Way atop the ICC building on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong some 100 floors high, there is a fabulous and exclusive Japanese restaurant named RyuGin, which is normally closed for lunch. However, when it comes to The Forbidden Cellar, the word ‘closed’ is also verboten. So open the restaurant did, just for us, and we were treated to an exquisite menu personally selected by its chef. We were joined by winemakers and proprietors extraordinaire Jeremy Seysses (of Dujac) and Jean-Marc Roulot (of Roulot, of course).
Room with a View
When it comes to wines, the Forbidden Cellar is one of the world’s greatest, with incredible depth and breadth, and a passion for things that are old and mature. With a heart as giving as his palate is knowledgeable, it is always a pleasure to feed off and drink from his seemingly endless fountain of youth.
What a Lineup
When it comes to food, he also has an appreciation for the finer things, and the menu included such delicacies as Monkfish liver (the foie gras of the sea), seasonal Matsubagani Snow Crab, Wagyu and tempura of Shirako, which was quite delicious. I couldn’t believe something so soft and near-liquid could be tempura’d, so to speak. I then found out that Shirako is the sperm sac of the codfish. After gathering myself and coming to terms with my first time, I told them if they needed something extra to fry, to just give me five minutes.
The Forbidden Cellar can be quite spontaneous, not necessarily going by conventional wisdom, so the 1962 Leroy Richebourg was opened first. This was a bottle from a case that was recently released directly from the Domaine, and it had a fabulous nose accordingly. There was this great autumnal edge to its fresh, purple and citrus fruit. There was also this hot shot of tabasco in there. The palate was more about wheat and grain flavors, with a dry finish and lean fruit on the tea side. It was an excellent wine, but it never quite took off in the glass, and I wanted more from it (93).
Next up was a 1985 Haut Brion Blanc, which had created a bit of controversy in weeks prior, when I wasn’t present. In fact, this bottle was the reason we got together in the first place; I was summoned to settle this royal debate. The HBB was incredibly exotic and gamey in its nose, with aromas of guava, honey and pineapple. This was a tropical, fleshy and sexy white which exuded opulence. The palate was a touch drier, with flavors of glue and straw. This was a yellow, golden wine when it came to the hue of its flavors, and while it was more reserved on the palate, it also seemed fully mature. Its finish was completely integrated and soft. This was quite surprising, as HBB’s can age forever. The kick was up, and the verdict was good (94).
Michael pulled out a 1945 Louis Latour Aloxe Corton Les Valozieres for fun, but it was a lot more than that. 1945 is one of the great, great, all-time great vintages for Burgundy and the world, and this theoretically ‘simple’ Aloxe showed why. Its nose was earthy and brothy, quite aromatic. Jeremy observed ‘skunk,’ later adding ‘beetroot and strong musk.’ I found sweet coffee, and someone else commented on how ‘powerful’ the wine was, a quality of the vintage. The palate was delicious, with flavors of sugar cane stalk, cedar, earth, light citrus and red beef broth. I was torn between 93 and 94 points, but ultimately decided (93).It is amazing how some 93 point wines can be disappointing, while others can be thrilling.
We then had some $2000 a bottle Sake, which was the first Sake I have ever found likeable, but I’ll still take the Petrus instead . It was at this point that Jeremy shared with us a lesson his math teacher once shared with him. I forget the whole story, but I remember the moral, ‘A few moments of pleasure, a lifetime of regret.’ The Forbidden Cellar begged to differ, as he was more in the ‘few moments of regret, lifetime of pleasure’ camp. I don’t call it The Forbidden Cellar for nothing, you know.
The 1949 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes quickly brought time to a standstill. This was a holy shit wine, the kind the Pope takes lol. Its nose was perfect, with divine aromas of rose, sauce, oil, garden, chocolate and complex BBQ. The Forbidden Cellar found it ‘out of this world,’ and this salt-grilled, Wagyu edge rounded out its evolving nose. The Wagyu came later, by the way. It was in a perfect spot, so mature yet still so fresh. The palate was rich and sensuous, with its acid still there in a big way. It had exceptional strength for a 1949; most ’49 Burgs are fully mature and completely integrated, hanging on to yesteryear as opposed to today. This was a rich, lush and fabulous wine that lingered in that special, ‘waiting for you even though you just met’ kind of way. Perfect appeared in my notes again (99).
The Stars Aligning
One would think that this would be a good time to end lunch, but this was lunch with the Forbidden Cellar, so a break was allowed…for about sixty seconds, before a 1952 DRC Richebourg appeared next. Those who have been reading my notes for the last ten or so years know that 1952 is a phenomenal vintage for Burgundy, and the Right Bank for that matter. This DRC was no exception and another WOW wine. It was deep, bloody and beefy yet red and rosy at the same time, kind of like Big Red Riding Hood with a hatchet. There was oil in ‘dem dar hills, along with caramel, salt, spice, mesquite, tobacco, tabasco and garden. There was pungency to its nose that bordered on half pheromones, half drugs. Its palate was rich and lush with touches of minerals, ceramics and tea time. It had a ‘deeper voice’ per Jeremy, and certainly more strength than the Vogue. Rich and lush appeared again in my notes, kind of like when you say the same thing over and over when you are drunk and trying to impress some girl. Hopefully she’s drunk, too, because then that means you are making sense, but I digress. Tickles of coffee, hay and browned bouillon fruit added complexity to the palate, even if it wasn’t needed at this point. Fantastic (97).
It was a good week for sure, as this was the second time I had a 1988 Dujac Clos de la Roche. Dujac’s ’88 is in a great spot right now, and atypical for the vintage. There was beautiful fruit here and an elegance that most wines from this year lack. There was nice spice, nice citrus, nice acid and a nice finish. It was so nice to meet you again (93).
Jeremy shared some more childhood wisdom with us, something about commitment and involvement, and the difference between the two. ‘It’s kind of like eggs and bacon,’ he continued, ‘the chicken is involved, the pig is committed.’ Since I was born in the year of the pig, consider me committed, however you want to define it!
A half-bottle of 1953 Petrus snuck out next, and it was a soft, tender beauty. It had a complicated nose of plum, chocolate, dust, garden and spice. The palate was soft yet delicious; it had length without distance. Since it was a half-bottle, I’ll give it half a note (94).
A 2009 Roulot Tessons Mon Plaisir was classic Roulot and absolutely delicious. Man, his wines are so easy to drink and give so much pleasure. This was classy juice, and this vineyard should be Premier Cru. Jean-Marc called it ‘a good introduction’ to Roulot. Nice to meet you again, too (93).
Good Will Ambassadors
There was one more wine, a 1985 Guigal Cote-Rotie La Landonne, but it was enough already. The first sip was spectacular, but from there on after, I think I was shot. Who shot JWK? The Forbidden Cellar, of course, right through my heart. Amazingly, I still survived. Yes sir, may I have another. Oh yeah, by the way, the Guigal was deep, saucy, rich and beefy with classic menthol, violet and winter. It was definitely at least 95 points, but I really wasn’t in a position to rate effectively any more.
Words to Drink By
It was another magical occasion thanks to The Forbidden Cellar. Life will always be richer for those that have the opportunity to enter and meet its wise and generous master.
In Vino Veritas,