Far, far away in a remote corner of the world lies a cellar so incredible, so deep and so massive that only one word could describe it ”“ forbidden. Most mortals will never get to sample even a handful of the wines buried away in this constantly growing collection. 100,000 bottles is a very conservative estimate, but even more impressive than the quantity was the quality of what I experienced. The dinner I had recently was worth a lifetime of travel; thankfully, I didn’t need a visa, and diplomatic immunity was provided. History often rewrites itself, but this was an evening which could never be changed. Everything was perfect; the wine, the food, the company – is there anything else that life requires?
As always, Champagne was the way with which we started, beginning with a NV Jacques Selosses Contraste Brut. Selosses is a true grower champagne and also biodynamic, I was told. The Contraste was aggressive in its nose in an alluring fashion. The palate was full bodied, clearly an ode to its 100% pinot noir composition. Big and brawny, it pleasingly overflowed with fresh citrus and racy strawberry flavors. I recently did an evening of Selosses Champagnes, over twenty-five of them as a matter of fact. We had multiple versions of Contraste (ie different disgorgement dates) , as well as other MV (multi-vintage) Selosses concoctions, and my assessment of them is that these MV bottlings don’t improve with age. They are delicious, unique and enjoyable right away, but the vintage Champagnes are the ones that improve in extraordinary fashion. Unfortunately, there are so few of the vintage bottlings that the world doesn’t really know Selosses. He is a true Champagne genius, but his insistence on making the majority of his bottlings solera-style and multi-vintage is hurting his legacy and denying much of the world his brilliance (93).
A rare 1990 Dom Perignon Reserve de l’Abbaye drew us deeper into this mysterious evening. I had no idea what was in store upon my arrival, and I certainly had no idea what this bottling was. I soon learned that it was a special bottling from Moet specifically for the tastes of the Japanese market. On a sliding ‘mousse’ scale, this was less bubbly than most and felt on the light side. It was clean and sweeter in a way that reminded me of a cremant style, but it was a bit saccharin-y. We clinked our glasses together in appreciation of the experience (90).
There were only two white Burgundies in our lineup, but it might as well have only been one. Our first was one from a master, a wine that even I rarely encounter. I think I have had this wine on only two other occasions, and that includes every vintage ever made. There is only one barrel made of this wine every year, and the 1992 Leflaive Montrachet lived up to the hype. While many 1992s are riding off into the sunset, this 1992 was still ascending. It had an amazing nose that gave off seductive signals of butter, citrus and yeast. Smoke and exotic spice followed. Its spice qualities kept unfolding, so diverse that this wine was worthy of its own supermarket section. This was a mesmerizing Montrachet that was rich, clean and vivacious. There is no doubt that Leflaive is the king of the ring for the 1992 vintage, make that queen. The acidity was still fresh, and this thick, attention-grabbing wine just kept getting better and better and better and better (98).
With a 1961 Palmer, the gates of Bordeaux were thrust open. Our host called it ‘very Burgundian,’ and indeed it was. Its fruit was so sensual and tender, with citrus, cherry and carob each content with their own space on this classic wine’s aroma wheel. On the palate, this bottle had a soft yet voluptuous nature to it with smooth flavors of carob, citrus, and tenderly aged fruit. It was a bit easier than I remembered this wine being but still divine. The effects of our host’s generous hospitality were comfortably sinking in by now (95).
We were treated to another wine from this legendary vintage, this time a 1961 Haut Brion. Perfection came to mind, as this bottle was as perfect as it could be. Of course, those of you that have been reading my notes for many years know that I only believe in the pursuit of perfection, as opposed to perfection itself. This bottle was perfect in that I do not think more enjoyment could be had from any bottle of this wine, anywhere/anyhow. Aromas sprang from the glass; this was oozing coffee, chocolate, carob, and wafer. There was also great spice, and classic yet light slate and gravel to this rich, saucy nose. Velvety richness followed suit on the palate, which was delectably dense and had a mouthfeel that made me moan in ecstasy. Damn, this was good and ‘perfect,’ too (98).
We had forgotten our other 1992 white, a 1992 Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Demoiselles. It served the purpose of a refreshing, midday shower, preparing us for the rest of our meal, also the rest of our day. Its nose gave off a very exotic perfume of floral spice, citrus and something reminiscent of Chinese tea and fortune cookies. The palate was framed with stone roses around its edges, finishing with an interwoven stream of honey and delicate tropical fruit (93).
We had to have at least one red Burgundy on this increasingly magical evening, so why not a 1966 La Tache. True to form, it was a touch dirty as ’66 LT is prone to be. While a bit earthy, the nose was still fabulous and provided rich tomato, spice, leather and chocolaty aromas. Flavors of cherry oil and assorted nuts lingered, and this class act’s finish was endearing (95).
The last two wines of our evening were perfect strangers, brought together by fate and the Forbidden Cellar. We soared to new heights with the 1945 Mouton Rothschild that followed. This was everything this bottle was supposed to be, as sexy as sexy can be. Menthol, mint, and olive wafted from its beguiling nose. The palate was rich yet so smooth. It wowed with its cedar spice. It was delicate yet forceful, with light leather flavors. Meaty and spectacular, this wine was as rewarding as they come, delivering rich and fleshy caramel flavors on the finish with divine forest edges. It was absolutely delicious, an anywhere, anytime bottle (99).
There aren’t many wines that can follow a ’45 Mouton in fine fashion, but that’s exactly what the 1961 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle did. Wow, I had finally had this great wine again. The nose on this thoroughbred had coffee and royal garden intermingled with Indian spice and sumptuous dark chocolate. The palate was rich and thick with loads and layers of roasted black and purple fruit flavors. Unique oil and citrus qualities tickled on its long, lingering finish. It took the concentration up a notch. Yummmmm (99).
Every bottle was in great condition and delivered everything one could want from these wines. While there are no plans for the Forbidden Cellar to sell anytime soon, I can safely say that I will be visiting it often. But you’ll have to kill me first before I let you know where it is!
In Vino Veritas,