While everyone is accustomed to the Top Ten, I prefer a Dirty Dozen. I mean, after all, wine by the case comes by the dozen, or at least it should. Is there any more argument needed? 2016 was a great vintage in many which ways, but in the end, some memories stand out more than the others. It is my pleasure to present to you the best twelve wines I tasted in 2016.
Big Boy and CB4 combined forces to officially detonate and dominate the evening with a spectacular jeroboam of 1971 DRC Romanee Conti. This wine was thick as a brick in every which way, and its fireplace qualities made way for mucho menthol. Its red and black fruit m_lange was incroyable, and it was long and strong with great acid. Olivier found it still ‘young,’ and its personality was both huge and fresh. It doesn’t get any better than this. This was a celestial bottle, all in the stars, like Tony LaRussa on how you play your Cards (99J).
We crossed the bridge to the world of Pinot Noir, and we began with a world dominator, a magnum of 1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares Vieilles Vignes. This wine was worth the trip to San Francisco. Dapper Dave noted, ‘crazy velvet,’ and he wasn’t talking about Big Boy’s pants lol. Actually, it was thanks to Big Boy that we had this incredibly rare wine. This magnum left all the hens teethless, as only Big Boy could and still can do. My notes started, ‘spectacular wine, out of control great.’ I am getting goosebumps just writing about it again. Its nose had sappy, red cherry fruit with bright bing and traces of citrus. Dave felt it was just entering its plateau. Its palate was long and extraordinary, gritty and powerful. This was a spicy hot mama that left me licking my lips after its last kiss good night. It was so good that it left me concentrated all over (99M).
The 1961 Petrus, as usual, was the top of the pyramid. This was a classic wine in every which way. This was a lot of people’s wine of the night, including mine. While my notes were waning, I did find it ‘rock solid with enough fine chalk and stone for a quarry,’ and its fruit was ‘absolutely perfect.’ It also got a ‘longggggggg.’ All bow down for The Rev (99pts).
There were too many crazy wines being opened downstairs in the cellar to linger upstairs, so I headed back down to one of the wines of the night, and it was only fitting that Big Boy had something to do with it. Some wines are so good that words feel inadequate, and this magnum of 1971 Krug was one of them. Its nose sparkled and crackled, like a flawless diamond meeting the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks show. It had an addictive quality to its nose; once you started you did not want to stop. White, crystallized fruits along with an icily great character, the Krug exploded in my mouth, resulting in a bevy of inappropriate and immature jokes from the distinguished guests around me lol. This bubbly had enough liftoff for Nasa; in fact, that’s what it finish felt like, those jets burning under a rocketship heading to outerspace, ready for the endless. This was an unbelievable magnum of a legendary Champagne (99M).
The next wine was also from 1959, and ‘the best bottle I ever had,’ per Dr. Feelgood. I think he meant the particular wine, but it could have been every bottle ever as this 1959 Lafite Rothschild was staggeringly good. This was classic in every sense of the word. The cedar, the wheat, the pencil…this was a rich and thick wine that was as good as Bordeaux gets. The French Paradox found it ‘deep,’ and there was super sweet fruit with a dry edge. The Emperor found it ‘flawless’ (99).
The 1971 DRC La Tache showed why this is one of the legendary La Taches of all time and in a peak performance zone right now. Come to think of it, it’s been there about 10-15 years. Its nose was beyond spectacular with crazy complexity. The signature menthol, the red and purple fruits, and spices from seemingly every country on earth – Asian, Indian, Jamaican, insert your own country here. Its finish was endless as its acidity continued to rock on past the witching hour (99).
I Am Legend
The 1990 Jacques Selosse that followed exceeded everything, and maybe its youth helped. When it comes to all the assorted multi-vintage cuvees that Selosse makes, there can be varying degrees of quality; I sure wish he would make more vintage Champagne as they never cease to amaze me. This was a spiny and super fresh Champagne, with hot sugar cube action and a long and flavorful personality. This was a superb Champagne with spectacular length and cream and as good a bottle of Champagne as I can remember…ever (99).
As Good As It Gets
There was one more truly spectacular bottle on this night for me, before it all went sideways. The 1978 Roumier Bonnes Mares was decadent and rich, a mouthfilling wine that intellectually stimulated me, well, what little intellect that I had left at the time ;). But seriously, this was a ‘wow’ wine, as intense and virile an older Red Burgundy can be. There were deep red, black and purple fruits happening, lots of dirt and minerals, and a spiciness to it like hot sauce without the too hot. Its acidity was truly noteworthy, and it lingered like a great orgasm. As Bad Boy would say, “awesome juice”(98+).
The Jackal and The Falcon were in fine form, not quite undercover although they could have easily been under the covers. This great bottle of 1962 DRC Richebourg was thanks to The Falcon, although we told him if it wasn’t good, he would forever be known as ‘The Quail’ lol. Aromas of red rose, iron and menthol led to ‘tomato’ per The Falcon, while The Jackal noted, ‘eggplant.’ I found yucca in this crazy complex wine, which got stronger in the glass. This was an exquisite wine. The Jackal kept coming with ‘radish, licorice and cocoa’. This wine was out of control; cinnamon, leather, spices and menthol…what wasn’t in this wine was the ultimate question (98+).
What Isn’t Here?
The Emperor kept himself and his other guests busy with a magnum of 1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil, which was a big, rich, buttery beast, all the more so since it was out of magnum. It was razor sharp and mountainous in its character, long and strong. ‘The longer the better,’ The Emperor sagely advised, and it was easy to see why Clos du Mesnil is the Romanee-Conti of Champagne. This was a laser of Star Wars proportion (98+M).
No Better Way to Start
While 1961 Latour is considered by many to be the greatest Latour of the 20th Century, I often prefer the 1959 Latour when tasted side by side. Let’s call it 50/50. Wild Bill pulled a bottle of ’59 out for his Birthday bash. He wasn’t born in 1959, but it was the closest great year to his vintage, so he claimed it in Napoleonic fashion. This was a killer bottle, spectacular by all standards. It was big, long and rich. ‘Greater’ and ‘stronger’ came from the crowd (98+).
1959 Lafite and Latour
Of course, what would a great flight of 40s and 50s Bordeaux be without a 1959 Lafite Rothschild? This has always been my favorite all-time Lafite and one of the greatest bottles of the 20th Century, and this bottle didn’t change either of those opinions. The ’59 had a superb nose of sweet cassis and pencil with a great perfumed quality. This was a rich, sumptuous and sensual claret. Andy admired its ‘smooth’ character, and I did its thick finish. Respect due to the only wine which appeared twice in my Dirty Dozen of 2016 (98+)!
See you next year at the dinner table! May 2017 be your best year yet!
In Vino Veritas,