Bipin returned to Las Vegas this year to sample the cuisine of a couple of his favorite French chefs while they were in town, which is a lot easier than a trip to Paris! Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy were both in Vegas, and Bipin followed suit accordingly since his aces were in the hole. Of course, he planned a wine weekend around it, and this year he was in the mood for some . It ended up being a weekend of mainly Montrachet and La Tache, although thanks to some generosity of Midwestern Magnum Mark, a few Richebourgs made their way into the mix for some interesting perspective. As with every Bipin event, the food, the wine and the company were all extraordinary.

We started Friday night at Robuchon with a 2001 Montrachet, whose nose jumped out of the glass with that class. Sweet butter, musk heaven and a core of richness flirted with that touch of botrytis that the Montys almost always have. The palate was shut down, however, leaving a soft and confused impression at first. There was nice, light grit and decent length but that soft impression never left. Flavors of white tea and ‘crushed almonds’ were present (per Mr. Wine Vegas, aka Gil), but this 2001 was definitely in a bit of a dumb phase (94).

The 2000 Montrachet was more elegant than the ’01, long and cleaner in its aromas, more 2000 in style than . There was a kiss of ice skating rink to its citrusy nose, and the palate was delicious, with lots of minerals, grit and elegance, although King Richard found it the ‘weak man here.’ It didn’t have the raw materials of the ’01, but I found it quite pleasant, although it did wane in the glass. The 2000 was singing for Ed, and Bipin admired its acidity (93).

The 1999 Montrachet took control of our first flight with its spiny character. Gil admired ‘Chanel No. 5,’ while someone else called it ‘the most pungent,’ part of its spiny quality. The nose was full of anise, hot stones and minerals, and there were nice flavors to match. Rocky, spiny, edgy and long, the ’99 rocked and rolled over the previous two, and it was ‘the biggest of the flight, obviously,’ as King Richard decreed (95).

An animated discussion followed about the first flight. All were kind of closed and shut down; words like ‘disappointing, short and no subtlety’ were thrown around a bit maliciously, but given the price tag and expectations, perhaps they were a bit justified, but how a wine is showing versus what it is and where it is going are two different stories. ‘None are really showing right now,’ Mr. Vegas concurred, but we both agreed that all of these will benefit from Father Time.

The second flight began with the 1990 Montrachet, which started to show the benefits of age in a very regal way. There were aromas of butter, oil, tea and a bit of fortune cookie here, and the palate was rich, smoky and long, with more noticeable alcohol. Richard observed, ‘more butter,’ and while the alcohol made the ’90 hotter, it stayed on the outskirts of integrated, and it was clearly the best Monty so far. Flavors of vanilla and rainforest rounded out this ‘marvelous, always marvelous’ wine according to Ed (95).

The 1989 Montrachet was cleaner and spinier than the ’90, and its palate was long, clean and buttery, but simple. Gil noticed, ‘dill weed,’ and the ’89 was clearly softer and possessing less power than the ’90. It was a mismatch. No one was blown away by this tepid ’89 that had more flash than fortitude. Bipin admitted that the ’89 has always been disappointing and never impressive (92).

It was on to the reds, beginning with the 1998 La Tache. The ’98 had a taut, vitaminy and leathery nose that showed the best qualities of the vintage. Gil admitted that 1998 was ‘a vintage that grows on you,’ and perhaps went a bit overboard with the question, ‘The 1993s of the future?’ The first red after a bunch of whites always makes a good impression lol. It had a pungent core with lots of cinnamon spice, and concentrated, fresh fruits in the nose, which continued to sing and change and develop. The palate was also leathery and cinnamony with more noticeable oak. Gil called it ‘ratatouille in a glass,’ and the tomato and garden were there. We both found this crazy yet distinct tequila with lime aroma in the nose after some time in the glass. It was a ‘wow’ impression once identified, as it was so strong! The palate stayed oaky and dry overall, but give this complicated La Tache some time to integrate, and you may have yourself a sleeper (92+).

