My two weeks working in the ‘Golden Cellar’ were basically sitting at a desk and checking bottles. I was cutting capsules, looking at corks, labels and the color of wines at a methodical pace. My first day was twelve hours; I inventoried about thirty plus cases. That’s about a bottle every two minutes. The tortoise was going to win this race.

Thankfully, not every wine in this sale is super old or Château Pétrus, or better said wines that I felt it was my duty to inspect personally. I did have help. Even more thankfully, I got to sample about twenty or so wines from the Golden Cellar during my tour of duty there this past summer.

The first wine we sampled was a pizza wine, or at least we were eating pizza with it! The 2002 Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques was a gorgeous wine, beautiful, classic and still young. I guess that part is obvious! Sensual and taut red fruits were balanced by vitamins and earth, and the wine’s finesse was oh so ’02; elegant, refined and stylish. 2002 is certainly a classic vintage, not over the top and one whose style will bend most Burgundy lovers’ knees (93).

Ok, so I know that is not really spot-checking for provenance, but sometimes I just need a glass of wine, too! The next night we got a little more serious. I told the owner of these wines that I wasn’t too keen on négoçiant bottles. He didn’t have many to begin with, but he was insistent that he has had some great experiences with them. ‘Show me,’ was my reply. Out came a 1955 Cheval Blanc Vandermeulen bottling. Now, I have had an awesome bottle of 1947 Pétrus Vandermeulen thanks to the Big Ticket, but other than that results have been more down than up. However, this bottle was very good. It had a rich, hearty and warm nose full of old yet vigorous fruit; olives, beef bouillon, rust and exotic spices were all there. It was very meaty in the nose and had a touch of game along with spicy alcohol notes. Rich, round and hearty, there was good definition on its medium-long finish. A touch subdued at first and not nearly as kinky or exotic as the last château-bottled ’55 Cheval that I had, it was still solid and developed some of that coffee milkshake and wintergreen with time that made me remember that original bottle. At less than half the price of an original bottle, I can’t say it’s not a good deal (92).

‘What’s next?’ I prodded. ‘I’ve been sitting in this 48-degree cellar for two days now, freezing my nuts off, and I am thirsty,’ I played. After a round of wine tennis, we settled on another wine from 1955 that I was hesitant to accept. The next wine, a 1955 Trotanoy, had a bit of a sunken cork. Authenticity was not an issue here, but the cork was a bit down in the neck and hence risky. I couldn’t offer it accordingly. Slightly depressed corks are meaningless in my book; three out of four times, we are the ones slightly depressing them since we always check for firmness of corks. However, a cork that is noticeably sunken and beyond slight depression is a different story. This bottle of Trotanoy, though, was spectacular. It had a ‘wow’ nose, kaleidoscopic in its hues and tones. Sweet candied plums, sexy caramel, exotic gingerbread and even a twist of mandarin orange were all present in this hedonistic Pomerol. The nose was ‘crazy good,’ I eloquently put. It kept unfolding in the glass, revealing more citrus spectrums and hints of coffee and forest spice. The palate was big, rich and meaty, concentrated and lush, all about the plums, buttressed nicely by a slate of minerals. Hearty and with good acid, gamy and figgy with exotic coconut, this was a thoroughbred of an old Pomerol, and another testament to how good ’55 was in the Right Bank (96).

Ok, so two bottles that I did not want to take that were quite tasty. Sorry! ‘Let’s make it three for three, you feel lucky?’ I prodded. There was a 1955 La Mission Haut-Brion with a black Nicolas stamp. I had never seen a black Nicolas stamp before. The cork was branded correctly, but I was still hesitant and said I would rather pass. Out came the cork, and it was ’55 La Miss all the way. This is a wine that I am quite familiar with, thankfully, and it was a fitting cap to this trio of so-called ‘unsellable’ wines. Better to be safe than sorry right? I guess you are starting to see why I am calling this collector ‘The Man with the Golden Cellar.’ The nose of the La Miss eased out of the glass, slowly awakening to reveal the usual wave of gravel and charcoal, followed by smoky, tobacco-laced fruit. Cassis, light traces of caramel and sweet Asian spices started to emerge and take center stage. In the mouth, there were sweet, smoky and tender flavors of beef jerky, charcoal, chocolate, white smoke, cedar and mesquite. Complex, complicated, sensual, elegant yet substantial; this was real wine if I ever had one. So stylish, it got very chocolaty and cedary, deliciously so. Rich and tasty, it put on weight in the glass. What a wine (97).

