Vintage Tastings

By John Kapon

Experience the finest and rarest wines in the world through the eyes and palate of Acker Chairman and globally renowned master taster, John Kapon (our “JK”). “Vintage Tastings” is a written journal chronicling the incredible bottles opened at some of the most exclusive tastings, wine dinners, and events all over the globe. These entries represent JK’s commitment to capturing and sharing the ephemeral nature and ultimate privilege of tasting the world’s rarest wines. Although ratings are based on a 100-point scale, JK believes there is no such thing as a 100-point wine. Point scores assigned to each wine are his own personal attempt to quantify the quality of each experience.

The Aginator

There was one night in 2019 that I just could not forget, the birthday celebration of The Aginator. The Aginator is a very large German fellow who is a long-time friend that has a New York soul. Having lived in New York for nearly 45 years, I can appreciate that! On one summer night on an island north of Germany, a grand celebration was held in honor of our dear friend. Grand as in food and wine, does anything else really matter?

I got there a bit early, so I grabbed a bottle for myself of 2012 Keller Morstein GG off of Herr Big Ben’s award-winning wine list. It had a fabulous nose reeking of soil and minerals. The Morstein was full of taut peach, a touch of lychee and orange sex appeal. It needed decanting but still showed its fine length, acidity and elegance despite its youth. The ‘GG’s of Keller are some of the best white wines on earth, they are Riesling, and they are ‘regular’ alcohol levels and dry (95+).!

A 2005 Coche-Dury Bourgogne Blanc made its way around the table as a cocktail white. It had a very oaky nose with some mint, too. It was dry and woody on the palate, and it was thin with some lemon traces. Someone claimed the wine had ‘no fruit’ at all, and it wasn’t inaccurate (87).

We moved on to Champagne with a 1979 Pommery Cuvee Louise which was full of ‘honey’ per The French Paradox and ‘cinnamon buns’ per the Somm. The nose was packed with gingerbread, mushrooms and sous bois. A bit of wood shone through, but the palate was a little dry. Though the nose was yeasty and complex, the palate was meh, like unsweetened corn pops (90M).

The 1979 Cristal was full of super butterscotch and a perfect magnum. There were buttery corn and lemony kisses, and the sunny Cristal core was intact with great length. The wine still felt young and the fruit was just starting to show secondary characteristics. The Aginator was impressed and called it ‘so fresh’ and ‘very young,’ while the Paradox noted ‘dry honey.’ I just kept wanting to drink this stunning magnum (98M).

Served blind, the 2008 Coche-Dury Meursault Rougeots had a sweet nose with honey, tangy citrus, dust and lots of flowers. It had a note of powdered fruit and a pinch of yeast. The roundness of the wine had me considering 2009, but the palate was frankly a little unpleasant. The aftertaste was bad, and the group was disappointed when the wine was revealed. It was just too yeasty on the finish per Jakob. I’m not sure if it was an off bottle or not (90?).

A magnum of 1979 Krug was big, brawny and wound up. It was packed with tangy, green apple flavors and acidity. Someone said, ‘the Cristal gives more pleasure, but the Krug shows more reserve and potential.’ This had a better body and more all-around structure (97+M).

The 2007 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres had a fantastic nose that was clean and fresh with great class and style. There was nice minerality and mintiness. Someone thought it was ‘so light aromatically,’ but I didn’t mind as I was wrapped up in the smooth and nutty palate. It was outstanding but not the upper bar of this wine (95).

Next up was the 2013 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres which was classy and classic. This was another solid white and deemed ‘much better on the nose.’ This was big, round and outstanding with a flinty finish. Ingo preferred the ’13 to the ’07, as did I. I was impressed with what Coche did with this vintage (96).

We moved on to a couple of reds with a 2005 Coche-Dury Pommard Vaumuriens. It had that hard nose of Pommard with a minty and ceramic edge. There were taut red fruits that made the wine simultaneously round to go with its hardness. This was a manly Burgundy, still on the young side, just out of college (93).

The 2006 Coche-Dury Pommard Vaumuriens was much creamier on the nose. Its palate was simple and soft, not so fleshy and a bit one dimensional (89).

We ricocheted from reds back to whites and a fascinating side by side. The 1979 Ygrec d’Yquem had great forest and woody notes in the right way. There was sweet apricot and more wood on the slightly dry palate, but it was very complex. The Sauternes element was clear in this dry Bordeaux white, and I found this to be very solid stuff (93).

In contrast, the 1979 Yquem had a classically great Yquem nose with smoky candle wax. It was smoky, musky and caramel-y, and one heck of a rich, easy and sexy drink (93).

Champagne came back with a bottle of 1979 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. The nose was smoky and grainy, and the palate with dry with some good yeast, but I was missing the fat (91).

It was back to Coche and a 2005 Coche-Dury Meursault Genevrieres which had that smoky, fat ’05 Coche style. There was some waterfall kink, but the palate was a touch too yeasty. It was simple compared to the Meursault Perrieres. Jakob found it ‘so heavy,’ and the Paradox thought it was ‘not well balanced’ (91).

The 2013 Coche-Dury Meursault Genevrieres was the same story but better as it was more two-dimensional. It was simple and round but still felt more negoce than Domaine, so to speak. There were nice aromatics, but the Paradox felt there was ‘too much makeup on the wine’ (93).

