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.

Top Wines of 2018

2018 was a great year. We sold $125M of wine, set 2150 World Records and passed $1 Billion in lifetime auction sales. I like hearing the sound of that again and again lol. As far as this year’s revenue, it only took me 141 flights and over 300,000 miles in the air, no big deal ; ) It was also an amazing year of drinking wine accordingly, where I more than tripled my top wines of the year from 2017, those wines that achieve the elusive 99 point score. This year, I had nineteen of them, although five of the wines on my list made it twice, theoretically making it a Top 24. I think last year it was only eight? Am I drinking better, or getting easier in my old age? Well, considering my 97 point wines and up more than doubled this year, and how many wines it took for me to taste to get to those nineteen (I would guestimate at least 1500-2000), I think I am drinking better! Now that’s a resolution to which I think we can all stick.

For those of you that forgot, or don’t even know, I never rate a wine 100 points. 99 is as good as it gets, although every once in a (long) while, a wine makes me go 99+. I believe in the pursuit of perfection, but not perfection itself. So, let the countdown begin, here are my top wines of 2018:

#19) 1989 Haut Brion – This is a perennial guest on my top wines of the year, certainly the greatest ‘young’ claret I have ever had, and nothing has topped it since, at least in my book.

The 1989 Haut Brion was near perfect, as always. There were deep black fruits with a nutty glaze, and while heavy, it had an effortless finish. It was gritty and zippy with regal acidity and length. It lasted so long on the palate yet was still utterly stylish. It is still the greatest Bordeaux made over the past thirty years, along with the 1989 Petrus.(99pts)

The 1989 Haut Brion was perfect AS EVER. I have gotten lazy with taking notes for this wine, as I have it fairly regularly, and it is always 98 or 99 points. Wine life can be so mundane.(99)

#18) 1989 Petrus – Right behind, or in front of, the 1989 Haut Brion is usually the 1989 Petrus. It is also my first 99 point wine of 2019, I am off to a good start ; ) I can never have enough of this wine, I recommend buying four cases so you can have it at least once or twice a year for the next 20-30 years!

I consider there to be few greater wines ever made in Bordeaux than the 1989 Petrus, and it showed why once again. It basically crushed the La Taches, no contest. It was clearly the best wine of the night. Rich and decadent, its saucy and syrupy chocolate and purple fruit oozed out of the glass. You almost had to squeeze it as if it was in a toothpaste tube. Its finish was vim city meets smack that, and its palate wasn’t just rich – it was wealthy. It is an anytime, anywhere wine.(99)

Some of the words I can still recognize are intense, chocolate, exotic, molasses and ‘as always.’ The 1989 Petrus is, along with the 1989 Haut Brion, the greatest Bordeaux(s) made in the last thirty years.(99pts)

#17) 2010 Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee – I will never forget this bonus bottle (thanks to BJ) on a Jayer night, because it came out at the end of the night, after all these great Jayers, Rougets and Meos, and it just exceeded everything else. Has the pupil become the master? Hell, yeah!

This was another spectacular, WOW wine with superb aromatics of pure fruit, great menthol and extraordinary spice. BJ and I were blown away, and we both decided rather quickly that this was wine of the night. Its acidity and length were both endless and effortless. ‘BEST wine’ was in my notes in that exact manner. When you have a consensus amongst JK and BJ, it becomes official, although I am sure most wine drinkers would rather have an official BJ than an official JK. That joke will never grow old lol.(99)

#16) 1996 DRC Montrachet – I had this wine at least three times in 2018, but this bottle took the top prize. It remains of the greatest modern day expressions of this legendary wine, which we will be seeing again soon in this article. You will notice that the wines also start to get older in this article, too. Yes, older is always better, except when it is too old lol.

The French Paradox found it to be a ‘laser.’ This had a great, regal yet shy nose at first with nice citrus aromas, but it was muted overall. The palate, however, was explosive and absolutely ‘insane,’ I wrote. Its acidity was great, its finish long and its flavors nice and icy. This was a graceful wine with great fireplace action and awesome minerality. It doesn’t get much better.(99)

#15) 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil – The first vintage of this single vineyard Champagne is still one of its best. Truth be told, there isn’t a bad vintage of Clos du Mesnil, which isn’t made every year. Every bottle of Clos du Mesnil is a special occasion; it is the true Romanee Conti of Champagne.

