with a huge finish. Ray advised, buy all you can.. Clive took the mic back and explained how Lafleur is on the other side of Petrus, the Western side, and how there are five different, gravelly soils. Clive was cooing, admiring the concentration of fruit and the rich, almost distilled style, which he called the essence of the property, which is why I was surprised to see him settle on 17 frac12;. This was a monumental wine (97+). A brief discussion about styles of wine ensued, and the word garage. came up, setting Clive into a slight fury. Garage is a load of nonsense, he angrily barked, since the best winemaking cannot overcome indifferent terroir.. Now that was the quote of the night, and I am sure all the big real estate guys in New York that I know would concur. Jim observed how the Pomerols were more restrained, tannic and backwards than the St. Emilions, and Clive concurred by saying, I think that is the case in general..
We crossed the river to the Left Bank, starting with a pair of Graves, THE pair of Graves for any horizontal tasting. The 1990 La Mission Haut Brion had a lot of cedar and alcohol in its spicy and nutty nose, which was hot yet still very stylish and long, with lots of Cabernet cedar, a touch of plum, and smoky wood, as Mike noted. There was, of course, the obligatory gravel, which caused someone to admire that I love that a lot of things going on.. The palate seemed a bit soft by comparison to the nose, but it was very tasty with similar components of cedar, gravel and minerals. The wine did get more gravelly, causing Clive to observe how La Mission is always the most austere of the two, while Haut Brion is always rounder and richer.. Clive gave the La Miss 18 frac12;, while JK gave it (94+). The 1990 Haut Brion had a deep and brooding nose full of nut, chocolate and pure earth with great depth to the nose. The palate was long, pure and earthy, as well as being very roasted. This was a pure bred wine, no question, with a touch of thoroughbred, Seabiscuit action, and great length. Clive gushed that the HB was never a blockbuster and doesn’t have to try.. He continued, Frankly, this is where it’s at (referring to both the La Miss and the HB). Sorry, Christian Moueix. Real Bordeaux wine comes from Cabernet Sauvignon.. I was not going to get into that debate, being the Right Bank lover that I am. Then again, I am a Left Bank lover, too. I guess I am the type of guy who needs lots of lovers, but in the end, I might beg to differ. Clive gave tne HB 19, maybe 19 frac12; he thought, out of 20. I thought it was outstanding as well (96) . The 1990 Rausan Segla had a grapy nose, almost Pomerol-ish with that overripe, Lafleur kink. The nose was not as deep or massive but delicious nonetheless. The palate was also grapy, delicious as well, with an earthy, cedary finish. The wine was smooth and satiny, but it seemed closer to its plateau than any other wine sofar. The wine was a dead ringer for Lafleur, so much that I set Ray up later on and he fell hook, line and sinker, which is no easy task. I did switch my Lafleur and Rausan Segla glass when he wasn’t looking, and then I handed him the glass that was in Lafleur’s spot. for our tasting. Too bad it was the Rausan Segla! It was the perfect set up, I must admit, but only because the wines were so similar. The wine held well, and Clive gave it 17 1/2 , telling us how the owner hates garage wine.. (94) The 1990 Margaux seems to be a controversial wine wherever I go. Ray quickly tried to influence our table, calling it over-rated and simple, and how the 1983 destroys it and the 1986 is better.. This bottle was a little dirty in the nose at first with cedar, earth, cassis, plum, soy and lots of fine t n a breed. The wine was very smooth and fine on the palate, elegant with a touch of coffee flavors. The thing about Margaux is that it is not the wine to bring to a comparative tasting; its finesse and style are distinctively feminine and elegant and rarely stand out amongst others. Once you get it in a room by itself, however, you understand, you understand. The acids lingered tremendously in the bottle, and the wine was beautiful, prompting Clive to call it impressive but very young, and difficult to taste and define the underneath qualities of the wine, scoring it 18 frac12; /19 points (95+).