The Paradox immediately called out the ‘smoky milk’ on the 1979 Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos and Jakob noted the ‘buttery yogurt’ on this rare wine. It was very smoky on the nose, but very complex as well, showing lots of twigs and branches. The Aginator was into the ‘marmalade bonbon’ flavors. The palate was smoky and dry with not a lot of fruit but a lot of acidity. The Aginator kept digging and found ‘sesame’ while Big Ben called it ‘crispy’ (94).

We came back to Coche with 2010 Coche-Dury Meursault Genevrieres. I guess now is as good a time as any to explain the seemingly random order of wines. There were really two tastings happening simultaneously, one being The Aginator and his 40th birthday celebration, and the other being a Coche-Dury dinner organized by Herr Big Ben. My present to The Aginator was sharing the Coche ‘seat’ with him while attending his dinner, so Ben was busy shuffling Coches to us based on the pace of the other dinner. The 2010 had a classic ’10 nose with lots of fresh zip, lemon sorbet and white ice. It was light but showing sparkling minerals. However, the palate again was a bit simple, more so than I wanted. It lacked that third dimension one would expect, and the palate had no stuffing (92).

We kept on with a 2012 Coche-Dury Meursault Genevrieres. This was much better, and I considered that maybe this Cru got better with time-based on the ’12 and ’13. It was much richer and thicker with a lovely, honeyed palate and more cream on the nose. It was full-bodied with excellent acidity (94).

The other theme of the evening was 1979, and we kept that train going with a bottle of 1979 Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Pucelles. It was an excellent bottle of aged white Burg with perfect color. It had that rainwater nose with light corn. It was almost too smooth, lacking definition on its palate and not fully delivering on the promise of the nose. The Paradox and Jakob still thought it was better than the white that followed (92).

The 1979 Lafon Montrachet was similarly in great condition, and the wine was excellent. It had caramel on the nose and was ‘rich and creamy’ per Jakob. This had that Monty magic but was not the top of the Montrachet mountain as it was a bit yeasty. The Paradox found it ‘well built’ and it had great richness, but it fell short of outstanding (94).

We had a brief foray back into red wine with a magnum of 1968 Vega Sicilia Unico that had spent 20 years in the cellar. It was rich and sexy but shy, showing all the classic characteristics of ’68 Vega but also so young out of magnum. It had that great leather on the finish and a pinch of kink to its flavors. It needed more time to open (96+M).

A bottle of 1979 Bouchard La Romanée came next which was immediately deemed ‘dirty’ by Dr. Uni and was clearly imperfect. It showed too much wet mushroom and tangy Worcestershire notes (DQ).

We rebounded quickly with our first Coche CC, the 2007 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. It had all the great smoke and waterfall and that Coche ice kink. The palate was similar to the Meursault Perrieres with nice flesh, good roundness, balance and length. The continuity of the vintage between the wines was evident. The CC’s solid finish snuck up on me (95).

The 25th wine on this joyous, vinous occasion was a 2013 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. There was that ’13 richness again and that Coche rockiness. It was outstanding stuff and great toast flavors added to the palate. There was so much freshness here and a great finish (96+).

The birthday party kept going with a 1979 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape which showed all those roasted and gamy CdP notes. It had great red fruit and spice, much better than I expected, and was rich, saucy and hearty in all the right ways. Someone remarked how Clos des Papes was exceptional until the early-to-mid Nineties (95).

A bottle of 1979 Cantina Mascarello Barolo showed its maturity and nice, old Italian flavors (92).

My notes were fading but the Whites stormed back with a final Coche parade, led off by the 2008 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. It was smoky, fat and had a beautiful coconut city nose. It was rich and heavy but a bit too exotic for me. Jakob found some ‘banana.’ The signature Coche was trying to break out but couldn’t quite do it (94).

The 2010 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne was a breakout rock star. It was near perfect, a classic with lots of vim and vigor. It was young and tight but oh so seductive. Its potential was crystal clear (98).

The 2002 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne was equally as impressive, but in a more mature way. It was in a perfect spot, on a bridge between youth and wisdom, with extraordinary balance and tension. I think that the 15-20 year mark is a real sweet spot for great vintages of Coche CC. Ooh la la (98).

A trio of 1979s finished me off, starting with a 1979 Chateau Musar that was tasty, fruity and zippy with that signature Musar kink (94). The 1979 Pichon Baron was nice and a simple, classic claret (90). The 1979 Chateau Margaux was rich, creamy and fully mature (93).

There was a second night, and just for educational purposes, here were the wines:

1979 Heidseick & Co. Diamant Bleu (95)
2007 Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre (93)
1992 Sauzet Batard Montrachet (95)
1992 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet (95+)
1990 Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles (94)
2011 Keller Kirschpiel (93)
1983 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche (94)
2010 Comte Liger-Belair Vosne Romanee Aux Reignots (97)
1990 La Mission Haut Brion (95)
2007 Castello Luigi Rosso del Ticino (93)
1999 Palmer (94)
1996 Ornellaia (95)
1942 Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva (96)

Ok I guess I have to make a few, brief comments. I can’t help myself lol. The Heidseick was delicious and a great example of a mature Champagne from this legendary vintage. The Raveneau was easy to drink, but no match for the other white Burgs. The two 1992s were at full maturity and pleasures to drink. People forget how good Sauzet can be. The Jadot and Drouhin were both more than fully mature, very open and sweet but still alive and kicking. I have never not enjoyed a bottle of Keller, and the Kirschpiel continued that tradition. I urge white wine lovers to seek out his wines and the GG Rieslings in general. What can I say about the wines from Comte Liger-Belair that I already haven’t? They are simply amongst the most delicious, sexy and pleasure-giving wines in all of Burgundy, and even though this 2010 was tight, it was soooo good. The La Mission was served blind, and I nailed the vintage. I might have even nailed the wine. The ’90 La Miss is an outstanding wine, but not close to the other-worldly 1989 even though some critics think so. The next wine was a Pomerol ringer but from Ticino! It was quite impressive and quite tasty. The Palmer was classic claret, and I guessed the Ornellaia to be St. Emilion! Oops. It was an outstanding wine, standing toe-to-toe with all the distinguished Bordeaux served before. It was another impressive showing, as was the great finale of aged Rioja. Old Riojas are still the best kept secret in fine wine; they convene with great old Bordeaux while maintaining that unique Spanish, leathery kink. The Ygay was delicious. That’s all, folks.

