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.

Dom Perignon, 12 Angry Men, Auction Lunch and a Holiday Party

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So you thought I wasn’t going to come back with more notes this week, did you?

This week saw me laying low for a few days in the early part of the week. As the week closed in on yet another weekend, and an auction weekend at that, sobriety seemed like a losing battle, so I began to surrender Thursday night at Caviarteria, with what started as an innocent evening of Dom Perignon.


The venue was Caviarteria, a New York staple which had just moved to Lexington and 72nd street. Since the move was after we scheduled the event, we had to figure out a way to make the space work, which was more like a Cafeteria than the usual, comfortable dinner setting. Since we were celebrating Dom Perignon, I figured let’s throw out the standard dinner format and just make it a cocktail party, with the cocktails being sixteen vintages of Dom Perignon back to 1949. The format worked very well, with everyone having a great time in a relaxed, standup, bar-like setting. It really felt like we were all in some speakeasy, gathered together on a rainy night in a top secret location. Caviarteria was up to the task with a non-stop assortment of 25 different hors d’oeuvres to go with the Champagnes, and we were off and running with the 1996.

The 1996 Dom Perignon had a very fresh nose (of course) full of stones, taut citrus, dust and pinches of anise and minerals. There was an intense, taut center flirting with pungency but not really pungent, more like intensity. Man, do I love the 1996s – the zip, zest and zoom of the vintage are tremendous and better than 1990 in my opinion. Bernard agreed with that opinion, calling the balance and acidity a notch above.. The 1996 had great acidity, and flavors of citrus, anise, bread, stones, minerals and raindrops. There were additional flavors of limestone and seltzer on the finish. Dan picked up on its “straw” flavors, and it got stonier with time. The 1996 had an unmatched verve for the evening (96). The 1995 Dom Perignon had a milder nose by comparison but was still very nice. There was a delicate freshness on the bready side with mild citrus and a quiet calm and balance to the nose. The palate was very stony and a bit more unbalanced by comparison to the 1996 in regard to the bread flavors upfront and alcohol on the finish. The 1995 was more medium-bodied but solid, and it went very well with the smoked trout, which balanced it out on the palate tremendously. The 1995 was very smooth, more ready, approachable and rounder than the 1996. Justin remarked that the 1995 was better balanced. It doesn’t have the stuffing of the 1996, but it’s more my style.. (94) The 1993 Dom Perignon followed and was a bit funky. It lacked the purity of fruit of the 95 and 96, with more earthy, weedy and bready aromas that seemed stale by comparison. There was a little more mature honey as well, but that aroma was secondary. Justin called it really light with a clover bordering on stale bread crumbs.. We concurred that it was funky, but not a good funky, more like a white guy funky. There was no front palate, and the backside was ok but had a touch of musty flavors. There was some structure but it was a one-dimensional wine, and it got disturbingly celeric on the palate (83). The 1990 Dom Perignon had a nose full of white chocolate initially, so much so that finding another descriptor was difficult. Those aromas carried over to the palate, which was also bready, (white) meaty and earthy with some straw and tobacco behind it. Justin thought the bubbles seemed finer. and also mentioned that he thought Champagne was the hardest beverage for which to do tasting notes (95). We followed the 1990 with the 1990 Rose Dom Perignon for comparison. I have never been a big Rose fan, except when they are very old, and the 1990 showed me once again why. The wine was a lot drier on the nose and the palate. It had the Rose, dry cherry and floral edge to the nose but was still bone-chillingly dry. Justin stood up for Roses in general and how much he loved them, although he did concede that they can be a bit treacherous.. A drop of honey squeezed its way onto the palate, but again it was big, forceful and so dry not my style yet, but I respected it. In fifty years, it will indubitably be great (93+).

Bernard started to lick his lips over the fact that we were entering the junction between Champagne and wine, where Champagne starts to morph into more of its wine-like characteristics, and the 1988 Dom Perignon backed up exactly about what he was talking. The 88 had a sexier, muskier nose with forward bread components and a glazed sweetness in a honeyed, toffee style. There was a peanutty side to its musk, Thai style. Given the small age difference between the 1988 and 1990, the 1988 seemed a lot more mature than the 1990. The palate had a great bread, nut and honey three-way happening, which led me to think how a sexy nose should always lead to a three-way on the palate. The palate was actually brawnier than I expected, with a very bready finish. Dan liked its overripe, Bacchanalean fruit.. (94). The 1985 Dom Perignon had a spinier nose than the 1988, with a touch of that honeyed maturity as well as some oat and straw aromas. Nicole observed that there was so much going on in the nose.. The wine was very well-balanced and got breadier in a sweet, cinnamon-raisin way. The body was more medium than full but still had good character although it lacked tertiary depths. This bottle was the first Oenotheque. bottling, DP’s version of RD. (93). The other Oenotheque bottlings were 1983, 1978, 1976, 1966 and 1964. The 1985 Rose Dom Perignon was more approachable than the 1990 and had some warmth and open, sweet fruit, showing some similar characteristics to the regular cuvee and representing the vintage consistently. There was maraschino, honey, glazed donut, grain and stone aromas, and the palate was rich, meaty and round, showing great texture and length. I guess twenty years is what I need to enjoy my Rose Champagnes! (95). The 1983’s Dom Perignon nose was so honeyed and full of crème brulee that it gave a sinful impression. There was a touch of seltzer and minerals, but the 1983 was definitely living in plateau city. To me, this vintage signified crossing that bridge that Bernard alluded to earlier. Bernard was impressed with the freshness of the 1983. The palate had a woodsy edge but was still very smooth and caressing, with good seltzer vim to the finish. I concluded, In a great spot right now.. (93)

The 1970’s were next, with 1978, 1976 and 1971 on tap, so to speak. The 1978 Dom Perignon was another nice nose that was classy and more about the bread than the honey. There was a grilled vegetable edge (not in the negative sense), and we got into an eggplant versus zucchini debate. There was a lightly burnt toast edge, and it got a little musky but more perfumed. The 1978 was smooth, lovely and still fresh (91). The 1976 Dom Perignon had the mildest and least expressive nose of the night. Justin chipped in very Chardonnay, and I found a splash of cinnamon. The 1976 was mild, although it did seem younger than its age, although in that young and confused way. The palate was light and yeasty with not a lot of definition. It was good not great, fresh but lacking levels of character (87). The 1971 Dom Perignon was the first bottle with a noticeable gold color, and was the only non-Oenotheque bottling between 1983 and 1964. It has an herbal edge in the beginning that integrated into its complex bread aromas. There was some lime there as well, with some delicious vanilla ice cream soda flavors. The 1971 was great very smooth with mature malted flavors (95).

Now came the oldies: 1966, 1964, 1959 and 1949. Dan noted about the 1966 Dom Perignon , it still has acidity but is Sauternes-like at the same time!. He was absolutely right on with that comment, as I got the honey, musk, apricot and leather with touches of wild herbs and forest. Sabrina pegged this mint/basil thing, and there was a touch of rye as well. It was smooth, supple and delicious, with a golden raisin edge, and a nice lingering quality. Bernard commented that it was so much more wine than Champagne, almost like a White Burgundy. You can see the evolution.. He also explained that on average, Dom Perignon is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, although the 1996 was 50/50 (95). The 1964 Dom Perignon was a touch pinchy and weedy at first, but the bread, butter and honey came and joined the party shortly. No bubbles but great White Burgundy, Bernard insisted. There were citrus, dust and straw edges and a touch of the cat’s meow (pee) that crept out in the glass. It was still excellent, but definitely better a decade prior when it blew me away after being re-released, or perhaps that was just this bottle (94). The 1959 Dom Perignon was severely oxidized and undrinkable (DQ), and the 1949 was a touch oxidized but not as bad as the 1959, more so in that benevolent, British way. Bernard called it vin santo. and there was that fino style to this bottle, which was still drinkable but not perfect. It did have good texture still (90+?).

The idiot that I am, a few of us ended up hopping around downtown to a few different places, drinking vodka until 2:30AM. One fight was thankfully averted that was definitely not my fault, and needless to say that I got off to a slow start Friday.


So Friday night we were at Triomphe for the monthly meeting of my only official tasting group, the 12 Angry Men. Without getting into too many details about our ire and rage, I can safely say that it is a bit challenging to keep a group of guys together in a tasting group and maintain a positive experience every month, but so far so good. Despite a lot of behind-the-scenes drama, we have managed to stick together for nine months, including evenings of 1950s Bordeaux, La Mission, the Best Rhone Ever Had, ABC’s, All Star Italians, Unico, Pre-1961 Bordeaux, La Tache, and this month, which was an Old World vs. New World, double-blind tasting orchestrated by Mike. I will get you all caught up on the previous eight events shortly, I promise! There have been some truly spectacular events, although this month was a little more low-key but as enjoyable as any.

A brief synopsis as to how the group works: Each month someone has to host and take everyone out to dinner, whether it be at a restaurant or in their home. The host picks the theme and sets the table accordingly with the three (or more) bottles that he is bringing, and then everyone else brings a bottle (or two) as well. One little thing the host has veto rights on any BYOB, which has certainly caused a few ruffled feathers. Believe me, it sounds a lot simpler than it ends up being!

So this month, Mike put us up to the test in this double-blind tasting where no one knew what anyone else was bringing except for Mike. Every flight featured at least one wine from each world, and we played lots of guessing games as Mike pulled our puppet strings all night. The games began with two whites. The first white had a very oaky nose that seemed buttery, but the oak was too dominant at first to tell. There was a pinch of mineral and corn and a touch of exotic, artificial flower, and the wine certainly seemed over-manipulated. Ray was the first to call out Cali Chard. The wine had a big palate with a lot of alcohol it was a bruiser of a palate, in fact, considering the streak of alcohol on the finish. Some comments were a little too much wood. and heat on finish.. The wine was a little clumsy and tough to drink, actually. Bob had a tough time getting focus. from the wine. Rob was digging the nose, and the wine did develop some secondary custard aromas. You had to be somewhat impressed with its enormity, but not necessarily with the drinking experience (90). It was the 1994 Peter Michael Point Rouge. Yikes! Maybe drink in the first 3-5 years? The second wine I immediately called out Leflaive and it was, the 1995 Pucelles in fact. It had that signature Leflaive style: a very toasty nose with great kernel, corn, butter and minerals. The wine was gritty and youthful with a long, stylish finish although a bit shy in the middle. There was a whiff of rubber (positive) and the acids were strong, suggesting the wine still needs time to widen out (93+).

