The first celebration of 2009 was a warm, welcome Happy Birthday for ‘The Don,’ the world’s pre-eminent collector of fine and rare Burgundy. If you had to bet on the size of Don’s collection, let’s just say that I would advise you to take the over! It was a milestone year being celebrated, and all I can tell you is that you probably wouldn’t want to drink much from his vintage, but you definitely would want to drink from his collection. He remains one of the most generous and passionate collectors in the world today.

Many of New York’s top wine collectors were invited to gather at Veritas, which closed for the evening in order to celebrate ‘and many more.’ Bottles were coming from every angle, and it was tough to hold down a decent conversation, as everyone’s eyes were wandering around to make sure they didn’t miss the any new bottles being circulated. It could only be classified as ‘Wine Attention Overload Disorder.’ I managed to take 26 notes myself; my problem was that there were many magnums and many seconds; oops, I did it again.

Everyone was welcomed with some 1996 Billecart Salmon Clos St. Hilaire, which was classic as always, racy like Nascar with its seemingly endless acidity. I am looking forward to drinking 1996 Champagnes for the rest of my life (96+).

A jeroboam of 2004 Henri Boillot Chevalier Montrachet awaited. Henri was actually there, in fact. There was great musk to its nose and super aromatics. Very perfumed and nutty, it was also sweet, buttery and youthfully intoxicating. The palate was smooth and lush with nice citrus, bread and mineral flavors and a dusty finish, perhaps a touch closed out of jero (93+J).

Sir Robert Bohr quickly offered up a 1986 Coche-Dury Meursault Chevaliers, which was very yeasty and nutty in the nose, bordering on a Chinese food impression. It was a bit dirty, still white meaty and nice, but starting to fade a bit and definitely very yeasty (91).

The third wine of the night was offered up blind by Fred, and it was an amazing shocker. The nose was similar to the Coche except it was bigger, smokier and more open. There was also yeast here, but more balanced within the nose, as well as butter and game, and a just-right hint of stew. The palate was delicious, full of matchbook flavors, as well as morning dew, milk, earth and toast. We were all pleasantly stunned to find out it was a 1973 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet! Not a premier cru, just the village wine. It just goes to show you ”“ producer, producer, producer (94).

There was a mystery magnum that turned out to be an outstanding 1992 Sauzet Batard Montrachet, but damned if anyone knew the vintage at the time. It was super spiny, wound and intense per the style of Sauzet, full of acidity and strength in the nose. Classic anise rounded out this behemoth of a nose. The palate was full of spine as well, long and yeasty and full of personality and flavor. 1989? 1996? Those were initial guesses due to the tremendous structure, but it was actually a 1992, and about as much structure as I have seen from this maturing vintage and an amazing feat. Sauzet seems to be the forgotten upper echelon producer in the hierarchy of white Burgundy (96M).

There was one more white wine for now, a 1996 Coche-Dury Meursault Chevaliers, which popped out of the glass as young Coche always does. Aromas of toast, kernel and a touch of cardboard (but not in a bad way) graced the nose. The palate was clean and fresh, tasty and full of kernel flavors and the big acid of the 1996 vintage (93).

I managed a glass of 1966 Faiveley Latricieres Chambertin as I finally headed back from the bar, I believe courtesy of Geoffrey. Old Faiveleys are real jewels, especially the ‘Latriss,’ and this was no exception. The nose was sweet and musky, gamy and ripe with cherry oil aromas. Sexy and sultry, the ’66 had great candied and earthy flavors and was very, very tasty (95).

1985 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses out of magnum? Sure, why not. Aromas of forest floor, mushroom, earth, game and incredible nut all balanced together perfectly. The palate was also in a perfect spot, as many great ‘85s are right now. Round and succulent, there was still great definition, spine, spice and leather flavors to balance with its deep, deep, dark, dark cherry fruit. Still satiny smooth, I was most impressed by this wine out of magnum (96M).