The 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil was Montrachet-like with its buttery butter bomb of a personality. This was a little oakier at first, but it turned into woodsy goodness. WOW, this wine had the intensity and sweetness of a DRC Montrachet. This was an ‘epic’ Champagne, roasted and reminiscent of ‘toasted apricots’ per the French Paradox. While starting to mellow and ‘not so fizzy like the others’ per the Comte, make no mistake about it: this was a stone-cold stunner.(99)

#14) 1991 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux – I used to think that the 1978 Jayers were as good as it gets, but perhaps the sweet spot for Jayer is moving into the decade thereafter. There are few producers who get people to spend $500,000 on a case of wine, so it is only fitting that a bottle of it made my Top Wines of the Year.

It was so good, it was like being wine horny. It was deep, dark and even better than I remember it from last year, and that bottle was pretty damn great, too! This was rich, decadent, creamy and oily, so large and in charge, so young but just starting to show some mature nuances. ‘Mint’ and ‘camphor’ came from the crowd. This was as good as it gets.(99)

#13) 1961 Latour in Magnum – The first magnum makes its way onto my list, and it was a near-perfect magnum of 1961 Latour. This was an experience that lived up to the greatest wines of the century hype, although I have found bottles to be inconsistently spectacular. Always great, but not always spectacular. This magnum was certainly spectacular.

A spectacular magnum of 1961 Chateau Latour finished the night in fine fashion and was one of the best experiences I have ever had with this wine, if not the best. This was a classic claret in every which way and kept gaining and gaining and gaining in the glass.(99M)

#12) 1959 Lafite Rothschild – Certainly the greatest Lafite ever made for me, the 1959 always delivers an amazing experience, even when hunting truffles in Piedmont, which is where I had another glorious ’59 this Fall.

The 1959 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild had a great nose with cedar, carob, caramel and, oddly, more of that Mouton mint. This was delicious and full of super aromatic fruit. The finish was gritty with great balance and expressiveness. The French Paradox noted the wine’s great ‘length.’(99)

#11) 1990 DRC La Tache in Magnum – The magnums are coming, the magnums are coming! This was an incredible magnum of this wine. While bottles can sometimes be inconsistent with the ’90 LT, similar to the ’61 Latour, I could see both the pleasure and the potential intertwined here like fine wine genetics. This will be a vintage to celebrate for DRC for the next 30+ years.

Big Boy immediately found ‘spice box’ on the 1990 DRC La Tache magnum. This had all the cedar any forest would need. It was a soupy, sexy city, still so young but oh so good. It was much, much better than a recently had bottle. There was so much spice it made me sneeze. It was a truly great magnum, as good a wine as there is. So young, so long and so good kept reappearing in my notes.(99M)

#10) 1991 Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin – There were some tough decisions to get here, but finally here is the Top Ten! This bottle of Cathelin was courtesy of the personal cellars of Jean-Louis Chave, and we drank it about five minutes from the Domaine. There is definitely some truth that it often tastes better when you are there, wherever there may be, but I have a feeling this vintage of Cathelin will be 99 points no matter where I have it.

While by no means mature, the additional nuances and style of the 1991 Cathelin obviously showed more development than the 2003, but it still felt like a very young wine. What amazed me about the 1991 was its silky personality. This was not a bomb like the 2003, and I could see even more Jean-Louis’ insistence that Cathelin was a different wine and expression of a given vintage. Its fruit was again on the black side, with more purple and light ink edges. Smoked meats and fireplace crackles of the God of War mixed with violets and wildflowers from the Goddess of Love. It had a long, sensual finish, unfurling slowly, surely and sexily. It was creamy but not heavy; there was a grace and elegance to the 1991, and it danced like a ballerina on my palate. It also was dripping with diamonds, sparkling in every which (and rich) way. I just realized I totally forgot about this wine in my Top Wines of the Year article in 2017! Those auction tasters are impossible for me to keep track…but I won’t forget it again.(99pts)

#9) 1978 DRC Montrachet – I will never forget a dinner at Georges V, just Aubert de Villaine, Bipin Desai Wolfgang Grunewald and I, when Wolfgang served this wine to Aubert. Aubert was visibly touched, not only by Wolfgang’s gesture, but also by the wine itself. He remarked how it was the greatest of DRC Montrachets, at least in his book at that time. It was nice to see the wine holding up so well over fifteen years later.