The second flight was comprised of three wines. The first was so Nebbiolo the tar, spice, alcohol, leather, roses, earth, old book, tobacco and varnish exploded out of the glass. It was incredibly wound up and complex. The palate was great as well with intense length, structure and acids, and matching flavors to the aromas. It was clear this was a very special wine, and it turned out to be my wine of the night. I guessed Giacosa or Sandrone, and it was the 1985 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva Dom Perignon . Amazing wine (97). The next wine had a Jammy Pinot nose , and if you thought too hard you could see both Old and New World characteristics, but if it was Old World it was certainly a more modern style. A little Kistler-ish, I thought, but it was not. The nose was jammy, smoky and oaky, with gas in the back. as Rob put it. There were also cherry aromas with a touch of vitamin and game, but the fruit is over. as Jim A. put it. The palate lacked depth and was definitely past its prime (87). It was a 1989 Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Olivet Lane. not a bad showing for an 89, I suppose. The third wine Ray quicky and incorrectly guessed Dugat, and the Old or New World debate ensued. The nose had some beefy, woody overtones it was very meaty and intense with a little pinch of barn around the edges. It was certainly intense for a Burgundy alcohol-wise, and Bob accurately assessed that the acidity makes it Old World.. The wine was from Leroy, which made the intensity and alcohol factors make sense, and it was a 1992 Vosne Romanee Les Beauxmonts. For a 1992, it was fabulous, blowing away the weedy memory I had of a 1992 Vogue Musigny the month prior. Ray said that Leroy made great 1992s and that they were all spectacular right now (92)

The third flight was obviously a Bordeaux/Cali Cab flight according to most, although two of the wines were international ringers, including the first. That first wine had a very intense, tangy nose with some BBQ edges, very smoky with some herbs. The nose was meaty in a deli meats way (sparked by a Jim H. analogy) and then Jim A. found it indeed very brisket.. The palate was great with a lot of sweet soy characteristics and good leather, wet earth and semi-sweet chocolate flavors. When someone guessed Spanish. after a dozen erroneous guesses, it all came together as that leathery, meaty, kinky Tempranillo edge became obvious. It was a 1952 Cune Vina Real. Rioja Gran Reserva (94). The second wine struck me as having a Latour. nose the pencil, walnut and meaty black fruits. There was decent cassis there but behind the mineral and slate side. The palate was stony and stalky with a huge finish and lots of length, and all the flavors were stone and slate by then. There was a quick flash of violet on the palate, but that’s about it. I was sure the wine was 66 Latour, but it was 66 Palmer. At least I got the vintage right! It was a wine that still seemed young, especially given its age, but I did not get as much out of it as others (93) The third wine Gorky jumped to the front with aromas of cockroaches, which got some laughs and a lot of I wouldn’t knows.. He explained the memory of going to Thailand and seeing people cook them and eat them on the streets, and this wine reminded him of that smell. Jim A. confirmed the same experience. Yum. I got the sidewalk/cement thing, and there was a lot of brooding complexity behind it. The palate was enormous with mountainous alcoholic fruit, a little too much in that direction. It was a New World wine in an Old World style, I concluded, like an old, classic Cali Cabernet. Some fruit came out, but not a lot; the flavors were so minerally they flirted with musty. I found more must than the mint and eucalyptus. that others found. Well, the wine was 1966 Latour (Ray actually guessed 1970 Latour), and we concluded that it wasn’t the best of bottles. I should have known by that Sotheby’s sticker on the back just kidding, (92+?). The fourth wine in this flight of five was super intense. The nose was very kinky, meaty and chocolaty, with inky, melted black fruits on hot asphalt. There was stony balance to the fruit, like a spine. The flavors were full of chocolate, minerals and meat; the wine was thick and heavy and had to be a great Cali Cab. It reminded me of Pride’s style, and I thought it was a mid 1990’s Pride Reserve Cab. It was 1978 Montelena. Wow! With time, the wine got a little oakier and more herbal in the glass without crossing the line of indecency, showing more of its age (95). The last wine was perplexing it smelled like an old Burgundy, but why would that be in this flight? Chris pegged some old Dr. Brown celery flavors.. I found some nice citric tension, good old strawberry fruit, and Jim A. got some orange peel.. Ray insisted the strawberry component was an artificial one, implying the wine was impure. There was also a little ice cream to the sweet, soft flavors. It has a unique, exotic spice as well. It was the 1975 Musar (92). I was thinking Musar for a second, but never said anything so Ray was all over me with the positive, reinforcing Yeah sures.. I told you it was the 12 Angry Men, right?

Ok, we were halfway there, and three flights remained. We had another Red Bordeaux/Cali flight to work our way through, although the wines seemed much younger by comparison to the previous flight. The first wine had a meaty and inky nose with chunky, melted chocolaty qualities. There was good structure and alcohol behind the fruit. The palate was huge with loads of asphalt flavors, tannins and alcohol the wine was absolutely enormous Gorky agreed there was serious stuffing.. There was a splash of bacon there and great breed and length. It was a great showing for the 1989 La Fleur de Gay (95). The next wine got the bomb. sound from Rob after he took a whiff tough to put into words other than the sound of an explosion being recreated by a human voice box. I found the nose modern, but a little milder than Rob and on the shy side with some plum and red cherry fruit. Bob now exclaimed, These are all monster wines.. I found it more reserved with charcoal flavors, but don’t get me wrong, it was still intense, in a ribs. kind of way. When it was revelaed to be 1999 Pavie, someone who shall remain nameless cried Impostor Bordeaux!. Well, we all know that story already. (93) The next wine had some stink and diaper in the nose, but also some more positive steak and earth with a pinch of barn. The flavors were a little on the medicinal and herbal side, St. Emilion-ish with the wintergreen thing. The wine had very good balance and length, but it was a bit disappointing to find it to be a 1990 Pichon Baron (90?). I was also reminded how poorly a 1989 Pichon Baron showed at our 1989 Blind Bordeaux tasting earlier in the year either off bottles or perhaps some off batches out there? The fourth wine in this flight was a monster, for sure. It had an amazing nose thick, syrupy and meaty; chunky and chocolaty; ink, cassis and ripe blue fruits on both nose and palate supplemented by nice minerals. It was massive on the palate; long, pure and balanced in an elephant in a tutu kind of way. There was great chalk and length to thefinish, and the wine was heavy but maintained its balance all the way through, with great expression by the tannins on the finish. It was the 1995 Pride Reserve Cabernet out of magnum, and Rob said that this wine is always softer out of magnum, something that he could not explain (96+). The fifth wine of this flight had another great cult Cali nose with nice perfume and musk blue fruits again, with more red and purple as well. Great caramel rounded out the wine, which had a palate that was a bit lopsided with the alcohol on the finish. There was some meat and tar there but the wine seemed a little confused on the palate right now, and not as great as when I had it side by side with an 82 Latour a few years back when it stood toe to toe with that wine. There’s always that chance of bottle variation (94). After being assaulted by the Pride and Abreu, the final wine of this flight seemed shy by comparison. The nose was wound with some oak blots. Some thought this was Syrah due to a little bacon and charcoal here. The finish was long, fine and dusty but this wine clearly lacked the stuffing of the previous two (91). When we discovered it was the 1994 Insignia, a few of us agreed that this was a very poor and atypical showing for this wine.

It was this fifth flight where I started to wane a little on my notes. The first wine had an open nose with a mesquite edge and a fields of wheat thing, with great earth and leather. It had a good stink like no comment, and a worstechire (someone teach me how to spell that please) splash. The palate was still intense despite some age with an older, gamy, earthy Provencal palate, and Chateauneuf was suspected by many. Flavors were a bit dirty, and there was still a boatload of alcohol on the palate. It was the 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel (92). Next up was a superb wine that most were convinced was a Guigal La La wine. There was so much menthol, bacon and violety fruit it had to be! The palate was meaty, fine and long with great purity. It was the 1982 Chave Hermitage and a great showing (95). Last up in this flight was the 1982 Grange, which showed itself to be very oaky and creamy with lots of eucalyptus. The wine was not Chris. style, who said that he had never drunk a glass of Grange in his life he has tasted plenty but never found the desire to drink it. The wine had some maple flavors and good length, but it did not show as well as other memories I have of this wine (93).

The last flight I barely took any notes, so here are my recollections. The flight consisted of 1997 Hill of Grace (93), 1998 Hill of Grace (95), 1999 Chave Hermitage (95) and a 2001 Il Borro (93) by the Salvatore Ferragamo family. The Hill of Grace and Chave pairing was sheer genius in retrospective and really bought the HOG’s my respect for the first time. The 1998 was more intense than the 1997, although both had the silky, smooth style and lots of roasted earth flavors (similar to Hermitage), along with vitamins and minerals. The wines were very fine and stylish, although they sucked. to Rob as I suppose they weren’t Big Boy enough for him. The 1999 Chave Hermitage was great again (see last week’s notes), and the 2001 Il Borro actually fit in and held its own in this flight. I can’t tell you a thing about the wine except the Ferragamo family thing. It was about 1AM, and with a 6AM wakeup call for the auction tomorrow, there were no after parties tonight.


Every auction we do a lunch where we feature assorted, random wines from the cellars from the sale. Eleven hours after last night’s dinner finished, it was time to start drinking again. For the first time, I decided to take some notes during the lunch.