It was a Happy Birthday for the big man. The Aginator will be back!

FIN,
JK

All I Want For New Year’s is Jayer

Everyone wants to know, ‘how is Hong Kong?’ It has certainly been a tumultuous and strenuous second half to the year for one of the world’s greatest cities, and after a bit of recent and extended calm, things unfortunately escalated again on New Year’s Day. The hospitality business has definitely been hit hard, and the city regularly feels emptier than usual due to a spike downwards in tourism. When there are major protests in a certain area, local businesses are basically screwed. People do not go out on the weekends or holidays as much since most of the protests are on weekends or holidays, unless they are protesting, of course. Reports of recession have emerged, and everyone to whom I have spoken yearns for a return to normalcy.

It was a very busy week in Manhattan. The Wine Spectator was holding its annual Gala, and many important wine people were in New York City. One of those important wine people was none other than Martine Saunier. I was in the mood to drink some Jayer, as in a real retrospective of one of Burgundy’s most revered winemakers of all time. Martine didn’t hesitate to come to New York and enjoy. Of course, Martine was full of unique stories about Henri, being his first importer and having a relationship with him since the early 1970s. And when Martine speaks, you listen!

The opening act was one of two NSG’s of the night, being a 1988 H. Jayer Nuits St. Georges. It was round and delicious with those nice ’88 tannins. The wine was full of vitamins, musk and game. Though there were some grumbles that this was slightly corked, I didn’t see it and was into the wine’s tasty spice and spine. It was a successful expression of the vintage (93).

We immediately got serious with a series of Echezeaux, beginning with the 2000 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux. I didn’t notate which Echezeaux bottles were under Georges’ label versus Henri’s; according to Martine, they are the same wine anyway, so I will just call them all both! The 2000 Jayer had an explosive nose with great freshness and zip, full of garden and purple flowers with so much lilac. This was long, sexy and elegant. The 2000 was truly in a great spot, with nice earth flavors, too (95).

The following bottle of 1999 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was a touch gamy and stewed, not a perfect bottle, though the palate was still impressive. It had tremendous richness and density though it was definitely affected. There was a second bottle of the same wine, and it turned out both bottles were the same, even though from different sources. Was it the wine, a specific batch? Will require further investigation. It was firmly in the tootsie pop camp and not as clean and pure as the 2000 (93?).

The 1998 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was clearly made in a different style than the previous wines. This had me pause; it was intense for the vintage, rich and powerful, though a little dirty at first. The power was impressive and expressive. This matched the 2000 in a completely different way, even though Jetski felt it was ‘two points off the 2000,’ dragging down all scores as usual (95).

The 2001 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was deep, darker and had more intense richness. There was a beefy style here that felt atypical. It had great creaminess and vitamins with an intense plushness. It took charge of the first flight, for sure (96+).

The 1993 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux had a touch of inviting herbal, in a spice cabinet way. Its spice was ticklishly good, and it had great, honeyed aromatics. The palate was rich, long and stylish in an outstandingly sexy way. This was 1993 at its finest (97).

The 1991 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux took a while to come around, as it started a little gamy, too. It did get better showing sweet, sweet fruit. I had drunk a 98 point bottle in San Francisco so I was a little disappointed here (95A?).

The 1989 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was a little corked on both the nose and the palate. Behind it, I was able to find some rubber tire, rich leather and citrus. The flaws got worse, but the palate stayed sturdy (94A).

The 1988 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was fantastic. It was so rich and heavy, with such amazing length. I wrote, ‘Soooooo good.’ It was so rich, with blood and sausage flavors and that leathery, Jayer smack. Someone remarked that it was ‘a blazing bottle’ (98).

The 1985 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux was slightly corked again, and there was starting to be a noticeable problem with the number of affected bottles. It was solidly structured but flawed nonetheless (94A).

It was Cros Parantoux time, beginning with the last vintage ever made, the 2001 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. It was nice and a little stalky, but it was also coiled up like a venomous snake, ready to strike. It had a brothy sex appeal and was a bit of a beast in a good way (96).

The 1997 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was that soupy 1997 style. It was open for business in that sweet and soupy way. It was still a bit wound up given the vintage but expressed tootsie pop action (93).

The 1996 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was a rock star wine that will outlive everything else served so far. The Wine Daddy found some ‘umami’ and crowned it ‘another animal.’ It was oh so rich with beefy satay notes, zipping and zinging its way to my heart via every sense possible. Wine of the vintage (98).

The 1995 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was no slouch either! The wine was a little hard, but The Queen was looking for ‘very hard or not at all’ LOL. The 1995 was rusty and spiny and super stuff (95+).

