Hello everyone, it’s been a very long four months since my last article, and I am a bit embarrassed, I must say. The notes, however, are still piling up, getting a bit mountainous here in 2015. Getting more tasting notes published is on the agenda for the second half of the year, so hopefully I will be able to share a few more of the great experiences I am able to have on a weekly basis.
Let It Breathe
Speaking of which, this month of May is all about ‘A Great American Cellar Built Over The Last 35 Years,’ so it seemed a good time to pick up the pen again, as this collection is definitely a motivational speaker for me. By now, you will have read a lot more about him. He is in every way what ‘Vintage Tastings’ are all about; a kindred soul to all of us who enjoy drinking, tasting and sharing the world’s finest wines. He has attended and provided for many great tastings over the years, including numerous Wine Workshop and Bipin Desai events, and in the spirit of those events and the overall offering, we gathered together in his home recently for a birthyear celebration of all those in attendance.
Now not many people can invite eight guests to a dinner party, ask everyone their birthyear, and come up with eleven wines from five different vintages from six different wine regions. This is a true drinker’s collection, and what makes this ‘A Great American Cellar.’ On to the wines…
We whet our whistles with some 1988 Krug, the birthyear of his soon-to-married daughter. The 1988, along with the 1982, remains arguably the best Krug of the decade, and this bottle was classic. It was a bit of a brute in a good way with its young, big finish. There was a lot of citrus still in this broad-shouldered wine, one that is still waiting to hit that secondary level of development (96).
Krug With A View
The 1971 Krug Champagne was next, his first experience with truly great Champagne back in 1982, and ‘it has gotten even better.’ This was pure apple pie, in a dry and sophisticated way, with supporting aromas of bread crust and honey. Round and long, this was a perfect bottle, emitting butter crumb flavors with a smoky and toasty personality. It got more and more buttery with time in the glass, and cream soda and earth switched sides of the court well and often. That was my birthyear, by the way (97).
I got to double down with an exceptionally rare bottle of 1971 Haut Brion Blanc. Glue, white smoke, honey comb, mint and a touch of fresh herbs all played gleefully together in its nose. Someone observed ‘pine’ and ‘wintergreen.’ It was still so young and fresh, and our host commented how ‘these age forever.’ Its palate was long, sexy and elegant yet also powerful with layers of complexity. There was great meat and balance to its palate, with a cave-like finish, like limestone dripping from stalagmites or stalactites, whichever ones hang from the ceiling lol. Secondary coconut added even more appeal to this already delicious wine (96).
The Kings of Bordeaux Blanc
A 1947 Laville Haut Brion reminded me of how great a value this wine still is. Well, actually, it isn’t in the context of it now being La Mission Haut Brion Blanc, but it is in the context of finding old Lavilles still in the market place. This 1947 had a deeper, darker color with more seashell in its nose. It wasn’t quite as open as the HBB and felt a step behind at first smell. It needed to be worked more to open up, which can often be the case with something this old. There were lots of candle wax aromas along with glue and paint edges. As it improved with time, its finish got thicker, and its candle wax morphed into beeswax while this library quality emerged. A little Dirty South/baby powder edge developed in this wine that was right on the border of being outstanding. Then again, at this age, it is all about the bottle, and there are many shades of gray. This 1947 was still a good bottle, but it was a little bit naughty. Insert your own spanking sound here (94).
A trio of Lambrays was next, beginning with our second wine from our youngest vintage and a 1988 Clos des Lambrays. It had a deep nose with great vitamin fruit, a lot more fruit than I remember having in any 1988 Burgundy for a while. There were solid red fruits on the palate, but a darker and drier finish. This was a ‘gamey, gone wild and sauvage’ wine in a ‘meet the Flintstones’ (vitamin) kind of way (93).
Clos Des Lambrays
The 1958 Clos des Lambrays had a lot of metal at first, but there was some surprisingly great fruit underneath. There was a bit of a reconditioning debate that ensued, but this ended up clean and pretty with pleasant red fruit. This was the vintage of both our hosts (92).
The 1947 Clos des Lambrays was a stunner. It had a fabulous nose that was super aromatic with great spice. Mint, painted wall, autumn and lovely red fruit blended into its great aroma and flavor profile. Appealing grill qualities emerged in this gritty, cherry bomb of a wine (96).
1958 was a better vintage for its Nebbiolo friends, and we went right to the penthouse with a 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. Light leather and deep, black Nebbiolo fruit mixed with tar and tobacco for a decidedly different and inviting nose. It was very dry with that long, dusty and gritty tail of Nebbiolo, still possessing great black fruits on its palate. This 1958 still gave a youthful impression (94).
It seemed to be a day for 1947, as the 1947 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was spectacular, as good a bottle of this as I have ever had. Someone compared it to walking into ‘a sausage and cheese shop.’ Two of my favorite things lol. Chocolate, mushrooms and all types of nuts were found in this insane wine. It was so tasty in a chocolaty way, showing more flesh than the 1958, but it was also big and long. It got deeper and really stretched out in the glass. Greatness, just like another Italian from ’47, Sweet Lou (98)!
Bird’s Eye View
A 1972 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was a delightful and delicious surprise. No one talks about 1972 in California as a good vintage, but it sure seemed like one after a glass of this beauty. Aromas of chocolate, mint and eucalyptus gave way to a rock solid and rocky wine. This is as close to claret as California gets, and certainly better than any ’72 Claret at the moment. It was a delicious and scrumptious wine, with a similar palate to the nose (95).
A Pleasant Surprise
The cellar was now an impressive ’10 for 10,’ as one guest put it. There was one wine to go. Our cellar’s story came full circle with a bottle of 1971 Von Simmern Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen Trockenbeerenauslese. Say that ten times quickly! Thankfully, we didn’t have to, as our mouths were already full of this decadent nectar, which almost looked like a Burgundy at the right angle. But this was no Burgundy. This was a rich, deep wine with loads of coffee, petrol, forest, molasses and oil. There was this Milanese edge to its motor oil, and this was a butterball of a mouthful of sweet wine (96).
The evening was a perfect snapshot of this Great American Cellar, a true drinker’s cellar that will continue to reward hundreds of new drinkers over the next 35 years. I look forward to sharing many more great nights together with this true connoisseur accordingly, and with bottles from his cellar with many of you!
In Vino Veritas,