One of New York’s most renowned and important collectors celebrated his 50th birthday in fine fashion recently at Bouley’s private ‘Test Kitchen’ here in New York City. David was at the top of his game for the twenty-some-odd courses that came out. Although the tables were set, it ended up being more of a cocktail party, with the cocktails being some of the 20th century’s greatest wines, mostly in magnum, many brought by the eager invitees. It was a fitting celebration for a gentleman whose cellar is already fit for a king.

There wasn’t much white wine to be had on this summery afternoon, but there were three significant samples to warm up with, beginning with a magnum of 1989 Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles. For the rest of this article, unless I say otherwise, the wine was served from magnum. The Jadot was alcoholic at first, wound out of magnum. Aromas of corn oil, butter and caramel fought through along with mild citrus flavors, light tang and smoke. It was a bit monolithic but still rich and buttery, excellent overall. Cotton candy aromas and apple flavors developed (93M).

A magnum of 1986 Ramonet Montrachet had a sweet and pure nose, with the style, balance, depth and reserve that only Montrachet could have. Its sweetness in the nose was buttery in the usual style of the vintage. The palate was rich, heady and alcoholic; a touch square yet still stellar. Baked bread crust aromas and flavors joined the party. Big, buttery and brawny, there was an alcoholic pop to its finish (94+M).

After a little air, the 1989 Ramonet Montrachet revealed aromas of classic mint, sweet cream and white fruits. There was almost a hint of jasmine to the nose, but not quite, and Ray added ‘lavender but not quite.’ Charcoal and ‘sage’ (Ray again). made appearances as well. Again big, brawny and buttery, both Montrachets proved young out of magnum, and a little square as a result (95+M).

The first red was probably the day’s most controversial, and probably deservedly so since it was a 1870 Lafite Rothschild. a close friend of mine was doubting the 1870 part of the wine right away but still found it ‘Lafite, sweet and almost Burgundian.’ Now I have been blessed to have an original bottle of 1870 Mouton once, a bottle that was spectacular. This wine was not that and clearly reconditioned. After that, unfortunately, it is anyone’s guess anyway as to what the wine really is. Could it have had some 1870 in it? I thought so, but for something that old to have as much youth as it did bothered some. However, its older qualities still took center stage. There was a lot of tobacco in the nose along with old book and cedar. Its flavors were gravelly. There was not a ‘whole lotta’ acidity, but there was lushness, and it had that old Lafite character. Its finish was chalky and minerally, and its flavors had an old cobweb feel despite a sweet cherry core. Slate and citrus also emerged on its lightly gritty finish. It was definitely Lafite, probably some 1870, and still an interesting wine but not the earth shatterer it was supposed to be (91M).

A 1945 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes was unfortunately a touch oxidized. It still had tender, soft, old fruit and complex aromas of cloves, cinnamon, hoisin BBQ and earth. Tender, old and endearing, this magnum was not dead yet, though definitely in a nursing home. Pleasant rose and citrus flavors and a nice, lip-smacking finish rounded out this salty old magnum. a close friend of mine felt it was about 65% of what it was supposed to be (93A-M).

Despite stumbling out of the gate a little, all was soon well after a pair of 1962 Burgundies were opened, beginning with a 1962 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes. Hello, Doctor. The nose had gorgeous perfume, hauntingly elegant yet still backed by some hybrid of sweet cherry oil, liqueur and fruit. Sweet and creamy, there was tender cherry fruit and cinnabon flavors along with traces of oat and wheat. Round, satiny and smooth; long, exotic and gorgeous, the 1962 Vogue was a knockout (97M).

The 1962 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes was an equal match, yet a totally different style. Eddie admired its ‘meaty and bloody’ personality, while I its great, rich, chocolaty fruit. There were loads of iron and vitamins in this healthy wine, and wicked cherry tang, all coming together in a nose of exquisite pitch. Its flavors were citrusy and vimful, perfectly balanced with its beef and earth notes. Great, exotic chocolate flavors rounded out this spectacular wine, although most including Ray and Shelley were in the Vogue camp if forced to pick a preference (96M).

The 1978 Ponsot Clos de la Roche was no match for the ’62. Its nose was musty, dirty and earthy, a bit off. Its flavors were bright with citrus and earth, however, with hints of chocolate. There was good balance to its solid palate, but the wine soon got lost and forgotten amongst the greatness uncorked that afternoon (92M).