That was a good night. The next night was equally as good, in a different way. ‘A lot of Jayer in the sale, huh?’ I hinted. Now, I knew full well the quality of the Jayer in this cellar. The legendary vertical, my Top 100 Weekends… the provenance here had already been established, but I must confess that it has been a while since I had had some Jayer. Romanée-Conti? Check. Roumier, check. Rousseau, been there. Vogüé, done that… but Jayer, these wines just do not appear that often, and I rarely get to try them. People just do not have these wines, probably because the majority of them are in the Golden Cellar! I wanted to try some funky stuff, and knowing that Jayer is probably the best producer in the world of ‘off’ vintages, we settled on a pair of Échézeaux, 1984 and 1982. The 1984 H. Jayer Échézeaux was a thrilling wine because of the vintage. You know you are a wine geek when ‘thrilling’ and ‘1984 Échézeaux’ are in the same sentence, but I think anyone could have appreciated this wine. I think I have only had otherwise Jayer Richebourg from 1984; it could be one of the all-time worst vintages ever in Burgundy. ‘For one of all-time worst vintages, what a nose,’ were my first words. There was a distinct pungent mint to the nose, yet also pure and clean Burgundy fruit with vitamins and mushrooms to go with it. The mint had kink and got kinkier. The palate was rich and round with great texture on its finish. Full of animal, tart cherry, vitamin and a kiss of cedar flavors, this wine was ‘so f ‘in fab for ’84.’ I cannot tell a lie. Soft and tender and still on the right side of a plateau, this wine was nothing short of a miracle. I could not stop smacking my lips (93).

The 1982 H. Jayer Echezeaux was seductive and stylish, shy at first compared to the ’84, yet similar in style and character. It had perfumed rose, jasmine and violet aromas, reminiscent of the first floor in Bloomingdale’s with its exotic perfume. There was that twist of Jayer pungency and a splash of milk in there as well. In the mouth, the wine was rich and meaty with a long finish and clearly more power and weight than the 1984. Delicious flavors of leather and sweet cherry fruit rounded out this outstanding wine. The balance of sweetness of fruit in both these Echezeauxs was spectacular. Damn, I need to drink his wines more often before they are all gone for good (95+).

The next night we replayed our first night’s version of a tripleheader, beginning with an unidentifiable Rayas. This believed-to-be 1969 Rayas could not be authenticated as the label and vintage label were so tattered, and Rayas did not brand their corks until the 1990s. We saw a faint ‘6’ on the vintage label, and the Man with the Golden Cellar deduced it was probably 1969 based on the quantities he thought he should have of this wine. Well, I couldn’t sell it, so there was only one thing left to do! The Rayas had sweet, tender fruit with a touch of sulfur and/or lit match, very sweet overall in that Châteauneuf way. Smooth and tasty with tender leather flavors, stone and that kinky Rayas Grenache, this was indubitably the one and only Rayas, full of strawberry fruit. Sweet cream and almost chapitalized in its personality, it was very good with its pruney and ‘sweet cerise’ flavors. It was an elegant, classic Rayas, and we’ll give the ’69 credit for it (92).

For almost three days, I heard the owner talk about Leroy, how fabulous he thought her wines were, how Leroy always wins every head-to-head tasting in the 1990s that he ever does, how her wines were so undervalued relative to , etc. ‘Can we drink some Leroy already?’ I asked. ‘How about a 1985? I have had some questions about that vintage recently.’ The 1985 Leroy Chambertin was full of game, vitamins, rust, leather and iron in its spiny nose. It had the power and terroir of Chambertin, very full and frontal with roof-licking definition yet a soft, graceful finish typical of 1985. Vitamins and iron flavors took center stage, proving that Chambertin is good for you (95)!

We got sidetracked on some of the owner’s favorite Burgundy producers. Sentimentally married to Jayer, his first love, he did concede that La Tâche and Romanée-Conti were the best terroirs and most hedonisitic Burgundies, but Leroy was now his favorite producer for sheer quality today. Rousseau and Dujac rounded out his top five, while Méo, Roumier and Roty were in his honorable eight, and he did say that he was probably forgetting an obvious one or two. It is tough to argue those eight producers out of anyone’s top ten; personally, I would throw in Vogue and Mugnier, and probably Drouhin as well…but I digress.

