There have been some pretty special wine weekends in 2016. It is good to see people reaching deep and going long, so to speak. One of those weekends saw me in an unnamed steakhouse in Tampa. Actually it was 29 hours to be exact. Our trip was made much more efficient thanks to Operation Starfish, who arranged for a private plane down for our band of merry men and women. I need to do that more often.

An Unnamed Steakhouse In Tampa

Something it is almost impossible for me to do is drink more often, and drink we did. We gathered at Bunga Bunga’s before heading to the airport, where we were welcomed with a 1999 Coche-Dury Meursault. The Coche was delicious, as Coches are prone to be. If someone told me they could only drink one white wine producer, and it would be Coche, I couldn’t argue. The Meursaults are particularly good values, as they age quite well. They were better values before they tripled in price in the last few years (94).

Pre-game Warmup

Part One of our journey began on the plane, where we were able to provide our own inflight beverage service. We kicked things off with a 1985 Dom Perignon thanks to 12 Gauge. It was a classic bottle, as good as this vintage can get. There were aromas of vanilla, cream, nuts and sweet white sugar. Its palate was long and strong, and I wrote how this is the forgotten, great DP (96).

Proper In-flight Beverage Service

We moved quickly on to the Burgundies, which would keep us busy for most of our 150+ minute flight. The first was a 2002 Roumier Bonnes Mares that was a beauty. It had a classic nose that was smooth and still shy, but there was rusty, rosy, earthy and minty black fruits that kept growing and growing. While a bit in hibernation, the Roumier was sexy and satiny, tight yet great. There was more stuffing to this than the wine that followed. Pits called it a ‘Time Machine’ (96).

The 2002 Dujac Bonnes Mares was much more expressive with lots of grape and purple aromas. It was very fruit forward and creamy. Its violets were singing. Its nose was richer and more decadent than the Roumier, but the Roumier had much more booty. The Dujac was more ready and more pleasurable on this night, and Pits found it ‘bright’ (95).

A pair of 1990s was next, beginning with a 1990 Drouhin Chambertin. It was deep and open with lots of fruit and spice. Iron, earth and minerals provided a great frame for this sturdy and zippy wine. Rich and flavorful, it had a long finish with menthol kisses (94).

The 1990 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques was sweet and gamy with aromas of cherry, mint, more red fruit and iodine. There was lots of spice and acidity with rusty orange flavors and thick slate on its finish. It was almost right thurr (96).

We began our initial descent with a 1964 Dom Perignon, which had an herbal essence to it, along with the usual suspects of vanilla and white sugar. I found it very similar to the ’85 qualitatively, and Alexander The Great noted ‘caramel.’ It got a bit woodsy but still held its own (96).

We made it to our ultimate destination and began with a 2005 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet. It had a milky nose with a rich, meaty, honeyed and buttery flavor. It was tasty with caramel, corn and mint qualities (93).

Operation Starfish set the bar high off the list with a magnum of 1937 Lafite Rothschild. It was super classy in the nose, with aromas of pencil, cedar and nuts. It was a bit lighter in the palate, smooth and chalky with nice flavors and honey kisses. We discovered it was reconditioned at Bern’s in 1991. This was solid and classic in many ways, but, like almost every Bordeaux from the entire decade, only in the very good to excellent category (93M).

A 1953 Ponnelle Pommard Epenots was tight and acidic, yet it had lots of strawberry goodness. It was long and a bit bitey. 12 Gauge found it ‘alive and enjoyable, not gone but not glowing’ (90).

The 1962 DRC Romanee St. Vivant (Marey-Monge) had a deep, pungent nose full of bouillon and Asian spice. It was beautiful with smooth and tender beef satay flavors, and honey bean ones, too. There were flavors of garden and leaves with green and brown shades, all in autumnal mode. There was a nice swell of flavors to this mature red (94).

