The Collection of Dr. Ivan Volent

I recently spent two days traveling, one day working, and two nights drinking in order to process and evaluate the collection of Dr. Ivan Volent. For those of you that want more background on this collection, please review the introduction in our auction. For those of you who want a quick reference, I will quote Martine Saunier, who knew of him, and she said, “You got a gold mine!”

We planned a dinner on the first night, a tasting to evaluate the storage and the quality of the overall collection. We started with a wine not from the collection, a 2014 Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre provided by one of the fortunate guests for our two night extravaganza. It was a classic Chablis but still very tight, too young as are many 2014s if you ask me; however, no doubt about it, it is an incredible white wine vintage for Burgundy. There were great minerals, sea shells, sea breeze, yeast and reticent yellow aromas, but ‘needs 5-10 years minimum’ was the final note (93+).

A 1985 Lynch Bages was our one stop in Bordeaux, and it was classic all the way, resting comfortably on a bed of cassis with some nut and pencil aromas. Its palate was softer, charming and tender – a typical, easy to drink 1985 Bordeaux (93).

A trio of 1988 Burgundies were next. While many wrote off the vintage as too hard, tannic and not having enough fruit, it seems as if 33 years later the narrative can change a bit. These were three beautiful wines, led by a 1988 Roumier Ruchottes Chambertin. This bottle was so fresh, with the classic brick and stone components of the vintage, with lots of mineral and rust, too. ‘Orange meringue and black cherry’ came from the crowd, along with ‘sandalwood and coriander.’ All very on point! The acidity was tremendous and the wine lifted in the glass and had great weight and texture. It still felt like it had a lot of life ahead of it (95+).

The 1988 Dujac Clos de la Roche had a lot of Christmas spice but a lot of dirty tootsie pop as well. Anise, Asian spices and ‘watermelon’ came out on the palate. This was a bit of a sweaty bird with a muddy finish. While still an excellent wine, I have had so many superhuman bottles of Dujac this year, but this wasn’t one of them. I still enjoyed it (93).

The 1988 DRC La Tache told everyone immediately that it was here for business. There was some creamy, sweet spice, with lots of dusty tomato on the vine and some white pepper and a twist of lime. This was a margarita of a palate, in fact! Speaking of the palate, there was so much density and richness by comparison to the previous two. Rich and leathery, it had great vitamin flavors on its thick and long finish. I was flip-flopping between 96 and 97 points (96+).

We had two Leroy wines in the next flight, since there was a lot of Leroy in the collection, but I combined the two notes into one. Both of these wines were big and rich. There were dark, deep, black fruits and forests with intense structure and acidity. A meaty richness defined its savory palate, which flirted with heavy but wasn’t quite that. It was beefy with great garden and minerality buried deep, deep inside. Asian spices, hoisin and a fine varnish all defined each of their finishes. The 1993 Domaine Leroy Latricieres Chambertin (96) had more weight than the 1996 Domaine Leroy Clos Vougeot (95), but the 1996’s acidity was brighter. The richness of these wines was impressive!

We finished up with the ultimate cheese wine, a Chave Blanc, make that a 2012 Chave Hermitage Blanc. It was a wine from another guest, so rich, so tropical, move over dessert wine! Dry whites or Champagnes work for me best with cheese, and the concentration of a Chave Blanc is arguably cheese’s finest complement (95).

So we did the inventory the next day, and there were a bunch of wines we rejected for low fills, heavy seepage, etc. I suggested we taste a bunch of rejected bottles, you know, to be extra careful. Given the provenance and storage of the collection, there was no hesitation by its owner. We started with a 1986 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. There were two bottles, and they were different shades of color, this one being a bit darker and more brown, so we rejected one of the two bottles of ’86 Coche accordingly. And there was nothing wrong with it. The Coche offered a glimpse of greatness and sweet caramel flavors typical of the botrytis-y 1986 vintage. It was still excellent but honestly, probably a decade past its prime. It was fun to try but dried out in the glass, and I think Coche in general is best in the 20-25 year window. That means drink those 1996 and youngers. I have had enough over the years to comfortably say that (93).