How about 1964 Pousse d’Or Volnay Les Caillerets out of jeroboam? Sure, why not. Although this jero was reconditioned and a recent release from the winery, it was about as good a job of reconditioning as one could hope for, providing both mature nuances and a fresh impression. The aromatics were great; leather, nut, minerals and stone stood on top of its sweet fruit. The flavors matched up well, and there were still mature game nuances along with excellent vigor, more so than if an original bottle, I’m sure. ‘Exquisite’ still summed it up (94J).

I grabbed a 1971 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses off the list before I could be accused of keeping my hands in my pocket and on everyone else’s bottles for the evening. What a bottle. The nose was divine, so sweet, so perfect, so 1971, a vintage I have always adored and not because it was my year! The aromas were plentiful and adorable; landscaped garden, sweet cherry, oil and nut were symphonic in their presence. There was still superb t ‘n a, enough to make me sneeze. The lightest glaze of caramel added to its already tasty and sexy palate. Meat, earth and game rounded out the palate, although Big Boy found a minor flaw, calling it a touch beefy on the palate and gave it only, ahem ahem, oooooonly 95 points. Big Mike commented, ‘the nose, you can’t get any better, but the palate is better on the ’85.’ I liked the two vintages equally for different reasons, and saw both sides of this rare coin (96).

Roy threw in a magnum of 1993 Roumier Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses to keep the love going. The nose was deep, dark and inky. Iodine, band-aid and rich, deep, dark purple came to mind. The deep and dark trend continued on the palate for this infant of an Amoureuses. There were lots of vitamin flavors here, and the wine still left a round and balanced impression. I am going to love you 1993 long time (95+M).

A white intermezzo slipped its way in front of me, a magnum of 1990 Raveneau Chablis Les Clos. Can’t say no to Les Clos. The nose reminded me of a stony waterfall in the Amazon, with of touch of sweet cotton candy and a twist of citrus. It was also waxy. The mouth was rich and honeyed with great citrus and wax flavors, a continuum of the nose (95M).

The first of a handful of wines was next, a 1966 La Tache. It was a touch dirty at first, which is consistent with most of my notes on this vintage for La Tache, but it blew off and sweetened out into beautiful rose, sweet cherry, earth, musk and a touch of ‘BM’ in a baby goodness way, keeping the dirty in the birdie. There was a touch of celery and stalk in the mouth to go with its rose and cherry flavors, but the wine never completely lost its dirtiness (94).

A 1972 Vogue Bonnes Mares was exotic and tropical, stunningly so. It was extremely open in an apricoty way and had much less tomato than I remember for a typical ’72. The palate was rich and round, tender with a little sidekick, and impressive overall for this vintage (93).

A quartet of Roumier Musignys was next served blind, a group effort. The first bottle had some issues and was a little oxidized. Too bad, as it was the 1995 Roumier Musigny, which some felt strongly would win the flight. Stewed vitamins, meat, iodine and nice leather were about all I could come up with. It was still somewhat drinkable, but not with fourteen wines down and three more Musignys up (92A).

The second Moose was stemmy and complex with lots of forest spice and a nice milk and leather combo, halter-top style. Nice spice, outstanding spice, I continued. The palate was smooth, surprisingly velvety and plush, but it was more polished than I expected. It was the 1996 Roumier Musigny. I could taste the 1996 in it, but very faintly (94+).

The third Roumier of this flight got a ‘big, incredible’ from Big Boy, and Inspector Barzelay was loving the tannins. The nose was very nutty, with aromas of sweet caramel and light, perfect toast that was caviar-ready. There was great fruit in the mouth, which was tart and tender with beautiful acidity and stem flavors. The 1988 Roumier Musigny was in a great spot and really, really good. 1988 was a special year for Roumier and a few others that made indubitably great wine (95).

