It is hard to believe that only two weeks ago was the auction that changed wine history forever.
Everything has been a bit of a blur – not alcohol related, that is. The wine market seems to be moving at a blistering pace when it comes to the finest and rarest wines, and I must stress the ‘best’ part of it. Pricing for the top of the pyramid has approximately doubled over the past year. Go to www.ackerwines.com/archives if you don’t believe me. Wine has become the world’s newest luxury good on the highest level; the only difference is that there are less of these wines in the world every day, as opposed to every other category. Wine is the only one that is both consumable and perishable.
And on that note, I must remind everyone: DRINK UP! There is something so magical about wine; the fact that every time you drink a bottle of something significant, you are drinking a piece of history. Consider me your personal archaeologist; one willing to travel back in time on your behalf. I know I have been a little lax regarding my journals as of late. Rest assured that I am still tasting avidly. I just have not had the time to officially relay everything back to you. I’m holding out for that extra zero in that book deal, of course, that’s the ticket.
Let me get back to the topic, ‘THE Cellar.’ Whether it be parts I, II or the very last bottle, I will never ever, ever ever be absent in the event of an event hosted with wines provided from ‘THE Cellar,’ purchases included. The Thursday before the auction, a very special dinner was hosted by ‘THE Cellar’ and I. It sounds like a good movie, and it was. There is a reason that well over half of the dollar value of the sale was purchased by those who either attended this dinner and/or knew the owner on a personal level.
It started innocently enough”¦where have I heard that before? A head-to-head match-up of 1976 Champagnes, the 1976 Salon versus the 1976 Cristal, both served out of magnum, of course. The Salon was laser-like, clean with crystal-like acidity. There was great lemony tartness; it was crisp, precise and still an infant (96M). The Cristal, on the other hand, was ready to go, still closer to infancy than maturity but very bready, toasty and nutty. Long and fat, the Cristal was incredibly toasty (94M).
A flight of Bordeaux was first, all out of magnum as well. The 1961 La Mission Haut Brion was its usual self, possessing a fabulous nose, fresh and ‘closest to the Right Bank,’ as someone observed. It did have fat, plummy fruit, nutty and with that classic gravelly edge. Earth, tobacco, minerals, slate and cocoa powder rounded out its complex nose. There was rich fruit on the palate with great flavors of mesquite and tobacco, accompanied by gravel, smokehouse, cassis, meat and oil. The gravel quality got finer with time; the wine got sweeter in the glass, as it should, and the acidity stood out more as well, as it should. It was a spectacular magnum (98M).
The 1959 Lafite Rothschild had a fabulous nose with absolutely stunning fruit dominated by pure Pauillac cassis. Best supporting aroma nominations included pencil, walnut, tobacco and caramel. It was Eddie’s favorite nose of the flight, and it was, indeed, a heavenly nose. The palate was pure and classic Lafite all the way, with a touch of ‘menthol,’ as Jim noted. Meaty and rich, this ’59 was absolutely delicious and one of the best experiences I have ever had with this wine (97M).
The 1961 Latour magnum was the most controversial wine of the flight, its portish nose throwing some for a curve. It was incredibly concentrated and saucy in its nose, with buckets of cassis, walnuts and ‘sea salt.’ To me, it was the most concentrated, but its density had some thinking it was a touch overripe. It was quite cassisy and grapy, but its palate was still classically brooding with lots of minerals on its finish. Long and smooth, there was still a lot in reserve at first, but with time the Latour continued to assert itself more and more on the finish, and its cedar and walnut flavors continued to emerge. It definitely needed the most time to open up, and while it was not as enjoyable as the La Miss or Lafite, it definitely still had the most potential of the flight. It was not as ready to go and as a result was a bit taken for granted on this night (97+M).
Burgundy took the plate in the bottom half of the first, and the 1978 Dujac Clos de la Roche was another home run. Ray noted ‘granulated sugar going into baking from across the room,’ something he finds in many great Burgundies. There was also menthol, mint, olive, spice and spine. There was incredible t ‘n a here, and tasty, minty flavors of Worcestershire, black and bing cherries and long, sensuous Asian spices. The finish was full of leather and spine, and secondary flavors of sesame and ‘mild carraway’ joined the party. While I have had one or two near-perfect bottles of this wine, this was not that, yet still extraordinary (96).
We were supposed to have a 1978 Roumier Bonnes Mares, but that was unfortunately corked. It happens randomly, even for the best producers on Earth. Luckily, we had a 1971 Roumier Bonnes Mares magnum ready to pinch hit. ‘Not again,’ I playfully wrote, as I had a magnum of this with the owner of THE Cellar within the past month as well. ‘Man, is that good,’ my notes continued. ‘What a nose, has everything Roumier and 1971.’ Its spine, structure, the citric tension, the rose, old dictionary, the spice, the spine, its touch of game and mineral”¦it was clear that this was something very, very special. It has an absolutely fabulous palateto match, with extraordinary complexity and great citrus, leather and earth flavors. I think you would find this 1971 in a wine dictionary under ‘character’ (97M).
