And on the fifth day, I couldn’t get up. After four consecutive nights with an average return home time of 2:30am, sandwiched around and in-between a 2-day auction, let’s just say that the energy levels are a bit low. It was an epic week of Olympic wine proportions, and it was great to see New York and many from outside the city out, about and enjoying life to the fullest. By the way, the auction went really well, probably about 95% sold. The wine market has stabilized quickly. Now it is up for the producers to pay close attention to their release prices and adjust accordingly as well.
But I digress”¦this week came about due to ‘La Paulee,’ the world’s greatest celebration of Burgundy, organized and orchestrated by Restaurant Daniel’s Daniel Johnnes. Months of preparation finally came to fruition, and a special thanks has to go out to Daniel for making this event happen again. In a time when people need more reasons to celebrate, Daniel helped put a smile on a thousand faces, ear to ear, all week long. It is tough enough to organize a dinner for 20 people, let alone 400, with other numerous events around it. Thank you again, Daniel.
Many of you might remember last year’s articles from the La Paulee in San Francisco, where I wrote up the first three nights, only to lose my notes from the last night, the grand finale, and the 52 wines that I had tasted. With that in mind, I have decided to write up Saturday night’s finale first this year.
There was a war room of wine assembled in the back for our table, far too many bottles to drink, but they sure were fun to look at altogether. A glass of 1975 Krug out of magnum kicked things off. I must admit, I was feeling a bit queasy from the three previous nights, and did not even drink a drop at Saturday’s live auction during the day. Small sips, small sips, I kept saying to myself, and after a few of those, I was feeling better :). What is that called, hair of the dog? The ’75 Krug was green apple city in the nose, citrusy and taut, with yellow fruits in tow behind. There was nice spritz to this perfect mag, and yeast and wheat emerged in the nose as it unfolded. It was rich, tasty and tangy, about as good as it gets for the vintage. Yes, it was Big Boy style (94M).
A 1976 Salon magnum took it up a notch and left the Krug at the station. The Salon just rocked and rolled from the very first instant, its nose racy and zippy, long and full of white crystallized fruits and distinct edge. The acidity was still monumental, and its youthful energy said top five pick in the draft, even at age 32. It had an endless finish and made everyone who sipped it more alert (96+M).
Augie slipped me a 1996 Lafon Meursault Perrieres on the way back from the war room. It was classic, round, rich and pretty full of white, delicately sweet fruit, also possessing great, smoky flavors. There was great balance, and while it was a bit softer and more mature than I expected, there was still hidden acidity, woven beautifully into the wine’s elegant style (94).
A 2005 Etienne de Montille Puligny Montrachet Le Cailleret was sweet, subtle and round, easy and tropical but just way too young for me to properly evaluate. I was already in the old wine zone (90+?).
Unfortunately, a 1996 Niellon Batard Montrachet was prematurely oxidized (DQ).
A 1992 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet was as good as 1992 gets, and was still showing why Leflaive made the wines of the vintage in 1992. Acidity still sparkled throughout the wine, and while there was a hint of that forward, 1992 stew, it was delightfully floral and smoky, with a long, fine finish and had plenty of stuffing left to last another decade. Butter, citrus, smoke and class resonated in the glass. Neil called it ‘killer,’ and thank you Eddie (96).
Wilf pulled out one of his off-the-trodden path beauties, a magnum of 1990 Gagnard-Delagrange Montrachet. It was drinking beautifully, round and rich but silky and fine. Its nose was lemony while its palate was full of bread and water flavors, full of smoke and circumstance, in a good spot (92M).
A jeroboam (a double-magnum by definition for Burgundy) of 2002 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was singing, something not easy to do amongst the 15 or so singing Paulee-ers imported to sing old French drinking songs throughout the weekend. There was great spice and smoke in the nose; it really jumped out more than any other white so far, helped by its youth and by its bottle format, no doubt. There were great, yellow fruit and smoky flavors here, and the wine was full of both muscle and grace. Its finish was long like three-hour movies that you still don’t want to end (95J).
A trio of Coche Perrieres magically appeared as I frantically tried to keep up with my bearings, as wines were coming faster than I could take notes. I re-organized my glasses and made sure I knew what was what, and then proceeded with the 1985 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. On Thursday, we had had a trio of Perrieres as well, officially making this a good week based on that fact alone. That was night two, coming to a theater near you soon. The ’85 was a little yeasty and dirty in the nose, still nutty, toasty and smoky. It was very round, full of white earth, spare rib and white chocolate aromas. There were earthy flavors of white ice fruits, and Tom and Etienne preferred the ’85 most overall (93).