Did someone say Dujac? A 1990 Dujac Clos de la Roche was ‘better than ‘78’ in my host’s opinion. Having sourced my two best ’78 Dujac experiences (98 and 97 points) from the Golden Cellar for two different ‘Top 100’ weekends, I was a bit skeptical about anything being better than 1978 for Dujac, but the 1990 came close. The nose was stem city with its main highway off of cinnamon avenue. There was that kiss of cedar wood, rose, more stem, garden, mint, ‘spearmint,’ and even pizza crust; there was a lot going on here. Flavors of rose, vitamins, earth, citrus skins and long cedar graced its palate. There was super length and phenomenal acidity. Super stylish and long, spiny and with incredible pitch, this one day may outshine that 1978 after all; whoever buys these see me in twelve years. Please (96+)! !!
On the fifth night, we slowed it down a bit with only, only a 1987 H. Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux. It was another masterful wine from the master himself. Jayer is vintage-proof! Year after year, he produces, and his wines start to get magical around age twenty ”“ never drink them young! The ’87 had a phenomenal nose of purple and rose flowers mixed with Thai peanut, carob and musk. There was great pitch to its elegantly sweet fruit. The wine was pure, delicate yet strong. Rich, round and delicious, there was bright fruit and vitamin flavors, bordering on a benevolent metal/minerals thing. This was still great wine (93).
And on the sixth day, we partied. After the work was done, that is. Tonight would be three bottles, and a magnum on top. We started with an unbelievably good 1996 D’Auvenay (Leroy) Mazis-Chambertin. D’Auvenay is an estate-owned property owned and made by Leroy. It had a big nose, with huge amounts of rusty, deep fruit, plum and cassis to be exact, with minerals and a hint of chocolate. Only 870 bottles of this wine were made. Welcome to Burgundy, the microscopic labyrinth to greatness. There was also a touch of gas and popcorn to its nose, but it did not bother me. The wine had rich, mind-boggling concentration and was mouth coating, staining and gripping, but it still had the balance of a world class Burgundy. I could not stop drinking it. This secondary soy/hoisin and rice vinegar complexity emerged with time (96).

That was just the warmup to the featured matchup, the 1996 vs. Leroy Richebourg. Let the games begin! They were served blind, but it was immediately obvious which was which. Our host remarked on the size of the Leroy’s cork and how it was 15% bigger than that of the ; he was certain Leroy would age better due to this fact, but it is tough to argue with the ageability of . The 1996 Richebourg was sensual and classic in the nose with a splash more perfume than usual. It was a lean, mean rose and rust machine with great acidity. It was wintry in a fresh, wet snow way. Minerals were crackling underneath. It was exquisite in the mouth, ‘everything it is supposed to be,’ someone shared. It was a bit lean yet still somehow meaty, racy yet its finish slow and unwinding. Rose, citrus, leather, vitamin, mineral and stem flavors were all there in this budding beauty (95).

The 1996 Leroy Richebourg had a big, cedary nose full of fir spice, cherry oil and forest characteristics. The palate was stunning, a ‘wow’ wine if there ever were one. It was like oil of wine in the mouth, super-concentrated, thick, basically ridiculous. Rusty, rich and full of vitamins and minerals, the Leroy was absolutely delicious, bullying the out of the way (97).

Well, that was certainly game, set, match. It will be interesting to see how these two develop, and to see how other vintages and other head-to-head comparisons of Leroy fare against the best of the best since she started making her estate wines in 1988.

Feeling frisky, the Man with the Golden Cellar returned with a magnum of 1978 Romanée-Conti. Say hello to my big friend. The ’78 was slow to unravel out of magnum; a lean nose started to unfold slowly into meat and light brown sugar aromas, thickening into exotic oil and syrup edges. It had the rust, the tar, the menthol and all the flavor components of great, old R-C. Its razor sharp finish left no doubt as to its greatness (96).

I had to fly back across the country to New York the next day for two nights in New York to make our first September catalogue before heading all the way back and then some to Shanghai. That catalogue production was a twenty-hour day on Monday, three hours of sleep, and then a full day Tuesday before a night flight. Now you can begin to understand how the last two months of my life were. Actually, it worked quite well because I slept for ten or eleven hours of the fifteen hour flight. I had been officially KO’d by a double auction whammy.


My second week of work in the Golden Cellar was on the way back from Asia. I was a bit worse for wear; my trip to Asia wasn’t short on wine or late nights, and my grand finale in Singapore had me tasting about forty wines in three nights. I really needed to dry out, and I was very jet lagged as well, so I insisted on no wine for a few days.