Someone thought that the 1993 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was ‘close to a perfect wine.’ It was so rich and perfectly spiced. Martine chimed in that she found ‘more similarities amongst the multiple years in Cros Parantoux’ than the other Jayer parcels, which made sense. This was rich in a wow wow way, like making the Forbes 400. Everything was in the perfect place, while still ascending (99).

The 1991 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Les Beaumonts was a little corked and musty, but I managed to find some good spice. Jetski couldn’t pick up on the nuance of the wine’s corkiness, though, he was hammered (93A).

Martine explained that the Brulees vineyard gets little wind, and the grapes get a little sunburnt accordingly, which the Jackal thought made for ‘perfect ripeness.’ The 1980 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Aux Brulees was a touch stewed with lots of sassy grassy. BJ called it ‘oxidized,’ but I wasn’t sure. The palate was better than the nose, and its vimful citrus kept my mouth smacking (95).

The 1980 Georges/Henri Jayer Echezeaux would have been great had it not been corked. Its nose was swampy, but its palate grinded it out, showing some crazy soup qualities (96A).

The nose on the 1980 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was a little milky up front, but it blossomed quickly. The sexy, brothy soup stepped up again, and the wine got exciting. I was wowed by this one, and Wine Daddy called it ‘the best wine of the night.’ Few argued with that proclamation (98).

The 1978 H. Jayer Nuits St. Georges Murgers was full of rich, beefy broth and more earth. There was a hint of soy and more beef flavors. It was rough around the edges (94).

The Cros Parantouxs brought us back to a very happy place after some Echezeaux issues, and everyone was on the giddy side by the evening’s end. It helps when you have twenty bottles lol. It was an amazing night thanks to the amazing Martine Saunier, and the amazing wines of Henri Jayer. In that order!

FIN,
JK

All I Want for Christmas is La Tache

“La Tache is an elegance and rigor. Beneath the frequent hardness of its tannins, passion is aflame, restrained by an implacable, courtly elegance.” I don’t know who said it, but it was in our booklet for an exceptional 37 vintage vertical of the one and only La Tache. Whoever said it, said it well! Shanghai was the setting, and while there would be some surprises, the best of the best flexed their muscles repeatedly throughout the weekend.

Our Shanghai team came up with the interesting idea of all the odd vintages on the first night, and then the even on the second. Ok, I was game. It was the first time I had ever done something like that, and I have been around the block. Sometimes you have to travel to the other end of the world to get a new perspective; that’s why I keep moving! We started with the already legendary 2015 vintage..

2015 DRC La Tache (98)
2013 DRC La Tache (95)
2013 DRC La Tache (93)

The 2015 had so much muscle up front. It was brimming with crushed rocks laced with rose petals rising from the glass. It was so rich and full-bodied with some goodie goodie woodsy edges. This was a monster of a wine with an endless finish, but a beautiful monster. The 2015 was decadent, with a hint of bouillon, but still very much primary. The Zen Master found it ‘a touch oaky,’ and it was, but it did get more integrated with air. Rock star wine! There was nice spice and delicacy on the 2013 with great red fruits. It was super fresh with lots of garden spice, great roses and lots of minerality. The 2013 was a bit more feminine on the palate and someone found it ‘a little green.’ I found the 2011 quite drinkable and delicate. It had nice spice, with more citrus and cedar flavors. One thought it ‘sub-par,’ but it is definitely the vintage to drink first while the penitent collector waits for the rest..

2009 DRC La Tache (97+)
2007 DRC La Tache (95)
2005 DRC La Tache (99)

The second flight was full of young stunners, and I drank the 2007 first in the flight because I thought the other vintages might overwhelm it. The 2007 was beautifully delicious, keeping in line with many other enjoyable 2007s. This was such a sexy wine, giving me spice, cola kisses and red fruit caresses. Its palate was rich and full-bodied and bigger than I expected, with all that sexy fruit. However, it didn’t hold up as well as it began, the flip side issue with the 2007 vintage. The 2009 was boastful and rich. The wine was more approachable than I expected, but I didn’t complain one bit. It was full of black fruits with a rich, decadent palate. The wine was heavy but simultaneously fleet-footed with black cherry and black raspberry coming out in full force. Impressive! Many know the greatness that is 2005 DRC, and this bottle was no exception. It was the best by far. Yes, the wine was totally wound up in the glass, but it had the longest finish by a mile, and there was no doubt about its position at the top of the pyramid. It was full of rocks, diamonds, blackberries and smoke. This demonstrated how great the ’05 vintage is and showed tremendous definition and decades of potential.

2003 DRC La Tache (95A)
2001 DRC La Tache (95A?)
1999 DRC La Tache (98)

We stumbled a bit in the next flight, but one guest quickly deemed the 2003 his ‘wine of the night.’ I found it a touch shy and musty on the nose, slightly corked. It was muted on the palate as well, a touch reserved for an ’03, although I still felt the ripeness and sweetness in my mouth. The 2001 seemed to be at a different level of maturity than it should, as it showed hints of autumn and brown sugar. It was smooth and buttery with a touch of cola. There might have been some heat damage making it more advanced than it should have been. This slippery flight was redeemed by a beautiful bottle of 1999. It was jammy and rich with great smoothness. Someone found it to have ‘superb finesse’ while I was caught up in its fleshiness on the palate. There was a bit of brown sugar as well, but in a natural way. It was so rich and so much sexier than the other wines in this flight. The 1999 always delivers!

