On a chilly Spring Friday night in New York City, much of New York’s wine collecting royalty gathered thanks to the Grand Cru Select team, wine advisors and distributors extraordinaire. A healthy slice of winemaking royalty was there as well, including mostly proprietaries from such illustrious estates such as Liger-Belair, Dujac, Roulot, Chave, Giacomo Conterno, Araujo, Dom Perignon and even Chateau Latour. The evening was so special, it even attracted an anonymous entertainment mogul. Suffice it to say, we were Big Pimpin’ up in NYC.
It was a serious crowd, and a serious wine lineup accordingly. Everyone had contributed a wine from their cellars, and the venue was the penthouse private space of the new Nomad hotel, whose restaurant is courtesy of none other than Daniel Humm, who was there personally to oversee this extra special event. The food was extraordinary, by the way, but that isn’t news for anyone who has been dining at 11 Madison for the past few years. FYI, all photos included in this article are thanks to Hollywood Jef, another extraordinary artist.
Willing and Able
Let’s get to the juice. We started with a 1982 Krug Collection, which was finally showing some mature aromas. My knock on all the recently released Krug Collections is that they are tough to drink upon release, delivering more rocket fuel and razors than fruit and flavor. This bottle was toasty and tasty with a balanced, nutty finish. ‘Great’ was written once, and the ’82 was finally starting to come into its own, although it still seemed young forever (95).
We began a fine flight of whites with a 1995 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. It had a gamy, yeasty nose, a blend of yellow stew and waterfall. There was a touch of suntan to its nose, with the oil. The Coche was very forward, starting to turn the corner of its drinkability window. The palate was round and rich, tropical and smoky, still meaty. There was a rival mogul in the crowd, Jay G, who noted it had ‘a nose like the jungle.’ It did stay a touch gamy for me, too. A Chaperon from Dom Perignon noted, ‘sweet, spicy curry’ (94).
The 1998 DRC Montrachet was initially not at all like the bottle I had had six weeks prior in San Francisco, at least in the nose. This was less extroverted, possessing aromas of mint, smoke, waterfall, musk, citrus and butter. However, the palate was super sweet again; it was practically dessert wine. The sea urchin and caviar dish cut the sweetness of the wine a bit. Even though it seemed more mature in San Fran, I liked that bottle better, although this bottle wasn’t what I would call one of 99 problems (93).
The 1999 DRC Montrachet was deeper and more reticent with a very heavy feel in the nose. There was spice and light alcohol, and a touch of bruise and brood. The palate was rich and balanced, a bit square and also a touch sweet. DRC Montrachets can often be prone to a touch of botrytis due to the late picking that the Domaine practices. The ’99 wasn’t over the top like the ’98, more typical of the brooding and muscular style of the vintage for white Burgundy. Hollywood Jef found it to be ‘infanticide.’ It was served from Jero, after all (94+J).
A No-Longer-Made DRC Jeroboam
The 1983 Ramonet Montrachet was pungent and fresh for 1983, and it was quickly Jef’s white wine of the night. Its palate was clean and long with a pure finish. Ice, diamonds and minerals sparkled lightly, but it lacked a touch of usual Montrachet depth for me at this point (94).
Ramonet and Friends
It was time for some reds, and we began with a bang and a zoom, aka a 1990 Roumier Musigny. At first, this wine blew me away, showing 1990 at its best with a meaty nose full of iron, blood, rose, red fruits, musk and divine spice. Big Boy found it ‘tight as hell,’ and it was, but so tight never felt so right. It was a wow wine, just so thick and extraordinary. Black fruits came all over its palate, and someone hailed it as ‘nails.’ Licorice emerged after time. Big Boy debated its six-star status, and wasn’t as enamored with it as I was. I must confess, while this wine was in 97 point territory at first, after the Chambertins that followed, it seemed to lose a step, and I wasn’t as blown away twenty minutes later as I was at first bite. It was still pretty special, I think Bonnie and Clyde would have robbed a bank for this one (96).
The 1980 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze had a great nose full of tender red fruits, cobwebs and a touch of tropical banana. There was some sweaty, barny complexity here, and autumnal flavors first emerged on the palate. It had a smooth, gritty finish but the Roumier definitely smacked it down WWE style. Big Boy admired the ‘seductive, come take me’ nose, but also found the palate to be ‘a bunch of pieces, none of it comes together.’ Well said, but the age and randomness of the Jero factors often add up incorrectly. I had a better bottle recently (93J).
The 1985 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze was shy for 1985 at first sniff. Slowly, red fruits, iron, menthol and blood crept out of my glass. There was a citrusy intensity on top of its strawberry goodness, and its spine was erect and noteworthy. Its palate was rich, saucy and thick, especially given the usual style of the vintage. Flavors of beef, blood and iron combined with decadently taut red fruits to deliver a six-star experience (97).