The 1988 La Tache had a lot of urine in its nose, or as Gil politically corrected me, ‘uric acid,’ in this nightclub sofa kind of way. Catbox, stewed tomato (‘canned actually,’ Mr. V chimed in), citrus and tang all emerged in this pungent nose, along with nice minerals. Both the nose and the palate turned green a la the incredible Hulk in this tannic wine, with me noting peas and Gil ‘fava beans.’ Whether that will be a good thing in the future remains to be seen (92+).

As noted already, a handful of Richebourgs made their way into our Montrachet and La Tache weekend, thanks to the generosity of Midwestern Magnum Mark. Merci beaucoup! I liked the nose of the 1988 Richebourg better than the LT; there was more earth, more open red fruits, musk, forest, truffle and sweet mint aromas. The palate had delicious red fruits and nice citrus vigor; the Richebourg was classic and delicious. Gil called it a ‘Rayas impersonator with its Chateauneuf pepper.’ On this day and for this vintage, the Richebourg out-charmed the La Tache (93).

The 1993 Richebourg was more coy and wound, like the vintage, with lots of stems and wintry red fruits in its nose. The palate was milky and stemmy, with nice earth and forest qualities but a bit unyielding overall (91).

Our overlapping trio of duets finished with a 1993 La Tache, which was richer and more concentrated than the Richebourg. It has an oilier nose, and the palate was long and gritty with flavors of leather and strawberry, along with excellent earth and waterfall ones. King Richard found it ‘very lovely, pure silk.’ It kept growing and growing in the glass, and while this was not the magic of that one 97-point experience that I have had with this wine, it was still flirting with outstanding. 1993 s do have a lot of variation, I should add (94+).

The next flight began with a gorgeous 1985 La Tache. I have always loved this vintage for La Tache, despite the fact that it has always been picked on by some as far as the ‘great’ vintages of La Tache go. The nose was open, ripe and full of sweet red fruit. Rose, nut, mint, bouillon and game were all present. Its palate was more concentrated, oily and tasty, long and zippedy doo dah with its lipsmacking finish. There was real character here, and secondary flavors of cola and tobacco joined the party. Gil admired that ‘it has everything,’ and there were plenty of vitamins and pitch left on its young finish. It was ultimately Gil’s and my wine of the night (96).

Unfortunately, the 1978 La Tache was oxidized. Ouch (DQ).

The 1990 La Tache was the right stuff. Its nose was rich and concentrated, yet reticent. Very saucy, there was oil in dem dar hills. George called it ‘big and brutal,’ and it was full of foresty, black fruits. The palate had enough tannins and acidity for an entire vintage of Burgundy, with secondary hints of rubber tire. The finish was super hearty, but its fruit and up-front nature were shut down and quiet despite its obvious richness. To be continued”¦(95+).

The 2003 La Tache sung ‘baby baby’ with its nose. Aromas of black raspberry and minerals dominated, and its nose gave me a bit of a 1998 impression. The palate was smooth and soft, and while thick, it just didn’t seem to have the acidity one wants for long-term aging, a knock on the vintage overall (93).

We had a treat for dessert, a 1900 d’Oliveras Madeira Barbeito. I love old Madeira, and although I rarely have dessert wine as I find it to be too much sugar for my body after having other wines (alcohol is sugar, after all), if I had to choose one dessert wine to have, it would be Madeira. Tea, molasses, tang, lemon, zip”¦all were present in this sexy, smacky wine. Still beefy, it was like molasses with a twist of lemon and a side of horseradish. Its concentration was outstanding (95).

Most found the 1985 to be the wine of the night, or at least the most enjoyable, although someone found the 1993 ‘the best wine in every respect.’

Day two was a lunch at Guy Savoy, with Guy himself manning the ship, which is always something extra special. Bipin said how he prefers lunch to dinner, as the palate is always fresher and more alert during the day. The 2006 Montrachet kicked things off in a clean and fresh fashion, with yellow flowers and fruits seeping out of its nose, along with citrus and musk. There were nice minerals delicately perched atop its other aromas. The palate was round with medium body, good minerals and a nice finish. It had a pleasant, perfumed way about it, with some of its mineral qualities showing obtusely due to its youth, but overall it was a beautiful and promising, young Montrachet (94).

