Last night, New York City’s wine version of the Usual Suspects got together at a secret location to drink and be merry. A kickoff to the holiday season, it all started so innocently, with Bad Boy Bruce checking in with the King, and then it quickly blossomed into something that everyone could fit into their schedule. I happily sampled generous portions of seventeen wines in all, including a grandest of a finale. Many were magnums, and I was glad not to see the usual 25-30 wines since it was only Tuesday, after all.

Champagne dominated the evening, as many Bubblephiles were in the house. Consider me one of them. It was also a Clos des Goisses first quarter, with four magnums going back that spanned a quarter-century. We began with the 1976.

The 1976 Philipponat Clos des Goisses was disgorged in March 2002. All the Clos des Goisses we had were late disgorgements, and done very well. There was great toast in the ‘76’s nose, with a touch of Flintstone vitamins, more bread and ultimately caramel and quince. It was delightfully complex in the nose, but the palate could not keep pace. While smooth and fresh, the ’76 was also simple, solid and easy to appreciate but not as great as I was hoping. Gamy quince and wheat flavors rounded out this very good magnum (92M).

The 1966 Philipponat Clos des Goisses was grassier in its first impression, with similar cracked wheat and now rye crisp aromas. Jo observed its ‘nice mushroomy quality.’ The ’66 was much fuller-bodied, displaying more definition and flavors than the ’76. Much more. There was also great length to this superb Champagne. Edges of white chocolate danced in and out, and its great, earthy finish displayed some dirty goodness. The ’66 was disgorged in November of 2000. He shoots, he scores (95M).

We had a red wine intermezzo, a good thing when a magnum of 1971 Vogue Bonnes Mares. There were nice aromatics, with game, cherry, truffles, earth, bitters and a touch of limy kink to its citric sides. Round, tender, smooth yet still vigorous, it was a nice magnum but I wanted a little more from it (93M).

A small debate began after the 1964 Philipponat Clos des Goisses was served, that being 1964 vs 1966, both specifically and in general. While specifically could have gone either way, in general the answer is 1966, which is not to take away from 1964. The ’64 was disgorged in November 2004 and was very clean with aromas of straw, hay, earth, grass and game. The grass and game really came out on the flavors, along with wild garden ones. Nice acidity and length played right into its ‘stonier’ personality. Elegant, easy, classy and long, the 1964 had everything going for it, but I did prefer the 1966. King Angry and Big Boy were leaning towards the ’64 (94M).

The 1953 Philipponat Clos des Goisses was the finest of our four magnums of Goisses. Its nose was full of wafers with a vanilla sex appeal and drops of honey. Wendy, aka the Angry Chick, cooed, ‘this is why we drink Champagne.’ There was this Wheaties goodness about the ’53, as if health benefits could be derived from drinking it. Its acidity was great, the greatest so far, and its vivacious citrus flavors were impressive. The ’53 stayed light on its feet, in an Ali way (96M).

Time for another red, this time a magnum of 1964 Clair Dau Bonnes Mares. The magnum of Clair Dau had a spectacular nose, dripping with sweet, decadent cherry fruit along with animal, olive, forest and mint. Jo called it ‘sensational.’ Its sweetness became nutty and meaty. The palate possessed flavors of oatmeal, brown sugar, iron and meat on the grill juice. It was round, tasty and sexy, plentiful and flirting with outstanding territory, but ultimately softening like the beginning of a setting sun. The Vogue was more silky and satiny, but the Clair Dau made one think more (94+M).

A magnum of 1975 Bollinger RD was super sweet in its aromatics with a candy corn-like complexity. Thick, lush, creamy and sweet, the Bolly had a good finish and was a better show than many expected. There was nice sprite to its personality and tasty sasparilla flavors. The ’75 still had good bones (93M).