1997 DRC La Tache (93)
1995 DRC La Tache (96)
1993 DRC La Tache (96)

The 1997 was fully mature and a tasty example of the often overripe and difficult vintage. The Zen Master found some ‘mint’ amongst its orange peel and yeast. King Richard thought it was ‘thin,’ but there was a nice leather flavor to its somewhat dry finish. There was sweet, raspberry oak on the 1995 with a touch of marzipan and a great citricity on the palate. It had excellent verve and vim with a long, spicy finish. While many have already given up on the ’95 vintage for Red Burgs, this LT rewarded those who waited. There were nice tannins and it was excellently delicious, really rusty in a very good way. The 1993 had a deep nose with the signature cedar and spice of the vintage. It was full of T ‘n A (tannins and acidity) in its nose. There was stylish cedar and a dry, zippy finish marked by good length.

1991 DRC La Tache (97A)
1989 DRC La Tache (93)
1987 DRC La Tache (90)

The 1991 showed a touch more maturely than it should have. It had a milky, rich sweetness and creaminess, but it also showed a touch of molasses and brown sugar. I could still appreciate the wine’s greatness, and it was most certainly great. But the bottle could have been better. The 1989 showed some nice soy sauce notes and a bit of dirty, tasty tootsie pop. It was definitely gamy and dirty, and the sturdy finish showed lots of minerals and spicy spine. This vintage was surprisingly (to me) many guests’ favorite wine of the night. The 1987 was full of tangy citrus, rose and forest floor. It had a date-like quality along with exotic game and tutti-frutti flavors.

1985 DRC La Tache (96+)
1983 DRC La Tache (93)
1981 DRC La Tache (89)

The 1985 had a killer nose; it was so aromatic and rich but ideally mature. There was sexy and saucy sous bois to it, along with a creamy deliciousness and nice autumn notes. Laura gave it a 99, admiring how its sweetness really came out in the glass. This was a great bottle of 1985, what I consider to be the first, mature great vintage of Red Burgundy to drink currently. It had everything you could want for this vintage. The 1983 was full of tasty brown sugar and autumn. It had good earthiness, but it dried out over time. At this point, my best note was, ‘JK is drunk’ :). The 1981 was light, earthy and a bit dirty.

We took a poll from the group and the wine of the night was the 2005 with five votes, followed closely by the 1989 (four votes), and then the 1999 and the mature and beautiful 1985 (three votes each). My preference leaned towards the 2005, 1999 and 2015 on this occasion for Top Three, but it was a great showing overall for the odd vintages of La Tache!

The next night we went to the “even” vintages, which seemed a little harder in general at first. I wondered if the wines were served and decanted the same way due to the change in location, and it was confirmed that they were. Then someone brought up the fact that the first night was a “fruit day” on the calendar and more ideal for drinking wine. Hmmmmmmm. It’s tough to follow a calendar when to drink your wine when you like to enjoy it every day lol, but let’s just say that this was the first time in my life that I noticed that possibility.

2014 DRC La Tache (95)
2012 DRC La Tache (95+)
2010 DRC La Tache (96+)

The 2014 started us on a strong note, with great cedar and lots of black fruit firmly on the dark and flirting with wild side. It felt quite young on the palate with lots of acid. It had nice garden notes and even a pinch of mustard. This felt like it would be a nice drinking vintage at some point within the next ten years. It had solid length but felt a touch dry. The wine became more open and giving with its fruits, and its aromatics soared, giving its score a bump. The 2012 had great raw material as it kept reminding me of the ’05 with its heavy tannins and long-lasting flavors in the mouth. It wasn’t necessarily a wine for tonight, but I saw all of its potential. A touch of rubber tire immediately jumped out of the glass like the start of a drag race. The wine was a bit shut down and dry with tight fruits. It was certainly on the adolescent side, but I got past that, navigating through the leather and cedar in this vintage that was still deep in hibernation. Zen was all about the ‘density’ while I was into the citrus and zip. As we moved on to the 2010, we were still stuck in suspended animation and another unyielding, tight young wine that was not giving it up. It had a milky kiss with some Worcestershire edges. There was lots of liqueur, citrus and a touch of tobacco. It had the biggest finish yet, but it was still quite mellow in its overall expression. This was a classic 2010, wound and not ready, and Zen thought it was ‘still shy,’ though King Richard acknowledged it was a ‘terrific wine.’ The consensus seemed to be that it was still just shut down. You can see how I was a bit perplexed how hard the first flight showed on this night compared to the “odd” vintages. However, things would open up more as we continued.

2008 DRC La Tache (96)
2006 DRC La Tache (94)
2004 DRC La Tache (94)

We had to move on and move on we did to the 2008, which is very highly thought of relative to the vintage, similar to the ’14. There was something fully open about this glass that got me excited. It was showing all of its red fruits led by raspberry and strawberry amid some great structure. Like the previous flight, it was still tight with lots of acid, but there was great cedar and leather, and tasting its fruit got me excited. The 2006 was another open example of La Tache, with a touch of natural gas, mint and purple fruits. It was dense and dark but had a fair amount of richness though it finished dryly. The flavors seemed a touch askew, on the gamy side of things, with more oak emerging that made it a bit square. The 2004 showed a little green and cedary, of course. It was open and autumnal though with citrus and some brothy fruit on the palate. The wine was more open than the rest, but it was clear that it will mature much faster than the rest. I equivocated a lot on my score here as it danced with 93 points and flirted with 94. I like flirty (94).