There was one great bottle of 1978 DRC Montrachet out of two served, and thankfully I got the great one. There was definitely some rumbling and grumbling because one bottle was served to half the room and the other to the other half. Since most wines were one bottle each, everyone could have tasted the first bottle and then tried the second etc. Just trying to help all of your future dinner parties ; ) White cocoa jumped out of its nose. This was a rich, decadent and divine glass of wine. ‘Great great great,’ I wrote. The sun was just setting for the wine, but this sun was still full and blazing, lighting up the sky. There was some gamy goodness with white chocolate and great smoke flavors. Its finish was super smoky, in fact, and there was still great acid remaining here to go with tertiary coffee flavors. Wow.(99)

#8) 1959 Latour in Bottle and Magnum – Any bottle that can hit 99 points out of bottle and magnum definitely is a winner lol. I have always adored the 1959 Latour, usually enjoying it slightly more than the 1961. There is a sweetness to the ’59 that is tough to beat, and on two separate occasions in 2018, it proved my point.

The Good Doctor set a high bar when he said that the 1959 Latour was ‘one of the best bottles of Latour I’ve ever tasted.’ He was absolutely right; I seconded that emotion! This was a perfect bottle that was so sweet (in the right way) and so rich with loads of great spice. Dusty, long, thick and smooth, the crowd cooed ‘chocolate’ and ‘cassis.’ This was a gritty and exciting wine. I often say that I usually prefer the ’59 Latour these days to the ’61, and this bottle was Exhibit A-Z.(99)

The 1959 Latour in magnum was rich and decadent with great spice, cedar and cassis flavors. This was a classic in every which way of the word; it is tough to find a better Bordeaux to drink right now, especially out of magnum.(99M).

#7) TIE 1993 Rousseau Chambertin in Bottle and Magnum, 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze in bottle – If there is one producer that has catapulted into Burgundy lovers’ hearts deeper and faster over the last handful of years, I do not know it. Well, that’s not true. The wines of Comte Liger-Belair, as well, for sure. But this is Rousseau’s turn to shine, and this magnum did just that. This is another wine whose evolution I will enjoy following for another three decades. I will also note that a bottle of Beze hit the magical 99 point score at our massive 40+ vintage of Beze. There were many 98 pointers but only one 99 for me, and that was the 1993, which says a lot for this vintage for Rousseau.

The 1993 Rousseau Chambertin is one of the greatest Burgs ever made, as a recent lunch in LA also confirmed. The red fruits, the Asian spices, it wasn’t too rich or too sweet and perfect in each of those regards. It was like an elegant jackhammer.(99M)

The 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze had more of that super structure. This was a fantastic, sexy beast of a wine, with sea breeze and deep red fruit. This was so rich and so great. It lingered endlessly a bit like a holiday weekend where you took Tuesday off as well. It was so muscular yet so graceful. Super, super stuff.(99)

#6) 1992 Ramonet Montrachet in Jeroboam – What could be better than a perfect magnum of an aged, world-class wine? Yup, a jeroboam. This was not only a jeroboam; it was a perfect jeroboam purchased upon release and never moved by its original owner. The Germans know how to keep their white wines lol. A crisp Fall afternoon in Northern Germany was the perfect setting for this amazing bottle, which six to eight of us guzzled down in a couple of hours.

This was a perfect bottle. Its color glittered in the sunlight like a small fortune. Its nose was full of a sexy corn/butter glaze with a touch of signature mint. It had that wintry, icy character that was in perfect balance with great spice, black forest, and great minerality. This had none of the 1992 over-ripeness from which many whites of this vintage can suffer. It was still tight, but it continued to open and was in a really good spot after my fourth glass of it. There were true grit and expensive earth on its finish. It was nice to see that even out of Jeroboam, the 1992 Ramonet Montrachet is still one of the greatest white wines ever made.(99J)

#5) 1978 Ramonet Montrachet – So I like white wines, you got a problem with that? It was a Ramonet year for JK and Acker, and there are at least five other guys who know what I am talking about lol. The 1978 Ramonet is a legend, and deservedly so. It marks the beginning of decades of greatness for this elite producer of white Burgundy.

