I told you these articles would be making their way to you more often! This dictaphone is really paying dividends. Before I get into my article, I am proud to announce that I will be representing all of winekind at the World Series of Poker at the end of July. I beat out over 700 players last night at a $200 buy-in game for an $11,000 package into the big dance! It is a big relief, for now I can have free nights again the rest of the month J.
Hear ye, hear ye, the Royal Order of the Purple Palate is now in session. Actually, it has been in session for over 30 years. It is held almost every month in Los Angeles, as it is the personal tasting group of Dr. Bipin Desai. Its members have changed over the years, but the premise remains the same: to taste double-blind (i.e., completely not knowing the wines being served) the finest and rarest wines of the world. Each member hosts at least one event a year and provides all the wines from his cellar, providing only one clue for each flight of wine. Bipin himself was the host of this first event.
The champagnes weren’t served blind, as we had a pair of Bollinger RDs. The 1990 Bollinger RD had a toasty and brawny nose, quite big and arguably one of the biggest in general. The nose was bready and nutty as well, with drops of caramel and honey and great freshness. The palate was quite racy, also brawny, fresh, long and balanced. It had excellent acidity, somewhat buried but still precise (95+).
The 1975 Bollinger RD’s nose was incredibly nutty, toasty and white chocolaty. Aromas of bread soaked in oil, orange blossom and white meat also graced its divine nose. It was still very fresh on the palate, more so than its nose let on. Flavors of orange blossom carried over to the palate, along with seltzer, bread, light caramel and a touch of fresh rain. The only negative was that it seemed to be missing some weight relative to the 1990 (93).
The first flight was a white one, served with the clue ‘Same vintage, same vineyard, three different owners.’ The first wine had a gorgeous nose with lots of kernel, minerals, cracked wheat, butter, nuts and light honey to its very deep aromatic profile. The nose was practically popping out of the glass! Pure white and yellow fruits rounded out the aromas. The palate had butter, corn and light earth flavors. Pure and long, it seemed to be entering a plateau of maturity with its balanced acid soaked up by its fruit. Fabulous, pure and smooth, Christian and I were both thinking Coche Dury, and it was indeed the 1996 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. ‘So precise,’ a close friend of mine observed. ‘My favorite white producer,’ I observed, while a close friend of mine countered ‘Leflaive’ for himself (96). I should mention that the identity of the wine was not revealed until after all three wines were discussed at length blindly.
The second white had a wider nose but was not as forward, more waxy, with nice butter, nut and light nutmeg. The classic citrus came out. The wine had a nice body, shier and less developed though, still with a bit of baby fat to it. The palate was very oily with more slate on its finish. ‘Coconut,’ someone observed, and a close friend of mine observed some ‘botrytis.’ The acids really came out with time in this 1996 Lafon Meursault Perrieres (93+).
The last wine of this first flight was a touch advanced, with more butter and wax and that mature Chardonnay kink. Meaty, with that inner peel, sherry kiss, the palate might have been considered tasty for a white from the 1970’s, but not for a 1996 Leroy Meursault Perrieres. a close friend of mine concurred that the wine was ‘more mature than 1996.’ There was also definitely a case for cork taint, and a big controversy started over Hydrogen Peroxide versus Sulfur Dioxide, although the particulars of it I’ll be damned if I remember (DQ).
Somehow, Christian was discussing Guigal’s La La wines and declared that La Turque was Tyson, La Landonne was Hagler and the La Mouline Sugar Ray. That’s an FY in your I.
The second flight’s clue was ‘Single vintage from the same proprietor, three different appellations.’ The first wine (now red) had a nutty, Bordeaux-like, elegant nose with aromas of slate, minerals and nutty, plummy fruit. Even though the clue led me to believe this was Burgundy, I probably would have guessed Bordeaux on my own. It had a sandy, dusty edge with a touch of must. Rich, lush and delicious, it was easy to get past its must. a close friend of mine called it ‘chapitalized’ negociant Burgundy.’ Despite the doctor’s prognosis, the wine was rich with a nice balance between its fruit and finish, possessing sweet fruit flavors, and a touch of band-aid crept in. The palate did get more corky in this 1964 Leroy Chapelle Chambertin (93A).
The second wine had a more open nose, which was very lush and dripping with rich purple and black fruits. The nose was oily, ‘yet it’s not thick, it’s delicate,’ Christian observed. The nose had a nice nuttiness along with chocolate and minerals. Rich, lush, sweet and long, this was atypical Burgundy, not pure and more of a cross dresser, but that was more the style of the times. The palate had nuttier flavors and was sweet as well, and while someone called it ‘a little simple,’ this 1964 Leroy Grands Echezeaux gained after an hour to border on outstanding (94+).