The 2005 Montrachet had a deeper nose with more toast and wood, integrated at the last bar possible. The nose was bigger and had more weight, and a bit of spice was just right. The palate was really long, yet still delicate up front. It squeezed on the back side, however, with lots of minerals exerting themselves alongside citrus juice, twists and pop. There were lots of young, woodsy flavors here. Mark found the ‘06 ‘more delicate yet really closed,’ while the ’05 had more power and was ultimately the better wine. Bipin cooed how ‘the first two are incredible, the acidity is so high. The ’06 is flamboyant, and the ’05 needs time’ (95).

We time traveled with the second flight to the 1986 Montrachet, which had a milky nose, ‘2 day old milk?’ Gil questioned. JJ added, ‘clams, sea salt, ocean.’ The nose was yeasty and buttery, with sweet corn, but it had that old feeling to it, older than it should have, perhaps. The palate was rich with a backside that was out of balance and woodsy in its flavor profile. The finish was hot and long with nice, slaty flavors of yeast and white cola. It got fresher and sweeter with air, morphing into corn oil meets caramel, getting dirty and staying rich. That reminds me of a few people lol. JB admired its high acidity, calling it ‘more ethereal and more feminine.’ In terms of its overall existence, the ’86 is declining, but still holding on to excellence (93).

The 1985 Montrachet had a cleaner nose and came across elegantly with flashes of yellow, waterfall, hints of apple, grilled something a la sea bass or some sort of white fish, along with nice sprinkles of white Asian spices. The palate was a bit dirty in is flavors, soft, easy and round with more milky flavors. It was a bit stewy, with some alley and backwater as well. Mark observed ‘sawdust,’ and Gil ‘crushed Triscuit.’ It did gain in the glass and evened out with the 1986, and JB also found it ‘funky in the beginning but getting sweeter and more structure.’ For both these bottles, though, I wanted more (93).

The 1978 Montrachet was spectacular as always. I have had this wine a half-dozen times in my life, and if there is a better Montrachet, then I haven’t had it. JJ noted ‘milk house,’ and there was more power here in this ’78 than either of its predecessors, even though it was older. Musky goodness, fire and creamed corn were in its richer nose, which had nice toast and a smoky sex appeal. The palate was great with rich, buttery flavors, an oily palate and a long finish with the acidity of the previous two wines combined. This was special stuff. Its stalky flavors had lots of corn, too, along with lots of mountainous qualities. It was so rich and concentrated, with great musk and a lot of personality. While I have had 99 point bottles of this wine, this was ONLY (97). JB concurred, and he would know.

Montrachet’s turn was over, and it was back to La Tache, beginning with the 2004 La Tache. The ’04 was super wound and high-pitched with aromas of crushed red fruits, sandalwood, black raspberry, stems, a kiss of nut butter and lots of t ‘n a. The nose was very expressive, and its acidity impressive. Mark was saying how he has been impressed with 2004s, especially s, in general. This ’04, despite its youth, was really singing, and I kept noting its acidity over and over, a good sign for its future (94+).

The 2002 La Tache was classic with its crushed roses, great spice, vitamins, great stems, olives and lots of citric tension. There was great (sensing a trend?) vim here, both to the nose and to the palate. Its flavors were long and stylish, elegant like a lady with a few bodyguards in tow. Its acidity was also superb, even more so than the ’04 as it was more reined in but still vigorous. ‘So good, so long, so fine’ summed it up. I couldn’t help but think about how great this 2002 was, and how the vintage is general is a bit under the radar in the market right now as far as top-tier vintages of Burgundy go. Everyone talks about 1999 and 2005, but 2002 could be a vintage that finds itself in that discussion more and more as time goes on (96).

