Before I get into the weekend, I would like to let everyone know that you can check out every article I have written over the past 15 months on www.vintagetastings.com/all I know, I need a searchable website. It’ll happen this year.
I am currently in the middle of my ‘State of Bordeaux’ article that describes my trip to Bordeaux this past December, but it seems like it will be one of those articles that ends up being 30-40 pages! It was indeed an amazing journey, but I am about ten pages into it after day one of six! Ugh – this one is going to take a lot of effort, so I decided to skip ahead to a very special weekend, the one where we auctioned off ‘THE Cellar.’ By the way, La Paulee weekend was the weekend before ‘THE Cellar’ weekend, and that was pretty special as well. By the looks of it, look for that article towards the end of February.
I think I was out every night the week of the auction, beginning Monday. I can’t remember Monday or Tuesday now, to be honest, but Wednesday I was at Fleur de Sel with Frank guzzling down an 88′ Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer (Clos Windsbuhl VT, I believe) and a 1971 Tommasi Amarone. They were both excellent and in the 93 point territory, but that’s about all you will get out of me for that night!
Thursday was the official kickoff to our version of a ‘Super’ weekend, the weekend we changed auction history by auctioning off the third largest collection of all time, totaling over $10.6 million in sales. I know you know by now, unless you have been in Antarctica for a couple weeks, but I had to say it again anyway – it sounds so good! Some select people came together at Per Se for a very magical evening, courtesy of ‘THE Cellar,’ as all the wines poured that night came from what is considered by many to be the greatest collection in America today. There is no doubt that this dinner affected some activity over the weekend!
It started innocently enough with a flight of two 1991 Burgundies, beginning with the 1991 Vogue Musigny V.V. The Vogue was ‘pretty and elegant’ Ed initiated, and it did have a gorgeous, pure and elegant nose with great aromas of vitamin, musk, iron, red cherry, mint and earth. The palate was solid, youthful but not massive though still firm with nice balance and length. It was still a bit taut and on the earthy and gritty side, but beautiful nonetheless (93).
The 1991 Leroy Richebourg clearly had more power and oak with its big, earthy and woody nose, full of tannins and earth. It was that big, Leroy style, although it managed to stay reined in despite my Kistler and Marcassin flashbacks. The palate was sturdy, big and long, more finish than fruit. Bob noticed how the wine brung out the fishiness of the caviar in the first course more, and it sure did. Roy commented how the wine was ‘too young – her wines need four decades almost.’ Mike concurred with the ‘too young’ sentiment (92+).
OK, enough of the warm-ups, it was time to get serious. The 1959 Roumier Bonnes Mares was incredible. It had a fabulous nose, meaty with lots of iron, tangy musk, vitamins, light iodine, bouillon and autumnal fruit. Rich and expansive on the palate, the 1959 still had lots of vigor and acidity. There was this dark and wild edge to the wine in a good way. The wine was round, lush, fleshy and very tasty, a kinky Burgundy all the way. ‘Phenomenal’ and ‘ridiculous’ came from the crowd (96).
The 1959 Rousseau Chambertin was no slouch, either. It had a milder nose but was still ‘precise,’ as Ed pointed out. There were subtle red fruits, nice t ‘n a, spice and musk, and the Rousseau kept gaining and gaining as the quality and power of Chambertin came out of their shell with a little air. There was good balance and vigor in the mouth, but the Rousseau lacked the layers of the Roumier. There was more citric tang on its brawny finish. The wine was excellent overall but short of outstanding, perhaps only because of the presence of the Roumier served before it. a close friend of mine preferred the Rousseau, I should note, and there were no signs of the hotness of the 1959 vintage in this well-made wine (94).
A notable side comment came from Ed when discussing the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, and why he found himself drinking Bordeaux more regularly. He found the wines of Bordeaux to be more consistent and that one could acquire 10-15 cases of a given wine with relative ease, but with Burgundy one has to spend fourteen years looking for that next bottle! If only we could all acquire 10 cases, Ed!
One of the most notably possible showdowns was next: Roumier vs. Vogue Musigny from the great 1962 vintage. The 1962 Roumier Musigny picked up where the 1959 Bonnes Mares left off. At first, it was a little musty, but it thankfully blew off. One bottle was unfortunately severely corked, but not mine. Stylistically, the 1962 was similar to the 1959 except it was fresher and more vigorous, and the Roumier style shone through first and foremost. There was a touch of caramel to this long and sturdy Musigny, which had quite a bit of kick despite being so elegant (95+).
