Early October was a month of small get-togethers, a lot of one-on-one ball, so to speak. Despite a healthy wine market and a Dow that continues to flirt with 10,000, large celebrations have become a bit rarer, as conscious remains king in 2009. When dining a duo, usually two is the magic number as far as a bottle count goes, although three proved to be the right stuff for the first of four fine evenings over the course of a week or two. Does that add up?

There once was a man named Hans. He had a very big cellar. Hans was in town on his yearly pilgrimage to the US and we decided to get together for dinner, at a place called Veritas. They have been doing some good promotions of late and keeping people coming back for more.

We started with a bottle of 1990 Raveneau Chablis Valmur. 1990 was a great vintage for Chablis, and what better place to be than on top of the ladder with Raveneau. It didn’t disappoint with its nose of svelte yellow fruits, rain on rocks, minerals, wax and anise. It was lean yet still in fighting shape, fragrant with a hint of pungency. The palate was delicious, clean and fresh, showing mature roundess but still possessing solid acidity, tasty in that kinky Raveneau way. Rocks, anise and limy fruit balanced their way down the hatch in slippery yet agile fashion (95).

A rare bird followed, and I am not talking about the food. We grabbed the last bottle of 1955 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc off the list. Old white Bordeaux can be spectacular, even the dry ones, although this wine was extremely oaky at first. It took a lot of coaxing to get it to come into its own, but once it did, it was quite the wine. Its oak blew off into the classic straw, dry honey, glue and cement. The wine stll came across youthfully, amazingly fresh for a white 55 or so years old, and its palate kept pace with its nose. There was nice density in the mouth, still roundness and richness but in a graceful way, with flavors of straw, glue, dried yellow fruits and kisses of oak still married together after all these years. It was an excellent wine and a real treat, but make sure to remember that old white wines need aeration too (93).

The third wine on this enjoyable evening was a rare 1950 Ausone. It was a reconditioned bottle, but a job well done, and a bottle we enjoyed to the last drop. The nose was deeper accordingly, a bit fresher than one would normally expect for a wine this age, with a wave of purple fruit emerging first. After a swirl or two, more classic and mature wintry red aromas came, along with earth, stone barn and gravel. Light Christmas spice danced around gingerly, perhaps gingerbreadly. In the mouth, the wine showed both its sides ”“ the original and reconditioned. It was a bit deeper and hinted at youth with its spectrum of fruit, but it still had classic aged St. Emilion flavors, especially the red fruits, earth, game, animal and tobacco. It was tough not to love it (95).

A day later I found myself drinking 1982 Mouton at Tse Yang. No, I was not by myself. It was a gorgeous bottle in beautiful condition and one of the more open bottles of this that I have had. I have always been impressed by the power of the 1982 Mouton, one of the few wines reticent to give into the hallmark elegance of the 1982 vintage. This bottle was starting to give in, perhaps softening up in its old age so to speak. The nose was everything claret should be ”“ regal, refined, elegant and classy. It oozed out black fruit, dry cassis, pencil, earth and a hint of carob. This was open, sexy and singing. The palate was rich and round. There was strength in its silent finish, one that caressed and petted rather than smacked and attacked. It was long and round, almost frightfully delicious in its approachability. There is a lot of bottle variation amongst 1982s, so it is tough to make a consensus about this vintage, or any for that matter, based on the snapshot of one bottle, but this one sure made me think that the top 1982s could be starting to plateau, which for a great vintage in Bordeaux, could last decades, of course (97).

My friend and I snagged the last bottle of 1999 Dugat Griottes Chambertin off the list. Curiosity killed the wine lover. Dugat’s modern and oakier style is a bit controversial amongst the Burgundy intelligentsia, but this bottle delivered a positive experience. It was certainly beefy; concentration was king here, and there was a bit of an animalistic edge to this brute of a wine. ‘I am Tarzan,’ came to mind lol. Deep purple and black fruits seeped out, all served in a tangy vitamin wrap. The wine was rich and lush in the mouth but lacked the definition to support its ocean of fruit. Could its structure be latent? Yes, possibly, as many 1999s have so much fruit that their structures can be lost at this early age, but the finish seemed almost too soft despite its upfront complexities and unique style (93).

A few days later it was off to Long Island for a couple of bottles with another friend of the court, and we started off in familiar territory, with a 1996 Salon. If there is a better young Champagne in the world today, please let me know. I have written this bubbly up on numerous occasions, and it was lightning in a bottle again. Minerals and diamonds abounded as the Salon wrapped my palate in mink and then cut right thru it with its razor-sharp acidity and long, sexy finish (97).

The 1999 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques that followed was also extraordinary. Its fabulous nose was so good, possessing great aromatics. Sweet and pungent cherry red fruit, vitamins, musk, delicate cedar and perfume all came together in an overall meaty impression. The palate was rich and flavorful with tastes of spice, tea and sandbox. There was real depth here in this mouthful of a wine. While long and stylish, the Rousseau retained its elegance. Absolutely delicious (95).

The final night of this Fantastic Four saw me with another distinguished European gentleman, a Cabernet lover by confession, so we drank some Burgundy. A 1979 Dujac Clos de la Roche was a little woolly at first, needing some extra aeration to dry off its sweat and reveal a wonderful range of aromatics. Tobasco was first to jump out for me, along with old, pungent strawberry and dried leaves. There was also earth, leather and a pinch of Worcestershire along for the ride. The palate was mature, more purple in its profile, tasty with hints of saddle sweat and old book. It still zipped on its finish, and lots of citrus came out accordingly. It was another solid ’79 red, a vintage almost forgotten for Pinot (94).

We exercised some judgment with a half-bottle of 1989 Mugnier Musigny Vieilles Vignes as our second bottle. Mugnier only made a V.V. bottling two or three times, definitely in 1986 and 1989, I can’t remember if there was another. The ’86 has blown me away before, and I could have sworn the 1989 has also, but this half was a bit funky. It was milky and yeasty, pleasant yet simple, not what I had hoped for. It had a bit of a sour edge to it, and it didn’t pack the punch that ’89 can and should. It was still a pleasant wine, but I wanted more (88H).

Things heated up in the second half of October with a special Latour vertical, King Angry holding court, some auction debauchery and a lunch in Lake Como. Stay tuned ”“ that flight to Hong Kong should have me catching up soon!

In Vino Veritas,

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