For those of you who are curious, the catalog for Rob’s sale will be online on Friday and in the mail on Monday. The salesroom will be packed; make your reservations sooner rather than later if you plan on coming to this historic auction.
I interrupt my report on La Paulee and its final chapter (and its 53 tasting notes) to catch up on some of very special evenings that I have shared with Rob so far in 2008. Two of those nights happened in Las Vegas this past February.
We arrived at the Wynn’s at about 2AM, coming straight from the Mount Sinai charity event whose notes I seem to have lost grrrrrrrr, and we shared a celebratory toast with some 1989 Krug Clos du Mesnil. It was served about cellar temperature, cool but not cold, and it actually ended up being just right, as it allowed the flavors and nuances of this great Champagne really strut their stuff. Its nose was buttery, gamy and pungent at first, morphing into more of the classic vanilla cream of Krug, in oil form. Its butter qualities began to take on many shades; ie, it gave me the impression of different buttered things such as buttermilk biscuit, cheese Danish and even cinnamon roll! There was crazy complexity in this killer Krug. The palate was racy, fresh and lean with delicious corn oil flavors, a touch leaner than the nose indicated, but lively and oh so fresh. Rob called it ‘staggering.’ Its slaty finish was linear yet focused, and while the ’89 lacked a touch of fat in its middle at this stage, it had seductive oil flavors and was indubitably 5-star stuff (96).
That was our Thursday night, and Friday the setting would be Picasso’s, one of Vegas’ best restaurants, one where the chef, Julian Serrano, is actually in the kitchen on most nights. It was 2/8/08, and dinner was set for 8pm, so this officially became our lucky ‘888’ Happy Chinese New Year’s dinner. It was all the more appropriate with a close friend of mine and his mother joining us, as well as ‘Mr. Wine Vegas’ Gil Schwartz, Patman and a few others.
I actually met up with a close friend of mine early, who served me a glass of blind Champagne to begin before the others arrived. It had nice apply richness to its lush nose. a close friend of mine also admired its lush and rich qualities, and it had a mildly pungent, citric character. There was a great stony edge to this long and minerally bubbly that reminded me of an older Dom, actually. ‘You’ll never guess it,’ a close friend of mine insisted, but that’s not the point. It’s just to see if you like it,’ he smiled. There was a nice hint of lime to this NV Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Champagne. Apparently, a close friend of mine’s got all that Southern California had to offer. What else is new? He told me it was made in a ‘solera style like Jacques Selosses.’ Big Boy was next to arrive and caught a glass and also admired it, citing its ‘great cracked egg nose.’ Jigga what? (94).
It was Big Boy’s turn at the wheel, beginning with the official aperitif for the evening, a 1928 Jacquesson. Now there’s something you don’t see every day. Gil was loving it immediately, citing ‘oloroso and olive.’ There was lots of white and brown sugar in the nose, along with aromas of apple orchard with an autumnal breeze running through it. Still fresh, the Jacquesson was delicious ”“ sweet, tasty, lush, mouthfilling and chewy. Gil picked up on ‘multi-vitamin’ flavors, and there were also kisses of band-aid (Ray Tuppatsch trademark here lol) and white brick. Yum (94).
An impressive quartet was next, pairs of 1928s and 1929s from Lanson and Dom Peringon. I know of only one man on earth who could put together that flight, and he did just that! The 1928 Lanson was a revelation, and Pat and Gil were immediately going bananas over this incredible Champagne. Big Boy found it ‘so Burgundian,’ and its amazing nose was practically perfect in its balance of nut, honey, perfume, lavender and white chocolate aromas. Still very vimful, it also had gorgeous flavors of orange blossom, honey and white minerals. This was stunning stuff! Exotic tangerine flavors developed, and it ‘flirts with 6 stars,’ as Big Boy put it. Krissy, Mrs. Wine Vegas, added ‘Krispy Kreme donuts,’ and it sure was. I was right on the border of 6 stars as well (96+).
