Every New Year’s Eve I find myself in the same place, year after year. No matter where I am in the world, I make sure that I am landing the afternoon of the 31st in New York City. And why wouldn’t I? When the King of Champagne comes calling for an evening of celebration, it is always wise to RSVP accordingly. It is safe to say that no one has opened up more great Champagne for more people than Rob. Maybe Juhlin has tasted more, and that’s a maybe, but I doubt he’s shared his portfolio as openly and effortlessly as the KOC.
Now Big Boy isn’t exactly someone I would call introverted, but trust me when I tell you that’s exactly what you don’t want him to be when you are a guest in his home, on New Year’s Eve especially. I was there early, and some interesting and eclectic non-vintage ”“ make that multi-vintage ”“ Krugs started things off curiously, though not incredibly impressively. A case of halves of multi-vintage from the 1970s was a bit oxidized, bereft of bubbles, although its nose seduced at first. There were warm, inviting caramel and vanilla notes initially that soon waned into a thin palate lacking substance. The thing about multi-vintages is that they can age”¦and be spectacular, as Bruce the Returner reminded me. It’s just that these particular half-bottles weren’t. So I was quickly onto a multi-vintage Krug Rose from the 1980’s. This was delightful, clean and fresh, light yet with an extreme finish. It maintained delicious strawberry dust flavors, and I took a quick refill (93).
A 1966 Bollinger led us into welcome vintage territory, but didn’t make me feel welcome with its simple and one-dimensional palate. It was mature and pleasant in the nose, but another wine that didn’t deliver upon the promise of what it should have/could have been (90?).
The 1966 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois set our course back on target with an intriguing nose of honey, vanilla and lilac, all deftly woven. There was nice sprite to its palate, with lean, sweet wheat flavors, almost yellow carob. Its finish was lemony, and Olof noted, ‘copper,’ although I wasn’t sure if he was talking about his investment strategy. Big Boy said something about a ten-case parcel, and I think he was talking about his investment strategy lol (94).
Then came the magnums. Everything from here on out was served in magnum or jeroboam. We stayed on route ’66 with a 1966 Louis Roederer Cristal. It was another mature nose, in a heavy white molasses direction and not as expressive as old Cristals usually are. Its palate was more like it, still tasty with orange blossoms, game and a sweet, big, nutty finish. It clearly had the best density of anything so far, and the guy with the five Harleys that Vince McMahon was looking for took off his horns to declare that ‘the ’66 rocks.’ Nonetheless, it was an affected bottle, one that had the most sophisticated palates abuzz with discussion due to its two-sided story (95M-A).
A 1971 Ruinart de Brimont Reserve de Vicomte was the first of our 1971s, as the rest of the evening would only be on the ‘71s and ‘61s. Actually, more ‘ones’ were planned in honor of 2011, but I only made it a little past 2AM. I need to get that report, come to think of it. I wasn’t sure if the Ruinart was a different Ruinart house, as the label was completely different than anything I had seen from Ruinart but apparently Brimont and its vineyards is the ancestral home of Ruinart. However, this was an entry-level vintage Champagne and not the clearly not the ‘tete de Cuvee.’ It had an apple-y nose, and while nice and smooth, it didn’t stand out. Bruce politically hailed it as ‘a good example of a great vintage’ (91M).
The 1971 Dom Perignon began a monster streak of six killer Champagnes in a row from Big Boy, much like Derek Jeter delivers during World Series. Rob added six runs scored and twelve RBIs on top with the array that followed. The DP was classic with its sugary, vanilla wafer nose. It was rich and delicious, full of granulated sugar flavors to the point where I thought about it making one heck of a Bollini Royale or whatever mixed drinks they make with bubbly. I happen to always drink it straight, so I don’t really know these things. Although a touch sweet, all in all, it was outstanding (95M).
The 1971 Dom Perignon Rose was an ‘infant’ per Lady Agah, the artist formerly known as the Angry Chick. It’s 2011, time to reinvent yourself, in case you didn’t get the memo. The DP Rose had wet earth aromas with light strawberry ones to match, both deep and coiled, seemingly ready to strike. Its palate was huge with ‘insane’ structure, with enough acidity for a college university chemistry program. Dry and powerful, this was a perfect bottle of this wine, taking off like a rocket ship on its jet-fueled finish. There were gorgeous flavors unfolding as it opened, particularly in the red and rose direction, with more earth as well. Lady Agah continued, ‘it’s like a red wine,’ paying its density and structure a compliment. It was a beautiful monster, indeed. I’m sure its score will improve with time, but it’s just not quite there yet, there being ‘best ever’ and 97 points and up (96+M).