The 1978 Ramonet Montrachet had a fabulous nose that was so creamy, so rich and so lush. It was nutty and reductive, quite gamy in a great way and full of cocoa butter. The acid was blindingly bright, this was a WOW wine all the way and then some. One of the best white wines I have ever had, make that wines period.(99)

#4) 1961 Lafleur – I have another Bipin memory, having this bottle with him at one of his legendary LA weekends. There was this flight of four 1961 Pomerols: Petrus, Lafleur, L’Evangile and Trotanoy, and they were all 99 point wines. It was one of the greatest flights of my life. Bottles of this nectar have become increasingly rare, so it was a thrill to have another great bottle of this wine at our Top 100 weekend in Hong Kong after so many years.

It is extremely difficult to find a good bottle of this wine, but when you do, it is incredible. It had a deep nose that was so plummy, chocolaty and full of royal garden aromas. This was a rich and sumptuous bottle, tangy and intense with amazing texture and incredible acid. This was a perfect bottle, truly incredible. It smacked lips and asses.(99)

#3) 1945 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape – There is Chateauneuf du Pape, and there is Chateau Rayas, one of the truly unique, great wines of the world. I was fortunate enough to visit there this year (thanks Martine!), and a deeper explanation would require a whole article. Suffice it to say that it is a special place with special soil. Old Rayases (prior to 1978) are impossible to find, so when they show up, grab them if you can. A 1945 from the cellar of Wilf Jaeger was an absolute thrill.

This was one of those unforgettable wines, made all the more so by the fact that I will probably never see it again. I have to thank Mr. Wilf Jaeger for this spectacular bottle from his spectacular collection, and yes, timing is everything. This savory red was full of pepper yet ‘Burgundian in the nose’ per the Zen Master. The Iceman noted ‘licorice.’ There was some scintillating sea breeze to it, but it was dominated by its rich, decadent strawberry fruit flavors. This kept me smacking my lips and showed that more great winemakers need to be making Grenache.(99)

#2) 1959 DRC Romanee Conti in Magnum – This incredibly rare artifact was shared with about thirty people on a snowy night in New York this Fall. But this wasn’t just any snowy night, it was the first snow of the season, and it threw the city into absolute chaos. I came a long way to get there, actually from Europe, and it took me – no lie – four and a half hours to get from JFK to Legacy Records. I was bouncing off the walls in that Uber. Just watching my 730pm arrival time go to 8pm…to 830pm…to 9pm…I think I got there just after 10, and I needed fifteen drinks. I had come to the right place lol. It was one of the most spectacular dinners we have ever hosted, and the agony of my commute went away with one sip of the 1959 RC. The ’59 La Tache after dinner was pretty spectacular, too.

The 1959 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti was spectacular with incredible richness. This had ‘weight yet elegance’ per Jetski, and Arvid thought that it only got better on the palate. The wine tasted like Christmas for a Burgundy lover, both literally and figuratively. It was like walking through a royal garden on the highest quality slate path, wearing hot red pants, Louis Michel style lol. This was red, red wine as God must have intended.(99M)

#1) 1945 Mouton Rothschild – Yes, I love the 1945 vintage, and yes, I think it is the greatest universal vintage of all-time. I was fortunate to have two practically perfect bottles of this all-time legend, including one bottle that sucked out that extra, elusive plus out of me! If you want to create the dinner party of a lifetime, start right here. We have done that ourselves for two consecutive Top 100 weekends, and both years this wine was at the top. It’s like the Alabama of fine and rare wine, or should I say Clemson? Either way, that’s impressive!