The 1962 Vogue Musigny V.V. took no prisoners. It had an absolutely incredible nose that was singing in the spotlight. Robert called it ‘amazing,’ and it was about as ‘WOW’ as ‘wow’ can get. There were stupendous aromas; everything you could want in your nose of mature Burgundy was there. Someone called it ‘magical.’ Characteristics included fireplace, roses, brick, cedar and earth. The wine was so balanced, gorgeous and sensual, as well as smooth and beautiful. Everyone went ‘gaga’ for this spectacular wine (98).
That was a tough act to follow, so good thing we had a couple of 1978 s on tap. The 1978 La Tache had a meaty, intense and classic nose full of beefy fruit, menthol, citric tang, earth and leather, both spicy and spiny in its symphonic aromas. The fruit on the palate was a touch autumnal, as it should be, very forward and smooth. Ed said it was the best bottle of this wine that he had ever had, but a close friend of mine said that he had had slightly better, and I have had at least one that left a more lasting impression, but then again it was not tasted after wines of such magnificence as the previous four. There was a lot of game and wild boar flavors on the palate for this outstanding La Tache (95).
The 1978 Romanee Conti was served out of magnum, and while Ed liked the aromatic profile of the La Tache better, I found the structural components in the nose of the RC incredible. It was so penetrating in an elegant way and had this decadent, cherry vanilla ice cream thing happening. There was great verve to the palate, as only RC can provide, and additional flavors of earth and leather (96+).
Sadly, that was the end of our Burgundy programming; happily, it was the beginning of the Bordeaux one. We warmed up again with a couple of ‘modern-day legends,’ beginning with the 1990 Margaux. You know it is a good night when a ’90 Margaux is basically a palate cleanser! Taut, wound, and classic, the ’90 was great but seemed like such a baby now, infantile in its ability to express itself after the mature wines that we had just experienced. There was still a lot of Margaux elegance, length and style in this smooth, supple yet vigorous wine (95).
I broke down on the 1986 Mouton and could not gather myself to take a note. This bottle was incredibly closed, despite the fact that I had a near-perfect experience with it only six months ago (DQ).
The 1945 Mouton was another story in the next flight of two wines. Dripping with that old Mouton sex appeal, the ’45 had caramel, menthol, earth, sweet cream and forest floor aromas, all typical for this great vintage. The wine was very smooth on the palate, more so than the three or four 99 point experiences I have had with this wine, but it was outstanding nonetheless, ‘mintier than most,’ someone observed, but I found it par for the ’45 Mouton course, and tasty, long and balanced, perhaps reconditioned and hence the dip in normal intensity (95).
The 1947 Cheval Blanc was out of magnum, and it was a ‘wow’ wine. Inky, chunky, deep and expansive, the ’47 was chocolaty, motor oily and chunkily good. It was a great magnum of this wine and rich, deep and long on the palate with lots of vigor and grit. ‘Oomph’ summed up my notes (97+).
The final flight, or supposed final flight, of the night consisted of four 1961 Pomerols. Yeah, baby. It is no secret that I consider the 1961 Pomerols to be amongst the greatest wines ever made, and we had a Murderers’ Row assembled, beginning with the 1961 Trotanoy. Ed found it ‘Left Bank-ish,’ and I saw what Ed was talking about with its touch of cedar. I was enthralled with its seductive and fabulously decadent nose. It was so sexy and plummy with exquisite mineral and slate balancing out its classic, sweet Pomerol fruit. The palate was outstanding; delicious, gritty, long and balanced, the Trotanoy had prune, plum and mocha flavors with tender kisses of minerals. The wine was absolutely delicious and the sleeper of the flight (97).
The 1961 Lafleur was the only bottle that I would characterize as disappointing on this magical evening, but it was an affected bottle, a touch oxidized. It was gamy and wild, open yet funky in a fleshy way, with kinky fruit and supplements of bandaid and leather. Long, smooth and balanced, the wine still had great character despite the slight maderization. Someone called it ‘The Roumier of Bordeaux,’ but this bottle did not do this deservedly legendary wine justice (94A).
The 1961 Latour a Pomerol came, saw and conquered most of the guests on this night. ‘Wow’ began my note – we were in familiar territory! Its nose was sexy, musky, kinky, almost Arabian in its exotic spice. Big, rich and kinky, its nose was meaty, oily and Amarone-like as it should be. It was tasty, fresh and vigorous in the mouth, yet it maintained a delicacy that would charm any Burgundy lover. A gritty and sturdy finish rounded out this true classic (98).