I, along with The Duke, Neil and others preferred the 1990 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. The nose was perfect, a ‘laser’ as Neil pinpointed. Qualities of toast, kernel, white fruit and flowers were divine, its perfume lingering like the scent of a woman. Its flavors were round and rich, vitaminy and singing. There was great spice to this long and vigorous ’90, which was stellar all the way (96+).
The 1992 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres was rounder and more typical of the vintage, showing cracks in the armor. Yeasty flavors were more similar to 1985, but the ’92 was softer and rounder despite being seven years younger, and its flavors were more watery overall. The wine was still very good, but the least of the three (92).
A magnum of 1982 Montrachet came knocking thanks to Jonathan, and everyone eagerly answered the door. The nose was open and aromatic, round and sweet with smoky and buttery tendencies. Additional aromas of white mesquite, iodine and hospital gauze emerged in this complex white. The palate was rich, round, smoky and buttery, although a bit yeasty with a touch of morning mouth flavors. Mike and Rob hailed it as the best white so far (94M).
Chet glided on by with a glass of 2000 Lafon Montrachet. Merci beaucoup. The temperature was a bit warmer than any of the other whites so far, probably on purpose knowing Chet, and the Lafon was pleasant and clean like 2000s are supposed to be, although simpler than I wanted it to be given how much I adore the vintage for whites. It was dusty and chalky with nice limestone flavors (93).
A magnum of 1986 Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was ripe, round and open, showing the vintage’s best qualities adeptly. The nose was full of butter and rainwater, perhaps a touch of rot in a good way. There was still nice definition on its long, crystalized finish (94M).
My magnum of 1993 Montrachet was next, whose nose was super smoky, gamy and zippy with great aromatics of yeast, fruit and flowers. Its flavors were yeasty and tasty with great structure. This ’93 was chunky, oily and long, still with finesse on its finish. It was a great showing for a 1993 white, the vintage where everyone knows the reds now, but that everyone who knows should know the whites. It might be tough to find a more pleasurable vintage to enjoy at the moment from the decade, with the exception of 1990 (95M).
Bad Boy Bruce kept the Champagne torch lit very brightly on this evening, beginning with a perfect 1966 Dom Perignon. The ’66 was clean, clear, fresh, dusty, limy and vigorous. It was hitting on all cylinders and still had plenty of life to go. Its great balance, long finish and bubbles were not to be ignored (96).
Bobby came around with a jero of 1996 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Les Ruchottes. It was showing quite well out of jero, standing up to some of its grand cru counterparts. Steely and fresh, there were great, zippy and lemony aromas and flavors, and a buttery core. Hints of mint rounded out this jero, which was really good and flirting with outstanding (94J).
A 1983 Ramonet Montrachet had that ’83 style ”“ forward, slightly sweet, clean and lighter in style than some of the other ‘80s whites so far. There was a hint of rot here, but its finish was thick and long, its terroir flexing its muscles, lingering into the night (94).
The last white on this incredible evening was a 1993 Carillon Bienvenues Batard Montrachet, a cult white amongst those that know. The Carillon was tropical, smoky, exotic and tasty, showing gamy flavors that were again in a just right spot, another ’93 white making things alright. Thanks Dave (93).
Nineteen whites and Champagnes were down the hatch, and I was feeling great, as in not inebriated, fully in control, and ready to continue. Then came the reds.
A pair of 1964s kicked off the reds, the first being a magnum of 1964 Drouhin Chambolle Musigny Les Amoureuses. Thursday night also saw a flight of these, vintages to be remembered later, but none as glorious as the ’64. Aromas of sweet cherry, animal and old barn wood seeped out of the nose. Grainy in the mouth, it was long and full of rose flavors, super sweet and hearty like good ‘64s are, showing lots of acidity and staying bright in the glass. Big Mike was loving the ’64 rock ‘n roll style (94+M).
The 1964 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes was a contrast in style, showing more elegance and finesse. It was also sweet in the nose, showing more game and cherry, and still very decadent. It was super sexy and satiny in the mouth, and its acidity was superior to that of the Amoureuses. Chris also noted its acid, finding it ‘still young.’ The Vogue kept gaining and expanding, showing off a little peacock’s tail on its finish (96).
Oops, there was one more white, a 2001 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne, whose nose was reeking smoky greatness with very forward and dominating aromatics. Kernel was pop, popping out of its toasty personality. Long, thick, sugary and gamy, the ’01 was a bit more tits than ass at the moment, but still pretty sexy (94+).
Unfortunately, a magnum of 1959 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes was off (DQ).