The 1945 Mouton Rothschild had that mint and eucalyptus sweetness that is such a trademark for this wine in this era. It was kinky, flamboyant and exotic. There was some ‘spicy pepper’ per the Comte, and I got the Shishito. I also got the pork luau with a touch of pineapple. I told you it was exotic! Toffee and animal led us all into a round of ‘jungle boogie,’ followed quickly by an ‘electric shock.’ This was the wakeup call that the Comte would desperately need tomorrow lol.(99+)

There was one perfect bottle, or as close as it gets since I don’t believe in perfection. The 1945 Mouton Rothschild once again proved to be one of the greatest wines of all time. The mint, the eucalyptus, the soy, the tea leaves…there was a log going on. Someone found ‘hoisin,’ and without question, this was the heaviest and most concentrated wine of the night. This was, indeed, flamboyant, so exotic, practically ‘medieval’ per one. If you wanted to argue that this was the best wine ever made, it would be tough to argue otherwise, although I might have 3-4 recommendations, and they all start with DRC or Petrus.(99)

But wait! This article isn’t over! Well the article is, but the list of the rest of the greatest wines that I had this year isn’t. So anything I rate 97 points or higher I consider to be one of the greatest wines I have ever had. It’s the ne plus ultra category. Have you had an outstanding wine recently? Sorry, that’s 95-96 points only. It was excellent? That’s 93-94 points. Very good, you say? 90-92 points, buddy. We’re talking Top Wines of the Year! And here they are, in vintage order from oldest to youngest per score:

1. 1979 Ramonet Montrachet (98+M)
2. 1989 Haut Brion (98+)
3. 1989 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux (98+)
4. 1989 Lafleur (98+)
5. 1993 Rousseau Chambertin (98+M)
6. 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98+M)
7. 1996 Cristal RosÂŽ (98+M)
8. 2003 Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin (98+)
9. 2010 G. Roumier Musigny (98+)
10. 1937 Yquem (98)
11. 1945 La Mission Haut Brion (98M)
12. 1949 Chateau Cheval Blanc (98)
13. 1953 Lafite Rothschild (98)
14. 1955 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva (98)
15. 1955 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (98)
16. 1959 DRC La Tache (98)
17. 1959 Haut Brion (98)
18. 1959 Lafite Rothschild (98)
19. 1959 Latour (98)
20. 1961 Haut Brion (98)
21. 1961 La Mission Haut Brion (98M)
22. 1969 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
23. 1969 Salon (98)
24. 1971 DRC La Tache (98)
25. 1971 DRC Richebourg (98M)
26. 1974 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon MarthaÕs Vineyard (98)
27. 1978 Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne (98)
28. 1978 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux (98)
29. 1978 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
30. 1982 Mouton Rothschild (98)
31. 1985 Dujac Bonnes Mares (98M)
32. 1985 Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque (98)
33. 1985 Rousseau Chambertin (98M)
34. 1990 DRC La Tache (98)
35. 1990 DRC Montrachet (98)
36. 1990 Meo-Camuzet Richebourg (98)
37. 1990 Rayas (98)
38. 1990 Soldera (98)
39. 1991 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
40. 1993 Dujac Bonnes Mares (98)
41. 1993 Dujac Clos de la Roche (98)
42. 1996 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne (98)
43. 1996 DRC Montrachet (98M)
44. 2005 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
45. 2008 Cristal RosÂŽ (98)
46. 2009 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
47. 2010 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne (98)
48. 2010 Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee (98)
49. 2010 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (98)
50. 2015 Chateau de la Tour Clos Vougeot Hommage a Jean Morin (98)
51. 2015 Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee (98)
52. 1961 Latour (97+M)
53. 1971 Krug Collection (97+M)
54. 1975 Yquem (97+M)
55. 1979 Krug Collection (97+M)
56. 1985 DRC La Tache (97+M)
57. 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil (97+)
58. 1985 Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet (97+M)
59. 1986 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche (97+)
60. 1988 Krug Clos du Mesnil (97+)
61. 1990 Cheval Blanc (97+)
62. 1990 Roumier Bonnes Mares (97+)
63. 1990 Rousseau Chambertin (97+)
64. 1993 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet (97+)
65. 1993 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche (97+)
66. 1996 Cristal (97+)
67. 1996 Salon (97+)
68. 1999 DRC Montrachet (97+)
69. 1999 DRC Richebourg (97+)
70. 1999 DRC RomanÂŽe-Conti (97+)
71. 1999 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses (97+)
72. 1999 Roumier Musigny (97+)
