Here’s a bit of Christmas cheer for everyone opening a bottle or three today, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a great wine.

After three years of invites, I finally got the Emperor to join me for dinner in Hong Kong. It was well worth the wait.

The acceptance was actually for November. Problem was, the dates got mixed up, and he missed the original engagement. I was determined not to let this opportunity slip away again and insisted on a more intimate gathering in December, and I was ever so grateful afterwards, not only to the Emperor and his presence, but also for my insistence in the first place.

Now the Emperor is one who drinks well, as he should. While he has everything he could ever need, he remains active and experimental in the marketplace, in the spirit of both a true collector and a true connoisseur. The Emperor also likes to do things in grand fashion. Consider a recent dinner he hosted for fifty of his closer friends and advisors, and the according line-up of wines: 2002 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne, 1986 Ramonet Montrachet (jeroboam) , 1971 Roumier Bonnes Mares, 1959 Mouton (magnums) , 1990 Petrus and 1985 Sassicaia. For a dinner this large, 4-6 bottles (or equivalent) was opened of each wine. I mean, wow. Where was my invite, I joked. He promised his next similar event would be around my schedule. My fingers are crossed!

Class and style, they do not always go together. Tonight, they were both at the dinner table and on it. We started with a slightly affected bottle of 1966 Dom Perignon. It was a touch maderized, as The Distinguished Gentleman observed. While mature and forward, it was still drinkable and with good spritz. Overall, it was a bit dirty, with bread and white cola flavors, each covered in more dirt (93A).

The Winemaster brought with him a delicious 1961 Oddero Barolo. Sexy aromas of rose, tar and mint jumped out of the glass. It was leathery and sexy like hot leather pants accordingly. A distinctive, secondary aroma of Mesquite BBQ emerged, and Gil noted a touch of benevolent Oloroso.. Its palate had meaty fruit and great smack to its finish. There were taut, red cherry flavors up front, and leather ones in the back. Its oily texture made for a delicious experience. This was a great wine from a great vintage in Barolo (94).

A 2000 d’Auvenay Chevalier Montrachet was next. We were matching the food with the wine, hence the unusual procession. It was a truffle dinner, and we felt the Barolo went better with the scrambled egg dish, and the Chevy with the scallop and crab concoction. The dinner was at Gold, by the way, and chef Harlan Goldstein personally prepared a spectacular meal. Back to the wine&the first thing that stood out about this white was its heaviness. This had to be the heaviest 2000 white that I have ever had; Leroy’s concentrated style was on full display in its thick, rich and heady nose. Aromas of banana peel and nut skin, along with coconut shell, were also there. The palate also had some sweet nut flavors and a buttery personality. While smooth, the palate was a bit dirty, and easier and smoother than the nose had me expecting. Unsweetened 7up and waterfall flavors were present in this elegant. white. This was no 1996, one of the great whites I have ever had (92).

I brought a 1945 Haut Brion, one removed from a nearly complete, original case, and the wine was incredible. What a nose, I began. It was staggeringly complex with meaty and minty fruit, and the same, great wine that I remembered it to be. Fabulous. came from the crowd, and additional aromas of carob, caramel and smoke came from my glass. The palate was full of caramel, tobacco, slate and mineral, extremely powerful, with a slaty, gravelly finish. The nose continued to evolve into an incredible butter toffee display, and it kept getting better and better with more air. Someone (s?) noted, Coney Island in the bottle. and gunpowder and brimstone.. Its power and acidity were extraordinary (98).

A 1966 Haut Brion was no match for the 1945, showing more green bean and stalk in its nose, with a touch of chocolate. The palate was clean, fresh and smooth, with a nice waterbed of cassis underneath. There was tobacco and Graves earth on its finish. This was a smooth and satiny HB, water from Heaven, someone remarked (92).

The next wine was served blind, and The Distinguished Gentleman noted coconut. instantly. The nose was fleshy and almost jammy at first, in an old, Old World way. A bit of green bean crept in, and the palate had that touch of ice cream sundae to it. Banana joined the nose on cue. The palate was fresh, smooth and soft with a tender finish. It was a 1928 Cos d’Estournel (93).

Back-to-back Burgundies followed, both by Roumier, and both two of the most significant wines in the history of the Domaine. The 1971 Roumier Bonnes Mares was brought by the Emperor, from the case he purchased at the Don Stott auction a month ago. After this bottle, only six bottles remained despite him having it for only one month. It’s the Chinese way. The nose was fabulous, and this bottle was slightly fresher than the bottle of this that I had a month ago (from a different batch, and equally as spectacular if not more). Red fruits and orange rind jumped out of the nose, and one guest found it more orange blossom tea. than rind. Tea, beef, smoke and earth were on both the nose and palate, which was so fine and so sweet. It was rich with great acidity, long and dusty with delicious nutty flavors. It got more complex, exhibiting more rose, bouillon and sweeter fruit (97).

The 1978 Roumier Musigny had a similar nose to its sibling, but a heavier feel. It took more time to open, continuing to put on weight, becoming oilier as well. Hints of spice and rust started to emerge, and menthol took over the palate, along with extraordinary acidity. The Bonnes Mares was clearly sexier and more friendly at first, but after a long conversation, the Musigny kept unfolding more and more, and this was a dead heat. If I had a bottle of each to drink with a friend as opposed to a glass, I think the Musigny would have won in the end (97+).

It is rare for a Rhone wine to upstage Bordeaux and Burgundy legends like 45 HB and 71/78 Roumiers and so forth, but the 1966 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline did just that. It had a wow. nose, full of white pepper and sexy supporting singers named violet, bacon and beef. One commented, this is perfect; no flaws.. It was incredibly tasty, adding lavender to its previous violet and bacon, and its flesh and length were superb. There was great kink to its finish, and its flavor was as good as the Rhone gets. In fact, the 1966 La Mouline, its first vintage, might be the greatest wine ever made in the Rhone. Consistent notes (99).

It was an evening fit for an emperor. I hope it doesn.t take me three years to get him to come to dinner again.

In Vino Veritas,

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