2002 DRC La Tache (97)
2000 DRC La Tache (95)
1998 DRC La Tache (93)

The 2002 had a great, savory nose, with a touch of BBQ and a bit of garden goodness. It had that great spice and was what you truly expect from La Tache with all of its superb balance. Its concentration and soupy goodness were admirable. I am a huge fan of this vintage for Red Burgundy in general. Though the 2000 had a milky nose, it had freshness and was ready to go. There was some forest and cedar with open expression in the nose. There were nice rocky flavors with touches of roses, tomato and strawberry before a very dry finish. Zen found it ‘so expressive,’ and I wholeheartedly agreed. 2000s are in a sweet spot and easy to enjoy right now. The 1998 had more fruit than I usually expect from the vintage with nice zip. It was as zingy as could be in its nose, in fact. The wine’s fruit leapt forward next with some gamy and jammy notes. It had a touch of smokiness on top of its raspberry jam aromas. The palate was shy and dry, not like the nose at all, with anise flavors and more game. It was zippy and fresh but, in the end, I found it became a bit jammy.

1996 DRC La Tache (96)
1994 DRC La Tache (88)
1992 DRC La Tache (93)

Andrew’s favorite was the 1996; he knows how to play the odds, I mean evens, lol. It had a little strawberry on the nose with some atypical blueberry as well. There were lots of classic mint and menthol aromas that come with age alongside deep, black fruits. The palate was rich, concentrated and black. The acid of the vintage took charge, and the palate was strong in general with mushroom and truffle oil aromas coming out with air. The 1994 was ‘very green’ per the Zen Master. It was full of stems and a touch of mildew. The palate was round and tangy but left me feeling meh. The primary flavors were of maple and lemon, with not much more fruit. It wasn’t bad per se, it just wasn’t great. The group found the 1992 to be a ‘pleasant surprise,’ and it was a perfect bottle from a less than perfect vintage. It smelled really good, full of Christmas cheer with red fruits and pudding. The palate was dry with a pleasant citrusy freshness, though it wasn’t that fleshy. The acidity was still holding well.

1990 DRC La Tache (98)
1988 DRC La Tache (93)
1986 DRC La Tache (93)

The 1990 was deep, dark and saucy. It was rich city with concentrated beef satay and a touch of erotic pheromones. It was the longest and the richest wine of the day with great orange, beef and oil flavors. It lingered well beyond anything else. Some unwanted chocolate tootsie pop crept in at the end, which was the only thing keeping it from 99-point air. The 1988 had that same tootsie pop thing going on with creamy edges. It was a bit like dirty coffee. It had a big finish, but it was a touch too dry. There were similar pheromones that were more sweaty and dank, and also citrus and tootsie pop ones that were more dominant than the kiss in the 1990. The 1986 was another autumnal, sweaty and hard wine. There was lots of acid and dry citrus on the palate. Its palate reminded me of the Sahara, with a small water canteen lol.

1984 DRC La Tache (93)
1982 DRC La Tache (93)
1980 DRC La Tache (DQ)
1978 DRC La Tache (98+)

The 1984 was truly classic with its menthol and citrus aromas. It was mature but had great tang and cedar. I really liked its spicy citrus flavors. This was a great surprise! I have had some pristine experiences with the 1982 in the past year, but this was not one of them. This bottle was more mature with soy sauce and chocolate. I still enjoyed its beef noodle soup notes. The 1980 was unfortunately more Port than red wine, but the 1978 more than made up for it. This was a great bottle of ’78, make that spectacular. There were great herbs and spices to its nose, along with leather, citrus, tomato, menthol and Worcestershire. All the mature flavors showed up for this iconic vintage of LT. It was clearly the wine of the night, and the evening ended on the high note that it should have.

Merry Christmas, and may your holidays include a bottle of La Tache!

In Vino Veritas,
JK

The Jetski Chronicles

Untitled Document

On one fine weekend in a rare place somewhere between 25 and 75% finished, some of New York’s finest collectors gathered to celebrate the birthday of Jetski. While Jetski is not quite the veteran as other Vintage Tastings alumni such as Big Boy and The Mogul, he is definitely moving at the fastest speed at any collector I know, seemingly at every great wine event in New York City. It was only appropriate that his birthday celebration was the greatest wine weekend of the year.

We kicked things off with a rich, sweet and deep magnum of 1971 Krug Collection. The wine was open for business with delicious nutty flavors of caramel and white soda. It was outstanding stuff, definitely on its plateau, and a great way to kick off the weekend festivities (96M)..

The 1976 Krug was a touch ‘bitter’ per Lord Byron Jr. It was definitely acidic and dry with a long finish. While zippy, it was seriously lacking fruit. At this age, it could always be the bottle rather than the wine (93).

The 1982 Ramonet Batard Montrachet Magnum was wrapped in corn stalk and wheat in a good, grainy way. It was quite creamy and long, but LBJ found it ‘not perfect.’ He is in the Jetski camp of tough grading lol. The gang also added ‘gunpowder, bentonite and honey.’ Big Boy found it ’flat,’ but I thought it got better, but it never crossed the border to be outstanding. It got a little oakier in the glass, and a bit of Cheerios crept in (94M).

The 1992 Leflaive Batard Montrachet was a perfect bottle. It was in that ’92 sweet spot, literally. Fully mature while still fresh, with that extra kick of sugar, this outstanding bottle of ’92 Leflaive was in a perfect moment of maturity with so much honey and florality. It was ‘sensational’ honeysuckle city. It lifted in the glass and kept getting better (97).

A bit of a rarity, the 1962 Bouchard Corton Charlemange Magnum had a darker color but delivered an outstanding experience. It had rich caramel and waxy butterscotch aromas to it, and Jetski was digging it. This got more woodsy with time, and Big Boy loved its ‘salinity.’ It gained a coconutty edge, and we were all fans. At first I was in the 94 camp, but this rare magnum edged into outstanding territory in the end (95M).