The 2001 La Tache had Gil’s attention right away, not something easy to accomplish. He noted ‘garrigue, olive grove and lavender.’ There was some great pitch in the nose, and the ’01 possessed more fruit than the ’02 along with more sweetness. It also had some of the length of the ’02 but was milder in that regard. Gil still found it a bit Rhonish. The palate had nice stems and was elegant, but it didn’t have the power of the ’02. There was nice cedar smack to the finish in this excellent ’01 (94).

The 2000 La Tache was ‘a jar of dill pickles’ per Mr. Vegas, but it became curry in a hurry for me. Olive, dill and green bean were all in the nose. Its palate also had dill flavors, but it was fleshy and tasty, on a faster maturity track than the previous three, but there’s at least a decade or two to enjoy this vintage of LT for sure. While congenial and forward, it still had strength and ageability (93).

Mark commented on the flight that if you had these four wines served single blind, you would know which one is which, as they all classically reflected the vintage and showed each year’s typicity. Bipin hailed the ’02 as ‘a truly great wine,’ how good the 2000 and 2004 were ‘a surprise,’ and the ’01 ‘great but monolithic.’

JJ found the 1996 La Tache like ‘Bordeaux.’ I found it classic ’96 ”“ screechy with its long acid, but it also had some fatness to its fruit, decadently both purple and red. Slate, rubber tire and minerals all blended with the acid, and menthol was hidden underneath. It felt like the menthol will ultimately take over the character of this wine in time. The palate was coy, softer than I expected, still possessing length and grit with nice tannin definition, and more menthol and slate on its finish. The nose was special, but at the moment, the palate of this LT was shut down, although the wine still screams potential (94+).

The 1995 La Tache had crushed red fruits and bull’s blood to its reticent nose, which was also a bit rubbery. The palate was rusty, dry and long with a serious finish, but will the fruit catch up? The 1995 rap was evident here, as someone noted, ‘just structure, really no fruit.’ Gil chipped in at the end, ‘carraway seed and Chinese black tea’ (93).

The 1991 La Tache had a special nose. It had rich, concentrated and saucy fruit. Kisses of milk, vitamin, citrus, rubber, minerals and leather danced around its flashy core of sweet, pungent red fruit. The palate was delicious with great iron flavors, musk and more red fruits. It was noticeably long, and someone called it ‘superb’ (95).

The Good Doctor shared some comments with the group about the first two flights, hailing La Tache as ‘always enjoyable even though all fairly young. The ’02 stood out, and in the second flight the ’96.’

The next flight began with another comparison of La Tache and Richebourg, this time the vintage being 1989. The 1989 La Tache was a Bordeaux impersonator with its open, cassisy fruit and cedar, along with a pinch of pavement. There was nice flesh to its nose as well. The palate was rich and hearty with black fruits and flavors. Very musky, the ’89 was long and had excellent acidity, very 1996 in style with all that slate and acidity. It got a little dirtier in the glass (94).

The 1989 Richebourg was more classic, possessing more elegance than the LT. There were plenty of musk, earth and nut aromas balanced by rose and vitamins. There were also lots of vitamin flavors and a long finish, which was full of excellent acidity like its sibling. I liked the fruit of the Richebourg and its flavors better, but I couldn’t rate it higher than the La Tache and the LT’s impressive breed and structure. With that being said, the Richebourg was really good and a more enjoyable wine on this occasion (94).

1989 remains an interesting vintage to me, one that is quality and seemingly forgotten in the minds of many Burgundy lovers. 1988 was a vintage embraced by Parker that had the market’s hopes very high accordingly, but it soon became controversial with its big tannins and monstrous style, so there was some trepidation over embracing 1989, and then 1990 quickly overshadowed not only 1989, but them all, so to speak. It remains a year worth getting to know a little more in Burgundy.

I had saved a few sips of 2006 and 2005 Montrachet, and it was at this point that I revisited both. The ’06 opened a little but was still dusty and shy. The ’05 also gained a little more, but not much more, and the ’06 seemed to gain on it.

The 1980 La Tache had a great nose, ‘so great,’ I put. It was musky, open and sexy with its strawberry fruit. There was also great earth here, and this struck me as the greatest ‘young’ vintage of La Tache to have that also shows mature qualities. It won’t get any better, but it will hold for a while, too. There were delicious flavors of menthol, tobacco, rose oil, ‘vanilla’ per Mark, and ‘mesquite’ per another (96).