The final Musigny also got an ‘incredible’ from Big Boy. The ‘killer bees’ DB, RB, and BB quickly crowned it wine of the flight. Anise was the first thing that jumped out at me. Leather, stone, shoeshine, spine, meat and distinctive grape nuts (as in the cereal) all followed. It clearly had the best tannins of any wine in the flight as well as the longest finish; of course, it was the 1993 Roumier Musigny. Many flip-flopped or were divided between preferring the 1988 versus the 1996, but no one could deny the 1993 and its very concentrated personality. WOTN (97).

A 1978 Richebourg appeared courtesy of Airplane Eddie, who decided he had to bring some Conti and order to the proceedings. The ’78 was full of menthol and dripping with oil in its nose, 1978 the right way, I wrote, as some have complained about bottle variation amongst the ’78 s. This one was A-OK. Doug guessed ‘78 RC or Riche.’ Impressive. I guess it was served blind! It was fresh and with a pop to it, but the palate was softer than the nose led me to believe, and there was a touch of almost spritz or CO2 there that was peculiar, not off, but peculiar (94).

A magnum of 1983 Clair Dau Bonnes Mares was excellent, and another solid 1983, which I have been enjoying here and there over the past couple years. Black licorice dominated initially, opening up into nutty, Burgundian fruit. The flavors were also licorice, and the wine was fleshy and tasty with a nice finish, in a good spot and a good showing for this oft forgotten vintage in Burgundy (93M).

Neil pulled out a gorgeous 1982 Henri Jayer Echezeaux. Jayer was a master of the ‘off’ vintages, and this was no exception to that rule. The nose was round and smooth, wine catnip. It was chock full of character, rich, full and complete. Plums and nut danced around the nose, and the palate was ‘wow’ tasty, with the perfect amount of sweetness and game. Yum (95).

What the heck was this, a 1991 Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque? This wasn’t Burgundy, this was an impostor! Ok, I won’t go any further and shame the person that brought it (Michael you know who you are 🙂 ), but I must say that I was actually stunned how Burgundian it was. I am not sure if it was the circle of influence, the actual wine, or the fact that my senses had been drowned in Pinot, but the La Turque actually fit right in and was outstanding (95).

It was getting late, and a few started to trickle out the door. It was time to separate the alcoholics from the men lol. Doug pulled out a rare 1915 Faiveley Bonnes Mares. Aromas of oat, hay, brown sugar and cereal were all there. It had that old, chapitalized feel, toasty and sweet, earthy and still possessing some freshness, still very good and a fascinating trip back in time (92).

I wobbled over to a 1978 Dujac Echezeaux. Aromas of garden, ‘bubble bath,’ play dough, musk, nut, game, black cherry and forest floor were present, and noted as a group effort. There was a nice sweetness to the palate on this excellent wine (94).

There were a couple of big cannons at the end of the night, although they didn’t quite go off as planned. A 1949 Roumier Musigny was unfortunately corked and tough to get into beyond that, although it did have great mouthfeel. What a shame (DQ).

Then there was a controversial bottle of 1945 Romanee Conti. Inspector Barzelay was all over the potential crime scene. First, my observations, in non-sentence form: ‘Aromas of old cherry, old vitamins, old book. Gamy and super old with amazing aromatics and lots of cobwebs. Rose, menthol and mint, all the classic components. Gamy but a touch stewed. Mouthfeel lighter than it should be but aromatically right on.’ Even the Inspector admitted that the aromatics were typical old RC, but he could not get beyond the fact that the mouthfeel was not as thick or rich as his memory served him, nor mine for that matter. It was definitely ‘45-lite,’ but who is to say that it is not bottle variation? I definitely couldn’t say it wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Old wines can be extremely variable, even within the same case. I still thought the wine was close to outstanding, but definitely at the bottom of my ’45 experiences, all other of which have been religious. Rob also felt the bottle was stewed and a bit affected, not in perfect condition but still special (95A?)>/b>

I think we covered most of the major food groups ”“ sacre bleu! No Rousseau? How did that happen? And Don is probably Rousseau’s number one fan”¦encore encore, anyone?
It was another special night, celebrating an even more special man. Happy Birthday, Don.

In Vino Veritas,

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