Everyone loves a good Hollywood ending. Boy gets girl, good defeats evil, big family hug, Hollywood Jef turns 55, money shot… and fifty-five is significant of course, it’s like a notice that you are now about to pass the legal speed limit, and all fun must get off at the next exit. But Hollywood Jef is no ordinary man; he has been following a strict diet of fine and rare wine for the last decade or two and is seemingly getting younger with each sip. When he invited me to his 55th birthday celebration, I moved our next Hong Kong auction back a week, because I knew it would be that special. I underestimated.
Birthday Boy Blowing
Everything served was out of magnum, and the French Laundry was the setting. Dignitaries such as Bipin, The Rev, Bad Boy, The Hedonist, Alexander The Great, Ann Colgin and others were ready for the red carpet, but before the reds, there was Champagne.
A magnum of 1971 Dom Perignon provided ample amplitude for the cocktail session. It was a clean and classy magnum, more wheaty than expected, but it still possessed signature white fruit. It was fresh and zippy, all one could ask for out of a magnum of this wine. I was a few minutes late arriving, so I didn’t have too much time with it (95M).
The 1969 Krug Collection magnum that followed was the first of two magnums served at the table, and its initial aromas were vanilla, dry honey and musk. It took off like a rocket ship, but its palate was overly dry, wafery and citrus peely in character. The Rev found it ‘a little mushroomy,’ or perhaps he was describing his pre-dinner ritual. It was lighter than the DP and went in a shellfish and sour direction (92M).
The 1959 Krug Collection magnum made it very clear it was the big brother here. It was tighter and toastier than the ’69, clearly better and deeper but still oh so young. Its palate was long and citrusy, with lemon and graham flavors. The Hedonist picked up on ‘total ginger,’ expanding into ‘ginger beer.’ It so was, who knew the Krug secret family recipe originated in Jamaica? Christian admired its ‘layers,’ while Bad Boy found it ‘pure,’ and it kept getting richer and more expressive, which tends to happen in wine and in life (96M).
Signed by Remi
Two whites followed, beginning with a magnum of 1966 Leroy Montrachet, courtesy of the Wolfgang Grunewald collection. Everyone that was fortunate enough to buy from that auction in 2008 keeps telling me they wished they bought more. This magnum was another example. It had a warm, open and mature Chardonnay nose with aromas of candle wax, old honey, game and sea salt. It was sound and rich in a mature way, not like internet money. This was EF Hutton money; Leroy earned it. Someone called it or Leroy ‘one of the greatest,’ and its creamy and nutty finish didn’t have me disagreeing (95M).
The 1986 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet that accompanied the Leroy had a fantastic nose with great mint, white fruit and corn aromas. It was in a perfect place, showing everything that it had to offer in a delicious and fully mature way. This was a four alarm cougar alert, for sure. Its buttered toast and tropical flavors got the job done, but it just didn’t have the weight or complexity of the Monty. It’s all about the terroir, baby (94M).
Pick a Bird, Any Bird
Three magnums of DRC Richebourg equal one happy dinner table. The 1971 DRC Richebourg was spectacular like all 1971 DRCs always are. Aromas of tomato, menthol, rose oil, vitamins, creamsicle, tree, forest and wet wood combined harmonically in its nose. The palate was minty and rich with meaty flavors of dill and truffle. It still seemed so young and had some wet toad goodness to it. The Rev picked up some ‘licorice’ on its grainy, granular and thick finish. Touches of cedar and eucalyptus rounded out this special wine (97M).
The 1969 DRC Richebourg was more mature and open, a bit floozier in the nose. Its palate was soft, tender and simple. Red fruits, citrus and light chalk were also there, but everything was soft (90M).
The 1964 DRC Richebourg gave a hot and wet impression, and it brought some funk and barnyard along with it. There was a touch of tomato, like tomato that was in the sun for an hour. It was rich, tasty and round with honey kisses. I’m not sure if it was a touch affected or not. It still tasted good, but I felt that it should have given me more (94M).
Embarrassment of Riches
Twin towers of La Tache were a fitting follow up to the riches of Richebourg, beginning with a 1971 DRC La Tache. It equaled the greatness of the ’71 Richebourg in the nose, but it had more rose and cedar goodness. There were also aromas of oyster shells and red dates. Its fruit was oily and its palate saucy and meaty. Rich and leathery, it felt like a Hermes bag in the mouth, supplemented by great cedar and red citrus flavors. Usually I am in 98 point territory for this wine, but on this night, the Richebourg was the LT’s equal (97M).
It doesn’t get much better than the 1962 DRC La Tache out of magnum, especially when it comes from the cellar of Wolfgang Grunewald. What a nose! Some similar themes appeared: meat, sauce, rich, deep…this was heavy metal, including the iron ore deposits. It had a rich, heavy palate; I was actually surprised how rich it was, given my recent experiences with a handful of 1962s. I found the vintage to be maturing, becoming elegant, but this magnum was no ballerina. ‘Hoisin’ and ‘pepper’ came from Jef and Joe, not necessarily in that order. This was long and sexy juice. I think it was Christian who said that he had ‘a dream about DRC, and this is it.’ Amen (99M).
Stamp of Approval
A 1952 Moet provided a nice intermezzo before the Bordeaux. Its color was dark, but it was still an outstanding and zippy drink. Its palate was wheaty, rich and spiny with a long finish and cereal flavors. This was ‘close to DP’ per Bad Boy, and he would know. There were complex tea and fortune cookie flavors rounding out this beauty (95M).
After so many great DRC’s that were drunk to the last drop, the Bordeaux were a bit anti-climactic. Those that argue that Burgundy should come after Bordeaux had a case in point on this night. My notes started to wane. Yes, I am predictable. The first wine was out of double magnum, the only non-magnum in the crowd. It had a great nose full of nutty goodness, with some caramel and chocolate. Wet wood, bamboo and wafer flavors complemented nice acidity in this solid wine (94D).
The 1949 Gruaud Larose had aromas of chocolate, caramel, cedar, spice, cabinet and nutmeg. Its palate was soft, creamy and easy. It didn’t live up to its younger brother’s performance (92M).
The 1945 Gruaud Larose was ‘too tannic’ per Bipin. I wrote a few more words, but ‘cold, simple and easy’ were all I could read (90M).
The next flight took it up a notch thanks to a 1961 Palmer. There was a touch of ‘cleaner’ that had to blow off, but behind that it became nutty with fresh aromas of cassis and wafer. Its palate was so good and so lush, long and classic with a leathery, thick finish. While this wine can be inconsistent, there was no doubting the greatness of this magnum (96M).
The 1961 Mouton Rothschild was smooth and caroby, pleasant and tasty with nice qualities all around. There were candy kisses to this easy wine, which was a bit easier than I had thought it would be (94M).
A magnum of 1971 Petrus had aromas of rye bread and plum twists. It got better and richer and richer and better. It was ‘all wow, all now’ (95M).
The last wine on this night was actually from the vintage of our Hollywood host, a 1958 Latour. It was quite good given the vintage’s lackluster reputation in Bordeaux. It was smooth, balanced and lush without the richness. It was an uplifting finish to a heavenly night (93M).
The Birthday Vintage
Everyone was happy, and we knew it. We clapped our hands for Hollywood Jef and his amazing generosity on this legendary night. Happy Birthday Hollywood Jef! Fifty-five never tasted so good.
Sea of Love
In Vino Veritas,