Some recent traveling brought me together with the owner of ‘The Cellar’ in preparation for the upcoming October auction. After a few days of hard work, we decided to have a memorable meal to celebrate the upcoming sale and were joined by a couple of close friends as well as a couple of the media’s more influential editors. As always, the owner’s generosity was way beyond the call of duty.

We started innocently enough with a bottle of 1985 Krug. As usual, the 1985 Krug delivered an outstanding experience. Full-bodied, tasty and with great balance to its brawn, the Krug had a sturdy finish and the right delicacy to match. It will be a Champagne to enjoy for many years to come and is arguably the Champagne of the vintage (96).

We segued into a 2001 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne. The Coche snapped, crackled and popped out of the glass with a super toasty nose, full of kernel, white earth and baked Indian breads. There was a lot of nut oil, and yellow and white fruits underneath. It had the classic, honeyed, kinky and musky Coche sex appeal, although our host found it ‘a bit too fat.’ The palate was smooth, rich and, indeed, fat, fat enough to bury its acidity despite a lot of slate and mineral expressions on its finish. ‘Coconut’ was observed and ‘a touch of botrytis,’ along with ‘fig and sesame.’ This was an unbelievably hedonistic Coche; my only question about it was its seeming lack of backside depth. Was it immature hibernation or is this a more upfront vintage of Coche? Based on rumors of the winery’s infatuation with this vintage, I would have to think it is the prior (95+).

A magnum was next, and not just any old magnum. It was a magnum of 1959 Roumier Bonnes Mares. This magnum came from a cellar this collector purchased that had 18 magnums of this nectar in total! He may have all the magnums that are left in the world, to be frank. The nose was incredibly complex – meaty, rich, and full of tomato, earth and spice, and also touches of mint, fig and something herbal that was dill-like but not quite dill. An exotic beef satay quality emerged, complete with the kiss of peanut sauce, and an additional kiss of cedar. The palate was decadent, rich and long with great definition. Flavors of spice, cedar, meat, tomato, gravy and worcestershire emerged in this saucy mouthful of a wine. It was classic ’59 all the way with its saucy and ripe style, hailed as ‘tropical, yet evolving into a spicy finish’ by our host. He continued, ‘The fruit explodes then comes to a pinpoint that ties it all together.’ A kiss of garden flavors rounded out this muscular wine (97).

There was another magnum of wine, this time a 1947 Lafleur. There was a lot of volatile acidity initially, but it did not bother me a bit. Most ’47s are like that. There was this incredible bouquet of chocolate, plum, taffy and toffee, brittle-like in its sweetness, complex and exotic overall. The palate also had a lot of chocolate flavors, along with a pinch of rust and expressive tannins, but this magnum was more about its juicy fruit than a monstrous finish. The concentration of decadent fruit was extraordinary, and the wine became more and more decadent over time. Tasty, smooth and lush, the wine seemed fully mature and ready to go, which isn’t a bad thing. ‘Amazing tobacco, port-ish, and so chocolaty’ came from the crowd. Our host felt that while this was still outstanding, he has had better experiences from the very same batch that had a bit more intensity in the mouth, something that was not meant to be construed as a negative, but rather just a fact (95).

The equivalent of six bottles for the six of us were not enough, so we ordered something off the list, a 1997 Bryant Family. How would one of California’s supposed legendary wines stack up? We joked the future of California’s reputation could rest with this bottle of Bryant due to its elite company. The nose was rich and super concentrated, a banana boat special as some of Helen Turley’s wines reflect. Very fragrant, thick and chunky, its nose reeked of blueberry pancakes with lots and lots of syrup on top. Its tannins and alcohol were quite vigorous in this spiny wine and its enormous finish. It definitely was a smackdown of a wine with its motor oil-like texture and thick personality. I just couldn’t help but feel like I needed to put a couple of ice cubes in the glass, and that this was more beverage than wine. Perhaps 1947 Lafleur was this concentrated at age ten; unfortunately, I will never know. The finish was earthy and dirty, and the wine was a bit sweet for my own personal tastes, but I had to respect it and its still-existing potential (93+).

In Vino Veritas,

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