From October 21st through October 23rd, approximately 45 people (though only 35 pours) gathered in New York City for a celebration of the finest wine and food that the world has to offer, our second annual ‘Top 100’ weekend. The weekend was spectacular, of course, and I figure it will make excellent reading over Thanksgiving weekend, so I am sending out that write-up next week before the holiday.
However, something very special happened that weekend as well, something that was not on the itinerary. On Saturday night, CRU received their well-deserved ‘Grand Award’ from the Wine Spectator, and a few of us gathered there for dinner to help Robert and Roy celebrate that achievement. Now, keep in mind that most of us were already at Cru from about noon to 5pm for the second session of the Top 100 and had already put down about 30 wines. I rented a hotel room nearby just to take a nap for two hours; otherwise, I knew I would be toast for that evening. It was the most expensive nap I ever took, but well worth it when one considers the wines that we had.
The evening was definitely a ‘Big Boy’ production, as he was the one that really led the charge to make this happen. Patman, his usual partner in business and crime, was on the scene along with the Burghound, Allen Meadows, and his New York alter-ego Doug Barzelay. Robert and Roy of Cru, and Julianne and Amanda of AMC almost filled out out our consortium. Last but not least, Eric G. was strong enough to endure the doubleheader as well and partied with us all weekend long, in fact. It was good to see all that time he spent in the gym paying off!
***AUTHOR’S NOTE: I was told that I need to do one wine per paragraph to make my notes easier to read for those people out there that have trouble reading. There are more of them than you think! Anyway, let me know if you prefer this broken style of a paragraph per note, or if the old style is better. I would appreciate some feedback!
The games began with a 1964 Louis Roederer ‘Cristal.’ The nose was tangy and waxy with baked, yellow fruits – baked in a mature way; not cooked, just baked. There were additional aromas of bread along with traces of light caramel. The palate was beautiful: smooth, long and fine with nice elegance in the mouth. Bread flavors and that same touch of dry caramel kissed the palate. Its backside was long and lingering with another kiss, this time of citrus flavors. Amanda picked up on its caramel as well, and the ’64 held gracefully in the glass (93).
If the 1964 Cristal was Grace Kelly, the 1990 Krug ‘Clos du Mesnil’ was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Served out of magnum, it was night and day, the Krug being the screeching rooster at the crack of dawn, or the music being played too loud at a nightclub at night. Take your pick; they both work. The Krug was so young, fresh and racy – it was such a baby. Pure-bred all the way, there were reticent aromas of nut, bread, waterfall, minerals and a pinch of caramel. The palate was racy, fresh and long and absolutely gorgeous with tremendous acidity. It lingered like sexual healing and was a spectacular, young Champagne (97+).
We slipped into a 1964 Lafleur, which was very rich in the nose and oh so Pomerol. Rich and fat, the nose had loads of chocolate and plum aromas, a firm slate edge and touches of grilled nuts and bacon. The palate was rich but clearly not outstanding, still very good in its own right but missing that roundness of fruit in the mid-palate. There were nice chalky flavors on the finish. Amanda found ‘dark cherry’ and Julianne ‘leather and smoke,’ although I think that last descriptor might have been a hint (92).
Enough with the Bordeaux; Allen was there, and we did not want him to get dizzy or any hot flashes from a lack of Burgundy, so we quickly segued into a 1952 Vogue Musigny ‘V.V.’ A touch of stew was in the nose, along with some baked fruit, a vanilla ice cream sundae thing and a bit of wood. Both Doug and I concurred that this bottle seemed a bit past its prime, not that 1952 Vogue is a wine past its prime; just this particular bottle. Someone noted that is was ‘more Barolo-like, almost an old Monfortino.’ There were bsolid cherry flavors, excellent dust and nice acidity to this affected bottle of Vogue (93A).
The next wine was a spectacular one, a magnum of 1952 La Tache recently acquired from one of our auctions. The ’52 mag had an unreal nose screaming with terroir; when I say unreal it is a compliment like ‘out of this world,’ not that it was fake, etc. There were incredible, absolutely incredible aromas of slate, earth and minerals on one side, and the rose garden, leather and amazing spice box on the other. Eric called it ‘immortal’ and Allen echoed my sentiment of ‘unreal.’ Pinches of caraway and smokehouse rounded out the nose. The palate was super tasty, veritable catnip for the feline wine lover in us all. Long and sensuous with sexy strawberry fruit and great earth, the palate had amazing length. It was one of the all-time great bottles of wine that I have had, definitely ‘Top 100’ worthy (98+)!
It was at this point that I tried to jot down the wines we had at Cru the night before after the first session of the Top 100. Yes, we went to Cru Friday night as well for a small after-party. Some people love pain. There was a delicious magnum of 1987 H. Jayer Echezeaux, which I would give about (93) points and an ‘excellent’ rating, and an incredible bottle of 1959 Jaboulet Hermitage ‘La Chapelle,’ only to be rivaled by a 1961 that I had in 2004. It was one of the greatest La Chapelles I have ever had and certainly (97+) points. We also had two way-too-young large formats, a magnum of 1989 La Mission Haut Brion and a jeroboam of 1998 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Hommage a Jacques Perrin,’ neither of which I could rate at the time. Sorry, guys, I wasn’t making this paragraph into four!
Ok, now that I got that off my chest, we can go back to our regular programming, which was a 1942 La Tache. Someone uttered ‘amazing’ right away. The nose was so deep big, rich and long. Rob summed it up as ‘ridiculous,’ which is another high compliment in Big Boy’s world. Musk oil, leather and deep, dark rich fruit oozed out of its nose. The palate was enormous, expanding like a tidal wave in the mouth at first, and Allen also found it ‘incredibly vibrant.’ Long and spiny, the wine was a bit massive but smoothed out sooner rather than later, costing it a point or two in the grand scheme of things, but for those first twenty minutes or so, it was even more extraordinary (95).