First up was the 1974 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva, which had a nice nose with good forward fruit (by Italian standards), a little mesquite and intense and pungent leather, earth and smoke aromas. Rob found the palate a little dried out, and he was right. It was on the dry side and probably starting to pass its peak. There was still a load of alcohol on the palate, but the citric flavors were a little too tangy on the finish (91). The 1991 Jean Gros Richebourg had that fabulous Burgundy stink to the nose, with a bacony, Cote-Rotie. edge Rob observed, definitely in that vitamin section of the aroma wheel. Rob then also got an 83 Cheval impression out of the wine due to its wintergreen characteristics. The wine was medium-bodied with a touch of benevolent barnyard on its gamy palate. It was an excellent Burgundy that is probably peaking now (93). The 1998 Rousseau Clos de Beze had something to say as well, showing lots of ripe strawberry fruit on its nose in a surprisingly forward way. There was good musk and spice and decent earth there as well. The wine had good flavors and good balance although those flavors leaned a little on the youthful, earthier side (92). The 1996 Cheval Blanc was a pretty, tasty Cheval that was on the lighter side by Cheval standards with good, fine tannins and a touch of stalk and earth to its palate. There were pinches of wintergreen and nice creamy cherry fruit throughout, with good earth on the finish (90). The 1997 Casanova di Neri Cerretalto Brunello di Montalcino had a great nose with a nice mix of Old and New World just right, in fact. It had a Piedmont edge with its leather and tar, with very meaty, dark fruit and spice. The finish was long and fine (95). The 1985 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva paled by comparison. The nose was mild and light with some tobacco, tar, earth and a pinch of caramel but very light and lacking. The palate had little to no flavor definition despite decent length (87). The 1996 Vogue Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru had a nice, pungent nose with that 1996 intensity and taut, meaty, vitaminy fruit. It was in a good spot right now with excellent balance and length (93). The 1995 Beaucastel Chateauneuf was a monster wine, full of dark black fruits, light pepper, a touch of garrigue, stones and huge alcohol. Drinking the wine was infanticide, and it had way too much alcohol now; it needs time to widen out or about a week in a decanter (93+). The 2001 Behrens & Hitchcock Ode to Picasso. Red was delicious. It was inky, thick, syrupy and chunky on the nose and palate. The wine was a hedonistic Cali Cab-styled wine but still maintained a classy personality and showed some restraint as well (94). The 1998 Araujo Cabernet Eisele Vineyard. was also a nice drink, showing lots of minerals in the nose with sweet fruit of cassis, pencil and exotic nuts. The wine had good fruit for a 1998 with no sign of green and a medium body and style. It’s a great buy to drink now (92). Last on the lunch menu was the 1992 Dominus, which was a little weedy in the nose with a touch of carob, meat, sugar snap peas, cassis and nut. It had grit and dust to the finish and was also very good, but less enjoyable perhaps than the Araujo right now (92).


Ok, it was time for one last hurrah for the weekend, a holiday dinner party that I hosted for the gang at Public, a great scene and restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. After the auction, I had gotten a 90-minute massage for which I was asleep half the time; otherwise, I would have been dead for dinner. Speaking of dinner, I had kangaroo for the first time tasty little suckers. We kicked it off with three whites before dinner, the 1988 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet, the 1998 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, and the 2002 D.R. Stephens Chardonnay. The Leflaive was another wine in a great spot right now. It had an awesome, honeyed nose with grilled hazelnuts, minerals and bread. The palate was wide and expressive with great corn flavors and minerals and still long acids. The flavors were mature and delicious with some wheat and wax on the finish it probably won’t get any better, but boy is it good now! (94) The 1998 Pahlmeyer had bright citrus aromas with some hay, musk and dust with an easy palate and light citrus and mineral flavors (89). The 2002 D.R. was a fruitier, more tropical expression of Chardonnay with a creamy, rich style still big but only a touch of that brawn of the finish. There were toasty, grainy flavors and a pat of butter (90). A recent barrel sample of Cabernet I had from this Estate in Napa was outstanding, though, so keep an eye out for this property.

Time for some Pinots. I figured Pinots with the Kangaroo, even though I had never had a marsupial before. The 2001 Claude Dugat Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques was a complicated wine. I got some weird fish oil quality at first, but it wasn’t the glass because it was the same glass I had the Leflaive in. Wendy got some tropical fruit edge that I saw as well. The nose was intense with a twist of chemical aromas as well, but it blew off into thick, black cherry and pomegranate fruit with a touch of vitamins and more than a touch of wood. The palate was intense, the finish was huge, and there was big oak without the oaky flavors. Will it ever balance out? (91+) The 1997 Dugat-Py Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques was unfortunately corked (DQ). The 1996 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques, on the other hand, was a great wine. Any day where one can have two bottles of Rousseau at two different meals and sell $1.5 million worth of wine in between is a good day in my book. The Clos St. Jacques monopole wines are one of the best kept secrets in Burgundy today. The 1996 had a fabulous nose full of taut, cherry fruit and vitamins with great spice, musk and earth. There was a beautiful balance of the fruit and the acids. The wine was great, pure and beautiful (94). The 1996 J. Roty Gevrey Chambertin Fontenys Jim noticed as being more extracted, which I translated also to be not as pure as the Rousseau. It had a big, modern edge with lots of vanilla, and it lacked definition and a centerpoint. It was big yet clumsy and seemed more man-made than natural (85).

We kept things moving with some Bordeaux and a Cali, beginning with a 1998 Clos Dubreuil. This St. Emilion was excellent, with a meaty (I think I was in a carnivorous mood this weekend with all the meaty adjectives) nose, thick with vanilla and aromas of structure deep alcohol and a brooding nature with a sexy, peanutty edge. There was buried alcohol that manifested strongly on the flavor profiles with lots of stone and acid to match. The wine was enormous on the palate. This actually could be an incredible wine one day, but for now let’s just call it excellent with lots of potential (93+). Next up was the 1999 Harlan Maiden, which had a grapy and cassisy nose, much more open in that Las Vegas way with fig, depth and style to its nose. The palate was rich with hot alcohol, sturdy and wound with a fine finish. The wine gained in power in the glass (93). The 2000 Pichon Baron ended this flight with a bang, with its sexy nose that was rich, inky and meaty but still perfumed a concoction, indeed, with rich cassis, chocolate, violet, coffee and blackberry aromas. It had a big, intense palate (94+). What was so interesting about this flight was the homogeneity between the Harlan and the Bordeaux, either a testament to the greatness of Harlan, the modernization of styles in Bordeaux, or a little of both.

Ok, there’s only nine more tasting notes bear with me, will ya? Now it was time for the Aussie/Syrah flight. We transitioned well with a 1998 Greenock Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Roennfeldt Road. that was intense, deep and brooding in the nose despite some flashy, chocolaty fruit. The wine was very meaty with a toffee and buttery rum quality. It had a supercharged palate with big, sweet, meaty fruit and leathery sidebars and a long, long, long finish. Jim caught some black licorice, good n. plenty style.. (95) The 1995 Araujo Syrah Eisele Vineyard was next, and Tim didn’t like it at first, and I could see why. The nose was very angular and wound with hints of alcohol and turpentine with very little signs of fruit. The palate was intense, though, with long charcoal, bacon and pepper flavors and enormous length (95). The 1992 Grange was Penfolds representative this evening and also had an intense nose with eucalyptus, vanilla wood, a touch of mint jelly and Krispy Kreme. The palate was also intense with meaty and earthy flavors and traces of American oak on the finish (94).

We had some throw-ins at the end to keep the party going, including a corked 1997 Delas Hermitage (DQ), a rich and complex 1999 Arrowood Cabernet Reserve Speciale (92+), a grapy, figgy, leathery and alcoholic 1999 Turley Zinfandel Juvenile. (90), as well as a pretty and classic 1996 Vieux Chateau Certan (90), a surprisingly smooth 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte (87) and a dried out and uninspiring 1996 Beausejour Becot (83) well as two more locations and lots of vodka for the rest of the night. I got home at 3:30AM. When will I ever learn?


La Turque Vertical with Tanzer and Two Years of a fellow enthusiasts DDB Tastings

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Every Vintage of La Turque Ever with Steve Tanzer

It was the Monday night after an auction weekend of excessive imbibing, but the scheduling Gods were not looking favorably on me or my over-saturated liver, as the Wine Workshop was conducting its grand finale for the season, an evening of every vintage of La Turque ever produced, hosted by Steve Tanzer. It was the third installment of our La La vertical, having done La Mouline and La Landonne each of the past two Decembers. How could I miss that?

1. 2000 La Turque (92)
2. 1999 La Turque (96)
3. 1998 La Turque (96)
4. 1997 La Turque (88)
5. 1996 La Turque (93)
6. 1995 La Turque (94+)
7. 1994 La Turque (84)
8. 1993 La Turque (89)
9. 1992 La Turque (85)
10. 1991 La Turque (95)
11. 1990 La Turque (92+)
12. 1989 La Turque (94+)
13. 1988 La Turque (97)
14. 1987 La Turque (89)
15. 1986 La Turque (93)
16. 1985 La Turque (95)

Steve started out with a wealth of information as always, and this paragraph represents complete paraphrasing of his introduction. La Turque is actually a trademark, not a vineyard, even though it is from a specific parcel of vines within the Cote Brune with a soil made up of flint, shale and iron oxide. The vineyard is located close to Ampuis in the heart of the appellation. The vineyard’s size is just under one hectare, about the size of two acres. Only 4,000-5,000 bottles a year of La Turque are produced. At the beginning of the 20th century, the wine made from this propery was one of, if not the most sought-after in all of France. Its owner, Andre Cachet I believe, sent all of the production to the Elysee Palace, home to the President of France. The serious taxation brought upon producers in the 1930s literally drove its owner mad, ie insane asylum worthy. The government seized the property accordingly and went and sold the property to Vidal-Fleury, the largest and most influential domaine in the Rhone at that time. After the acquisition in the late 1930’s, Vidal-Fleury allowed the property to fall into disrepair. Tsk tsk. Etienne Guigal started to work for Vidal-Fleury in the early 1940’s before starting his own domaine in 1946. In 1980, Vidal-Fleury asked Guigal to manage the replanting of the vineyard, which he did in 1981, and in 1984 he turned around and bought Vidal-Fleury! The rest is history. The key difference in the winemaking for the La La wines is the extraction during fermentation and the fact that the La Turque undergoes punchdowns. and not pumpovers… Sorry, but don’t ask me what that means. I am no technical expert, I just know what it tastes like. This coming January in 2005, Guigal will be bottling his 2001’s. That is a lot of time in the barrel. Steve also touched upon the modern trend of winemakers in the Rhone using fewer rackings and treating their Syrah more like Pinot Noir. He also found the Guigal La La. wines to be one of the few wines that is always better out of bottle than barrel. Philippe Guigal told Steve his three favorite La Turques were 1985, 1988 and 1991; remember that the 1985 was made from four year-old vines! He also said that the Guigals like to call La Mouline the blondest of the blondes,. La Landonne the brunest of the brunes,. and La Turque the blondest of the brunes.. Although when it comes to my women, I tend to prefer brunettes, or brunes as the French would say, after doing these three separate verticals together with Steve, I can safely say that this gentleman prefers blondes, the natural ones to be more specific. Read on.