The 1929 Lanson had a honeyed, sugared, nectar-like nose with amazing sweetness yet still some reserve to it. Minerals also sparkled in its fresh and apply nose, which still had great pitch. The palate was sweet and more wine-like with mature apricot flavors, excellent in its own right but no match for the 1928 (93).
The color was stunning in another ancient bottle, this time a 1928 Dom Perignon. Rob immediately was calling out ‘6 stars,’ and even a close friend of mine acknowledged that this was a perfect bottle. The nose was very exotic and very fresh, ‘stony’ to a close friend of mine. Gil admired its ‘Northern gooseberry’ qualities, finding it ‘almost Sauvignon Blanc-ish.’ a close friend of mine likened it more to a ‘white Rhone with its beeswax.’ Like I said, this was one exotic Champagne! The nose was also pungent, and the gooseberry carried over the palate. Its texture was soft yet lingering like a great, mature Montrachet, almost a ringer for a great, old Ramonet (95).
The 1929 Dom Perignon had unique aromas of clove and mint that morphed into more definitive spearmint, per Krissy. It was very intense in these regards, and Gil called it ‘really Gin-ny,’ and it was totally that. He was having flashbacks of Tanquerays and tonics, his favorite childhood drink lol. Rob added, ‘the essence of mint in a garden,’ and a close friend of mine added, ‘Chinese herbs,’ and I added, ‘1000 year-old fungi from China,’ half-joking, but half-serious. Gil was all about its herbs, now picking up on ‘chartreuse,’ and to be honest all those gin and chartreuse flavors are not a few of my favorite things, but it did sweeten up considerably in the glass, but its sweetness remained in those herbal families. However, I admired its quality and ageability even though stylistically it was not my cup of tea (93).
What an incredible flight; all these bottles were as good as they could be. Rob toasted 1928 as ‘the greatest vintage ever,’ and then Gil toasted Rob. ‘If it weren’t for guys like you, no one would ever know.’
It was time for some wine and a flight of old Clos des Lambrays courtesy of Big Boy again. The 1901 Clos des Lambrays was obviously ‘topped off,’ but it still retained solid Burgundian character. There was a decadent mix of old and new fruit, and a close friend of mine was muttering about Grenache and chapitalization, still admitting that it was ‘delicious but not all 1901.’ The palate showed much older than the nose, full of strawberry flavors. Pat called it ‘the sherbert of the evening,’ and it was. Gil admired its ‘smoke’ qualities (90?).
The next three Lambrays would show decidedly differently and stood together compared to the 1901. The 1919 Clos des Lambrays was ‘more gamy and meaty, how it should be,’ per a close friend of mine. Aromas of bouillon, garden, earth, tobacco and sweet brown sugar graced its nose. Its palate was rich and citrusy, stabilized by an earthy, light spice. It was gorgeous per me and ‘beautiful’ per a close friend of mine (94).
The 1929 Clos des Lambrays had ‘stupid VA (volatile acidity) ’ per Gil. Aromas of old rose, hibiscus tea and vitamin C were present in this sweet, soft, tender and old wine. Its palate was light and dusty, earthy with a touch of good bitters, and pure cherry fruit. It was a pretty and graceful wine, and a close friend of mine loved its ‘lushness.’ Someone likened it to something relating to a period, and it wasn’t about an era. Let’s just leave it at that. There was this overseeped tea quality on the finish as well (93).
The last Lambrays on our agenda was the 1937 Clos des Lambrays, which had Gil initially wondering out loud if this was the best of the four. It had a nutty, smoky, sweet nose, sweet on the browned side of things, with a great autumnal complexity. Soft and round with nice citrus, earth and tea bag flavors (stop right there Ray) , I liked its bright cherry fruit but ultimately found it less complex than the previous two (92).