It quickly got even better, thanks to a Jeroboam of 1971 DRC La Tache. Big Boy had acquired this jero from the collection of Bipin Desai a few years ago when Bipin auctioned it with us; it doesn’t get much better than that! 1971 is also my vintage, and I have had the good pleasure of having this wine plus or minus fifteen times, and it rarely does anything less than astound. This jero was no exception; it ultimately ended up being the wine of the night for most everyone. It had a fantastic nose, dusty at first and tight out of jero. Aromas of meat, oil, brown sugar, bouillon and a splash of citrus all reminded me of familiar ground. It was so young, full of acidity, a fantastic wine with stone walls around its border, just like any good Monopole should have. Autumnal and bouillon flavors blended with red fruits, kisses of citrus and light band aid. Big Boy is never one to be underwhelmed by his own bottles, but in this case, as often, he was correct in saying, ‘as flawless as ’71 La Tache gets.’ Tom Terrific said it was ‘the best bottle of wine he ever had,’ and that was high praise coming from Tom. Let’s just say it wasn’t his first wine dinner J. There was no doubt who was going to run this town tonight (98+J).
Wine of the Night
It was turning into a La Tache kind of night, so we continued on with some 1985. This was the second time that I had this wine in this given week, which is by default the definition of a good week. It also reinforced the ‘first is always better than second’ theory, as this bottle didn’t live up to the previous one. Its nose was intensely complicated, led by the dirt first and the perfume second, although I’m not sure which quality I would put first. It had a sexy nose, with a touch of pungent, almost shellfish, along with oil, blood and a caramel glaze. There was a hint of dirty birdie there, but I think we all like that at some point or another, at least I do lol (94).
The 1990 DRC La Tache was an exceptional bottle, make that magnum, courtesy of our rival moguls in attendance. The Chaperon noted ‘cocoa and dark chocolate.’ It was clearly much younger than its two siblings, with blacker and pungent purple fruits. Its core was intense, so deep and so brooding, with a midnight-like complexity. There was also a hint of good dirty to go with its enormously long palate. Its acid uncoiled like a beast, and its brick flavors were thick and long. Jigga what? This was one of the better bottles of this that I have had in recent memory, make that magnum (97M).
Another jeroboam made its way into this flight, a superlative 1985 DRC Richebourg that outshone its bigger sister in an ‘Excuse me Miss’ kind of way. The DRC bigger bottle theory was in effect, and its deep nose followed up with the practice. There was also this kiss of dirty birdie, also known as terroir I suppose, but there was much more depth to the fruit here. Its heavy nose was decadently dense, with black fruits and a hybrid of musk and barn. The palate was rock solid, balanced, long and sturdy (96J).
Big Show by Little Sister
Italy was the next destination, but the 1978 Giacosa Barolo Collina Rionda Riserva didn’t quite deliver the usual Giacosa experience. If a gun were to my head, Giacosa would be atop my list of Italy’s greatest, as in the greatest, but this particular bottle was a bit watery and marred by a touch of cardboard. The palate was easy and smooth, and its finish leathery, but this was the first 1978 Giacosa that I’ve had in a while that wasn’t staggering (92).
A 1978 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo was back in the right direction, delivering in classic fashion out of magnum. It had rich fruit in its black nose, was long and balanced, and had a dry and leathery finish. Yes, this is the part of the evening where the notes start to get shorter (95M).
The 1974 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo was not as good as the ’78. It was much more forward and mature, with more gamy fruit. It was great in a forward and ready to go kind of way, and it had the advantage of being served out of jeroboam (94J).
The 1955 La Mission Haut Brion double magnum was corked, but it was ok, as The Punisher brought a backup. The second didn’t have much time to breathe, so it was a bit tight, showing youthfully but with signature gravel and chocolate edges. It was pungent in the nose, but the palate was fresh and classy, smooth and sexy, with great lingering acidity (96D).
A 1964 Cheval Blanc negociant magnum was solid overall, although I’ll always take an original bottling first. It had a meaty and gamy nose with solid acidity. The palate had a splash of water without being watered-down and great flavors of red forest, earth and a long-ish finish. ‘Animal’ came from the Empire State of mind crowd (94M).
1964 Cheval Negociant Magnum
Magnums of 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard were one of the least impressive experiences of this usually stellar wine. The nose was mint city with loads of eucalyptus, reminding me of 1947 Mouton but with more mint. The palate was even more minty, too much so, and although there was great structure here, the flavors came across a bit sickly for me (92M).
We ended with Guigals, and the first should have been last, being it a 1966 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline. This was the fifth or sixth time I have been blessed to have this wine, the first vintage of this heralded vineyard. Its nose was deep and great, super sexy with its musk, violet, bacon and menthol quadrafecta. The meat and oil defined its nose the most, and its palate was delicious, make that spectacular. Rich, saucy and decadent, this rivaled the La Tache as wine of the night (98).
There wasn’t much for me to say after that for a 1978 Guigal La Landonne except ‘solid’ (95) or a 1985 Guigal La Turque except ‘oaky but solid, gets better and better’ (95).
1966 Guigal La Mouline The First Year Made, and Perhaps the Best
There was actually one more wine to be served on this starry night, a jeroboam of 1961 Pommery, thanks to you know who. Champagne tends to be my preferred drink of choice before, during and after dinner, and it fit right in the lineup as the closer, served on the patio as the cigar smoke proceeded to permeate the air. It was delicious, with sweet fruit and just the right amount of bubbles left. Smiles were already on everyone’s faces, but this glorious, aged Champagne kept them permanently in place (95J).
Oh, what a night. It’s a hard knock life.
In Vino Veritas,