The 2000 had a big, rich, expressive and explosive nose with thick, chunky fruit that had good cassis, meat, menthol, earth, bacon, violet, vanilla, blue fruit and white pepper aromas. It was big, inky and although a touch modern, still complex. The wine was a bit shy on the palate, showing more of its wood and acid components than anything else, although the inky fruit was there underneath. The flavors were masked and need time to widen out, and it did seem like a lesser year by Guigal standards, for lack of a better word. There was still great fruit and excellent structure, but this will not be a legend. Steve called it the most tannic with the least mid-palate stuffing & the oakiest.. (92) The 1999‘s nose was very peppery in a distinctively cracked peppercorn way with nice bready edges and violety fruit, laced lightly with bacon aromas, bordering on pastrami. Caramel and earth were there as well, supporting its liqueur-like fruit of plum and black cherry. The wine was clearly longer, finer and hotter than the 2000, with better balance and definition. It still did seem very youthful and closed down on the palate, which was bigger and brawnier, although time in the glass did it some good despite the increase in its alcohol’s presence. Steve summed it up as flat out fabulous… (96)The 1998 was very peppery as well (George thought the most so in this first flight of four), but more classically so, with a wild herbal edge including a little kind (and if you don’t know what that means then ask Jamie Kutch). Purple and blue fruits were in a supporting role at this stage, but present. A sweet, spice cake quality rounded out the nose. The palate was very peppery as well with more flashy and expressive alcohol and acidity. There was excellent definition displayed on its gritty palate. It was a neck and neck race between the 1998 and 1999, but today I preferred the 1998 slightly due to that spine of acidity and grit on the palate. Steve remarked that there was fabulous aromatic complexity but it’s dominated by its acidity. The 1999 is denser, but the 1998 more classic, (96). The 1997 was like bringing skim milk to a party where all the kids already have chocolate milk, by comparison. There was a little must at first in the nose which blew off with some airtime. There was strawberry fruit laced with cinnamon, but it had the mildest nose of the flight. The palate was still fairly sturdy, but the weight and texture were light. Some vegetable edge flirted with the surface. Steve called it the sweetest and lightest. and questioned its depth as well, but interestingly thought it might have more concentration than the 2000, which shocked me a little (88).

The second flight started with the 1996, which had a perfumed, stylish nose with nice earth, wild herbs (including kind again), violets and moderate alcohol. Steve likened the nose to brown spice and gunflint, and I could not agree more. There were long, lingering acids and alcohol on the palate, but the fruit was shut down again, almost absent although slow to emerge. Steve loved it, and called it delicious, precise and young not complex yet (on palate) but perfumed. It was pretty (93). The 1995 had a peppery, minty nose that is very slinky and feminine, and Usha got loads of dust it was killing her. at first, she joked, but the wine was still her favorite in this flight. There were beautiful sugarplum, brick and fireplace aromas. The palate has better definition, balance and length although far from mature. The La Turques in general struck me as being far more closed on the palate in their youth then their counterparts, or perhaps I was a bit washed out from the weekend. Cinnamon came out in the glass, but the wine was still reserved in the end, although it held its power. Steve called it soil driven in a smooth, La Mouline style… (94+) The 1994 had a warmer, more inviting nose with a touch of rotten fruit. The wine was a bit different from all of the previous ones, with less Cote Rotie character outside of some light pinches of menthol and pepper. The nose had aromas of root vegetables, and the palate was soft and round without weight or a center; in fact, some acids were the only thing going for it. The wine got worse and worse in the glass (84). The 1993 was again a little wild, with stemmy fruit (and the rotten thing), but with more aromatics of vanilla and game (a little too gamy). The palate was rounder with decent grit and grip; the wine was almost very good but fell a bit short, although it did hold well in the glass, Steve noted rot animal, rustic, autumn leaves. and Bob found it bretty (89). Steve, Bob and I preferred the 1993 to the 1994, but Brian called the 1993 .unclean.. Bob said the 1993 was still sexy, and the 1994 was skimpy, to which I playfully replied, But Bob, I thought skimpy was sexy?. Not in my wines, he smiled.

The less than exciting 1992 sparked Steve to tell us about when he asked Guigal about why they chose to make the La La wines every year, even in terrible vintages, to which he was told, These are not reserve wines; they are wines of origin.. With that being said, the 1992 marked the last of a tough three in a row. The 1992 was also unclean with lots of green olives. It was one-dimensional, lacking depth with a pinch of worchestshire sauce. Green olives also dominated the palate. The wine still had big acids, but it was clumsy on the flavors and definition, and the wine got mustier in the glass (85). The 1991 brought us back to Jesus, with an intense and outstanding nose consisting of great balance, definition and style. The wine was more on the earthy side with a whiff of bacon but very reserved and distinguished. Splashes of menthol and wild game emerged with a pinch of wild herbs, worchestshire and sweet cherry fruit. The palate was pure, balanced but lighter than I expected. Someone called it truffly. and its cherry component got more and more liqueur-like. The only question mark for me was its stuffing, but I still found it to be outstanding, although only for those that like refined elegance and complexities. Steve noted that Griotte cherry. and added that Cote Rotie was the most successful appellation in all of France in 1991. and found the wine amazing… (95) The 1990 had more intensity to the fruit and a classic nose of earth, menthol, pepper and ham. There was some forest, olive and a little wintergreen as well. The palate was fleshier and seemingly more mature with its forward fruit and fine finish. It was another pretty lady, so to speak, but where’s the beef? It was Usha’s favorite of this flight, but Steve commented that 1990 was actually a drought year in Cote Rotie only. and that the wine was very good but something missing.. (92+) The 1989 had a forward nose as well but in more of the earth, light barn and vanilla direction with gamy fruit. There was a touch of stylish femininity to the wine, but it was a more aggressive La Turque for sure. Traces of mint and almost syrup, but a corn syrup if anything, rounded out the nose. There was excellent structure with fleshy and minerally fruit with a lot more earth than any previous wine, and a touch of horse, although that of a thoroughbred, of course. The tannins had tremendous definition and length. Steve noted the Graves-like roasted character… (94+) At the end of this flight, Steve gave a plug to the wines of St. Joseph, which he thinks are the Northern Rhone’s best buys now.

The final flight saw us looking down the barrels of 1988, 1987, 1986 and 1985. The 1988 was no ordinary wine and quickly laid claim to the throne of wine of the night with one sniff. Whoa and here we go. were how I started my tasting note. The nose was super thick, meaty and so seductively sweet and fat with chocolaty and lusty fruit. The nose was bubbling over with personality. There was game, perfume and oatmeal, and the sweetness was pure nose sex. Now this is a wine,. I continued. The palate was fine, long and exotic with good earth, mineral and tobacco characteristics (97). The 1987 was a little stinky in the olive and stewed fruit direction with decent character. It was still holding on after all these years. There was decent structure, and the 87 proved to be a good wine although a touch dirty (89). The 1986 again proved to be a very successful vintage for Guigal, as other La Las in the past have also proved. It is the best buy out there for mature Guigal. The nose was mild but nice, with good perfume. The wine was delicious with great expression on the finish of wintergreen, earth, tobacco and grit. The wine was the meatiest on the palate and had lovely, mature fruit (93). The 1985 had a classy, deep nose and great, fine tannins. It was rich, long and stylish, and a wine that came to daddy. a la Pedro Martinez (95). Unfortunately, I missed Steve’s comments on this flight, as an untimely phone call and trip to the men’s room took me out of the room. We had been on the same page for most of the evening, so hopefully I did not miss too much.

In summary, I found the La Turques to be my least favorite of the La La’s in general, which is akin to finishing third in the MVP balloting. There were certainly some outstanding vintages (1999, 1998, 1991, 1988 and 1985, with honorable mention to 1995 and 1989, and some award to the 1986 for being best buy, I suppose), but the wines were much more elgant and refined than I expected as a whole. Finesse lovers will be in heaven here. I got less terroir in La Turque than in La Mouline or Landonne. Make no mistake about it, it is still one of the world’s great wines, but it did give me a different impression overall than what I expected going in.

A fellow enthusiasts DDB tasting

Since the weather had just dropped into the low 20’s in New York, the timing could not have been better for the Deaf Dumb tasting on Thursday the 16th in warm and sunny Los Angeles. The DDB group is a monthly tasting group of a dozen collectors in Los Angeles and the brainchild of a kvetch named Matt (I say that in only the most affectionate way). Each month one of the group’s members hosts an event where all the wines are provided and served blind by the host, and each member speaks about each flight before the wines are revealed, honing their senses like athletes in a gym. Each member pays for his own dinner. Since I am good friends with at least half the members in the group, I have always been welcome when in town, almost like an honorary East coast member, and whenever one of my fellow enthusiasts is going to open at least a dozen bottles, it is usually worth making an extra effort to be there; this evening is all the proof I need.