Actually, I had had one very special bottle in Asia courtesy of the Golden Cellar, a bottle that had been halfway across the world and back. To Taiwan and back to be exact. This 1971 La Tâche with its Taiwanese strip label was gorgeous; great fill, cork branded correctly, everything about it looked heaven sent, and I was very proud of myself with the notion that I was going to bring this bottle back to Taiwan and its original resting place upon initially coming across it my first week in the Golden Cellar. When I finally opened it, this was a bottle that was definitely shaken, not stirred. Since one cannot carry a bottle of wine onto the plane anymore, this bottle went into the luggage and not only went from New York to Shanghai, but also then from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Taipei the same day it was being drunk, and the bottle was still spectacular. I am not sure that bottle shock is something I believe anymore! Yes, it was a bit murky from the sediment being integrated into the wine, but it did not take away from the wine at all. The experience reminded me of a ’45 Haut-Brion that I had to ship overnight for a dinner a couple of years ago that was also phenomenal. The LT’s nose was spectacular, incredible, amazing… insert your own superlative here. Rose and oil were first and foremost, then there was this ménage a toi of citrus, leather and cedar, you know, the tasteful kind, ha-ha. The vitamins, minerals, spice and overall depth were extraordinary. ‘This is the 71 LT I know and love,’ I wrote. The musk qualities were bringing sexy back, and the wine itself was bordering on a sexual experience. This was sheer liquid nobility, and all these observations are just describing the aromas! The palate kept pace with the nose; first and foremost, there was rust, citrus and spine galore. Its t ‘n a was enormous, searing my mouth with its laser-like precision and possessing enough acidity to go another 36 years. There was a touch of vanilla and cream soda, and a also hint of eucalyptus. Rich and rusty with great spice, the ’71 La Tâche also had a hint of tomato stew, in a good way. What a wine (98).

Back in the USA, at the end of my second week of work in the Golden Cellar, I had gotten my sea legs back and was ready for a weekend night of imbibing and experiencing with a very special guest, Wilf Jaeger. Wilf is one of America’s prominent and most respected collectors, and close friend of the Man with the Golden Cellar. It is always great to share some bottles with him. Little did I know I would be sharing ten! Amongst four of us. About fifteen glasses each… perfect :).

Wilf is also a master chef and was donning the apron on this night, which started innocently enough with a 2002 Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet. Wound and wicked, its nose was very intense, full of alcohol and anise, pungent and with plenty of taut citrus. Its palate was long, steely and minerally yet meaty, tangy and citrusy. Its finish was stony; this wine was still so fresh and so young and outstanding stuff (95).

Next up was a 1985 C. Noëllat Richebourg. This was the property that Leroy bought and now calls her own Richebourg. The nose was milky and gamy, with lots of sweet cherry and musky fruit. A bit of earth and tobacco rounded out the nose, but this nose was really about its tender, sweet fruit, really exotic with purple and boysenberry twists. In the mouth, it was classic, gamy Burgundy, twisted and full of citric complexities. Menthol and earth flavors graced its gritty, earthy and delicious finish (94).

It was time for a Richebourg showdown again; this time 1993 was the vintage of choice. Again, wines were served blind; again, it was easy to tell which was which. The 1993 Richebourg was shy, coiled and stemmy in its nose, with a milky, rosy and earthy complexity. There were secondary aromas of tea, wood, more stems and sweet cinnamon. In the mouth, the wine was wound and tangy, with a touch too much wood at first, very cedary in its flavor profile. The wine was undoubtedly excellent, with great acidity, and it continued to get more and more complex. Big, cedary and spiny, the palate also had traces of cinnamon and kisses of cedar, and its vitamin components became huge with time, and its musk flavors fattened out and developed nicely (93).

Once again, the 1993 Leroy Richebourg bullied the out of the way. The Leroy had a big, beefy, smoky nose with exotic soy and blue fruit aromas, along with black fruits, sweet mesquite, almost a blood orange and some white chocolate. How’s that for complex? It reminded me of something that Joel Robuchon might create if this wine were food! The palate was long and very dry, with great length as a matter of fact, along with beefy flavors. Wilf remarked that the Leroy was ‘more tannic, both young and brilliant.’ It was balanced in a Shaquille O’Neal way, like points and rebounds. The Man with the Golden Cellar remarked, ‘The ’93 Leroys could be the best wines in my cellar once they are fully mature, but the ‘96s and ‘99s will be more appealing for a while. Look at 1962. It took 3 5-40 years for people to recognize that vintage, and 1993 Leroys will be the same way. People do not know how good these wines really are.’ He went on to share how Larry Stone told him once that the 1996 Leroy Chambertin was the greatest young red Burgundy that he had had in a long time. Citrus, tang and smoke flavors rounded out this complex wine. Wilf added, ‘the wine has concentration and ‘puissance.’ This is what Burgundy lives to be. It makes me want to ring my tongue out to get the last drop.’ High praise, indeed (96+).