The last wine on this extended evening blew everything else away, but it wasn’t a Bordeaux or Burgundy. It was a 1964 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle. While the 1961 gets all the attention and sometimes deservedly so, there are many great, old La Chapelles. This 1964 was spectacular, equaling the quality of a different bottle already sampled this year. This is a special, secret wine! There were oceans of black and purple fruits to go with its rich, meaty personality. The garrigue qualities said Rhone all the way. It was so delicious, and it smoked everything. It had a great balance of fruit and acidity. ‘What a beautiful and special bottle,’ 12 Gauge concurred (98).

Sunday began with a very late breakfast, and I couldn’t help but notice WWE superstar John Cena having brunch at the hotel as well. I was so tempted to go flip over his table, flex in his face and then have an ultimate stare down, but I was too hungover. I’ll get him next time lol.

After some strenuous exercise, I found myself cooling down by the pool with some killer Champagnes, although the first was slightly affected. Operation Starfish found the 1990 Jacques Selosse ‘jumbled,’ and he was right. I only know because I had a near-perfect bottle just recently. I’ll get to that later, but per this bottle on this occasion (94A).

Brunch By The Pool

The 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil showed why it is the Romanee-Conti of Champagne. It crushed and hushed the Selosse with its large and in charge personality. This was huuuuge like a Republican Presidential candidate. This was big like a butterball or a butterbomb, take your pick. ‘Brioche, cereal grains and clover honey’ came from 12 Gauge (97+).

A 1988 Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre was deliciously mature. There wasn’t much minerality left, but there were thick, yellow, sun-dried and tasty flavors. This was mature Chablis just hitting its stride, both gamy and good. ‘White and Acacia flowers’ came from the crowd (94).

The last “pool” wine was a 1999 DRC Romanee St. Vivant. 1999 + DRC = Legend! Aubert once casually mentioned to me that he thought that 1999 is the greatest vintage DRC ever made. I wouldn’t disagree. This was an awesome wine, concentrated yet pure. Its stony acidity sizzled, while its meaty and fleshy palate chewed up the rest of its fat. This was a long and strong wine, and as good as I remember any RSV from DRC…ever (96+).

Our second dinner saw us begin with a 1924 Leoville Las Cases magnum, which was stellar. It was recorked in 1974, and it was still decadent and sumptuous. Recorked wines are always better the more time they have in the bottle since being recorked. The ’24 held and grew in the glass. There were lots of vanilla and carob flavors, along with ‘currant, blackberry and blueberry’ (95M).

Bordeaux Mirages

The next wine was from one of my favorite, secret vintages in the last 100 years in Bordeaux. The 1922 Pichon Lalande had a great nose with big aromas of cedar, chocolate, aged cassis and smokehouse. Its palate was delicious, round and satiny. It was also smoky, rich and buttery. This was another sexy 1922. I have had maybe five wines from this vintage in the last couple of years, and they have all been delicious (95).

We continued with the 1922 Lagrange. ‘How good is that?’ I wrote. There was amazing cassis fruit. This was a wow wine; I thought it was fifty years younger! Long, round and soft, it was different in style than the Pichon, but equally qualitative. This was a dark forest of a wine (95).

Wintergreen, gingerbread and light molasses permeated through the nose of the 1942 Ausone. It had a soft palate that was interesting in a gamey and tangy way. There was a web to its way, and its flavors were sundried. Alexander The Great found lots of ‘iron’ in this gritty wine (93).

There was one more wine on our agenda, a 1978 Bouchard La Romanee. Its terroir shined through its rock solid structure. It was very vigorous and youthful, full of beef and bouillon flavors. It was tasty with great acidity. La Romanee is one of the greatest terroirs in Burgundy, no doubt (95).

We flew back after dinner because it was just that easy. We got back after midnight, but the slipper still fit. Mission accomplished thanks to our fearless leader, Operation Starfish. I will always be ready for duty, sir!

In Vino Veritas,

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