1. 1949 Pommery (93)
2. 1994 Harlan (96+)
3. 1992 Screaming Easle (94+)
4. 1962 Vogue Musigny V (96)
5. 1962 Roumier Musigny (90+?)
6. 1949 Lafleur (96)
7. 1945 Lafleur (98)
8. 1952 Krug (96)
9. 1937 Romanee Conti (92+?)
10. 1929 Romanee Conti (95)
11. 1961 Lafleur (97)
12. 1947 Cheval Blanc (95)
13. 1982 Petrus (97)

We started with a magnum of Champagne that was not served blind, a 1949 Pommery Champagne. The Pommery was in excellent condition and had a deep gold color with traces of amber. The nose had a lightly yeasty edge with a leaven quality and a drop of honey, but not too much sweetness. There was also decent minerals and light seltzer in the nose. The palate was fresh and delicate with nice, light grit on the finish. A drop of Madeira on the palate added complexity, and its bubbles were still fine. It had nice honeycomb and limestone flavors, and the tuna tartare brought out more bread, honey and seltzer flavors. It was a beautifully mature, excellent Champagne (93).

There were two blind wines in the first flight. The first had a young Cabernet nose with cedar, cassis and charcoal aromas. I started to think, well maybe it is young by some standards,. as there was a softness in both wines; it definitely was not a 2001. It was later revealed that both these wines were opened and decanted four hours prior . that explained a lot and why I was thinking 1970.s. There were secondary aromas of earth, alcohol and chocolate. I saw a hint of a roasted-like Graves character in the wine, although I was pretty sure it was from California. The tannins were great fresh, explosive, long and smooth. The high alcohol rubbed a couple of people the wrong way, but not me. Christian guessed 1994 Harlan, and he was right, calling it more traditional and probably the greatest wine ever made in California… (96+) I could not disagree, recently rating the 1994 Harlan as high as 98 points, but I think the extended aeration gave a little bit of a skewed perspective, like the wine was put in a time capsule and fast forwarded. It made the wine softer and lusher and took away some of its massive and powerful qualities that make the wine so superlative, which is why my score is less here. Stylish vim and vigor are never bad things in my book. The second wine in this flight was Cabernet-based for sure, with more hints of Bordeaux-like complexity, but also grapier as well, making me think Cali. The fruit was plummy and juicy with good earth complements. The nose was rich and thick, almost oily, and the palate was much grapier than the first wine and less tannic, too. The palate had a touch of fig and soft leather flavors. The tannins and alcohol came out a little on the palate with food, but again the wine did not give the same impression it would have without the extended airtime, hence the + on both scores. It was the 1992 Screaming Eagle (94+), which showed significantly better out of magnum at the Top 100 event six weeks prior.

The second flight of two wines was served in Burgundy glasses, so that kind of gave that away. Those glasses were less than adequate and from the restaurant, so after this flight we decided to go back to the Bordeaux glasses for the rest of the night, no matter what the wine. The first wine had beautiful signs of mature red Burgundy, showing aromas of brown sugar, oatmeal, cornstalk, light earth and cherry, but there were numerous complaints that the glasses were rendering this flight almost mute in the nose. Nice acids jumped out on the palate, which had a nice citric tension to the finish. The finish and acids reminded me of 1971, although the wine was actually a 1962 Vogue Musigny V.V. There were nice rose flavors and long, fine, refined tannins. Paul loved this wine, praising its beautiful attack, mid-palate and finish the total package (96). The second wine of this flight I got absolutely nothing out of the nose at first, and then with an extra effort discovered horsy and minerally fruit and a bit of an off. quality. There was a funky earthiness that flirted with oxidation. The wine was musty on the palate in a mildewy and bretty way. It did improve in the glass, however, to reveal a more stemmy. flavor profile, as a close friend of mine put it. Despite decent tannins and acids, the wine was impure and a little stewed. It was an off bottle of 1962 Roumier Musigny (90+?)

From here on out every wine was served out of magnum, much to the glee of the thirsty, short-pour haters in attendance. Flight number three signified Pomerol territory for me. The first wine (of two again) had a serious nose, full of brooding t n a, fabulous minerals, chocolate and fig fruit pure, plummy, Pomerol sex in a glass. Christian likened it to .Halle Berry mocha madness.. The palate had a leathery, rusty edge, with a lot of grip,. Christian concurred. The palate was a little shy and needed some coaxing to reveal a stony, ice creamy sweetness. The nose maintained outstanding poise, the tannins were tremendous, and the wine was super smooth, incredibly delicate and fine. Lots of guesses flew around, including 1961, 1959, Petrus, etc., but the wine was 1949 Lafleur (96). The second wine of this already incredible flight took it a notch higher, if you can imagine. The nose was much meatier and super rich with lots of cola, plum, mineral, straw, mocha, coffee (I guess make it a mochachino) aromas, and I immediately guessed 1947 as it reminded me of the great Petrus I had had at the Top 100 event. The wine was also incredibly smooth, smoother than a baby’s bottom. There was more depth to the nose and more minerals to the palate than wine #1 in this flight, and someone joked that this doesn.t suck.. Andy picked up a little mint which I saw, which Dave felt was more basil.. Some black olive crept into the party. Both wines were so polished and smooth, although the second had more lushness and meat to its fruit and kept expanding on the finish. It was the 1945 Lafleur, to which a close friend of mine commented that it was his favorite Bordeaux vintage in general since 1899 (98).

Next up was an intermezzo, a magnum of 1952 Krug (original bottling, not Collection) , which was a perfect pair with the fettucine in cream sauce with white truffles. I highly recommend that combo. a close friend of mine jumped all over its white chocolate,. and Dave was in awe of this great bubbly. The nose was deep and rich with some honey and bread to go along with its white chocolate. There was great freshness and a great finish with vim, vigor and good spritz. The palate was honey and white chocolate city, and this was impressive for an original bottling. For someone (s) to have cared for it this long and the wine to be in this condition is pretty rare for Champagne, Christian observed (96).

Two wines were put before us again, and the first had a hearty nose with a gamy, earthy, worchestshire edge. James, the guy who only likes young wine (as the group identified him) , called it sour, tart and acidic.. There was a touch of pruny oxidation, but Christian was still able to see it was obviously. , using his powers of one of my fellow enthusiasts deduction. With two flights left, and no yet, he knew we had a 50/50 chance! There was carob, leather and musk, but the fruit was sour and oxidized, although the fine was great and fine; Paul called its finish insane. and really stood up for the wine. The wine was close to a DQ, and many noted its off. quality, but I could see enough to know that this is at least a very good wine, if not more out of a perfect bottle. It was a 1937 Romanee Conti (92+?). The second wine kicked off a big marijuana debate after I noted it in the nose, which is subject for a whole nother post. Anyway, back to the wine. Behind the marijuana were rose, band-aid, leather, garden, iodine and a pinch of oxidation, or as a close friend of mine called it maturity.. Its flavors were fleshy and tangy on the marinated side. Some mint and menthol emerged past its vitamin backbone, and George noted an herbal, Chinese tea. thing. It got better in the glass, although one naysayer found it short.. It was the 1929 Romanee Conti (95). A friend of mine found my score excessively low..

The final flight begun, and we continued the Noah’s Ark. style of tasting two wines at a time. The first wine had a rich, saucy, sexy nose full of heavy, reddish fruit with a wintry spice, vitamins, caramel and vanilla toffee. The palate was round and smooth with red and black cherry fruit, mocha, more mocha, and splashes of molasses. It was creamy with fine, sturdy tannins and a long, gorgeous finish that got finer and longer in the glass. a close friend of mine called it kinky.. It was 1961 Lafleur (97). The supposed last wine of the night had lots of coffee, sugar, milk and cream, and I definitely could have used the cup of joe at this stage in the game. Someone called out milk chocolate and Recioto sugar,. and it had some oatmeal in it. The palate was sturdy with good alcohol and stalky flavors. There were great minerals on the finish and rich coffee fruit, and I started thinking St. Emilion. Matt felt the bitter chocolate. and Christian saw the sweaty chaps of a woman riding on the back of a Harley from L.A. to Vegas,. and Matt added in the summer.. I’m just the messenger J. Many were surprised to find it was a 1947 Cheval Blanc, which Andy found to be mediocre. for a 47 Cheval, but most still enjoyed. a close friend of mine called it true but not the best bottle. and noted its residual sugar.. I still found it to be outstanding, but I have had 99-point bottles of this wine, so anything less is always disappointing, even if only slightly (95).

After some clamors for more wine, as if what we already had was already not enough, a magnum of 1982 Petrus was opened, and it was the best example of this wine that I have ever had, and I have probably had it six or seven times. It had a rich, iron-filled nose that was stalky, minerally and stony. There was plum and chocolate hiding behind the other stuff and subtly strong t n a. Long, stylish and sexy with good stalky and chalky flavors, it was a real thoroughbred and had a long, long finish (97).

Many thanks to one of my fellow enthusiasts for a most memorable and incredible evening.

Speaking of which, we did this last year, too. In fact, this was the very same event in 2003 right where I was supposed to pick-up with a Volume 5 of my newsletter, the Volume 5 that started to become this weekly email just three short weeks ago. So since I have basically one year of unpublished events to catch up on, I figured this would be a good week for this particular event, which was held in Los Angeles at Melisse on 12/18/2003.

A fellow enthusiasts DDB Tasting
1. 1929 Haut Brion Blanc (94)
2. 1961 Laville Haut Brion (90)
3. 1929 Haut Brion Blanc (94)
4. 1964 Romanee Conti (90+?)
5. 1978 Romanee Conti (97)
6. 1985 Romanee Conti (95)
7. 1937 Leroy Richebourg (97)
8. 1949 Leroy Musigny (95)
9. 1955 Leroy Chambertin (99)
10. 1982 Lafleur (98)
11. 1982 Petrus (96)
12. 1982 Le Pin (DQ)
13. 1926 Latour (93)
14. 1945 Mouton (98)
15. 1990 Romanee Conti (97)
16. 1996 Romanee Conti (98)
17. 1999 Romanee Conti (95+)
18. 1961 La Chapelle (DQ)
19. 1961 Monfortino Riserva (96)
20. 1937 Yquem (98)

Each flight had one clue, a title in the menu, and the first flight was called Non Single Varietal.. This old, white wine had a sweet nose, Sauterne-ish in style, but drier in a mature, old oak way that made me think white Bordeaux. There was more petrol, peach and apricot here though, so I was thinking possibly German as well. The nose said sweet wine, but the palate was very dry, so Andy reasoned it had to be a white Bordeaux. If that was the case, I took a stab on 1959 Haut Brion Blanc, but someone else said probably Laville. It was a 1929 Haut Brion Blanc. There were nice slate, geyser and glue flavors, if you can go for that, and a touch of grit to the finish. The palate was not for everyone . only the bold and masochistic wine lover with its austere flavor palate (94).