It was time for some old stuff; our palates had been sufficiently warmed up. A 1959 Leroy Richebourg had an incredible nose, with lots of game and that sweet ’59 fruit, along with rose, cherry, vanilla and lots of sex appeal. The nose was also creamy, with nice nut and earth behind it. Citrus and tobacco also made their presence known. The palate was not as spectacular as the nose, drier and with more citrus flavors. Wilf admired its ‘lacy and elegant’ style and its ‘high acid,’ continuing, ‘it has the cut like the greatest ‘59s, as well as ripeness.’ As far as that old Leroy magic, he reasoned, ‘Pre-1960s old Burgundy is like sausage; don’t ask what’s in it.’ On fire, he lastly praised its ‘nervous quality, more of a violin than a bass’ (94).

A super rare bottle of 1957 D’Angerville Volnay Caillerets was next. The color was pale and almost tea-like, yet the wine was gorgeous. It had a rusty nose with vitamin and cedar aromas, tender and old yet still fresh. ‘Elegant and soft, pure magic,’ Wilf interjected. It reminded Wilf of ’72, and he found it ‘pretty close to 5 stars,’ as did I. It was delicious and extraordinary, a wine for those that ‘love it tender,’ with great pine flavors and pitch at age fifty, even though this was supposed to be a wine long gone by now (94).

A 1969 Roumier Musigny was a curious fellow, an odd bottle that had the Domaine label yet the negociant vintage label. I was a bit suspicious, and initially refused the wine for consignment, so out came a bottle, and out came the cork. Wilf confirmed that Christophe’s father did indeed sell three barrels of Bonnes Mares to Remoissenet yet bottled at Roumier; Remoissenet, however, brought their own caps and corks and vintage labels. It looks like they got their hands on a little Musigny as well. This wine was spectacular, blowing away all four of us. It had an incredible nose full of rose, oil, meat, game, musk and leather. In the mouth, it was also oily, meaty and gamy with incredible richness and meat on its bones. Thick and lip-smackingly delicious, this was some serious stuff, and it was tasted after seven other serious Burgs. ‘How many more bottles of this are left?’ I asked. Duty called, and these incredible bottles had to go in now (97).

The 1947 Vogüé Musigny Vieilles Vignes was a bottle with an 8cm fill to which I said ‘no thanks,’ which would have been one of the most colossal mistakes I ever made. The nose was absolutely incredible; oily, thick, nutty and sappy. The musk and t ‘n a were divine; in fact, this was one of the most amazing noses I had ever encountered. Rust, spice, everything you could want in your Burgundy was here. The palate was thick as a brick with flavors of rose, oil, leather and game. Rich and spectacular, this even surpassed the mind-boggling bottle of ’69 Roumier Musigny we just had. I still feel like I need to write another couple of paragraphs extolling the virtues of this wine. I quickly accepted the other three bottles from this batch of four (98).

Now we were officially giddy and a bit tipsy as well, so we made perhaps a bad decision and popped open a 2000 Lafleur, which was actually better the next day. It was tough to wrap our palates around this infant after so many great old wines, but there was no doubting the enormous potential therein. It was deep, unresolved wealth; that is the best way I can put it, and about all I could muster up at this late stage of the evening (96+).

Somehow, one more bottle made its way open, a 2002 Dujac Chambolle-Musigny Gruenchers. I believe curiosity killed the Wilf. Forest and cherry aromas, forward yet reserved fruit with leather and earth ticklers in this smooth, round and precocious red (93).

That was one heck of a hangover the next day.

The wines from ‘The Golden Cellar’ spoke for themselves, as do the 112 photos we have in the catalog. This is undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest offerings of fine and rare wine ever assembled, an opportunity knocking loudly this October, two weeks from today.

In Vino Veritas,

  • Sign Up
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.


Sign up for Acker exclusive offers, access to amazing wine events & world-class wine content!

    [honeypot newname]