I will try, I will try, I will try to write up La Paulee this year. I never got to 2010, possibly the best of them all. I only got through the whites for 2011, although I made a rapid-fire attempt to “tweet” the reds a week or so ago before La Paulee 2012, which ended up seeing 98 notes taken over the course of three, special, Burgundy-filled nights. And yes, I am now a tweeter, and so is Acker Merrall. Check us both out @JohnKapon and @AckerMerrall. I pretty much only do wine notes. It actually helps me stay more current and publishing more notes, as opposed to them being on a piece of paper in a drawer for eternity. So far, so good.
From San Francisco I went to Hong Kong to attend to various matters, and on one special night, I dined with The Historian, an expert not only on history but also on historical wines. Suffice it to say that the lineup that followed was one for the history books. I told him in the afternoon that I had a ’59 Bordeaux, ’69 Burgundy and ’88 mystery, so he deftly countered with a ’75 Bordeaux, and ’59 and ’71 Burgundies. Game on.
Off to the races at the Hong Kong Jockey Club
We started with the 1969 Ponsot Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes. At first sniff, the wine was gorgeous, possessing tangy fruit, mushroom, autumn and a sweet core of black raspberry. Mint and back woods added complexity. The Historian noted, ‘a sweet hint in the back of my throat,’ meaning its sweetness was subtle yet there. Cinnamon quickly emerged in this complex wine. At first sip, there was rich fruit, a touch of cedar and a sturdy finish. While it flirted with that dry, rusty side of ’69, it actually had fruit holding it together. Gil noted, ‘bouillon,’ later adding ‘one flew over the cuckoo’s nest,’ an appropriate descriptor indeed, not only for the wine’s nest-like personality, but also for the fact that the wine changed rapidly in the glass and started to dry out. It got rustier with time, and while my first inclination was to give it 94 points, it changed too quickly and not for the better, so I settled on (92).
Proper Definition of a Six-Pack
A 1959 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes had no problem staying great to the very last drop. ‘Beetroot salad’ was Gil’s first observation. Mine was incredible spice cabinet and the seduction of Musigny. The Historian added, ‘grass roots.’ The Musigny was clearly at the root of all things great in Burgundy, and its red cherry citrus fruit was bordering on divine. The palate was still taut and coy at first, later becoming ‘out of control,’ and that’s a good thing. Its red fruits added a slice of orange, and its acidity lingered like fond memories. It was dense and quite fresh for a 1959, not too ripe and just right (96).
Moose on the Loose
The 1971 DRC Richebourg that followed seemed to take it up a notch, and we could thank The Imperial Cellar for sourcing it originally. This was a perfect bottle, everything one could want from a bottle of this wine. Menthol sex immediately came to mind. Bouillon, cherry, tomato and wintergreen lit up the room with its bright nose. It was in 98-point territory, and the palate obliged with a rich, saucy and jammy personality. Yum. However, it, too, dried just a bit, taking it down a couple points. The transformation wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the Ponsot, although I felt that I was somewhat responsible by over-swirling. The wine got me so excited that I couldn’t help but swirl it around and around and around. Mental note – don’t overswirl older wines! Its red fruit changed to black, and cola emerged along with cassis. Gil closed it out with ‘Indian spice’ (96).
I usually serve Bordeaux before Burgundies nowadays, although Gil, both Mr. Wine Vegas and Mr. Bordeaux, insisted we go the other way. After a small resistance, I acquiesced, and he was right on this night, as the 1975 Lafleur that followed pumped and thumped. It was extra chocolaty in its nose. There was a touch of overmaturity at first, but that blew off over time, and its greatness couldn’t be doubted. Its super chocolaty-ness was balanced by a touch of royal garden. Its rich, dense palate was oh so thick and quick to impress. It kept getting better and better with each sip. There were huge tannins just starting to show a touch of melt, but only a touch. Olive flavors and marijuana aromas joined the party, or perhaps they made it one lol. Thick, long and special, this was a spectacular wine (98).
Dirty on the Outside, Pretty on the Inside
The 1959 Latour that followed was no slouch either. Decanting it an hour only made it greater, allowing its sweet core of maple sap to take over. A cassis, mineral and coffee 3-way supported the opening act. Gil cooed, ‘sea salt caramel in a crepe.’ It was another thick wine, at least in the nose. Its palate had great acid and tannins that were close to fully melted, but its fruit was leaner than I expected and wanted. Mocha and slate flavors were there, and there was no denying its superb acid, but it thinned. I hate to be a member of the ‘Better Bottle Club,’ but I have had better. The reality check was that it was still an outstanding wine; perhaps it had three tough acts to follow (95).
1959 Latour Cork Art
The last wine on this starry night was a 1988 Guigal Cote-Rotie La Mouline. Even though this was the sixth wine sampled, somehow it was number eight in my notes. That’s what we call a good night J. Sexy aromas of violet, bacon and menthol were immediately apparent. The Historian added, ‘pine,’ and Gil, ‘California peppercorn.’ This was a wow wine – what is it about La Mouline that always stands out amongst its Bordeaux and Burgundy brethren? Oh, that’s right, it’s Syrah. Seriously though, there are few wines outside the ‘Big Two’ that can shine this brightly in their presence. And in case you were wondering, La Mouline is the best of the three La La’s, by far. This was a ‘wow’ wine, with deep, purple fruit bordering on saturated. It was heavy and rich with a spicy finish and impeccable balance. Like a great heavyweight champion, it had the float and the sting (97).
Future Vintage Tasting Artifact
The evening was a prime example of a proper, civilized six-pack. We ended up with a ‘Top Ten’ wines of all-time discussion. For those of you that may not know, or that have forgotten, it goes 1945 DRC Romanee-Conti, 1945 Petrus, 1934 DRC Romanee-Conti for starters… It was great to go back in time with The Historian, and I look forward to more lessons in the near future.
In Vino Veritas,