Anything but Chardonnay, was our clue for flight number two, and the first wine in the flight had an extremely pungent nose that had the cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush thing happening, with melony and lemony fruit and more sweetness than your Grandma’s Sauvignon Blanc. There were tiny traces of must there, and an impression of fresh fields. The finish had length, but the flavors flirted with non-Sauvignon Blanc qualities, but also grass and pungency. Wilf found a wonderful lanolin quality.. It was a 1961 Laville Haut Brion, and it showed extremely youthfully (90). The second wine here was more my cup of tea,. I wrote. It had a honeyed, buttery nose with gorgeous caramel fruit and a dollop of molasses. The wood component was creamy and integrated. The palate was waxy, creamy, rich and rounded with a sturdy finish, and the body was medium-bodied in a molasses way. I was thinking white Bordeaux again, and it was the very same wine as we had before: a 1929 Haut Brion Blanc again, this time out of magnum! This bottle was sweeter and had more austerity; the magnum factor, no doubt, but I found the quality in the same ballpark overall, anyway (94).

One Vineyard, was the third flight’s motto, and while the second bottle in this flight of three wines was obviously red Burgundy, the first wine was not a pristine bottle, but still had beautiful caramel and rose aromas with light traces of chocolate and nut. There was definite sherry here, and the palate was dazed and confused. Paul note iodine. on its light finish, but it was obviously an off bottle of the 1964 Romanee Conti (90+?). I most recently had a winegasmic bottle of this wine that I rated 97 points, for the record.

The second wine in this RC flight was very pungent and youthful with loads of vim, vigor and Asian spice. The wine was Burgundy gone wild, with thick tannins, musk and an aggressive, youthful edge. Andy noted the green bean. and Wilf found it lavish,. and it was the 1978 Romanee Conti. It was the best example of this bottle I had had to that point and was sturdy, fresh and long; as good as it can get, I suppose. Wilf called it wine of the flight early on (97). The last wine in this flight had a touch of awkward metal at first, but gorgeous, sweet, mature red cherry fruit behind it. There were also gorgeous, nutty, vanilla twists with rose petals, a touch of honey and a long, dry finish. Brown sugar crept in, and when it was revealed to be a 1985 Romanee Conti, I thought to myself this is too mature for an 85! The wine was still great, but it was definitely advanced for its age, like one of those thirteen year-olds with the stuffed bra and the makeup looking like she’s eighteen can I say that? The point is that it was advanced for its age (95).

The next flight’s hint was .one producer,. and there were three wines. I should note that all the wines in a given flight were announced one by one after the discussion of the entire flight. The seventh wine in the lineup had a delicious nose full of milk and white chocolate with gorgeous, cherry fruit and hints of plum. Roasted meat and toffee rounded out the nose, with some freshwater freshness. The finish was huge with loads of alcohol, and a mini-load of tannins. An amazing bread pudding quality emerged in the nose, and the wine was flat-out fabulous with cola and iodine,. although Wilf disagreed with me heartily, calling it a baked, soupy, negociant style.. That’s what makes the world go round! It was a 1937 Leroy Richebourg (97). The second wine had another fabulous nose, with more tannins and alcohol. There were creamy red fruits with shots of caramel and truffles. The palate was earthy and glazed, with sweet kirsch flavors. There were doses of Asian spice and one, just one, piece of rosemary. The wine felt younger than the first due to more tannin presence. It was the 1949 Leroy Musigny (95). The last wine in the flight had another incredible nose, with a nutty and leathery side but sweet purple and red fruits that were all perfectly balanced. There was some dust to it, and the palate was great . long, round and balanced with incredible earth, truffle and clove flavors. It has the longest finish of the flight, and it was one of the greatest wines I have ever had, an astonishing bottle of 1955 Leroy Chambertin, much better than the outstanding bottle I had in New York a couple months prior. It ended up being one of the wines of the night for eight of the thirteen guests in attendance (99). This was an impressive flight of Leroy.

We took a turn into Bordeaux territory with the tenth wine in our odyssey, which also had an incredible nose. Are you sensing a trend? The title of this flight of three wines was one vintage… The nose was toasted and lightly burnt in a beautiful, charcoally way. There were intoxicating plum and port-like qualities. The wine had long and silky tannins and alcohol. The palate was enormous with monstrous tannins that somehow remain integrated, and someone even guessed 1961 Pomerol… This 1982 Lafleur also had gorgeous flavors of mint, cocoa and leather (98). The second wine had some awkward metal weirdness at first, but with time revealed great plum, earth and chalk flavors… I am starting to lose my prose,. I wrote, and it was only wine number eleven. Well, if you can.t tell by now, I wasn’t spitting. It was long and earthy with lots of cedar and anise, and I was surprised it was the 1982 Petrus, but it was still outstanding. It seemed more left bank than Pomerol, at least this bottle (96). The third wine in this flight was unfortunately corked, and it was a shame since it was a 1982 Le Pin (DQ).

One appelation. was next, and the thirteenth wine of the night had a very fragrant and forward nose, bordering on St. Emilion but not quite. There was a lot of sweet, cassis fruit with excellent, supporting cedar and pencil. There was a width to its fruit that is decadent, and the finish was long and fine with hearty alcohol and acid that is still buried in the plushness. It started to lose it quickly, however, but was still excellent. It was a 1926 Latour (93). The next wine had an exotic nose with a spice I couldn.t define, so cream, jasmine and vanilla took the foreground, and cedar and cassis took second stage. There were great flavors of cola with a nice, mineral core and a delicious chocolate covering. Mint crept in, which lead Andy to call out Mouton… The finish was silky and smooth, and it was incredibly complex the great 1945 Mouton (98).

The onslaught continued with three more wines, wines #15-17, and the theme here was one decade.. The first wine was young Burgundy, which I identified as nineties Burgundy.. The nose was spicy, with great vitamins, violets and t n a. It had sinus-clearing alcohol, with huge flavors and a huge finish. Someone found it raisiny,. and I found flavors of vitamin, beef blood, leather and jasmine. Another found .green beans.. I guessed 1990 La Tache in the end, but it was 1990 Romanee Conti (97). By now, I was hammered, but not bludgeoned enough to miss the greatness of the 1996 Romanee Conti, one of my favorite, young vintages of RC. The structure, flesh and length were exquisite and orgasmic. As Billy Idol said, more, more, more,. not only because I wanted more, but also for the fact that what was in the glass was more. than the others in this flight as well (98). The last wine in this flight I couldn.t get my palate around 100%, as I found it a little too sweet and grapy, closed and wild. Andy said that the wine was so perfectly balanced it masked the weight and greatness.. It was the 1999 Romanee Conti (95+).

The last flight, entitled two countries,. was a weird bottle of 1961 La Chapelle that I don.t think was right (DQ), and a great 1961 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. The wine was delicious with lots of oomph. and grip, dusty cherry and long cedar aromas and flavors, and excellent tar and leather. It was great, and some noted its huge length. and touch of volatile acidity,. and someone guessed Monfortino (96).

We actually had room for one more wine, the twentieth of the evening, and it was a fantastic 1937 Yquem. It was creamy and exotic with marzipan, cocoa butternut and liquid caramel qualities. Rich, round, smooth and sweet, the wine had great complexity and length. There was an easiness to it that warmed the soul; it was classic and great, and still a baby (98).

The group was loosely polled for wine of the night at the end, and when I say loosely I mean some people voted for more than one wine, and there were eight votes for the Leroy Chambertin, four votes for the 1978 RC, two votes for the 1945 Mouton, 1926 Latour and 1961 Monfortino, and one vote for the 1949 Leroy Musigny.

Thanks again to the great one of my fellow enthusiasts for his incredible generosity & and good taste!


Vintage Tastings: An Evening with Jean-Louis Chave and more

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Fellow wine lover,

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, I have resurrected my newsletter in a weekly, email format and will try to stay current from here on out. This past year saw some personal changes in my life that did not afford me the time to produce volumes 5 and 6 due to the massive scale of producing a volume. What I have decided to do in the meantime is send out weekly emails of the past week’s endeavors and fill the holes for weeks I do not taste wines of note with the 75+ events from 2003 that I have already stockpiled for your reading pleasure. (Hopefully it will also keep me honest and at home on the weekends more often!)

This week’s events are An Evening with Jean-Louis Chave, Dinner at Cru, and Reflections on Gruaud Larose. I hope you enjoy.

On Thursday, December 2nd we were very fortunate to have Jean-Louis Chave and his lovely wife Erin join us in New York City for a spectacular retrospective of Hermitage: Blanc, Rouge and Cathelin, of course. Later Jean-Louis confessed that this was the first time he has ever had all Cathelins together in one sitting (Vintage Tastings to the rescue again!) The setting was Union Pacific, soon to be another dinosaur in the New York tar pits of the restaurant business. December is UP’s last month open before Laurent Tourondel (formerly Cello and now BLT Steak) takes over with a new BLT operation. Thankfully, Laurent was on hand to prepare an outstanding meal, and UP’s always debonair sommelier, Fred Price, was also there to insure outstanding wine service to match. It was another memorable evening, and Jean-Louis. personal insight and observations were worth the price of admission alone.