We switched to an outstanding flight of 1934 Bordeaux from bottles nestled away carefully in the cellar of Mr. Wine Vegas himself. The bottles were in superb condition, and as in the previous two flights, all the wines delivered everything that one could possibly hope for.
A 1934 Lafite Rothschild had classic pencil in the nose and a great, waxy freshness, along with nice carob, earth and mineral aromas. Shortly thereafter, aromas of jasmine rolled in like a tidal wave and took over. Sweet and tasty, this was a delicious and perfect bottle of ’34. a close friend of mine noted ‘barnyard’ flavors. Citrus, dust and spice all joined the party. This was a tender and lovely wine with a pinch of pungency. Fundamentally linear, the Lafite got tangier in the glass and seemed less impressive after the next two wines, but it was still pretty nonetheless (92).
The 1934 Mouton Rothschild immediately seized control of this flight with its deeper, richer and lusher nose. It was very brooding by comparison with its incredible and trademarked chocolate aromas, accompanied by earth, minerals and nuts. The nose also had an intense trio of cedar, ceramics and mahogany. The palate was intense and hearty, meaty and long with great acidity. The finish was thick and grainy. Rob picked up on some also trademarked ‘mint.’ Earth and oak flavors rounded out this beauty, but it did fall back a step after the Haut Brion (94).
The 1934 Haut Brion was a classic, old Haut Brion. It had the huge coffee milkshake nose that I often get from HB’s in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and it was almost identical aromatically to some ‘28s that I have had; the ’34 could be considered a fraternal twin of sorts. Espresso, garden root vegetable, coffee grinds and a pinch of ginger were all present in this complex nose. Cassis was also there but buried underneath everything else. Flavors of soy and ‘black fruit candy’ (Gil) graced its beefy palate. It was like ‘A1 meets dessert.’ Everyone of significance was in the Haut Brion camp, and even I came around in the end despite my initial infatuation with the Mouton. The Haut Brion kept gaining in the glass while the others fell back, and it clearly had the best concentration of the flight. Gil agreed, calling it ‘more and more intense.’ It also had a balanced, earthy finish (95).
It was a close friend of mine’s turn to bat, and as usual, he was batting clean up, pulling out a 1937 Roumier Bonnes Mares. ‘Fantastic nose’ began my notes. Garden city, chambord, raspberry, earth and minerals all danced in my nostrils. Touches of menthol, coffee and scorched earth supported its all-star cast of aromas. The palate was perfectly balanced with incredible length, rich and hearty with a soup-like intensity. Gravelly, long and possessing that great citric tension of great old Burgs, this was serious stuff, an Esquin Import bottle. Krissy picked up on some tertiary ‘crÃ¨me brulee’ qualities, while a close friend of mine called it ‘pure chocolate’ (96).
It is always nice to have Roumier’s Bonnes Mares side by side with his Musigny, especially when 1937! The 1937 Roumier Musigny was a Nicolas bottle and similar in style to the Bonnes Mares, although a touch sweeter with more of a cherry core. A pinch of cigar added complexity to this chocolaty, nutty, earthy and sexy wine. The Musigny was richer in the mouth than the Bonnes Mares, possessing more density. Its flavors were again chocolaty as well as gardeny. This was long, super duper rich, open and sexy stuff. It was also a bit oaty, in a good way, and its thick finish arguably gained in the glass. Its texture and concentration were stellar. a close friend of mine observed, ‘it’s amazing the energy that Roumier wines have’ (96+).
The parade of ‘37s continued with an unfortunately corked bottle of 1937 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes. At about $10,000 a bottle, man that hurts, but gentlemen who drink and collect these types of bottles understand that these things happen and move on.