The last red on this afternoon was a 1964 Richebourg, which was the third time I had had this wine in six weeks. I love it when that happens. It got an ‘ok’ from the Good Doctor, and it was not as good as the other two bottles recently sampled, but still excellent. It was hearty a la ’64, with nice rose and red fruits, good dirt and earthy flavors and hints of menthol. Its tannins and acidity were first only pleasing, but soon gained in the glass, like a mini-explosion. JJ found it ‘very candied and very sweet,’ and that sweetness played into its minty, fresh and elegant style. It couldn’t quite shake its dirt clean and maintained an earthy streak (93).

We finished the afternoon with another glorious Madeira, an 1875 Barbeito Madeira Malvazia. It never ceases to amaze me how young 100+ year-old Madeira can come across. Aromas of raisin, fig, date and nut musk seeped out of the glass. This was more elegant and not as heavy as yesterday’s Madeira, medium-bodied and possessing great spice to both the nose and palate. JJ noticed its ‘oak,’ and there was this charred, wet oak quality. There were indoor screen flavors, which wasn’t a bad thing. JJ also noted ‘cinnamon’ and ‘Duncan Hines’ (93).

Day three was at Picasso’s, one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas. What makes Picasso’s special besides the multi-million dollar paintings by its namesake hanging all over the restaurant, is the fact that it is one of the few restaurants in Vegas where the actual chef is in the restaurant every night. It makes a difference, and Julian Serrano was in fine form as always. We got off to another good start with the 2004 Montrachet, whose nose jumped off the page. It was very musky and minerally, with aromas of sweet butter, spice, nuts and more musk. The palate was smooth, balanced and long, rounded and feminine in style. Bipin admired its ‘high acidity’ and felt it had a ‘great future.’ While its nose rippled with character, the palate of the ’04 was a bit coy and still missing some weight, although I am sure it will improve with time (94+).

The 2003 Montrachet had a mild nose by comparison with light yellow hues including corn and the stalk, along with a lot of slate. There were nice, round, forward flavors with some richness despite a softer and simpler overall personality. It is a good vintage of Monty to drink young with its round, lush and forward style. Bipin commented on its ‘low acidity,’ and a debate emerged about its ageability, and Mark stood up for its potential, comparing it to 1976, another hot vintage (92).

The 2002 Montrachet had a complex nose with more orange fruits and peel, very penetrating aromatically in a slow and seductive way. There was great nut and caramel kink here. The palate was rich, luscious and honeyed with a long finish; this was clearly outstanding stuff and carried my 2002 thesis quite admirably, that 2002 is a forgotten vintage in the context of big-time wines. Manny hailed it as ‘the most balanced’ of the three, and some secondary mango emerged, along with more butter and musk. Mark felt that each wine in the flight had its own distinctive quality, ‘the citrus minerality of ’04, the opulence of ’03, and the balance of 2002’ (95).

The next flight paired 1996 against 1995, always a fascinating comparison when you have two good bottles. The 1996 Montrachet had a bit of milk and waterfall in the nose; the high acidity of the vintage stood out in the nose but in an elegant and refined way. It had a long, wintry palate that was elegant, regal and stylish. Seomone remarked how the ‘nose was more closed, but the finish explosive.’ Mark shared my opinion of the wine when he commented that it was the ‘lightest of the two but surprisingly long, although I expected more’ (94+).

The 1995 Montrachet was much more honeyed and forward, with Mark noting its ‘butter.’ I could not get past its honey; it was pure honey in the nose. The palate was much richer, also woodsy, but fat, long and edgy. There were great minerals on its finish, and ‘a lot of botrytis’ per Bipin. It was exotic, like a freak show or Frankenstein, take your pick. Rich, buttery and kinky, the 1995 reminded Mark of 2005, which he found a step behind this wild and crazy 1995. While the 1995 wasn’t exactly classical, it was definitely jazzy with a lot of bass. The ’95 and ’96 were two totally different wines (95).