We had eight vintages of white, eight red, five Cathelins and two vin de pailles twenty-three wines in all. We went in vintage order, youngest to oldest. The first flight was Blanc: 2001, 1995, 1992 and 1991. Chave’s white Hermitages are probably one of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine, with the ability to age a minimum of twenty years in a great vintage, capable of achieving the complexity of Montrachet with its own, unique flavor profile, unmatched by the rest of the world. It seemed as if Jean-Louis was fonder of talking about the whites due to their relative anonymity compared to the reds, like a proud father standing up for his second child. The 2001 had a young nose with a whiff of judicious, buttery oak very Montrachet-like. In fact, I would have guessed White Burgundy if served to me blind since the wine was so buttery its youth seemed to mask its Rhonish characteristics. Ray chipped in how the Chave Blancs always have this Burgundian edge in their youth. The palate was very rich and oily with a long finish and a pinch of what I like to call the bitterness of youth, a touch of bitter flavors more associated with the wine being young then anything else. The finish also had good minerality and freshness. Jean-Louis called the 2001 a good vintage with good balance, and also chipped in that the problem with the world today is that many are trying to make bigger wines…(94). He is a true terroirist, classicist and naturalist all in one, and that will become more and more evident with each passing quote. The 1995 was very fragrant, with the first signs of some glue and marzipan that points in the Rhone direction. The wine was very creamy with a light pungency similar to a sun-baked fig a day or two more than the chef would allow. The wine was still youthful and (white) meaty, with additional flavors of mineral, seltzer, toast, chalk, nut and marzipan. Ray added the wine would continue to offer more in five to ten years. Jean-Louis noted that the wine was in an interesting stage and just starting to open.. (95). He also stressed that Hermitage Blanc in general is a wine meant to be drunk with food. The 1992 was next. There was a touch of straw, orange peel, tank water, cement and rubber (though not rubber cement) kind of like wet galoshes fresh off the pavement. The wine was exotic and mature, with good structure but probably at its peak. Doug remarked that there was a touch too much exotic oriental spice for me, but interesting… The wine did get a little medicinal in the glass. Jean-Louis called it classic Hermitage with the honey, wax and no acidity.. (89-90). The flight finished with the 1991, a controversial wine that was fresh for a few minutes but took a left turn at Albequerque and took on this distinctive aroma of bad weed. Yes, bad weed. Let’s just say that kids that grow up in New York City are experienced. The 1991 had light citrus, earth and barnyard aromas with a touch of wild herbs, for sure. The palate was still round and rich, but that bad weed thing marked its flavors as well. Was it the wine or the bottle? Jean-Louis seemed more fond of the wine, calling it 2001 ten years older.. He also remarked that truth is in the old bottles.. I could not agree with him more there. It is the fundamental problem with wine critics today no one provides enough of that truth (I will be trying!) The 1991 got worse in the glass (85?).

Jean-Louis spoke at length at the end of the first flight, and the following all represent snippets of that. I always try to make Hermitage first it was here before me and will be after. Terroir is the origin, and the origin of Hermitage is very special. There are very different soils within Hermitage. You can make Syrah anywhere, but the white is more complicated and there are only two places where it does well. In people’s minds, Hermitage is more red than white history is made of fashion and trends. When the red became famous, the price went up for grapes, and the red got pushed. The whites are not easy to like, and white Hermitage is not a refreshing white, it is meant to be drunk with food. White Hermitage is built on the glycerol, fatness and texture, not acidity. In fact, in the early 1900s there was more white produced than red. It started to change in the 1920s..

The next flight was comprised of the 1990, 1989, 1983 and 1978 Blancs. The 1990 had an intense nose full of glue, citrus, honey and wax lots of vigor here. There was a nice nutty quality to the palate, with a pinch of citrus and great terroir/minerality. It was round, rich and waxy if it is not a wine made on acidity then it must have been the alcohol that made the wine quite zippy, although many whispered that they felt a lot of the wines had good acidity. There was good petrol, mineral and benevolent sulfur flavors on the finish (95). The 1989 was the Blanc of the night. It had an intense nose full of alcohol with more nut in its nose, vanilla nut in fact, but in that unique Hermitage way. The wine was a victory for terroir over winemaking I sat in awe and couldn.t help but think how the wine gave me this impression that it made itself, and Jean-Louis was wise enough to let it do just that. The palate was fabulous, definitely great and still young, full, rich and long. There were great flavors of wax and honey wrapped in toast and nut (97). The 1983 had a lot of glue in the nose, complemented by more old wood and forest, bordering on a mint/eucalyptus thing. This particular bottle lacked definition, especially after having the same wine in magnum a month ago that showed much better perhaps a magnum is necessary at this point? The wine seemed confused and a touch medicinal (88?). The 1978 had a buttery, honeyed and divine nose with great bread aromas that carried over to the palate. Mike and Wendy combined forces for peanut butter satay. while Mike expanded into the world of coffee and butterscotch. around the edges. Doug found the 78 a little old and starting to show some sherry.. There was some citrus spice and lingering acidity. Brian chipped in how the great whites seem to get fresher as they get older because they get more focused (95).

It was time for the reds. We started with the 2000, which was very youthful in that Autobahn way. Ray’s premonitions of the young reds being too oaky for him were misguided. There were lots of earth and stems, but underneath the vim, stones and black and red fruits, there was a touch of barnyard. The wine had lots of alcohol and acid on the back end, decent structure, and was long and firm&a bit dormant perhaps, or as Ray put it, a bit diluted… (92). The 1999 was much more classic full of the pepper, bacon, roasted earth and menthol quadrafecta known as red Hermitage. The t n a (tannins and alcohol for those of you that forgot or do not know) were tremendous; we were in the presence of a big-time wine that was still a baby. There were loads of structure with the rustic earth and leather, with Jean-Louis noting that Northern Rhone is more like Burgundy than Chateauneuf. The wine is more soil than climate, and soil is more important than the sun this is very important… (96). The 1995 had a classic nose it was a touch more forward than the 1999 fruit-wise, but it also had the bacon and pepper, with more violet, meat and flesh. The wine was full-bodied, with lots of roasted, earthy flavors and outstanding expression of terroir again. Jean-Louis stressed the importance of terroir again, We don.t talk about Syrah, we talk about Bessards, Le Meal, etc where the grapes come from… (94+). The 1990 was one of the better bottles of this wine that I have had. It had an amazing wave of roasted meat, earth, and almost a bloody mary/worsteschire spice. The wine was open, fleshy and meaty with a splash of vitamins. The palate was very polished and refined with a long finish. It was Ray’s favorite, while Doug was trying to work through the tomato/vegetal side, and Mike called out a bullseye of hickory wood.. Speaking about the flight, Jean-Louis noted that the 2000 was more softness, the 1999 good structure and good everything, the 1995 more granite and tannins, and the 1990 classic… (95+)

The fourth flight was more difficult than any other to decipher. The 1989 was wound up enormously with firm alcohol and a touch of menthol. The bottle was shut down almost completely and had a long, deep, brooding palate (93+?). The 1985 had a touch of stink, just a pinch, and was very meaty and earthy. It had enough menthol to clear out the average sinus and a farm/hay/barnyard edge. The palate was very taut with lots of minerals, alcohol and acid. It was hot and seemed young with its enormous alcohol concentration (93+). I have never been blown away by the 1978, which again proved to be a solid, enjoyable wine, but not what I would call a legendary one. The 78 was very dirty with an earthy, stinky nose and some green, vegetal flavors (.better out of magnum. snickered Ray). This bottle was a touch disjointed (92?).

The Cuvee Cathelin, only made in years when the wine tells Jean-Louis to make it, has been produced in 1990, 1991, 1995, 1998, and 2000. The 2000 had just been released, so this might have been the first tasting of it in America. The next vintage of Cathelin will be 2003. Unlike what everyone assumes, the Cathelin is not the oldest vines in the newest oak (this is what I hate, confided Jean-Louis to us), but rather a barrel selection and still a blend. The Bessards vineyard is the backbone for the cuvee, but Chave was very adamant that the making of the Cathelin would never compromise the normal cuvee. There was no Cathelin in 1999 or 2001 because the wines only had one direction. In some years, it is possible to have two directions, another solution to the question of what Hermitage is like. It is important to make the normal cuvee as special as possible, and for the Domaine to be known for its regular cuvee. I am not always a fan of a special cuvee (from other producers) because it can reduce the quality of the normal cuvee. The difference between the Cathelin and the regular Hermitage is like going to the same 3-star restaurant on two different nights: the regular is like going on a normal night where there are 50 people there, and the Cathelin is like having the restaurant to yourself and a small group of friends. The difference is in the details. And on that note, we dove in ourselves. The 2000, fresh off the boat so to speak, had a brooding, deep intensity to it with lots of violet and bacon, vanilla syrup, a touch of ginger, mint, menthol and a candied, jellied style to its fruit. It was very rich and thick on the palate but shy. There were violet and leather flavors. The 2000 Cathelin was sweet, plumy, young, seductive and grapy and will be enjoyable to continue to evaluate for many years to come (95). The 1998 had much more power, which was obvious right away in the nose, which was full of roasted fruit and alcohol. The nose was intense with dashes of pepper, violet and an explosiveminerality, almost a silver streak to the nose. The palate was humongous with great flavors to match its nose and great t. n a. The wine was at the same time long, fine, refined supersonic (98). The 1995 was perplexing; there was a lot of white pepper, menthol and alcohol but a touch of aggressive wood. There were underlying bacon aromas. The wine seemed disappointing on the palate by Cathelin standards (could be the bottle?) and was all about the minerals and light raisins and did get a touch herbal (92?). The 1991 was the most open and classic, although Dr. B tried to lead a mutiny by calling it a touch unpure. Most disagreed strongly, myself included. The nose was loaded with bacon, violets, pepper, menthol, and roasted earth and had an animal edge. The palate was huge with a touch of yeast and animal flavors to complement the aromas, and with time some of that honeynut sex appeal emerged. The wine also gained in the glass with time (96). Last up was the first vintage, the 1990, now trading at close to $2000 a bottle. The 1990 was classic as well but had a touch more in reserve, in a wintry way. It had all the bacon, pepper, roasted earth and menthol but all in reserve. The palate was long and strong yet still silky. It was class in a glass (97).