And boy did we move on. Big Boy was back in the driver’s seat with one of his most prized bottles: a magnum of 1937 Romanee Conti. MAGNUM. I mean, it’s only a $50,000 bottle. Yippee-kay-yay. You know the rest. The RC had a deep, saucy nose, still fresh yet maturely warm and inviting. It, too, danced in my nose with its mature cherry fruit, garden, game and oil aromas, along with pinches of menthol and more garden, all signature qualities. It was so aromatic that it made time stand still. a close friend of mine admired its ‘density’ immediately and called it ‘all about ’37.’ The palate was unreal-ly rich (I think I just made up another word) , hearty and with incredible acidity. The ’37 RC was the type of wine to get right in your face and then gently kiss you on your neck. Thick and lip-smacking, it made me lick the roof of my mouth as if, as if”¦I tried to get a mini ‘Match game’ going, but that ended quickly with some very inappropriate comments lol. Its finish was long and gritty. Despite its overwhelming nature, the ’37 RC was still fine and polished. Bottles like this are why God made wine (98M).
After being berated by Rob for my mere 98-point rating (he found it to be 99+) , we sampled our last ’37 on this magical evening, a 1937 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle. The La Chapelle was still good, but very anti-climactic and a bit of an afterthought after the last flight. It was almost Bordeaux-like, possessing aromas and flavors of straw, chocolate, earth, oat and barn (92).
Last and not least, wines number 19 and 20 on this legendary evening, were a pair of 1921 Pomerols, beginning with a magnum of 1921 Lafleur. Yeah, yeah, I know what some of you are thinking already but read on first, will ya? The Lafleur was decadently thick and rich, chocolaty and intense, chunky like Afa and Sika yet agile like Samala. Any Wild Samoan fans out there? Anyway, it had the full fruit symphony ”“ black, red, purple and even blue. It was so rich and thick in the mouth, I coined it ‘redunkulous.’ Lush, round flavors and a thick finish added up to championship material. This was a Nicolas magnum, recorked in the ‘80s according to Rob, and it had a blank cork. Now I know that probably a majority of people in the wine world, both collectors and resellers (at least today ahem ahem) would probably immediately assume this magnum to be fake. I doubt I would sell it in today’s marketplace, too. However, it was consistent with all the other Nicolas bottles of ‘20s Pomerol that I have had (Nicolas are pretty much the only ones you can find anymore that are legitimate) , and it was incredibly good, showing amazing concentration and tell-tale Pomerol qualities. I think Gil said it a couple months ago best, something to the extent that ‘if something this good is fake, I don’t care.’ And if this magnum was fake, then every single 1920s Pomerol in existence is fake, too. Now I didn’t go into this long diatribe because Rob has a lot of old Pomerols in his upcoming auction at the end of April; in fact, he insisted on not offering any, citing market insecurity and the fact that ‘they’re just too damn good.’ And this magnum was a perfect case in point; it was, indeed, ‘too damn good.’ I went into this diatribe because I choose to believe that there are real bottles of these wines still in existence, and that on the scales of justice, paranoia sometimes has to be balanced with a healthy dose of reason. I don’t think too many people treated to a glass of this wine, from this magnum, could convince me or any of the incredibly experienced tasters at our table that something was fundamentally unsound about this wine (97M).
As a side note, the very night prior in New York City, Rob opened a magnum of 1947 Lafleur at the Mount Sinai charity event with approximately 100 people in attendance. The wine was so good that those fortunate enough to have a taste, and those were some of New York’s most experienced palates, went giddy. Rob spontaneously donated a second magnum on the spot to Sinai which was snapped up for $45,000 in some of the evening’s most ferocious bidding. He certainly made a lot of believers on that night, and it is only fitting since not too many guys can open up magnums of 1921 and 1947 Lafleur on consecutive evenings, in different cities no less
I was starting to fade away but managed a few notes about the 1921 Latour a Pomerol. There was more game and yeast here, and this bottle was typical of the older L a P’s that I have had. It had that tell-tale hint of marzipan that this wine acquires at such an age. It was another great wine (95).
What an incredible night. And there was still one more to go”¦
In Vino Veritas,