The magnum of 1971 Krug Collection answered the bell swinging, and was already there with a signature nose of mountainous, sweet and complex vanilla aromas. Super sexy white fruits and nuts provided the landscape on which they sat. The palate was another huge one, with big, rich and ‘wondrous’ fruit. Massive and long, its buttery fruit was just starting to show some skin in the mouth, and the skin wasn’t soft, but damn it felt good. It did open well, taking the definition of delicious just one step further with each sip (97M).
The 1971 Salon was served a bit cold and left a few searching for more in it, but it was shut down like New York City during last week’s blizzard. The nose was intense and wound with stony, anise aromas, but it was unyielding. It felt like we were bothering it, disturbing it too soon, as its palate was incredibly shy and wound, at first tickled by a steak of wood. While rich, big and long, it was too tight. This particular magnum didn’t shine as brightly as Salon can, but it was still outstanding (95M).
The next wine was so tasty that I invented a word in its honor, ‘yow.’ That’s yum and wow together, by the way. This magnum of 1961 Dom Perignon was an extremely rare, original and non ‘Wedding Cuvee’ – Charles’ and Diana’s, that is. The Royals snapped up most of the production for the wedding, a wise choice, indeed, as Bruce declared that this was ‘one of the Greatest Champagnes ever made,’ and he would know. I thought about it for a second, and after one sip, I concurred. 1961 has always blown me away, but I never put it in the context of the greatest of all-time until then. The nose was fantastic, with a wealth of gold encased in a young personality despite it being an original bottling. There was great fruit here, with none of the excessive sugar of the ’71. Its flavors were rich, big, bold and all balanced by superb acidity. Somehow, despite all of its flavor, it managed to retain a delicacy to its personality. Spectacular stuff (98M).
The last Champagne that I had for the evening was the one served pre-stroke of midnight, a jeroboam of 1961 Pommery, sabered by Big Boy himself, which is no easy task for a jeroboam. Upon sabering the jero in one stroke, the King of Champagne announced, ‘there will be books about me when I’m dead.’ That’s Big Boy style :). Everyone was feeling great, and 2011 was upon us, and the Pommery held up its part of the bargain, delivering another special experience. Its fruit was sweet, yellow and dusty with aromas of almost lemon squares. It was both mature and young, in that sweet spot that I’d like to think I’ll be for another thirty plus years myself. The palate was special and outstanding, a great drink as pre-70s Pommerys usually are (95J).
What would be a Big Boy way to ring in the New Year? Twin jeros of 1971 , of course. Insert your own bomb sound here. Those that have known me for a long time know my love affair with 1971 s is no secret. Just because it is my birth year is mere coincidence! The 1971 s are spectacular, and these two jeros cemented that fact at the bottom of the Hudson River for any of those that denied it :). The 1971 Richebourg began 2011 in fine fashion with an inviting nose of old yet fresh Burgundy fruit. Dank red fruits danced about in a muddy nose of tomato, rose and sea salt. The jero was a little dirty at first, but that is usually a good thing after midnight. The palate opened up into a saucy mouthful of red fruits with a light caramel coating. Long and distinguished, it was a special wine (95J).
There was nowhere to go after the jeroboam of 1971 La Tache was opened. It cornered us all, towering over us with its greatness. I have had the good fortune of having this wine about fifteen times in my life, and I cannot wait for the next fifteen. About ten years after having it for the first time, it is still every drop as good. Consistently 98 points ever since I met it, this jeroboam was no different. The breed, the stature, the depth of concentration and character in the nose”¦it could only be La Tache. Every positive descriptor you could ever say about an older Burgundy and about 1971 in general was right here. I will end this note by only saying that everyone should make sure they drink a good bottle of this before all is said and done (98J).
There were a couple other big bottles too Big Boy for print, but by that point all was said and done. It was another memorable beginning to what will most certainly be another memorable year, and many thanks again to the most generous collector on Earth for sharing from his extraterrestrial cellar.
In Vino Veritas,