And that was it for the whites. We had some Clos St. Jacques action next, starting with a rich and sweet 2009 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques. This was full of honey and sweet and ripe, showing the characteristic of the 2009 vintage in Burgundy very clearly. There was still tension to it despite its succulence. It was clearly a great Rousseau with rich, decadent, saucy red and purple fruit flavors (96+).

The 1996 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques was a little gassy and with a bit of a medicinal taste, like Robitussin. Was it me? No, this wine was medicinal city. There was nice concentration but…eh. I couldn’t drink it to be honest, was this just an off bottle/batch? It doesn’t correlate with other Rousseau ’96 experiences I have had (89?).

The 1986 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques had that classic ‘86 rusty, acid-y bite of the vintage. There were great red cherry flavors that smacked and flirted with me as the wine flirted with outstanding status. It almost made it (94).

We had an intruder in this Rousseau flight, but that was quite alright. Someone just came out and said that the 1971 Clair Dau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (Tastevin bottling) was a ‘nice 93 point wine,’ and he was right lol. It sounds like something Big Boy would say, my most likely candidate to whom to attribute this magnificent quote. It was beefy, a touch of barn-y and possessed rich and saucy brown sugar flavors (93).

The 1985 Dujac Clos St. Denis was soooooo good. It was full of perfect game in its nose, not too mature, not too wild, just that kiss of crisp autumn wild game, everything in the right place. It had a sexy apricot kink to its brambly purple fruit. That ‘85 goodness shined throughout the glass, a fleshy and playful delicacy. There was a stalky goodness to the Dujac greatness (96).

A great match for the Dujac was the 1985 Ponsot Clos St. Denis Vieilles Vignes. This was a deeper, darker and delicious wine, much more brooding and concentrated. Someone called it a ‘grand vin.’ It was rich, decadent and saucy, and very popular at the table. I have to admit, it won me over, too. Its richness reeked Swiss bank accounts, and its darkness excited me. Not sure there has been a Ponsot like 1985 ever since, unfortunately (97).

As good as the Ponsot was, the 1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche took back the crown of Morey St. Denis where it rightfully belongs. This was better than each of the previous two wines. Is Clos de la Roche always better than Clos St. Denis? It was kaleidoscopic and almost psychedelic with its sweet fruits. Its spice cabinet was full, and the wine stimulated my senses while it played with my palate. I would do whatever it wanted lol. It had perfect balance and was in a perfect place, and so were we (98).

It was Bordeaux’s turn to tango, although that was a tough flight to follow. Enter 1961 Chateau Latour. This was a banging bottle of this wine, clearly 99 points I immediately pronounced. Big Boy thought it was at least 98+ territory, lol. This was a deep, dark and chocolaty claret. Its cassis oozed on out to the dance floor otherwise known as my palate. It was crazy good, and this Burgundy crowd was back in love with Bordeaux (99).

The 1959 Chateau Latour was next. It was more chocolaty and sweeter, also with more minty notes. It drank more like a bottle of ‘74 Heitz or Mouton than the usual Latour profile. It was a great wine but not the winner tonight. Big Boy thought it ‘flattened out’ a little. He would soon follow lol (97).

The 1952 Chateau Latour was a beautiful and classy wine. While ’52 was initially known as a hard, tannic vintage, it has been a nice spot for the last decade or two. Therein lies the greatness of Bordeaux. While Latour is known as a brooding, deep wine, this vintage showed us the elegant, softer side of this revered Chateau. Its fruit was fleshy with kisses of signature walnut (95).

The food was finished, or at least the dinner portion of it, and it was officially becoming party time. Jetski had disappeared for a bit, but he was forgiven as he re-emerged with a special bottle. It was the bottle of all bottles, and the 1971 DRC La Tache quickly put Burgundy back at the center of the conversation. This bottle was the real deal in every sense of the phrase. Spicy, saucy and sexy, it smelled and tasted like wine heaven. The red fruits, roses, menthol, tomato, spices…everything was right there and then some. I have been adoring this wine for over two decades, and I am pleased to report that everything is still as it was. It just doesn’t get any better (99).

We finished this incredible evening on an extremely high note, even if I rated a couple wines higher. It is not often that I get to have a wine that is 100 years old, and to have it when it is exactly 100 years old is even rarer. The centennial anniversary of the 1919 Jaboulet Hermitage was a magical experience. It had me running to Instagram to tell the world about it the next day lol. Its color was almost orange, certainly amber, and it had us expecting very little. After a minute in the glass, there was no doubting the greatness of this wine. It still had its signature Hermitage bacon and was full of garrigue. This fleshy, lip-smacking Hermitage showed why Hermitage is one of the great terroirs of the world. It was a real thrill. There is nothing more exciting than a great bottle of really old wine (98).

And that was night one. There was a bit of a barbecue/pool party the next day, and a bunch of wines were served and casually enjoyed as the kids frolicked around the property, which was now between 35 and 85% finished lol. But the afternoon was all about the meat, and Big Boy was holding court. I am a big fan of grilling, but I am just a casual griller. I like to use the grill, but I haven’t gotten serious about it. Too many kids and too many auctions. I have to confirm what you might have heard him saying about himself, that Big Boy is possibly the greatest griller of meat in the world. Like holy shit great. He loves grilling so much that he bought a meat company lol. It’s called Fleisher’s by the way, and per Big Boy, it’s the greatest meat in the world as well. I can’t disagree with him after that afternoon, and now you know.

