Over the summer, there were a few special gatherings outside of Europe that merit some attention before Fall overtakes us all. Thanks for all the positive feedback about the new format; while it wasn’t the plan, it will be from now on, although the next couple articles might not have as many nice shots as the last one; like I said, it wasn’t planned! Anyway, it is difficult to get photo approval from a King and now Cardinal, and that is upon whom this article centers.

Significant occasions call for significant wines, and significant Champagnes. A trio of Champagnes set a high bar for the evening. A 1982 Krug kicked things off nicely with some usual big vanilla and cream soda aromas, accompanied by lightly grilled nuts. It was full and yeasty, served a bit warm, but its big and brawny style shined on. It was still young (95+).

A magnum of 1973 Dom Perignon was exceptional. It was just one of those great bottles. It had strong wafery flavors and tasty sugar, with a creamy and somewhat delicate finish by comparison to the Krug. It still had muscle but in a more cut way, and its elegance lingered like good manners (96M).

Controversy emerged early over Bad Boy’s 1979 Salon. Carl, our resident Chief Oxidation Officer, had to be called in rather quickly for a ruling. The Hillbilly was not appreciating the Salon, calling it ‘tight and metallic.’ I think he was trying to set Bruce’s goose loose, as this was a pretty special bottle. A few profanities were exchanged; New York guys can be sensitive about their bottles J. I happened to be on the Bad Boy’s side here; I, too, thought the Salon was ‘great,’ and one of the better ‘79s I have ever had. There was tremendous acidity here, with the signature laser-like qualities. Yellow and white chocolate blended together into great citrus expressions, and the Salon kept getting better and better the more time we gave it. The Salon clearly had the best raw materials of the three; its finish went on forever. Bruce muttered something about The Hillbilly being a ‘minuteman,’ due to his inability to show patience and stamina in getting to know the Salon. As with half of what Todd says or does, I can’t put it in writing (96+).

The wines came out of order at times, beginning with a 1969 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes. ‘Stinky,’ decreed the Cardinal, and it was so. The Hillbilly added, ‘compost and end trails,’ reminding him of home sweet home as a young Cackalackan. It had a rusty style, with red citrus and autumnal floor action, along with some vinomy tension, although I don’t know what that means lol. My writing sure looks like vinomy! The acidity was quite present on the palate, along with bouillon-y fruit and dirty, backburner action. Its fruit was spiny, red and tight, but it dried out quickly in a beefy way (91).

The Champagne resumed again briefly thanks to a 1976 Roederer Cristal. The Punisher reluctantly noted, ‘quite delicious,’ and The Cardinal went even further, finding it ‘unbelievable.’ It was a great Cris for sure, showing the buttery, sweet, kinky side that makes old Cristal so good. White cola and fruits as well as musky caramel crossed the border from nose to palate, and there was outstanding acidity as well. While quite tasty, a hint of square wood emerged on the finish, and the ’76 started to lose steam quicker than I wanted (95).

A 1996 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet had a toasty nose full of big kernel, and that Leflaive gassy pop that their bottles can sometimes have initially after being opened. Yellow fruits emerged in a sunnily sweet way. The Artful Roger, who always seems to be on Central time, finally joined us and found the Leflaive ‘really good.’ It really opened up, but its acidity seemed mild for ’96. Corn and nut were there, along with toast and diesel. The acidity emerged more with time (95).

Roger brought a rare 1986 Raveneau Chablis Valmur, at which The Punisher sneered, ‘mature, yet quite good.’ It came across cleanly for an ’86 white but was still rich and chunky. It was sweet in a pampered way, and its palate was delicious with yellow and white grape flavors, along with papaya on its finish. Roger hailed this smooth and excellent wine ‘a smokin’ bottle,’ and the Raveneau stole some thunder from the Leflaive. Although ultimately the Leflaive was the better wine, the Raveneau was the wine with which to have a good time on this night (94).

Eddie and I continued to butt heads with the No Joy, No Luck Club over the 1990 Rousseau Chambertin. The ’90 had deep fruit with intense, reticent perfume. It was certainly tight, but everything about it said ‘mammoth.’ It was much blacker and deeper than the ’91, which was more open and easier, so to speak, but there was no doubt in my mind what was the better wine when both glasses were empty. The Hillbilly observed, ‘heavy and ponderous,’ although perhaps he was having an introspective moment lol (97).

Roger also pulled a 1980 Dujac Clos St. Denis out of his bag, and it was elegant and perfumed. Light cedar, mahogany and raisin danced around its pretty fruit in the nose. Candied fruit, raisin and garden flavors were on the palate, and The Cardinal preferred it to both Rousseaus due to its mature personality (93).

