You can never keep a good wine man down. Although he is not on the ‘circuit’ as much as he used to be, Wolfgang Grunewald is doing better than ever. Many of you may remember when we auctioned part of his collection way back in 2008. I know those that bought from the collection remember, as everyone who did wishes they bought more! While recently past the milestone age of 80, Wolf hasn’t aged a bit since that historic auction. In fact, he seems even stronger than before.
Cold on the Trail
Wine and Menu
Obligatory Food Shot
A recent invitation came to me in the mail, and when I knew it was from Wolfgang, I didn’t even have to look at the menu to know this would be an event worth attending. Two planes and a long car ride up into the snowy Swiss mountains later I had arrived, along with Bipin, whom I had met along the way. Bipin and Wolfgang have been the best of friends for over three decades now, a yin to the other’s yang. In ancient times, there was Beowulf, but in the modern wine era there is Bipinwolf lol. The two of them together is always pure magic, and that’s what happened on this frigid night.
Not too many people can pull out a magnum of 1959 Krug Collection as an aperitif, but Wolf is obviously one of them. The Krug had mellow yet enticing aromas of wheat, grains and a complex kiss of rust. It was full-bodied yet graceful. Wolfgang found it ‘less fresh’ than he remembered, but it was far from the opposite. There was a touch of sour apple in a good way and a twist of exotic citrus rounding out its nose. Its palate was full yet soft, long in its acidity with a mild expression of bubbles still left. It got better in the glass, delivering delightful dry honey flavors (96M).
Ice Never Looked So Good
The evening was an ode to Lafite, and the red wine of our portion of the evening began with a beautiful 1959 Carruades de Lafite. This had a gorgeous nose with nice fruit, fresh yet classically maturing. Carob, caramel, tobacco and a pinch of cedar warmed our souls on this icy night. Its nose was impressively deep and kept opening. Its palate was soft, smooth and tender, a pleasant and pretty wine, but not as exciting as its aromatics. All in all, it was still a beauty (92).
Hardly a Second Wine
A trio of magnums made liftoff official, considering the first was a 1959 Lafite Rothschild. Having had this twice out of bottle in the past month or two, it was good to have another reference point J. This magnum was ‘extraordinary…really extraordinary,’ per one of Wolf’s guests, and he was right. This was a much deeper and darker wine, with black forests and holes needing further research and exploration. There were also chestnuts, smoke, cedar, more roasted nuts and layers of complications in this incredible nose. Black was the fruit on its rich, lush palate. Wolf hailed it, ‘unmistakably Pauillac,’ while Bipin countered, ‘unmistakably Lafite.’ It was saucy and smoky with dark flavors of fruit and middle earth. Rich kept appearing in my notes over and over, as did ‘so young.’ One of the guests (who would know) called it, ‘one of the greatest wines of the century.’ Nuff said (98M).
The 1955 Lafite Rothschild magnum was more open in a gamy way, smokier with more red fruits, carob and slate. The palate was smooth and light by comparison with tangy citrus and cherry flavors. There was a nice balance to this plateau-ing wine, which wasn’t showing any signs of decline. It got a little more signature in the glass, moving away from the tang, but staying bright and lean (93M).
The 1953 Lafite Rothschild was another spectacular magnum. Initially five out of eight tasters preferred the 1953, but by the end of the night, it was the same vote for the 1959. The ’53 had a honeyed, buttered nose with all the classic components lined up. Its palate was full and rich out of magnum, long yet elegant. The wine was ‘persuasive and seductive,’ said Wolf. ‘Sounds like your wife,’ I replied. This was another unbelievable beauty, a graceful and sexy wine, but it didn’t have the weight and depth of the 1959, at least not in my book (96M).
The next flight of two began with a 1918 Lafite. It was a bit green and woodsy at first, showing some awkward stages of age. Wolf found it having ‘ammunition’ qualities and ‘roasted,’ also remarking how this wine was still made while the Germans were in France, as the war ended in November. Paint thinner violated the nose and palate a bit, and the other wine writer there called it ‘a lousy vintage.’ It was more interesting than beautiful. There was nice flesh, and the wine got better in time. There was no doubting this bottle’s provenance, as it was a gift from Baron Eric himself (91).
The magnum of 1900 Lafite Rothschild was a real treat; one could see the 1953 in it. They were definite siblings, and Bipin remarked how the 1900 was ‘below 12% alcohol.’ Then he went on to say, ‘alcohol was the enemy of wine.’ A lot of jokes followed, including asking which non-alcoholic wine was Bipin’s favorite J. He meant high alcohol, of course, and he is right. The 1900 had a gorgeous nose. It was so seductive, so sexy, so framed…it belonged in either the Louvre or the Met. Fine and elegant (preceded by two more so’s), this was royalty! Bipin found it ’round and lush like the ’59 with the texture of the ’53.’ It was smooth like butter (95M).
Where Were You Then?
There was only one place to go from here, that being the 19th century, of course. There were three wines from the 1800s, and I started with the oldest, that being the 1846 Lafite Rothschild. Someone cried, ‘History!’ They then took off all their clothes and ran naked into the snow. Just kidding J. I should add that all three had been reconditioned at some point by the chateau, as was the 1900 magnum. There was smoke and gas here along with wealthy fruit. Its creamy and luscious nose was deep and foresty with vanilla and light wood. The palate was more citrusy, soft and tangy (93).
The 1865 Lafite Rothschild stole the thunder from the anticipated 1870. It had a fantastic nose that was so complex, possessing all the elements of the forest. The trees, the twigs, the earth, the animals, the dew, the moss, the rocks, the wet, the dry, the smells, even the sounds…all it needed was Bear Grylls to jump into the picture with a perfect scoop of butter pecan ice cream in one hand, because that was also definitely in the nose. There was a kiss of banana to its black and purple duopoly. It had an intense finish in an elegant way, bringing cedar, spice and Christmas joy flavors to those both naughty and nice (97).
The 1870 Lafite Rotschild that followed was a bit anti-climactic to me, although five out of eight tasters preferred it. It had more obvious Cabernet in the nose. There was asphalt and meat, and despite the fact that it was richer than the 1865, it was a bit sweet for me. It got simpler in the glass, and I found it softer than I expected or wanted (93).
Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em
We had a few crazy cigars and a crazy port called Scion, from Taylor’s. It was some barrel they found buried in the cellar that basically was a tawny port from 1855 or something like that, but it wasn’t technically a vintage. I don’t know, look it up, all I can tell you is that it was spectacular, as good as Port gets (98).
Everyone left that night glowing like Christmas trees in December. And off to Paris we went the next morning for six stars in 24 hours, before heading to Bordeaux. The Wolf was back on the circuit, and he was back on the prowl.
In Vino Veritas,