It was a nice segway to the quartet of 1962 Burgundies, as the first one was a very rare 1962 Roumier Chambolle Musigny ‘Amoureuses.’ Its nose was meaty and rich, dripping with fruit. Ray noted ‘toffee butter crunch,’ and I saw what he was saying, but there was more the delicacy of Amoureuses and a feminine edge and spice there. The palate was pure, laser-like with its clarity and balance. There was a touch of coffee grinds to its exotic edges. Perfumed and sensuous, this bottle had great freshness and brightness and was again special stuff. What spice (96)!
The 1962 Rousseau Chambertin ‘Clos de Beze’ had a touch of intruding oak in the nose at first but was all Chambertin behind that with lots of cedary power and citric twists. It had an exotic, nutty edge. The palate was great with a lot of book flavors and citrus kisses. It had a lot of power but seemed a touch clumsy after the Amoureuses (95).
It is always a special occasion when a 1962 La Tache is on the table, and this was obviously no exception. Its nose defined the word ‘brooding’ with serious menthol and great animal, iron and spice aromas. Meat, soy, oil, rose, bran and sauce rounded out its infinitely complex nose. The La Tache literally blew the other two Burgundies off the table. In the mouth, its concentration, richness, length and spine were extraordinary. Everyone was going bananas for the La Tache. Bob noted ‘Le Pin like concentration.’ The wine was so good, I just couldn’t keep it in the glass (99).
A 1962 Roumier Bonnes Mares had the unenviable task of following the La Tache. The animal jumped out right away. There was a touch of oxidation in this bottle, but the rose, garden and Worcestershire aromas came through. The palate was gorgeous with a stunning, oily texture and tasty flavors, still with a kiss of oxidation but with great length. Some animal action and a touch of a ‘confectionary’ quality, as Jim pointed out, rounded out the palate. It was still outstanding, but the bottle was a touch affected and not giving a 100% performance (95A).
The 1959 Ponsot Clos de la Roche quickly took center stage. ‘We have a new leader in the clubhouse on the nose,’ Ed quickly observed. The wine was so fresh, yet it also had so much maturity to its qualities at the same time. It was dripping with red fruits, had great citric tension, amazing spice and a touch of dry caramel. The wine was incredibly seductive and intoxicating in the nose. ‘Wow,’ my notes continued. The palate was all that and then some. The spice, balance and length were unbelievable, and its flavors of red rose, citrus and earth divine (99).
The 1959 Roumier Musigny was up for the challenge of following the Ponsot and also had an incredible, fresh nose. It s profile was a bit different, more of the classic Roumier citrus, rose and old book, phenomenal in its own right. Meaty and rich, the palate was gorgeous and tasty with flavors of animal, game and iodine, and a drop of maraschino cherry emerged (97).
The last 1959 of this stellar trio was the 1959 Romanee Conti, of course. Consistent with the bottle that I had last week ”“ sorry, I just had to throw that in there. I told you I was still tasting quite a bit despite my lack of writing of late! It was also consistent with the bottle I had three days later at my third ‘Top 100’ weekend. We’ll get to that later this month! The RC showed more of the vintage characteristics than the other two wines; the flight seemed to progress more in that hot, ripe 1959 direction with each glass. Rust, iron, spine, rose, iodine, musk, mahogany and a kiss of gamy maturity completed its nose. Surprisingly, the RC had the lightest mouthfeel but was far from light. The texture was still rich and long; the acidity incredibly long. Some of those hot oat and brown sugar flavors of 1959 were more prevalent here (96+).
A 1937 two-step was next, a veritable celebrity death match. The 1937 Vogue Musigny V.V. was another great, fresh bottle. The quality of the provenance continued to shine. Each second of airtime brought in more traces of maturity. Rose and cherry red fruit were accompanied by a touch of vanilla creamsicle, along with trees, ashtray, nut and animal. The palate was fresh with great earth, light spice and a firm elegance. Soft and supple, the Musigny was a beautiful wine (95).
The 1937 Romanee Conti had an incredible nose that almost took the Ponsot up a notch, but in reality there was nowhere to go from the Ponsot anyway. Everything was there in the ’37 ”“ everything! Rose, garden, mint, perfume, jasmine, Asia, Europe, Africa ”“ a world of spice, if you will, graced its spectacular aromatic profile, as did a touch of steak sauce. The wine just kept unfolding, and its palate also had everything, including menthol, mint, citrus, anise and wax. It was as good as this wine can be (99).