73. 2000 Haut Brion (97+)
74. 2002 Meo-Camuzet Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux (97+)
75. 2010 DRC Montrachet (97+)
76. 2010 Fourrier Griottes Chambertin (97+)
77. 1900 Yquem (97)
78. 1911 Latour (97)
79. 1937 DRC Richebourg (97)
80. 1952 Cheval Blanc (97)
81. 1952 DRC La Tache (97)
82. 1955 Haut Brion (97)
83. 1955 La Mission Haut Brion (97)
84. 1955 Mouton Rothschild (97)
85. 1959 Clair-Dau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
86. 1959 Lafite Rothschild (97)
87. 1959 Mouton Rothschild (97)
88. 1964 Petrus (97M)
89. 1970 DRC Montrachet (97)
90. 1970 Petrus (97)
91. 1971 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (97)
92. 1971 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
93. 1975 La Mission Haut Brion (97)
94. 1978 Chave Hermitage (97)
95. 1978 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet (97)
96. 1978 Soldera (97)
97. 1979 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill (97)
98. 1980 DRC La Tache (97)
99. 1982 Chave Hermitage Blanc (97)
100. 1982 Lafleur (97M)
101. 1982 Pichon Lalande (97)
102. 1985 DRC Richebourg (97M)
103. 1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche (97)
104. 1985 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva (97)
105. 1985 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
106. 1988 DRC Romanee Conti (97)
107. 1988 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline (97)
108. 1988 Krug (97)
109. 1988 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill (97M)
110. 1989 Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin (97M)
111. 1989 Henri Jayer (for Georges) Echezeaux (97)
112. 1989 Krug Clos du Mesnil (97)
113. 1990 Chave Hermitage (97)
114. 1990 Cristal (97Mh)
115. 1990 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva (97)
116. 1990 Leroy Richebourg (97)
117. 1990 Margaux (97)
118. 1990 Ramonet Batard Montrachet (97M)
119. 1990 Ramonet Montrachet (97M)
120. 1990 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze (97)
121. 1991 DRC La Tache (97)
122. 1991 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux (97)
123. 1991 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
124. 1993 Leroy Musigny (97)
125. 1993 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
126. 1995 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses (97)
127. 1996 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet (97)
128. 1996 Roulot Meursault Perrieres (97)
129. 1996 Roumier Musigny (97)
130. 1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (97M)
131. 1999 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques (97)
132. 2000 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne (97)
133. 2001 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres (97)
134. 2001 Giacosa Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva (97)
135. 2002 DRC La Tache (97)
136. 2002 Engel Clos Vougeot (97)
137. 2004 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet (97)
138. 2004 DRC Montrachet (97)
139. 2006 Comte Liger-Belair La Romanee (97)
140. 2009 Comte Liger-Belair Echezeaux (97)
141. 2010 DRC Richebourg (97)
142. 2014 Bouchard Montrachet (97)
143. 2014 Keller Riesling G-Max (97)

One last explanatory paragraph here. When a wine was tasted multiple times, I left the highest score in. Sometimes multiple tasting notes render the same score, some times slightly different. Sometimes a 97+ wine can be a 98 point wine on a different day etc., but every wine listed above when tasted on multiple occasions was at least 97 points. I also listed the wine again if it was 99 points and in the Top Wines of the Year but tasted again when it didn’t achieve 99 points. And lastly, I missed one 99 point wine, the 1999 DRC La Tache. It was at Hollywood Jef’s birthday party, and I didn’t take a tasting note, it was DRC pandemonium, and I am not re-writing this article for the fourth time, so deal with it lol. So Twenty Top Wines and twenty-five 99 point experiences in 2018, that’s my final story, and I am sticking with it!

So that’s my Top Wines of 2018. 198 wines that I would consider ‘best wines of my life’ category, not bad, not bad. I cracked 100 this year by a wide margin, 2018 mission accomplished! And I am sure I missed at least ten or more, somehow, some way. Well, I know how – I didn’t write it down, or I lost the notes, or my R&D team was drinking too much getting me the data. They all happen lol.

Let’s make 2019 an even better vintage together!!! Grande Fete de Bourgogne here we come!!!

In Vino Veritas,

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!


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!


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,

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