What was this! The owner of ‘THE Cellar,’ who was in attendance, pulled out a magnum of the same wine! Creamy, smooth and exotic, the magnum had banana, plum, heavy cream and great minerality. Thicker, heavier and tighter than the bottle, the magnum was slightly marred for me by a touch too much oak. It will indubitably outlive the bottle, but I found the bottle to be more delicious at this stage (95+).
The last wine printed on the program was a magnum as well, of 1961 Petrus. It had an A++ nose full of plum, mocha, oil, nut, smoke, minerals, cedar and leather. The palate was awesome; balanced, taut and long, it was about as good as it gets, although out of magnum it showed a touch less fruit than some regular-sized bottles that I have had (98+).
So we thought the night was over, but there were more goodies in the bag of this most generous collector. We finished up with a 1921 Lafleur (99), 1949 Lafleur (97)and 1934 La Tache (99). They were all spectacular bottles, incredible wines achieving the near impossible fact of following the final flight. The 1921 was from the same batch that I had while working on the cellar, but this bottle made the prior one look almost junior varsity. It was staggering, and the 1949 was spectacular as well, but lacked the concentration and intensity of the 1921 comparatively. The 1934 LT held up to the legacy that the ’34 Romanee Conti left three months prior and proved equally as spectacular.
Another magnum of 1947 Cheval Blanc was opened later on, and mercifully I left after that one to miss a second magnum of 1978 Romanee Conti. Geez, Louise.
As if that wasn’t enough hedonism for one week, ‘Big Boy’ was holding court Friday night with a very special dinner for eight of his closest friends. Everything was served blind. After an exhausting day on the podium hammering down the first session, I was a bit late to the party but caught up quickly. It was the first official meeting of ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.’
The first wine had a mature, seductive nose that was deep, old yet strong, very meaty with lots of iron and iodine, nice t ‘n a and a firm character. There were library flavors on its thick, big and long, long, long palate, and enormous finish. Consistent with last night, this bottle of 1959 Roumier Bonnes Mares was outstanding again. When it rains, it pours (96).
Smoked meats and a powerful melange of wild herbs jumped out of the second glass. There was a little marijuana in there, for sure. The palate was chocolaty, long and sturdy, thick yet with less weight up front and in the middle. There was a tasty streak of vitamins on the finish in this 1959 Vogue Musigny V.V., which could easily last another twenty years. Dalia later added ‘coffee and dried beef’ and motivated me to find some tree bark in the wine as well (94+).
There was lots of t ‘n a in the third wine, which had aromas of smoke, garden, meat, black cherry and soda in its long nose. A sweet perfume permeated the room, and flavors of sun-dried cranberries graced its big, long and smooth palate. It was a 1962 Roumier Musigny. Hello again (96).
The fourth wine had an incredible nose with huge concentration and aromas of nuts, cherries, iron and vitamins. The wine was delicious: balanced, exquisite, gorgeous, delicious and pure. There was great earth and grit to the finish of this 1952 Roumier Bonnes Mares, which eventually surpassed the 1959 with its staying power. Man, I love ’52 Burgundies (97).
The hits kept on coming with the next wine, which had an unbelievably pure and fresh nose but in a subdued and long-term way. There was sexy, musky fruit, deep in its plum, oil, juice and seeds. Its flavors of cherry, rose and leather were long and oily, and the wine blossomed into an extraordinary flower. It was a 1949 Vogue Musigny V.V. (97).
The following wine was distinctively older in its nose, more booky and browned with its earth and oat aromas. Tasty, delicious and mature, the wine was balanced and sexy though definitely a wine for a necrophiliac. It was a 1911 Vogue Bonnes Mares, after all (92).
Water, please. Wine number seven had a pungent, intense and wild nose full of exotic grapefruit; its citric intensity was quite vigorous. On the palate, chocolate, garden, rose and nut oil made their way onto the flavor wheel, and I was quite impressed how this 87 year old bottle of 1919 Vogue Musigny V.V. kept expanding and expanding and expanding until it left everyone speechless, and it was a tough room to do that in (98).
Somehow, I managed to have some of a jeroboam of 1995 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet as a palate cleanser at this point, as I was running upstairs to check on a couple of special friends dining upstairs. Dalia, one of those friends, noted ‘green apples and figs’ as well as ‘pink roses,’ and she was spot on as usual. I added minerals, citrus, sweet corn, and ‘white jasmine’ came from Dalia as well. Her descriptors are as exotic as she is! It was a very complicated wine, at least out of jero (95).
