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The first half of last week saw me out at the warehouse for various reasons, and Big Boy happened to be there as well inspecting his most recent acquisitions. Some Christmas cheer was in the air, and Big Boy threw his own impromptu holiday party for the gang. Having just returned from a week in Bordeaux and Paris where I literally spent over forty hours at the lunch and dinner tables with many tastings in between, I was a bit wined out, but with the wines and bubblies that Rob was opening, I sucked it up and took one ‘for the team.’

It started innocently enough with a 1966 Dom Perignon Rose, which had an absolutely delicious, honeyed nose. It was very chocolaty for a Rose, also possessing both strawberry and honey aromas and flavors. The palate was big and earthy with tasty wood components yet a soft finish; its acidity was noticeable in the belly but not spicy or ‘kick’-y going down. Rob exclaimed that there were still ‘years of life left,’ and there were due to its subtle, lingering acidity. A touch of Cuban cigar rounded out the palate (94).

We skipped our way over to an original bottle (ie, not Collection) of 1964 Krug. The Collection bottles are those that are released late by the Domaine. Its color was absolutely gorgeous like a White Burgundy. Its nose was bready and yeasty with some definite sunflower oil and yellow fruit aromas. Rob accurately added ‘green apple rind,’ which he finds in ‘every big year’ of Krug. The mouthfeel was full and rich and still had a little sprite to it despite Lou’s opinion that ‘it lost its fizz.’ Honey vanilla and green apple flavors graced its rich and buttery palate. The Krug was ‘a true Champagne lover’s Champagne,’ Rob said, and it was thick, long and wine-like with sneaky acidity. The Krug made the DP seem more exotic, although the Krug also became more exotic with time and developed crème brulee qualities (96).

The party had started, so it was time for some red wines. A 1958 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was next, from a parcel of fourteen cases (yes, fourteen) that had been made available to me out of Europe. This was a sample bottle out of a shipped case for me to try before finalizing the purchase, a purchase whose wines I had already sold out based on this tasting. Thankfully, the wine showed beautifully! It had a ‘wow’ nose, as Rob exclaimed repeatedly. ‘Cigar,’ Lou cooed. The Italians were getting ready to wave their flags, indeed. Being Roberto Conterno’s personal all-time favorite vintage of Monfortino was a lot of pressure for this bottle, which handled it well. The nose was rich, chocolaty, deep and chunky, and the palate matched its richness in a delicious fashion with lots of black fruit, tobacco and tar flavors. Minerals and slate sparkled on its finish, along with its very long yet stylish acidity. Beautiful, sumptuous and classic, the 1958 was a beauty but not a powerhouse Monfortino, at least at this stage (95).

There was another part to this parcel, about 20 (yes, twenty) cases of 1971 G. Conterno Barolo Riserva. The 1971 had a spinier nose with lots of minerals and t ‘n a, a more gravelly and slaty edge with more minerals. There was still deep and nutty fruit behind those, and some signature chocolaty richness. That chocolate quality spread like Nutella in the mouth, as did flavors of tar and tobacco. There were lots of leathery fruit flavors. Rob called it ‘straight down the middle’ and found it on the bottom half of excellence rather than the top like I did (ie, 93 vs. 94 points or 4 stars vs. 4+ stars) (94).

We continued the Italian theme with an affected bottle of 1964 Catina Mascarello Barolo. Its nose was still rich and meaty, full of fruit, a touch of Madeira, iodine and a tar, slate and vitamin pungency. It was very spicy on the palate but also a touch sour. Gritty and dusty, we could tell that this bottle was a bit affected and not at full strength (91A).

Rob insisted on a palate refresher before we went to the French side of things, so he whipped out a 1955 Dom Perignon like the wineslinger that he is in the Wild, Wild East. The ’55 was amazingly bubbly and fresh out of the bottle, ‘so fucking fresh’ is how I actually put it, uncouth New Yorker that I am. The nose was unreal and intensely nutty with additional aromas of cracked bread sprinkled with incredible spices. Vanilla sex came to mind with its white earth and chocolate qualities and fresh and smooth style. While not as deep as the ’64 Krug, the ’55 DP was more effervescent and still rich in its own right, very bright with kinky lime flavors (95).

A 1962 Cheval Blanc made an appearance, and its nose was intoxicatingly Cheval with its meaty black and red fruits, olive, cinnamon and baked zucchini nut bread. Aromatically fresh, exotic, warm and wintry, its palate was fully mature and much softer and easier. The wine seemed just past the point of being very good, so while its nose was excellent still, its palate was not (89).

It was off to Burgundy we went to experience a wine from one of the region’s true wizards. The 1966 Rousseau Clos de la Roche had an amazingly pungent yet still fresh nose of Italian cured meat; Sopestrata and Bresola were being debated when Rob interjected ‘Capricola with a hint of Proscuito.’ It was settled. Long and vimful in its nose, the palate was also long yet a bit smoother with tasty, vitaminy fruit and a little less depth. Tasty and smooth with some good character, the wine was rich with good earth components but not extra complicated (92).

After a big production and a return trip to the warehouse, Big Boy came back with a pretty big bottle, a 1955 Romanee Conti. The nose was ridiculous; both laser and razor-like with its acidity. Krystal joined the party with ‘it’s like a glass of roses.’ There was an amazing intensity of vitamins, minerals, dried Japanese beef, garden and dill that could only come from this particular section of land. ‘Gorgeous’ and ‘phenomenal’ were being thrown around, and the wine was also absolutely delicious BUT fully mature with only a touch of citric spice. There were also flavors of dill, rust and ‘peppermint’ as Rob pegged, and he also noted ‘a little Barolo in it,’ meaning its personality, not that he had his chemistry set with him and did an analysis! It was quite accurate, actually. Despite the fact that it was delicious, the palate trailed behind the nose in terms of delivered expectations and was all forward with no backward vigor left (94).

There was one wine still to go, a 1971 Guigal Cote Rotie ‘La Mouline.’ After never having this wine for my entire life, this was the second time I had the pleasure of having it within the same month! The nose was amazing with its mentholy, wintry, peppery Cote Rotie style. Declious, smooth, tasty and lovely, it was an outstanding wine. What a nose (95)!

Thank you Big Boy, and a Happy New Year to all. May 2006 be a healthy one, and a delicious one as well!

In Vino Veritas,

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