There were two vin de pailles for those still standing. The 1996 Ray likenedto a honey cough drop, and it was for those familiar with the now defunct Pine Bros. The wine was kinky and exotic and was definitely on that honey, oat, wheat and earth side, with herbal twinges and a unique character (93). The 1990 was more wound with mineral edges to complement that Pine Bros honey thing, but it was also more foresty and weedy to me, despite Doug’s complete caramel, compliment (91). Dinner was done, but since we were already downtown, we decided to head to Cru for a nightcap. I can’t remember exactly what happened from there on out, except for the fact that a close friend of mine, in town for the weekend as well, generously opened a jeroboam of 1961 La Tache for all to enjoy. There is no doubt in my mind that that will be the greatest example of 1961 La Tache I will ever have. It was so fresh, meaty with such great spine and flavors. It left me with a distinct 2001 impression (97+). Ray also popped for a bottle very generously, an outstanding 1945 Vidal-Fleury Cote-Rotie. It needed about thirty minutes to start singing, but when it did it was also outstanding, overcoming a little barnyard in the beginning (95). Apparently we had a 1943 La Tache before the 61, but to be honest I don’t remember it. Damn. Time for bed.

Dinner at Cru 12/3/04

Friday night a smaller group of us got together at Cru, New York’s finest restaurant at the moment. Not only is the wine list stupendous, incredible, amazing, etc., but what Shea Gallante has done in the kitchen is not to be overlooked. His cuisine is great in its own right, but what he has done is made sure that the food complements wine in general, never over the top or too saucy, and always delicious. a close friend of mine, Rob, Dr. B. Michael Troise and Olivier of Mouton-Rothschild were our evening’s version of a Sinister Six, and we definitely started some trouble.

We started off the evening with an excellent recommendation for our sommelier extraordinaire, Robert Bohr: the 1986 Niellon Chevalier Montrachet. The wine was very young and fresh for an 86, although it did have a touch of botrytis on the finish. that many 1986s have, as Mike pointed out. There was amazing clarity to the nose that reminded me of a tranquil setting, like being at an isolated lake in the middle of nowhere first thing in the morning while taking a deep breath through your nose. The aromas were almost in hiding, but very much there: butter, citrus, corn and minerals. It felt like a wine that needed an hour or two to really start to hit its stride, because you could see the expansion with each sip. The palate was rocky and snow-capped with tremendous clarity again, and medium weight and length, although the finish still had a little screech. in it. The nose got more honeyed with time. The palate was slightly corked, but so slight it did not affect the judgment of the wine, unless this is a 99 point wine (95). Next up was the amazing 1971 La Tache. I have had this wine six times over the last two years, and every time it has been incredible. It remains one of the great all-time La Taches, and this bottle was no different. My notes began, Incredible again&hubba hubba.. That should be enough. The wine had a youthful just been opened. wave of t n a and menthol with gorgeous red fruits behind it, strawberry and cranberry to be precise. There was a touch of divine mushroom and truffle as well as a bouquet of wet, long-stemmed roses. Dr. B chipped in that the 71 LT embodies all I like in old Burgundy, and it’s still fresh.. Pinches of animal, vitamin and game rounded out the nose for this stallion of a Burgundy, with a great earthy edge underneath and a pinch of herbs. The palate was amazing huge t n a, make that enormous by Burgundy standards. There was great length and leathery flavors, with tremendous tension to the palate with a citric centerpoint to that tension. The wine was ridiculous, and the kind of wine that if no one were looking you would suck the last drops directly from the bottle (98+). Jean-Louis Chave happened to be dining at Cru as well with his wife, his agent Liz Willette, and a couple of others, so we had to order the 1971 Chave and share a glass with him (actually we were sharing every glass with him!). The 1971 had a very fresh nose as well and was consistent with the bottle I had last month at the Top 100, as it should since it was from the same source! There were aromas of beef, noodle, earth and a pinch of wild barnyard, with sappy plums underneath. The wine had a positive, soul-warming, soup-like quality that carried over to the palate, with a touch of foresty complexity there as well. It got a Korean BBQ edge and sweatier in the glass, a good sweaty like hot sex, of course (94). Next up was the 1967 Giacosa Barolo Collina Rionda, which for five minutes was pretty intense, but inevitably was more maderized than not. The nose was thick with great nut, tar, and dried roses with that oxidized maturity in a meaty, caroby way. There was good structure and alcohol on the palate, but the fruit was tired, and despite a beefy and meaty texture, the sherry was there. It was sturdy with good grip and leather, but definitely affected (92+?). At this point, Dr. Robert Lowery shared a glass of his dinner selection with us, as we had been sharing a few with him as well! The 1990 Brunel Cuvee Centennaire had a fabulous nose. It was very meaty, rich and ripe full of red fruits, game, spice (cinnamon and nutmeg), t n a, t n a and more t n a with a fire grilled edge and great dust, minerals and earth. It was an A+ nose, and an A+ palate to match that was rich, creamy and meaty the best bottle of this I have experienced out of three or four (97). We made up for the Giacosa with a rare 1958 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva. The nose was firm, full of alcohol, matchsticks and charcoal with loads of structure, tar and cold stones and minerals very intense, a close friend of mine concurred. It was catnip city, a word I usually reserve for my Burgundies! It had deep, chunky, chocolaty fruit and a huge palate. The chocolate flavors were massive to go along with its gritty and sandy texture, and both the nose and mouth developed animal (with the fur) and desert edges. The wine got figgy (or should I say figgy with it?) and started to lose focus in 30-45 minutes, though (94). You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and a friend of mine had another large bottle up his sleeve another Jeroboam of, this time the 1986 Romanee Conti itself. Intense animal and iron aromas jumped out of the glass, along with a very stemmy (positive) streak. As a close friend of mine always tells me, the great Burgundies have a stemmy edge. There was a wild, herbal twinge, but it was still a wine that slaps you stupid. There were pure rose, game, meat and iron aromas and flavors, and the wine was surprisingly smooth out of three-liter. The finish lacked the intensity that the nose expressed, but the wine was still excellent (93). Someone snuck me a glass of 1957 Chateau Rayas Blanc, I think it was John of Cru, which also had an amazing nose of coffee, honey, musk and grilled nuts NYC corner-style. The palate had loads of caramel and candy corn flavors, and the wine was still rich and smooth, right at its plateau (94). In honor of our guest Olivier, we had to have some Mouton, right? Even though nine wines were on the books already, magnums of 1947, 1953 and 1959 were on tap courtesy of a close friend of mine and Rob. Only brief notes will follow due to my cross-eyed condition at this state. Olivier’s personal favorite Mouton is the 1947, and this magnum showed why. I had an incredible bottle of this wine two weeks prior in Los Angeles, and this magnum was a step up from that. It was amazing; razor sharp, chunky, meaty and sweet with that minty edge and 200mph (99). The 1953 was no slouch either, massive and edgy with maple characteristics but a touch more noticeable oak (95). Both wines ran me over like a bulldozer with their power and freshness. The 1959, which Mike called the best ever, was the kind of wine you could taste forever. It was the most classic, long and heavy yet with laser-like precision (98). It was then Dr. B remarked how great it is to taste these wines against each other, and I likened drinking a bottle by itself to a tree falling in the woods when no one heard it. There was one more wine to go, and it actually was my wine of the night, a 1971 Quintarelli Amarone Recioto. The wine was vinified dryly, so it was unlike any Recioto I have ever had. The wine was awesome, massive, huge with loads of alcohol and a light sun bake, Golden Raisin style. It was a monument to Amarone (99).

The week actually started out on Monday with twenty-seven vintages of Gruaud-Larose at Artisinal. Unfortunately, I left my notes there, so I figured I would share some perspectives of that evening while they remain relatively fresh in my mind. The event was separated into two parts, a tasting and a dinner. The tasting portion was split into three flights by decade, 1990s, 1980s and 1970s, excluding the 2000, 1990, 1986 and 1982 which were saved for dinner. What stood out about the tasting portion was the remarkable consistency of the wines, all showing in the good to very good range (86-92 points), but even the ones that were 87 or 88 points were a delicious 87 or 88 points. I could easily see me unwinding with many a vintage of Gruaud, although I was not so keen on the seventies as a whole. The 2001 was a bit modern, but still tasty, and we also had the 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994, and 1993. Although the 1995 stood out as the only wine here that I would characterize as very good (ie, 90-2 points), all the others were charming and delightful in their own right, although there was some questions about the 1996 flavor-wise (bottle off?). The 1993 was still holding up, the 1994 was still tannic, and the younger ones were good drinks. The 1989 signifed a step up as we entered the 80s, and a lot of people liked the 1988 a lot (both 90). The 1985 was definitely funky and stewed and the only disappointment, and the 1983 was the class of the flight, in a real good spot right now (92). Even the 1981, although less complicated, was still drinking nicely. Unless you are feeling lucky, I would generally avoid Gruaud-larose in the 70s, although many liked the 1978 and I thought the 1970 was good, though far from great. As far as dinner and the big-boy. vintages as my dear friend Rob would say, the 1945, 1928 and 2000 proved to me to be all outstanding (95). The 2000 bridged the gap between Old and New Worlds quite well and the 45 and 28 were classic, rugged Gruauds. The 1959 and 1982 were right on theheels of those (94), with the 1959 showing a lot of character. The 1961 I found unusual and weird for lack of a better word, and the other wines from the 60s were all solid, that being the 1966 and 1962. I think I gave them each 90 points, but honestly I cannot remember. I do remember they left a positive impression though, the 62 being more fruit forward while the 66 had more structure and earth. The 1949 was a touch maderized although still very good, and the 1942 was still going strong despite being a lost war vintage and was right there on the 90-point border as well. All-in-all it was an enjoyable evening, and a great retrospective on one of Bordeaux’s most famous chateaux.

I should also note that I canceled two other events that I could have gone to this week in the interest of self-preservation.

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