I scurried back down to the private room, only to find some 1964 Krug Collection that was opened three hours ago offered to me as another ‘palate cleanser.’ It was still intense and long, razor sharp and spiny with lots of buttered cream. Wow. It could have rated higher if I had it earlier but was still outstanding after three hours (95+)!
It was back to our regular programming with a 1945 Rousseau Chambertin. It had a mature nose, of course, that was nutty, syrupy and sexy, containing aromas of granola oil, leather, vitamins, earth and grain. It was thick, figgy, long, intense and gorgeous. Absolutely delicious at first, the palate was full of tobacco and cherry flavors, all balanced and exquisite in their expression. An Asian tea thing exoticness developed along with a mesquite characteristic, and despite the wine getting some knocks by a few of the lucky guests, I still loved it, but it did lose itself in the glass more quickly than some of the other wines, and I am not sure if that was the wine in general or just the bottle (95A?)
The next wine had another great nose with a lemon-like intensity but a lot of minerals and spice to go with its big and long personality. Intense in the mouth, the wine was meaty, plummy, oily, fat, juicy and minerally. It was the 1949 La Tache, at our service, outstanding but not as spectacular as some of the other wines served before and after (95).
The marathon continued with a spectacular bottle of 1959 La Tache, which, unlike the ’49, had La Tache written all over the nose and many guesses came out accordingly. The menthol, green pepper and roasted earth trifecta were unmistakable, and the wine was thick, mouthcoating and leathery in a way that would make the Gucci sales racks. It was an awesome wine (98).
I was officially starting to feel it, as there was not much spitting happening on my part. There were four wines to go, and they were all Romanee Contis, beginning with the legendary 1929 Romanee Conti. It was definitively mature, and I think that 50-60 years is the optimum drinking time for a great RC based on my experiences this year, as any RC I have had from the ’20s (only two but still) have both seemed on the declining side, although that ’34 I had in October was as fresh as fresh can be, so perhaps it comes down to the bottle, but the older you get, the riskier it becomes. Nutty and oily with cinnamon sprinkles, the ’29 was deep and fairly intense still, still holding on to outstanding but not much more and perhaps not much longer (95).
The 1937 Romanee Conti was not as good as the bottle I had in October at Bouley for the Top 100 event, but it was still excellent, more on the earthy and garden-y side with lots of old library, cigar and cherry ice cream aromas and flavors (94).
The 1955 Romanee Conti, from the same case that I had before at Big Boy’s holiday party and rated 94 points, was a completely different experience. While the bottle we had in December seemed fully mature and lacked back end vigor, this bottle was the exact opposite…and they were from the same case! It just goes to show you that when it comes to older wines, there is no definitive rating or judgment, just snapshots frozen in time and the eternal memories that follow. This bottle of 1955 was unreal and incredibly intense, causing some Big Boy huffing and puffing (you have to see it for yourself as it is kind of indescribable). The nose was explosive and soared from the glass; and we were in definite winegasm territory. Huge and delicious, that was about all that needed to be (or could be by this point) said (97).
The 1959 Romanee Conti was unfortunately maderzied (DQ), but for so many old and rare bottles it was an amazing show orchestrated by Big Boy. Oh shit, the second session was starting in eight hours.
There were a lot of players in the room for ‘THE Cellar’ auction, and they started to drink accordingly. Somehow, some way, I got corralled into tasting a couple things during the lunch break, make that ten things, as once I started it kind of went from there. I couldn’t take any notes, but I took scores and will add some impressions. The 1990 Beausejour Duffau was spectacular, a humongous wine with tremendous texture, fruit and length. Someone called it a ‘baby ’61 Latour a Pomerol.’ Considering that the 1961 went for over $100K over the weekend, maybe it is time to load up on the 1990 Beausejour Duffau while it is still around $9000 (97+)! The 1985 Ponsot Clos de la Roche V.V. was outstanding, still young and very perfumed and full of Ponsot character (96). The 1989 Clinet I could have lived without. It was still a very good wine, but after the first two, it seemed as if this emperor had no clothes (91). The 1990 Mugnier Musigny was great. There was no sign of Allen Meadows, so this bottle of 1990 decided to show very well and even better than previous experiences. You could see why many put Mugnier in Burgundy’s upper echelon today (96+). There was a 1988 Guigal La Mouline, rock solid and outstanding, but a little more lost in the sauce than it usually shows (95+). 1991 Vogue Musigny V.V.? It was back again and consistent with Thursday night’s bottle (93). There was a magnum of 1947 Petrus that followed from a most generous attendee. A bit controversial as it was definitely reconditioned, I am not sure how much 1947 was in it, but there were signature Petrus characteristics and deep, chunky, chocolaty, Pomerol fruit. It was incredibly concentrated, a touch too much for some, but it was an amazing wine nonetheless with a thick and chewy texture, an enormous finish and decadently rich fruit. I had to give it the benefit of the doubt because it was that good (97). A 1995 Rayas snuck in there and proved that it is as good a Rayas as was ever made, even though it is still half the price of the 1990 (96)! That’s my tip of the week for all. We finished with two more Burgs, the first being a 1991 Meo Camuzet Richebourg, which was lean and spiny with a lot of leather, minerals and purple/black fruits (93), and a 1990 Mugnier Chambolle Musigny ‘Amoureuses’ that I wrote down as having but am unsure if I tasted. Sorry. It was time to get up and do the third session.