The final wine of the flight was a 1964 Leroy Pommard Aux Vignots, since the cat is out of the bag here. It had a very nutty nose, more so peanut butter, along with vanilla cream, earth and some wood, but a nice touch of wood. The Pommard actually had the best acidity of the bunch. Long, balanced and with grapy and nutty flavors, it was both a close friend of mine’s and my favorite of the flight, a West and East coast young gun consensus, although he did concede that the Grands Echezeaux had better concentration (95).
Frank noted of the Leroy flight that there was ‘a lot of barnyard across the board.’
The final flight’s clue was ‘Same vineyard, same proprietor, four different vintages.’ The first wine in this flight had a very youthful and intense nose, full of long and unevolved t’ n a. The aromas possessed lots of licorice, tobacco, earth, tar, leathery cedar and black fruits underneath. The palate was long and vimful with cedar, mineral and slate flavors. This wine was long, balanced, pure and pretty. There was fleshy and plummy fruit, by Italian standards, that is. The finish had expressive tannins and excellent acidity, and someone observed that it was ‘amazing how sweet Monfortino can be.’ The wine got sweeter and redder in flavor, but its minerals, slate and chalk held it together as porcelain aromas developed. This 1985 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva kept getting better and better (96).
Unfortunately, the 1971 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was oxidized (DQ).
The third wine had another fabulous nose that was so classic with superhero-like tannins and alcohol, cedar, anise, mahogany and tobacco aromas. It was what I like to call a very screechy nose. a close friend of mine was humbugging, however, noting its volatile acidity. The palate was similar to the nose; long, rich and with flesh to its fruit, its flavors were nutty and oily with deep, dark black fruits. The wine was very spiny and intense with minerally, kernel-like flavors and a great finish that was a bit earthy. It was the 1967 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Bipin found it seductive. (95).
The last Monfortino had a beautiful nose that was the sexiest of the flight. Possessing more rose in the nose, it was ‘almost Burgundian,’ Christian observed. It was so sexy with its cinnamon, cedar, tar and red fruit aromas. In the mouth, this wine was rich, lush and round and possessed great fruit with supporting iron, mineral, cedar and tar flavors. Flat-out gorgeous, the 1961 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was so feminine and elegant but still sturdy and vigorous. It was a great bottle (97).
I was lucky enough to be in town for another meeting of the Royal Order, and this one happened to be hosted by one of my fellow enthusiasts himself, newest and youngest member of the ROPP. Yeah, you know a close friend of mine, and I actually must confess that I came out to LA specifically around this event in early February. Any official tasting held by the Doctor is well worth traveling across the country for, and this was no exception.
We started with a magnum of 1976 Krug, birth year of the Doctor. It had a nutty nose with great bread, caramel and white chocolate aromas and was amazingly fresh and toasty. The palate was racy and vivacious, full of zesty bubbles and acidity. There were mineral flavors and kiss of citrus rind that expanded on its rocky finish. This outstanding Champagne also got earthier in its nose (95).
The hint for the first flight of whites was ‘same commune,’ and I had three queens in the pocket as my guesses, Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet and Batard Montrachet.
The first wine had an amazing nose full of character. Its citrus screamed out of the glass along with minerals, rainwater, quince and lemon tart. The palate was also very lemony and full of acidity, along with a rocky finish. Very pungent, there was a lot of cat’s pee to the flavor, but the 1992 Ramonet Montrachet was intense, vigorous and long. We later found out this was a magnum (95).
The second wine was very buttery by contrast, possessing smoky aromas of exotic guavas resting on clouds (no drugs necessary), corn and also a little pungency. Very smooth on the palate, it had yellow hues and light earth flavors but not a lot of vigor, and the wine got more caliesque. Everyone was a bit puzzled, and we found out that this wine was technically not a part of the first flight and a ringer by the Doctor, a 2000 Contratto Chardonnay ‘Sabauda’ from Piedmont. Ha, ha very funny. I didn.t know the Doctor was a secret lover of Italian Chardonnay right back at you, a close friend of mine. Actually, it was the restaurant that insisted on slipping something in the middle to throw everyone off the scent, so to speak (86)!
It was back to our regular programming with the third white, which we soon found out was another trick from up the Doctor’s sleeve. This wine was very pungent as well, similar to number one, with aromas of anise, smoke, slate and acid. I would call the nose rock hard, very slaty and white earthy with lots of racy rocks and minerals in the nose. The palate was less defined than the first wine, still pungent and full but possessing less intensity, and it was then that we found out it was the same wine as #1, decanted 30 minutes as opposed to being served straight out of the magnum! Yes, Ray, we know that a footnote is due you here, inventor of the split pour out of magnum in a blind flight. Since I rated this glass a couple points less than the first glass, I can only conclude that the lesson learned is never decant a white older than ten years.
The clue for our second flight, now reds and only two wines, was ‘Battle for Supremacy…Again.’ Paul deadpanned in his unique way, ‘Lafleur vs. Petrus,’ as if he was saying ‘here we go again, sigh.’