The 1923 Roumier Bonnes Mares was a curious fellow, exhibiting more wood, stem, stalk, caraway and earth components with a touch of sassafras and vanilla. There was nice concentration to this ancient wine, but after the 1937 RC, this wine showed a woodier and more austere side (93).
The 1945 Roumier Bonnes Mares was another story. Eddie was the first to notice this wine, as usual staying one step ahead of the curve. After so many great wines, this ’45 still lit up the room. ‘Wow’ and ‘killer’ started my notes off. The ’45 had the garden quality that jumps out of great old Roumier. I couldn’t stop smelling this wine; it was symphonic in its depth. ‘Perfect’ and ‘20/20’ came from the crowd. Its complexity of spice was insane, and there were pinches of everything. It had this citric ‘fairy’ dust quality as the wine was sheer magic. The palate was equally incredible and had so much going on. ‘Great flavors and great everything’ summed it up (99).
Eddie refreshed me with some ’59 Ponsot, as he was insisting it was still the nose of the night. I couldn’t disagree, that’s for sure, although many arguments could be made for other wines as well. Rob actually liked the 1923 over the 1945 Roumier, one of the rare instances I can remember us on such opposite sides of the analysis of a head-to-head wine match up.
The saga continued with a 1929 Romanee Conti, as it was now officially a saga. Robert Bohr was already on the phone trying to get Spielberg to direct ‘THE Cellar III.’ Sorry, everyone, there will be no Part III. We tried to warn you! Back to the ’29; it is a wine that I have had on a couple occasions but found to be tired and disappointing. I generally think great Burgundy is best before age seventy based on my experiences with the 1920s and older. However, this 1929 was the best that I have ever had. Meaty, gamy and oily, there was a touch of that overmaturity to it, but the wine was still saucy and edgy, special and about as old as I like it. Tea, spice and leather rounded out both its nose and mouth. It was Etienne de Montille’s favorite wine of the night (97).
As a side note, Etienne was a spontaneous special guest, winner of the ‘Best Timing of the Year’ category. One we got past those Bordeaux, with each sip the gleeful glow on his face grew brighter and brighter. By the end of the Burgundies, one could tell that he could not wait to share the news of this magical evening’s wines with all his Burgundian counterparts!
It was time to say goodbye to Burgundy and hello to Pomerol. A magnum of 1947 L’Evangile rang the alarm in fine fashion. It had great, concentrated plum and cassis fruit and the slate to balance. It was chocolate city with the Foxy Brown flavors and the Bambaataa finish (that’s a New York thing), but overall it had a soft, satiny impression, easy to drink and mature with a nice kick of acidity on its finish, but its aromatics were greater than its impression in the mouth. It was still outstanding but probably not getting any better (95).
The 1947 Lafleur quickly took over the topic of conversation. It was so kinky and concentrated as Lafleur is prone to, possess both the ripeness of 1947 and that pinch of Rayas sweetness. Musk, nut and almost coconut, more like butternut, were all there. The palate was so rich and concentrated with plum, chocolate and sex flavors. Yes, it is one of the better ways to describe the experience of a 1947 Lafleur; arousing, to say the least (99).
Despite receiving a lot of adoration from many in the crowd, I found this bottle of 1947 Petrus to be a touch oxidized, and by this stage of the night, I wasn’t going to make the effort. Maybe it was just me (DQ). As a side note, even the greatest of cellars will have off bottles here and there. It is part of collecting, especially when you get into the oldest of wines. Often, there can be a couple of off bottles in the same case that has produced spectacular experiences, and so it goes. One has to understand that if one is going to collect old wines. Sometimes, the best-looking bottle can be oxidized, and the worst-looking ones can deliver a thrilling experience. Even unmoved cases purchased upon release can have bottles that are less thrilling than others. I know, it can bea bit maddening, but if it ruins your life to open an ‘off’ bottle, then you should stick to drinking the 21st Century stuff now!
Good thing there was a bottle of 1945 Petrus as a replacement. Although my literary skills were waning, this was the Petrus that I know and love. It had pure Petrus sex appeal; the plum, cassis, cocoa, spice and edge. The structure, fruit and finish were all in perfect harmony in this spectacular bottle (99).
Somehow, a 1962 Romanee Conti emerged. Ok, if you insist. There might have been a couple of other wines floating around, but this is where my notes will end. This bottle was consistent with the La Tache all the way, displaying consistent styles of both producer and vintage. There was incredible concentration and similar ‘wow’ aromas and flavors of menthol, mint, rose, blood, meat, iron, garden and A1, make that A+1. The wine was ridiculous, as is the quality of wines represented by ‘THE Cellar.’ Seven 99 point wines in one night. That doesn’t happen too often (99).
The evening was another testament to the provenance of THE Cellar, the greatest cellar that I have ever encountered.
In Vino Veritas,