A post-auction massage revitalized me just in time for the after-party at Thor. It was a little more low-key than the rest of the weekend, which is not saying much because I think the rest of my life will be low-key compared to this weekend! My notes are brief because this was a party, but I hope my impressions are enough to still make one on you.
We started with a pair of Peter Michael Chardonnay ‘Cuvee Indigenes,’ 1995 and 1996. They were both excellent and bordering on outstanding, more Montrachet-like than the Montrachet that followed. Bigger, sweeter and with more acidity, I was in a generous mood so I gave them each (95), although perhaps 94 points was in order based on the comments of a few guests.
The 1998 Jacques Prieur Montrachet, served out of magnum, was smooth, easy and nice, but unexciting for a Montrachet (90).
The 1972 La Tache brought by King Richard of California was a great bottle. This overlooked vintage of LT had a great nose with lots of leather, dark meat, beans and truffles. Full of grit and character, this written-off vintage of LT is a winner (93+).
A 1993 William Seylem Pinot Noir ‘Rochioli Vineyard’ followed the LT quite admirably with its sexy, nutty, musky nose and smooth palate that still had excellent acids. It was very nice (92).
The 1996 Dujac Echezeaux, another magnum, had a great nose, brooding with aromas of dried fruits, nuts and apricots. Long, stylish and reserved, it never quite found itself on the palate and seemed to lack definition at first, though a couple hours of air time really did the wine some good (93).
The 1993 Groffier Bonnes Mares was a bit out there. Groffier’s wines can be delicious, and they can be wild and aggressively green. This one was way too barnyardy and animalistic, and I could not deal with it (85+?)
A 1983 Grands Echezeaux was soft and on the earthy side, and Dalia picked up on ‘green beans and pears’ (91).
There was a magnum of 1971 Latour, which was a beautiful magnum. Smooth, supple, soft and pretty, it goes to show that great producers make at least good wine almost every year (90).
A 1982 La Conseillante was very good but not great and a bit disappointing for the wine and the vintage (92).
The 2000 L’Angelus, though about as modern as I can tolerate my Bordeaux to be, was still an excellent wine and full of a lot of beefy and chocolaty character (93).
A 1978 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf was a treat to try, but it seemed a bit on the dry side, long and full of cocoa but a bit square (92+?).
The 1989 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf is never a wine you can go wrong with, and tonight was no exception. It was delicious as always (95).
A 1990 Chateau Musar held its own amongst this esteemed group, showing perhaps the greatest acid of the night outside of the Dujac and was delicious in that exotic and uniquely funky Musar way (93).
The 1995 Dalla Valle Cabernet, not the Maya, rocked the house with an outstanding showing. Some of these early-to-mid 1990s Dalla Valles are outstanding wines and have always been some of my favorite Cali Cabs of the decade. It was huge and great (95).
Dalia took over the tasting notes for the 1979 Heitz Cabernet ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ with ‘nectarines, pine nuts, brown figs and green squash.’ Whoa! She has me a bit self-conscious about raising my adjective game now! The Heitz was very good, indeed (92).
The 2003 Robert Foley Claret was the grand finale (before the six bottles of Cristal), and it was served out of magnum. Even though it was a 2003, which is supposedly a bit of a tougher vintage for Cali, the Foley showed why he is one of the hottest producers in Cali right now. ‘Red curry, cherry bomb and cloves’ came from the crowd. The Foley was full-throttle, rock n’ roll Cali Cab and outstanding (95).
The party would have gone on longer, but some jackass who was a bit too inebriated got in a minor tussle with someone as he was trying to escort that someone/party crasher out of the party for some reason, proceeding to almost tear his shirt off in the process and then slam a chair on the ground, breaking it into pieces while taking a piece out of the ceiling. Some people just don’t know how to act, I tell you.
Just another typical Acker auction weekend…
In Vino Veritas,