The first red had a deep, deep, deep, abyss-like nose with nut, mocha, coconut, chocolate, earth, garden and a touch of oak that wasn.t bad. Stones and minerals were supporting this house of a wine. The palate was extraordinary; precise, long and possessing great mocha, stone, plum and oil flavors. Gritty, long yet smooth, this 1989 Chateau Lafleur was intense, minerally, earthy, tannic and had loads of acid. I still think it is the greatest Lafleur between 1975 and 2000, perhaps between 1961 and until the future. It is built to last decades (97+).
The second wine was not a Petrus, but rather a 1990 Chateau Lafleur. It had a kinky, ripe, Rayas-like nose that was so ripe and sexy, oily and jammy and dripping with black cherry, blackberry and cassis fruit that I wrote ‘has to be Lafleur.’ The palate was rich, jammy, long and smooth, and while the 1990 did not have the power of the 1989, it still had a lot of acid. Someone called it ‘kinky’ (96).
Our next clue was ‘One owner but not necessarily the same vineyard.’ Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
The first wine was rich and creamy in the front end, but some found it ‘slightly off and maderized.’ There was still a lot of grapy fruit in this oily wine. I called the wine ‘grape city’ as there were grape seeds, grape nuts and grape oil all there. There was a bit of yeast to the palate, which had a leathery finish. There was great acid and length here, but the wine was definitely off in its flavor. There was an Amarone-like, figgy edge, but the acidity was still superb in this 1961 Chateau Latour a Pomerol (95A+).
The next wine had a gravelly, smoky nose but still plenty of fruit to go with it. There was great cassis and plum fruit, bordering on perfect. The nose was rich and decadent with a drop of honey. In the mouth, the wine was rich, fruity, gravelly and delicious with flavors of nut oil and divine, grapy fruit. Joe admired the ‘great complexity’ in this 1945 Chateau Latour a Pomerol. a close friend of mine shared how overshadowed 1945 is in the Right Bank compared to 1947, but that Right Bank wines from 1945 actually had more structure. There was a Graves-like intensity with its great gravel and gritty edge. a close friend of mine called it ‘complete,’ and it held amazingly well in the glass as some garden edges developed (98).
Paul, being the Burgundian that he is, awoke from his Pomerol slumber to give us ‘big knockers,’ or perhaps he was daydreaming of Musigny and noticed a woman outside. The third wine in this spectacular flight had a musky and smoky nose, more plummy than grapy, but still very concentrated in its fruit. I was stunned when it was revealed it was a Pomerol, as based on the fact that the first wine was a bit off and the second and third were so gravelly, I thought we had a La Mission and Haut Brion tango happening. See, one never stops learning as long as one keeps drinking. Kinky, sappy, long, smooth and a good yeasty, this 1921 Latour a Pomerol was still very fresh and with nice vigor still, absolutely delicious and ‘spectacular.’ It kept growing on me, ‘spectacular’ was echoed again along with ‘phenomenal’ by Frank (97).
I forgot the write down the clue for the last flight, but it had to have something to do with ‘same vintage,’ as you will soon see. The first wine had an amazing nose, full of (finally!) Burgundian characteristics. Rose, tea, garden and spice led the way into this party, along with incredible t ‘n a. There was great citric vigor and long tannins to this intense and vigorous wine, although Bipin found it ‘a bit tight and tannic.’ The t’ n a was spectacular in the mouth as well, along with fresh flavors of garden and bouillon. Long, intense and still young but with mature flavors and kisses, this 1945 Rousseau Chambertin became a bit drier after some food. Paul commented that it was ‘showing the 1945 character,’ and it maintained great spice (97).
Let’s just cut to the chase. The next wine was the 1945 Romanee Conti, the third time I have been blessed to have a bottle, all with a close friend of mine and all from one case that he was very, very, very fortunate to acquire; make that good! It is still the greatest wine that I have ever had. The RC was more forward and meaty than the Rousseau, with more edges of old book and some boullion in there with a saucy, leathery, kinky edge. It was very exotic with its garden and earth, sweet steak sauce and fresh snapped green beans. Smooth yet intense, long and divine, simply spectacular the ’45 RC had it all again, and a close friend of mine preferred this bottle to the other two even though I was on the other side of that coin, but that was a very fine hair to be split (99).
The 1945 La Tache was more beefy and chunky with some wood and iodine, the wood being a bit much and mushroomy and nutty, by itself probably great but ‘paled in comparison’ to the RC according to Frank. The bottle was a touch affected and maderized (92A).
The 1959 J.J. Prum Riesling Auslese Goldkap had a vanilla, creamsickle nose with lots of wood, heavy cream, lychee and forsted glaze. Fresh and respectably long, its flavors, however, came across a little cream-sickly (90).
It was another magical evening brought to us by a wizard of wine. Thank you, a close friend of mine. We should do it again some time soon, no really, I insist.
In Vino Veritas,