I noted how times must be tough, because it was 10:45pm and we had only had seven wines. In 2007, we would have been up to twenty by now lol. Big Boy then made his own version of social commentary when he relayed that someone told him this past week that he looked like a million bucks, to which he replied, ‘My friend, times are bad, but they’re not that bad.’

And they were not, as next up was a killer bottle of 1990 Ponsot Clos de la Roche V.V. courtesy of the Duke. The Ponsot was spot on, with an incredible and concentrated nose of crushed black and blue fruits. It was menthol city, with delicious mint chocolate flavors and a monstrous personality. Crazy thick and rich, the Ponsot also had an explosive finish that said, ‘see me in 2030’ (97+).

A magnum of original 1961 Bollinger was a touch advanced, very wine-like with wood notes. The palate was honeyed, nutty, round and buttery with apple edges. It was excellent, but should have been better and had lost most of its fizz (93A-M).

A magnum of 1964 Ayala was ‘diesely’ per Airplane Eddie, and very fresh as it was recently disgorged. Rich, vitamin and hearty, the ’64 was excellent but quickly an afterthought (93M).

A very rare bottle of 1966 Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blancs had a stony nose, quite hearty and sturdy with descriptors such as long, big, powerful, ‘heft’ (Patman), rich and killerrr. Its flavors were rich and full of vanilla, delicious despite a woodsy streak. Its full-bodied sweetness was most impressive (95).

The Billecart was followed by another, this time the 1966 Billecart Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois. The color was a bit dark, so there was some initial trepidation, but the N.F. was outstanding. Aromas of marshmallow, caramel and diesel all came from the crowd. Flavors of anise and honeypot graced this rich, thick and long Champagne, which displayed nectar-like qualities. It was lip-smackingly good with a huge finish, displaying ‘far more muscle’ per Bob. Additional flavors of white chocolate rounded out this killer Champagne (95+).

The 1966 Krug quickly bumped the Billecarts to the back. It was a perfect bottle. ‘Far and away the best,’ seemed to be an initial consensus. It had the signature, old Krug vanilla cream sex appeal, and its structure was nothing less than incredible. Even Eddie gave it a ‘quite good,’ which really means something coming from Eddie! Gentleman Jim appreciated its ‘youthful’ nature, and this serious Champagne had so much power it was flirting with being out of control. Its searing intensity called everyone to attention, and its long, spiny and crushing personality dominated the room. White berry and white truffle flavors developed. Big boy hailed, ‘there’s this and then everything else,’ in a way which made it sound like Old Milwaukee lol, but it certainly was the truth (98).

A 1966 Salon was a worthy follow-up to the Krug, with its big, saucy nose. I wrote ‘rich’ three times in my notes, and it also had vanilla, butter and cream components. ‘Awesome, long, creamy and rich,’ (make that four times). That about summed it up at this point (96).
Somehow, a 1976 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne slipped into the mix before the grand finale. It had been rated 99 points by Richard Juhlin apparently, but this bottle was not that one. It did have the signature C de C butterscotch aromas. Rich, buttery and all-around excellent, it just wansn’t spectacular (94).

Actually, there was another bubbly before the grand finale, a 1921 Moet. The Moet had a sweet nose, like a sugar stick, but also with the vanilla cream. It was wine-like but still buttery and rich, tasty and delicious, round and lush (93).

Last and certainly not least was a spectacular bottle of 1923 Romanee Conti. It was everything one could hope for from a great, old Conti. The haunting bouquet of old, wilting roses, grilled meat, old book, Worcestershire, leather, tender cherry fruit, animal”¦the nose kept going and going, literally haunting the whole room. It still had tremendous concentration and noticeable acidity that was strong enough to carry the kaleidoscopic spectrum of aromas and flavors. It was well worth the extra hour Big Boy made us wait for it as he lectured the night away (98).

I had to run for the hills. I think it was already after 1:30AM.

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. If you read this far, then I know you will be drinking some good shtuff 🙂

May all your wines be memorable.

In Vino Veritas,
JK

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