It was the saints. of the Left Bank’s turn, Estephe and Julien. Now that would be two good names for a pair of boys, wouldn’t it? The daughter could be Margaux, of course, and the next son Pauillac could be called Paul, now couldn’t he? Anyway, the 1990 Haut Marbuzet had a weird nose which actually made me pull back. There was some sweet cherry fruit, but a stinky edge as well that was bordering on artificial, a cleaner aroma of sorts. That artificial aroma merged into a distinct dried apple, which Ray verified for me. The wine was very smooth, soft and easy but a little different, further defined by the touch of celery root that developed in its nose. Clive gave it 16 frac12; points, noting that it doesn’t have the class of the next two or the previous four for that matter.. (90) The 1990 Montrose was never a wine that blew me away, a wine that I always felt was a trip to the farm. This bottle was no different with its horsy, stinky nose, earthy and dirty as it always has been. On the palate, the wine was great, with gorgeous texture and concentration, I will admit. It was oily, balanced and long, with lots of earth. The texture was amazingly concentrated, so much so that it could easily improve, but the animalistic edge to it was not a pleasant one. Clive really felt the Montrose this night, calling it much more to my taste than the Cos pure, harmonious, long and intense, and gave it 19/20 (94+). Speaking of 1990 Cos d’Estournel, this bottle had a classic nose full of cedar, cassis, pencil, minerals and a touch of dirt. The palate was classic and pure, full of coffee, cassis, pencil, earth and tobacco flavors. There was a lot of spicy heat to the finish. Clive called it spicy, creamy and rich but lacking finesse 17.. (94+) The first St. Julien was the 1990 Lagrange, which had a classic nose of cedar, earth and tobacco, with secondary animal and cassis. The wine was a touch roasted, with long and fine t n a in its nose. There weregood earth, tobacco and cedar flavors. Clive only gave it 16, but the wine was solid and more than very good, and it got better and held well (93) . The 1990 Leoville Poyferre was a bit horsy as well with its earth and green field aromas. The wine was taut with a hidden core of ripe, cassis fruit. The palate was very tasty, long and earthy with nice, ripe fruit. Clive was very impressed, scoring it 18/20 (93) . Next up was the 1990 Leoville Las Cases. Marzipan, Ray noted, and there was nice, chunky fruit, wound and classy with its earth, rubber tire, grape, nut, cassis and mineral aromas. The wine was beautiful, tasty, balanced and smooth with luscious vanilla flavors. Clive gave it a reluctant 18 frac12; , noting that it was very closed and Margaux-like (in that it was) difficult to get a bead on. Wines built to last will go into their shells, he justified, citing the fact that the wine was great, but that it doesn’t sing. right now (95) .
It was finally time for Pauillac, Big Pauly. as we used to call him in the joint. The 1990 Lynch Bages was another weird, chemical nose, a fact that struck me on the last two bottles of 1989 that I have had as well, both within the last two months. Hmmmm. Ray noted the acetone. as I mentioned rubbing alcohol, but it did blow off a bit with some extra aeration into the typical, beefy, cedary, meaty and tobacco driven nose. The wine got chunky and almost chocolaty, but the palate seemed atypically soft on the palate, which Clive called low acidity.. He gave it 17/20, and I gave it (92) . I need to graph our score comparisons or something. The 1990 Grand Puy Lacoste had a shy nose with a mineral and cedar edge, not with a lot of fruit but pure nonetheless. There was sweet cigar, stalk, tobacco and chocolate traces. The palate was very cedary and minerally, long and fine. I missed Clive’s notes here, sorry (93+). Two wines to go. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. The 1990 Pichon Baron was very forward with an in your face nose, ripe but reserved with some animal, earth and kink. There was a bit of cultish cassis and banana fruit. The palate was round, balanced, rich, spiny and long in this excellent, 17 frac12; CC wine (94) . We ended with the 1990 Lafite, the forgotten First Growth of the vintage (we’re not even going to count Mouton). The nose was mild, very shy besides touches of peanut, cedar, cassis, pencil and marijuana. There was ripeness and richness on the palate, length to the finish and great breed. Clive loved this wine, giving it 19 frac12; , saying that the wine was backwards without being closed or adolescent marvelous balance this is what First Growths are all about.. (95)
We did dinner with Clive afterwards, and it was an unregulated BYOB I always regulate, but my life has gotten busier and crazier this year, so I did not have time to coordinate this time, and I actually figured all who came knew enough to represent. Big mistake. I will never have another unregulated BYOB, which is the same spirit behind the 12 Angry Men. Anyway, we had some great wines like 1998 and 1996 Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune, 1970 Vega Sicilia Unico, and unfortunately a corked bottle of 1997 Harlan. I might write that up the next week or so, or it might end up in the land of the lost. files that includes almost all of 2004 and then some, events that I have written up but never typed out and published. I am too tired right now and have too much on my plate this weekend to continue, though.
Next week’s article should be the Paulee. You’ll want to read that one.