It was Ponsot again, this time the extra-terrestrial 1959 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes. Its nose oozed out gorgeous, cherry fruit, that forward, warm, sweet fruit of 1959. Breadcrust, earth, sand and cement were behind its sweet core. The palate was superb with incredible vigor and spice. Its acidity and alcohol were alive and kicking more than Mick Jagger, and its rich, lush and smooth personality won the whole crowd over. Dust and citrus flavors competed with its gamy overall flavor profile. It was pretty much everyone’s favorite wine of the afternoon so far. Smooth yet complex, it was a tasty book of knowledge. Rob called it ‘on a different level.’ I commented to a close friend of mine how I do not think this wine will ever reach the heights of that one bottle we shared last October, to which he replied that ‘the first time is always better.’ The second, actually make that at least the third, time was still a charm (97+M).

We were back on the ’62 wagon with a 1962 Rousseau Chambertin. Like whoa. The Rousseau’s nose was unbelievable, and given three out of the last four wines, that was no easy task. Deep and meaty, the Rousseau’s nose clearly possessed the most power, and was the most ‘precise’ per a close friend of mine. Tom ‘loved the earthy elements.’ Minerals, vitamins and a touch of lit match rounded out its nose. Its palate was full of stems, meat and vitamins, possessing great length, breed and style. Tom called it the ‘breed of the day,’ and he would know, being not all that far from Churchill Downs a lot of the time (98M).

A 1962 Romanee Conti was both thrilling yet also disappointing. It had an incredible nose full of earth, beef, menthol, spice, date, autumnal forest floor and black cherry cola. Yes, it was complex. Jennifer picked up on ‘apricots,’ and they were totally there. Absolutely delicious at first, there was rich and meaty fruit that quickly morphed into more of a figgy quality. Spice and apricot jam were on its finish, and bouillon came out along with ‘burnt coffee’ (Tom). Although this bottle flashed brilliance, it was ultimately slightly oxidized, and as a result it did not have much staying power in the glass, quickly falling in stature (95A-M).

Our first regular-sized bottle was a 1966 Lafleur. Keeping up with the Joneses aka the Burgundies, the Lafleur also had a gorgeous nose, although it was a decided left turn with its Pomerol cream, chocolate and minerals. Rich, smooth and long with impeccable balance, the ’66 was in a beautiful spot (94).

A magnum of 1961 Latour was next, and I think it was the third time Eddie had had this wine out of magnum during the past month. When it rains, it pours. The wines were starting to come at a brisker pace, so I only have a brief note on this particular occasion. The Latour had a great palate, indubitably intense and full of its classic sea salt. Someone called it the one of the best mags of ’61 Latour they had ever had, and some huge argument broke out, most likely with Ray in the middle of it, or at least inciting the small riot (96M).

A 1945 La Mission Haut Brion settled things down. This particular magnum was reconditioned in 1989, and it reminded me somewhat of the 1870 Lafite with its reconditioned personality, and its similar aromas of gravel, old book and cedar. Its palate was much richer, quite hearty, big and powerful. It was almost a touch too big, but it leveled out with some air to provide an outstanding glass of wine (95M).

Bottles again appeared for a duo of Guigals, the first being a legendary needle in the haystack, a 1966 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline. The notes were getting more and more illegible, but I still managed to observe superb cedary dust, minerals, chocolate and earth. The bottle was a little shook up and the wine murky accordingly, but there was still olive, game, menthol and bacon to this delicious and decadent bottle of La Mouline. I have had better bottles, but this one was still superb (96).

A 1978 Guigal Cote Rotie La Landonne was also delicious, stony and with big-time earth and spice. Robust and rocky, the La Landonne was a bit rugged and square after the sensuous ’66 La Mouline, but it was still round, rich and long (95).

A bottle of 1961 Haut Brion was absolutely delicious, full of decadent chocolate, coffee and caramel. There was also earth in the delicious bottle of delicious wine; I couldn’t stop writing the word ‘delicious’ (96).

The end was near, as we finally left France with a pair of Unico magnums. The 1968 Vega Sicilia Unico was rich and smooth with that leathery kink unique to the wines of Spain. Ben found it ‘rustic,’ and someone else observed ‘faint raspberry’ (95M).

The 1970 Vega Sicilia Unico had a great nose full of leather and peanut. Robert admired its ‘Bordeaux-like’ personality. Deep, rich, sweet and intense, the 1970 outshone the 1968 for the first time when I have had them side by side”¦I think (96M).

Last but not least was a magnum of 1900 Yquem. ‘Caramel sex heaven’ seemed like an accurate descriptor at the time and also a good place to be going right about then. It could have been considered old to some, but mature and wise to others like me (95M).

That’s it and that’s all. Eddie, I have always thought 51 as a more significant number to celebrate than 50. And then there’s 52 of course”¦

In Vino Veritas,

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