A 1964 Romanee Conti magnum wasn’t off, but it was a bit softer and shy than I expected based on my experience with the vintage and specifically the s. There were dusty old flavors and aromas, more on the book and earth side, possessing a lot of classic qualities without the power that should go with it. The wine was what it was, perhaps just not the best barrel. Since did bottle barrel by barrel back then, bottle variation is to be expected (93M).
The next bottle took center stage and was ultimately one of the top three or four wines of the night, if not wine number one, this jeroboam of 1952 Romanee Conti. Not too many people have these bottles to even think about bringing, but Big Boy is one of them, and his generosity was on full display with this incredible bottle. ‘Wooooooooooo’ celebrated the ‘King of the Business’ after one sniff. The ’52 was spot on, exactly as I remembered it to be. Its nose was perfect, showing off the spice and spine that makes ’52 so special a vintage. Its concentration out of jeroboam was spectacular. Earthy, tangy and gamy aromas all spanked by citrus were fresh and forward. Its divine aromatics carried over to the palate, which was thick, creamy, decadent and again divine. It was incredibly complex, showing the A1 and the citrus flavors of great older Burgundy. This was the first wine I had to go for seconds, which would signify the beginning of my own personal decline despite the heights that the ’52 achieved (98J).
A 1959 Drouhin Musigny had the unfortunate luck of following up the RC, and while chunky and earthy, full of dense black fruits and displaying the forward, roasted character of ’59, it was left inhaling the fumes of the RC (93).
The Duke pulled out a magnum of 1966 Grands Echezeaux, whose nose was full of Chinese spice box. There were great dark chocolate aromas to go with its spice, and the wine was delicious and fat, dancing in the mouth with its long, spicy, edgy and flavorful profile (95M).
A pair of infant 1991 Vogues generously found me thanks to Mr. 420. While appreciated and quality, it was near impossible to really dig deep into these wines after the depths already experienced. Once you go old, it is tough to go back! I actually preferred the 1991 Vogue Bonnes Mares (93) to the bottle of 1991 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes (92). The Bonnes Mares had more definition; they both seemed inky and beefy, but there was more earth and leather there than in the Musigny, which was rounder and less intense.
Bad Boy Bruce was back with a magnum of 1947 Roederer Rose, which immediately cracked the top five club. It had a perfect nose full of divine rose aromas. Rich strawberry flavors and amazing spice were evident on its hearty and edgy palate, one that was decadently rich and also possessing big chocolate and superb earth flavors. Dusty, long and still spiffy at age 62, the Roederer rocked out with its”¦(97M)
Big Mike pulled out another one of the evening’s showstoppers next, a Methusaleh of 1978 La Tache. It was superb, as good as ’78 LT gets, full of rose hips and menthol and all the classic LT earthy sex appeal. The palate was meaty, spicy, earthy, long and rich. Having had this wine on at least a dozen occasions, I can safely say that this bottle was everything that it should have been and then some. For those out there that like to put down in 1978, one sip would have converted you all! This Methusaleh was the Dr. Jekyll of in this vintage, and with secondary traces of beef, garden and tomato, it delivered as much pleasure to those that had it as any other wine on this starry night. Thanks again Big Mike (97-I).
Keith pulled out a rarity, a 1915 Michel Gaunoux Pommard Grands Epenots. It was a later release, a wine reconditioned from the domaine, really smoky and citrusy and full of wild flavors and benevolent cat pee. It was a bit aggressive in its reconditioned qualities, but still a very good wine, although not reflecting its age appropriately. He later gave me a glass of one of his wines of the night, an outstanding Pousse d’Or, but damned if I remember what it was exactly. Details hopefully will follow (91).
A magnum of 1985 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux came to me courtesy of The Don, I believe, or at least because I finally made it over to his table. The nose seeped black fruits in that deep, dark Jayer way, along with minerals, earth, leather and crushed granite. The nose seemed endlessly deep, and the palate backed it up with rich yet still taut fruit, black and purple, along with leather and spice and everything nice, retaining an elegant, caressing finish. This was still a big wine by ’85 standards, and why Jayer is considered to have made some of the best wines from the vintage (95M).
It was followed by a 1985 Henri Jayer Echezeaux, which on this night outshowed the Cros. It was similar in its fruit and flavor profile, but it possessed more structure, more acidity and gave a bigger overall impression. Perhaps on a night where fewer wines were sampled, or I had more time to get to taste each of these wines unfold, I might have preferred the Cros, but on this night, the rugged and full-bodied nature of the Echezeaux stood out more for me (95+).
There was a corked magnum of 1962 Patriarche Pere et Fils Musigny (DQ).