We said goodbye to Montrachet for the weekend with an unfortunately oxidized 1983 Montrachet (DQ).

We said hello again to La Tache with a fantastic 2006 La Tache. The ’06 was so fresh, brimming with crushed red fruits, stems, roses, oil, mint, black cherry and cola. It was so fragrant, with excellent richness and divine aromatic sweetness. Wow! The palate was also great, its fruit clean and natural to the core. It was similar to the nose with dominating black cherry and stem flavors, along with choice earth and great tannin expression. Traces of cinnamon sprinkled over its ‘high-toned fruit’ (Mark). Man, was that nose damn good (96).

While the 2006 set a high bar rather quickly on this Sunday afternoon, the 2005 La Tache set one even higher. While it was more reserved than the ’06 at this stage, its depth in its nose was undeniable. It had aromas of earth that sparkled with diamonds, rust without the decay, and black as midnight fruit. The palate was incredibly concentrated. It was rich, beefy and stemmy, possessing so much fruit yet still coiled and deadly. Its t ‘n a squeezed my tongue like a python, and blood emerged in its bloody good nose. So fine, so rich, so long, I think profound summed it up best (98).

As if there could be another wine that could stand up to the first two in this flight, oh, that’s right, we had yet to sample the 1999 La Tache. There was more elegance here but still meat on dem der bones. There were also more vitamins and cola, but some expressive black cherry as well. The palate was rich, long, elegant but fat, also showing more cola. While reserved and more backhand than forehand, the ’99 was still a winner all the way. It got more aromatic in the glass as its crushed qualities became more fragrant. Jim also noted that fact, saying that ‘the ’99 has lost its initial baby fat but is gaining in harmony,’ also finding it the most enjoyable of the three right now. Gil found the 1999 ‘woodsy, like a lukewarm sauna,’ as well as ‘crushed nutshells and cranberry red fruit,’ although he did find the ’99 closed as well. Manny called this flight one of ‘three superstars’ (97).

We traveled back in time rather quickly with our last Richebourg pairing for the weekend. The 1976 Richebourg was noticeably mature with warm aromas of menthol, olive, game and ‘caramel’ per Bipin. There were also secondary aromas of garden and sweet bouillon. Its beefy, dirty flavors were browned and autumnal, with more bouillon emerging. While it only lasted about thirty minutes in the glass, it had a fleshy character and an open, spicy citricity. Someone keenly remarked how ‘sometimes it is nice to have wines where you don’t have to say it will get better’ (93).

The 1976 La Tache was nutty and gamy, less pungent but with similar qualities to the Richebourg. There was more style, more elegance and more reserve here, but it was still autumnal in its personality. It was thicker and longer than the Richebourg. Both had a lot of ‘toffee’ per Bipin, and Paul chipped in how ‘both are drinking beautifully right now’ (94).

There were two wines to go in this magical weekend, and one of them was a magnum of 1972 La Tache. The ’72 had a sexy nose with just a hint of that ’72 tomato. There was also sweet cherry, meat, oil, citrus, Worcestershire and chocolate. The palate was dirty even though its acidity was excellent. There were Korean barbecue flavors, a lighter mid-palate and dry tannins. The ’72, even though it was served from magnum, quickly headed south for the summer (92M).

The closer for the weekend was a fitting choice, the 1971 La Tache. This wine has always been one of my all-time favorites, and it is probably the greatest wine that I have had on the most occasions, ie more than any other of the all-time greats. Bipin also shared how it was his frist great Burgundy, and that the first time this wine was even brought into California was by him! I knew there was a reason I liked it so much :). The nose creamed citrus, olives, meat, oil and spice. Admittedly, this bottle was a bit more autumnal than some of the best bottles that I have had, but the palate had great citricity and flavors of bouillon in its long and fleshy profile. There was pitch and class here, and the acidity still snapped, crackled and popped (97).

It was a great weekend, and another testament to the greatness of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, another chapter in the endless story of the greatest producer of wine on Earth.

In Vino Veritas,

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