The 1999 Richebourg got another ‘heavy’ from Todd. The Richebourg was deep, rippling with iron, minerals and black fruit. Its nose was so young yet so good, but the palate was closed, adding menthol to its profile. While 1999 is considered to be one of Burgundy’s great vintages, most recent Grand Cru experiences have been in the closed category (95+).

The 1990 Romanee St. Vivant that followed was dirty but good, thick with cedar and straw aromas. It was a touch primordial and a bit earthy, but classic ’90 behind that. Meaty fruit, menthol spice and a foresty finish rounded out this slightly awkward bottle (93).

It was time for some Bordeaux, and the 1982 Mouton Rothschild set the table nicely. There were lots of ‘greats’ going around, and our Bordeaux transition was officially and successfully achieved. The Mouton was still young, delicious and long, full of cassis, nut and chocolate. My notes, however, begun to get shorter and shorter. There were only eight of us, and thirteen bottles were already down the hatch, and we were only about halfway through the night (97+).

I’m going to wrap up the second half of the evening a lot faster than the first accordingly, and five Champagnes came at us fast and furiously next:
1. 1973 Bollinger (90)
2. 1973 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (92)
3. 1982 Philipponat Clos des Goisses (92+)
4. 1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil (98+)
5. 1988 Krug (95)

The Bollinger was poo-poo’d by The Hillbilly, although Eddie thought it wasn’t so bad. It had a wafery and slaty nose and a ‘burnt orange’ edge. The Ruinart was all about vanilla and butterscotch, morphing into a white, sasparilla cola. While very good, it was merely that and didn’t stand out on this star-studded night. The Phillipponat was disgorged in 2007, and too young accordingly. It was spiny and full of character, but too tight and mean, for lack of a better word. Champagnes need time from the point of disgorgement to the point of drinking; perhaps The Cardinal will pass some sort of law to ensure proper aging in the cellars of the Domaines after disgorgement. I have written up the 1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil on many occasions already, and all of my notes are consistently in the ‘best wines of my life’ category. The Krug screamed, ‘I AM LEGEND,’ and every wine took a number and got in line. Mass + force + balance = awesome. Oh yeah, the 1988 Krug was outstanding, as usual, but there were more no words left for Champagne after the ‘96 Clos du Mesnil.

We finished the night with Bordeaux, a half-dozen of them to be exact, centered around a flight of 1990s:
1. 1983 Margaux (95)
2. 1990 Margaux (96+)
3. 1990 Beausejour Duffau (91)
4. 1990 Cheval Blanc (95)
5. 1990 Lafleur (96)

The 1983 Margaux was classic and clean, with a touch of windex that I often find in this vintage of Margaux. It was lean, elegant and beautiful. A bottle I had last week was a bit richer and with more noticeable acidity, but I would rate them the same. The 1990 Margaux was richer and a bit more manly than the ’83, showing more cassis, and somehow coming off even more elegant despite more richness. It was clearly a step up from the ’83, despite both being outstanding. Bruce started bashing the Beausejour, saying that it has ‘never been more than 93 points, and this is another one.’ The Big Ticket was trying to convince us to ‘let it warm up,’ but at this point in the evening, that wasn’t going to happen. It was super fruity and kinky, exotic like three of The Hillbilly’s best friends: Cinnamon, Jasmine and Bubbles J. My score is probably generous and more of a technical one, as I am not sure I could even drink a bottle of it. It’s like 91 points with a Facebook ‘Don’t like’ attached to it lol. The Cheval was a touch weedy and wafery at first, a bit oily a la some of its best vintages. It put on some weight and became quite concentrated, and despite a touch of mustiness to the palate at first, ultimately it was delicious. The Lafleur was as good as any other wine in this extended flight. ‘Solid’ and ‘rich’ started off my waning notes, along with kinky cocoa, nut and coconut as well”¦yes, all three. The palate was also delicious, another hedonistic Right Banker with foundations of earth and rock to support its deep, kinky Pomerol fruit.

‘Eddie, Eddie’ could be heard in the distance as The Punisher pulled out a 1959 Latour. It had a fantastic nose, pure and special. This was a great, old bottle, whose fruit was fleshy, nutty and tasty, and whose acidity still balanced its headlining act. It just reminded me how much more pleasure older wines give. Even if a rating is less, an older wine may still give more pleasure than a higher-rated wine. While the sips were small and more evaluatory on the 1990 flight, I finished every drop of the 1959 (97).

It was a coronation ceremony fit for a king, make that a Cardinal. The Cardinal then reminded us that despite his newfound position, and perhaps mission, that he has not rescinded any sovereign authority whatsoever. Long live the King.

In Vino Veritas,
JK

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