The next bottle we had was a low fill bottle full of seepage around the bottom of the capsule. It was a 1994 Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier Montrachet. Given the vintage and the condition, I wasn’t expecting much, but this wine delighted my palate! I suppose this is a good time to mention Dr. Volent’s obsession with humidity, which can often cause more conditions but also cause more longevity. This bottle was clean and still fresh, with an elegance and charm not typical of the Domaine’s style. It was tender and on a plateau, with lovely flavors in tight, skinny jeans. There were pleasant yellow hues of flavors with a touch of rainwater goodness. This was ‘just’ a tasty wine (95)!

A tantalizing duo of Richebourg took center stage for the reds, beginning with a 1985 DRC Richebourg. This bottle had heavy seepage; literally all over the top of the capsule, as well as a tear down one side. The wine was perfect. There was so much rose, but menthol was really first. Leather and citrus tang were joined by a touch of Worcestershire and some young orange and brick flavors. There were tender layers of caressing fruit mixing with both autumnal and summer fruit profiles, like a perfect Labor Day weekend. What a bottle (97)!

A 1990 Meo-Camuzet Richebourg was a much deeper and darker side of the terroir, with more similarities to last night’s Leroys than the prior DRC. It was impressive, quite concentrated and blackish with its foresty fruit. There was a lot of blackberry jam on the palate, and a density not matched by the DRC. In fact, it felt a lot younger than the DRC despite only the five year difference. This was a stacked and packed wine, mountainous in its expression, with another two decades ahead of it. And this bottle had a 4.5cm fill and a sign of seepage (95+)!

There was a bunch of 1964 Maison Leroy Chapelle Chambertin with multiple label variations from three importers, two different vintage tags and fonts, so we decided to leave it behind. We opened one of them, and the wine was fine and what it should have been, but it was corked. That unfortunately, randomly happens (DQ).

The piece de resistance for the entire trip was a low fill (6cm), seeping, 1978 DRC La Tache. It was wine of the weeknights lol. It had a similar profile to the Richebourg, but it had a higher pitch with more mint than menthol, and an amazing acidity that danced and pranced. One sip is all it took to know that there would be no chance for any wine to defeat it. ‘6cm! Sos!’ I wrote with emphasis. There was a divine spine and sexy spice here, a lot of Asian action and a citrusy smokehouse tang that titillated (99).

We had another 1994, again a d’Auvenay, this time a red 1994 Domaine d’Auvenay Mazis Chambertin. It was another lovely and tender wine, with delicate red fruits leaning on the cranberry and lingonberry side. A touch of wet earth emerged on its finish. It was another beautiful, mature wine from Leroy (93).

We finished with another duo of Leroy, and each of the last three wines were also rejected bottles with heavier conditions, but no flaws were inside the bottles! A 1988 Domaine Leroy Vosne Romanee Brulees, the first vintage for the Domaine wines, was lighter than expected, but solid and classic (93).

The 1993 Leroy Chambertin was the best Leroy of the week, again this deep and dark, brooding style of wine, dripping with black fruits. The richness here seemed somewhat reined in by comparison to the other Grand Crus from the night prior. The king of Chambertin certainly let every other wine know it was nobility, and while it was also dense, it was also balanced and nuanced. An incredible wine from an incredible vintage that tasted like it will outlive me (97)!

I almost forgot the 1997 Leroy Richebourg that we popped at the warehouse. It was another beautiful, maturing Leroy. It seems all the great vintages still need significant time, but the ‘lesser’ years like 1994 and 1997 are really hitting sweet spots around 25-30 years of age. It was a great experience for me to taste so many of her wines in a couple of sessions as they don’t get opened that often, and it will be less and less as the prices keep increasing. Interesting stuff. This Richebourg had pretty red fruits and a succulent body. It was juicy and tasty, with great balance (95).

It was an incredible couple of nights enjoying the magnificent collection of Dr. Ivan Volent. The moral of the story is buy what you can from it. You won’t regret it!

FIN
JK

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