The afternoon led into the evening, and before we knew it, our second official birthday celebration had begun.

We began with a fresh and perfect magnum of 1976 Dom Perignon. It was zippy and still so young, just starting to show some mature flavors. It was clean with a touch of vanilla soda to it (95M).

A 1992 Raveneau Chablis Les Clos popped out and had a sweet rainwater nose with lots of citrusy fruit and sweet corn kisses. Its palate was long, round and tender. It was in that perfect, mature spot with nice sunny hues and a touch of pineapple goodness. Banana crept in, and I was loving the exoticness of this Clos (96).

There was a 1969 Krug to send us off to the dinner table, and it was full of sweet, yellow cream with a splash of caramel. It was buttery and toasty. While full-bodied and brawny in that signature Krug way, it wasn’t quite outstanding (94).

We sat down to a powerful pair of mature White Burgundy at its finest. The 1986 Leflaive Batard Montrachet had that honeyed, buttery nose and oozed sexy with its mesquite kisses. Its palate was round and flavorful with lots of cedar hints and a rich and creamy finish. This was a great bottle of mature Chardonnay (96).

Big Boy hailed the 1986 Ramonet Montrachet as ‘absurd,’ as in great, and The Inspector thought it was ‘on fire.’ There was so much complexity with its mint, matchstick, corn, and caramel…wow. The Inspector continued that it was the ‘best white he’d had in a while.’ The potential score of the wine came up for discussion, and Jetski, in his usual fashion, thought it was ‘a little rich and ripe for 99 points, that would be a heavy hammer.’ I was only at 98 points already, of course, and we were on to the next lot (98).

An odd bottle of 1971 Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses snuck in. It had an orange edge to its oily, black cherry fruit. It was rich and savory with a touch of tomato and a thick finish. There were nice, round straw and purple flavors (95).

Next up was a ‘solid’ 1971 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. It was rich and round, but the palate was softer and easier than expected. It was still outstanding but not spectacular. There were nice forest and spice flavors and a touch of red tootsie pop. The acidity was solid, and so was the wine (96).

The 1971 Rousseau Chambertin didn’t measure up to the previous bottle of Beze, and the group collectively groaned. The Inspector questioned whether it was flawed or just ‘medicinal.’ In the end, he decided flawed. It was round and soft but not much more (92A).

There was supposed to be an entire flight of Vogue Musigny, including ’61, ’62, ’64, ’66 and ’71, but only the 1966 Comte de Vogue Musigny Vielles Vignes survived. Yikes. At least this bottle delivered some delicious dark yet still fresh fruit. It was nutty with nice spice, earth and wheat flavors as well. It was deep and heavy in a good way (94).

The magnum of 1985 DRC Richebourg had an intriguingly complex nose. It was exceptionally deep but tight out of magnum compared to a normal 750ml. It was rich and saucy on the palate with oily dark fruit and leather flavors. This was a rather full-bodied ’85, indubitably due to the magnum format (96M).

Big Boy hailed the 1978 DRC Richebourg as ‘exceptional,’ and it was hard to argue. There was insane acidity and menthol aromas in its nose. It was so aromatic, bursting with red fruits living in eucalyptus city. There were great tea elements on the minty finish of this superb wine (98).

The 1978 DRC La Tache was served thanks to Diamonds. It was a little cold, but it was still great. This beautiful La Tache slowly unfurled in the glass. Its signature menthol crept out to complement its zippy freshness. It might have been a point higher if it wasn’t served so cold (97).

It was time for some Bordeaux, and a good bottle of 1961 Petrus complied. It was chocolaty, chunky and ‘smoky.’ It was beautifully round and pretty with great aromatics, and its chocolaty flavors kept getting richer in the glass. While an outstanding bottle, it didn’t hit the highest notes this wine can reach (96).

The 1959 Petrus was quite stony and not as good as the ’61. It was all about the chocolate, Petrus plums and more stone. A recent bottle performed better; at this age, it all comes down to the bottle (94).

Jetski called an audible, and we went back to Burgundy and a particularly special duo, beginning with the 1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares. This was one of the standouts at our 35 vintage retrospective in early 2019, second only to the 1978 in my opinion. This bottle didn’t disappoint, either. It was smoky, velvety, smooth and satiny. It had the backside of the vintage and the impeccable style of Roumier, just entering that plateau of drinkability (97).

A rarity of rarities was next, the 1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares Vieilles Vignes. It was similar to the “regular” except it was deeper and more concentrated. Someone bickered about that ‘1988 dryness,’ but I was completely smitten. I was lost in the depths of this wine’s soul. So deep and so concentrated kept appearing in my notes. This was an epic, WOW wine (99).

We closed out the evening with another audible, a spectacular trio of La Mission that I greatly enjoyed, even though I proved incapable of note-taking at this point. Let’s just recap the three La Misses as hits, and the fact that La Mission might arguably be the most consistent, great Chateau of the 20th Century. Jetski pulled out another 1971 La Tache, see previous night’s note lol. It was another epic bottle and a definite ‘Happy Birthday to me’ moment, and the rest of us for that matter.

1955 La Mission Haut Brion (97)
1953 La Mission Haut Brion (95)
1952 La Mission Haut Brion (96)
1971 DRC La Tache (99)

Happy Birthday and thank you Jetski. You have set a high bar, but I know you will be up for attempting to surpass it!

In Vino Veritas,
JK

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