One of my favorite dinner companions of all time is the legendary wine importer, Martine Saunier. Martine has been one of the great wine ambassadors of French wines for decades, and any evening with her is full of wonderful stories, great conversation and lots of laughs. Whenever I am in San Francisco, she is on my short list, hot list or short-hot list.
When last we dined in New York, we had such a great time thanks to great dinner companions like The Ambassador, Jetski and The Mogul, that Martine declared at the end of the dinner that the next time we got together, she would bring a 1978 from her cellar! It just so happened that Jetski and The Ambassador were on my executive committee for this San Francisco jaunt, so I made the call to Martine, and a Jayer night was born.
Martine in Action
We had a few whites to start, a pair of Raveneaus and a pair of Leflaives. The 1999 Raveneau Chablis Valmur was elegant and steely, and its palate was smooth and tasty. It offered up lots of signature Raveneau goodness in a light, pleasant way. It seemed to be on its plateau already; not a wine that will improve. It was pretty (93).
The 1990 Raveneau Chablis Valmur was a ‘great bottle’ per The Ambassador. It was much more mature in its nose, showing more yeast, more yellow fruits, more spice, more perfume – just more of everything than the ’99. It was long and delicious, in a great spot with its chewy fruit and smoky spice (95).
The 1989 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet was also a great bottle, but it was served a bit too cold! Its icy flavors warmed up into a rich and elegant white. There was a touch of oil to its personality, along with corn and butter flavors that were more like cooking oil. This was a regal and mature white (96).
The 1988 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet was gamy and more figgy; a bit mature but in a passing its prime kind of way. In hindsight, the Batard should have been served first. It had nice lushness but could not shake its gaminess. Candle wax flavors also developed (92).
It was finally time for some Jayer! Due to their significant price tags, Jayers do not get opened that often, so to have a dedicated evening was quite special. We did, however, have a few hiccups on this evening. First, we lost one of our co-hosts due to logistical issues. Second, the 1990 Jayer Echezeaux that was part of the first flight turned out accidentally to be 1990 Lucien Jayer Echezeaux. If this was a pickup game, a foul would have definitely been called on the play, but apparently it was some merchant’s fault. That’s what happens when you don’t get your wine from Acker :). We were all forgiving, of course, although a bit less so after we tasted it. It had a very leafy nose, quite autumnal with its aromas. There was a bit of purple fruit underneath, but in a very secondary way. The palate was lighter and shorter than I would expect for a 1990 Grand Cru. Bouillon flavors predominated (89).
Seal of Approval
The 1989 Henri (for Georges) Jayer Echezeaux was ‘spectacular,’ and we were officially off and running. According to Martine, the Georges bottles and the Henri bottles are exactly the same wine. They were bottled differently for some possible combination of family, financial and regulation reasons but made together. Ironically, the Georges bottles usually sell at a discount compared to the Henri labels. Smart money on the Georges! One sip of this 1989 had me thinking 100% Henri. This was unmistakable Jayer with its deep musk, purple oil and sexy spices. I kept writing ‘sexy’ over and over. Its purple fruits were rich but also layered, so plush with their mouthfeel. Someone admired its ‘density and silkiness.’ This was a decadent and smooth operator, and vitamins emerged in the glass. This was an anywhere, anytime wine (97).
Hungry for Some Wolf
The 1988 Jayer Echezeaux that followed was a touch musty at first, but I instantly saw the similarity to the ’89 in overall style. That rich purple decadence and the vitamins were unmistakable. It was long, a bit more elegant than the ’89 but still creamy with nice grit and leather to its finish. With time in the glass, the strength of the ’88 vintage took charge and the finish really flexed, but I preferred the decadence of the 1989…for now (96+).
Henri & Georges
On to the Cros Parantoux! We started with a 1986 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. It had gorgeous fruit with lots of plum and purple hues. There was nice spice and more milkiness here. Its creamy qualities were lighter, and while lush, it had a softer finish. This was definitely on or exiting its plateau, and I remember better days for this vintage. Jayer was always a master of the “off” vintages, but this vintage seemed to be trending down finally after thirty plus years (94).
The 1987 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was a bit blacker and sturdier than the 1986. It put on weight and got sweeter in the glass, and while initially I liked the ’86 better, I flip-flopped in the end after a few tastes. There was great grit here, and the wine held and lifted. It was an impressive show, especially for 1987 (95).
Next up was a glorious 1991 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. It was so good, it was like being wine horny. It was deep, dark and even better than I remember it from last year, and that bottle was pretty damn great, too! This was rich, decadent, creamy and oily, so large and in charge, so young but just starting to show some mature nuances. ‘Mint’ and ‘camphor’ came from the crowd. This was as good as it gets (99).
Last but not least was Martine’s 1978 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux, the bottle that brought us all together in the first place. Well, there was supposed to be another bottle in this flight of 1985 Meo Camuzet Richebourg, which Henri made, but let’s just say The Inspector wasn’t on the case lol. Martine cooed how the ’78 was ‘like a dream.’ It was super sensual with the signature purple fruit, but in a more velvety way. It was bright and balanced, and so delicate in a good way. Martine went on to say 1978 was ‘the best vintage he ever made.’ While still complex, I felt the ’78 had turned the corner, and it was a step behind my experiences of a decade or so ago. However, I wouldn’t kick it out of my glass, ever, lol. It was a very special way to end a very special evening thanks to a very special lady (98). Merci Martine!!!
In Vino Veritas,