A 1961 Leroy Musigny Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tasteduvin bottling was earthy and tasty, but a bit rough around the edges. It had a lot of animal flavors and was on the browned side flavor-wise (92).
It was quickly dismissed by an outstanding 1964 Bouchard Pere et Fils Romanee St. Vivant which Chet was carrying around. It was another case of good timing. This was special stuff, thick and chunky yet agile, full of great red fruit flavors along with a nice sprinkle of brown sugar. Yum (95).
Bad Boy Bruce soon became this game’s version of ‘Champagne Hero’ with a bottle of 1961 Krug from an original case. This was pretty much everything one could ask for in a Champagne. With breed like Queen Elizabeth and a finish that would make Hollywood proud, this was one hell of a Champagne. The nose was full of white fruits, minerals, crushed ice and decadent musk. What set the Krug apart was the structure, the penetrating acidity, the endless finish, and the accompanying freshness accordingly. There is Champagne, and there is Krug (98).
Next up was an incredible magnum of 1971 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. This was the second wine that I had seconds of, and that is saying something. It was about time I had some Rousseau, and what a way to make an entrance. Ripe red fruits, decadent spice, along with traces of tree bark, leather, earth and citrus were all there. The density of the wine, both in the nose and on the palate, was extraordinary. It lingered like good memories, and always seems to be a wine that delivers truth, justice and happiness for all (97+M).
It was about time that I had some Roumier, and the magnum of 1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares Vieilles Vignes was another great way to make an entrance. This magnum was epic in its presence, its nose coiled like a vampire just starting to sense nightfall. Practically black in its personality, there was still mature qualities unraveling in this decidedly youthful red. The t ‘n a were extraordinary, and behind the densely packed aromas of earth and stems, slowly other parts of the rainbow of fruits emerged, red and purple to be precise. The tannins were bodybuilders amongst boys, partly because of the youth of the wine relative to most others sampled, but also because they stood out in any crowd. The fact that we were talking 1988, a tannic year, certainly helped. The depth, the breed, the style ”“ everything was spectacular in this magnum, which took every bottle that I had ever had up a notch. It literally blew me away”¦(98M)
”¦as I think it was the last wine I had before leaving for CRU, which was packed to the gills for an afterparty that lasted much longer than I did”¦the notes got pretty blurry from this point on, must have been all that fresh air on the way to CRU”¦
A bottle of 1966 Grands Echezeaux was pretty much the same as the magnum. See earlier in this story”¦
A 1961 La Tache was rich but a bit figgy, gamier than another great bottle I had recently, perhaps a touch affected, or maybe that was me. There was nice concentration and still some hallmark acidity of the vintage, but not as much as I remembered (93A?).
A 1983 La Tache was another testament to the fact that there is quality out there in 1983. I have been having a lot of luck with this forgotten and sometimes maligned vintage, which is probably because Parker liked them so much upon release, and we know how those Burgundy lovers like to play the other side of that fence. I enjoy a good 1983, and the La Tache was a great one. Open aromas of menthol, wintry red fruits and lighter earth, combined with a fleshy palate and solid acidity, made for an excellent overall experience. Out of magnum this wine can be outstanding (94).
A 1983 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes was a nice pair with the La Tache, a bit heartier and rougher around the edges, denser and blacker in style although still excellent. ‘Where’s the beef’ is a question Ponsot rarely has to answer (93+).
There was a 1982 Bollinger RD, disgorged in 1995. It was simple and easy, solid and pleasant but not thrilling (91).
There were four more wines I took notes for, forty-nine notes in all. As it turned out, the remainders were all Champagne. Big Boy was holding court, and I was starting to fade. I kept on my game face and tried to march onwards, and I did for a crazy magnum of 1923 Veuve Clicquot, which had the black truffle oil nose similar to some of the Bollingers that I have had from this same era. ‘Sugarmeister’ and ‘rotten game’ came from someone or somewhere”¦I neglected to write down a score, sorry
I did write down a score for the magnum of 1953 Krug, another spectacular bottle of Krug. Could the best producer on this historic night of Burgundy have been Krug? Shhhhhhhhhhhh. Ok, was right there too (97M).
There was a magnum of 1979 Cristal (95M) and some 1996 Dom Perignon Rose (93+), but by this time everything started to become irrelevant. All I could remember was trying to eat and drink water over and over to get my balance, but neither really did the trick. It was time to go, and that’s just what I did.
It was another epic night, although it wasn’t an epic Sunday morning. Thanks to Daniel Johnnes and the great collectors who assembled in the name of Burgundy. Viva La Paulee!
In Vino Veritas,