What better choice to have next to the 1942 La Tache than the 1943 La Tache? The 1943 was more wound and subtle, nutty with more cola and dark, plummy fruit. Possessing even bigger acidity and alcohol than the 1942, the 1943 seemed a bit out of balance at first and squarer, but while the 1942 lost a step or two, the 1943 improved and got more delicious and more balanced with time. The acidity was long and strong, and it was also an outstanding wine, equivalent to the 1942 in quality but stylistically different. Allen, on the other hand, said that he has tasted these two side by side three or four times and has always preferred the 1942 (95).
Next up was an incredibly rare bottle of 1946 A. Rousseau Chambertin, possibly one of the last bottles in existence. Allen found it ‘delicious’ and called it his ‘surprise wine of the year.’ Doug found it ‘lovely.’ It had a unique, nutty nose in a fresh popcorn way, a little gassy but still with nice smoke and earth aromas. The palate was also unique and delicious. Someone noted ‘there is real grip here,’ and the wine was absolutely rich, creamy and luscious, but ‘more Brooklyn than Manhattan,’ Rob accurately assessed. That is strictly a New York thing for those of you that might not get it, and it was 100% accurate. A touch dirtier and more rugged, the 1946 may have been more at home in detention than in a school play, but it was still excellent, alive and kicking. Long and with classic, citric tang on its palate and a pinch of what used to be vitamin, the 1946 stirred the pot up when Eric called it a ’92 point wine but a 99 point experience.’ Allen talked me down a point, but I think I talked him up one back (92).
Allen then commented how to have four wines from the 1940’s that were all so distinctively different was amazing. Oops, sorry, I forgot you didn’t know that a 1945 Grands Echezeaux was already on the table. The 1945 had another amazing nose, with deep, rich, plummy, violety and sensual fruit, more floral in its expressions. The wine was smooth with a long backside that was marred by a touch of metal. The metal blew off, and the acid came out, but the wine lacked overall weight; not strength, but weight. There were great earth flavors there, also (93).
The 1929 Vogue Musigny V.V. was a beautiful wine with classic Musigny in its nose but clearly reconditioned. Doug found it ‘a bit topped off,’ and Allen ‘incredibly young.’ Doug and Allen are like State Troopers at the Burgundy Ball, always enforcing good order, behavior and conduct from the bottles! There was gorgeous strawberry fruit in its nutty and meaty nose, and a long and elegant palate, elegant in the way Musigny always is. Allen went on a sidebar that 1929 was the greatest vintage in the greatest decade Burgundy ever saw, citing 1925 and 1927 as the only two clunkers and 1922 as the only average-to-good year. He then cited 1915 as the best of the teens with 1911 and 1919 behind it. The palate of the 1929 was long, still possessing great acidity but falling just a hair short of outstanding for me (94+).
The 1911 Vogue Musigny V.V. was a maderized bottle, still rich and creamy with a long, gritty finish. I felt like the wine could have been 95 points but not much more than that (DQ).
Next up was one of the greatest wines I have ever had, the 1934 Romanee Conti. It immediately got a ‘woof’ from the Burghound and a ‘serious’ from Big Boy. There were lots of oohs, aahs and even a ‘sexy’ from Julianne. Wait a second, she was talking about me, sorry. The nose was incredible with all the classic rust and iron along with a perfect pinch of citrus. The palate was amazing with smoky, meaty, rich, oily, nutty and earthy flavors. Super intense and long, its palate’s rust and leather qualities were great and even had Burghound dreaming of perfection (99). Allen went on to say that he has only rated six wines even 99 points, three of which were the 1962 La Tache, 1928 Roumier Bonnes Mares, and the 1915 La Romanee. He also mentioned that he preferred 1999 over 1996 and 1993 over 1990 in general.
A magnum of 1985 La Tache followed. You know it’s a good night when you go over to the magnum of 1985 La Tache and are like, ‘that’s nice,’ which is exactly what happened when the Burghound found out! It was a great bottle of 1985 La Tache, pure, long and classic with lots of iron, minerals, smoke, citric tang and red fruits that only La Tache could have. Its musk was beautiful, its rust tasty, and its finish long (95).
A 1959 Leroy Mazis Chambertin had a sexy, rich and luscious nose with those classic Leroy dark purple fruits and nutty qualities. Its sweetness was of a violet nature, and its palate excellent with nice richness and meat to its bones (95).
We finally changed gears with the 1966 Guigal Cote Rotie ‘La Mouline,’ its first vintage. I think it was Robert who gave us some musical perspective, noting that 1966 was the year that The Beatles released ‘Revolver’ and ‘Rubber Sole,’ and that it was also pre Jimi Hendrix or Cream. Rob called it ‘like a Rhone Pomerol,’ and it did have a rich and amazing nose that was still so La Mouline. Its violet, pepper, bacon, deep purple and earth aromas all added up to La Mouline’s signature style, and even though this was the first vintage and almost 30 years old, this bottle was incredibly fresh and vibrant, fresher than many other younger vintages that I have had. I couldn’t take my nose away from this wine for about five minutes as I kept digging and digging into its layers of aromas. The wine was everything it should have been, still young, and stylish like Park Avenue apartments. The acidity and length were tremendous, and Allen even called it ‘insane’ (99).
There was still one bottle left, a 1978 La Mouline, but after the 1966, I couldn’t even go there, and I have had near-perfect bottles of the 1978. The 1966 was that good. The 1978 seemed too young and relatively grapy, but perhaps that ’66 took everything I had left out of me. I could not judge the ’78. I had the 1966 again about two weeks later in Los Angeles but from a not-so-good bottle. The 1969 was another story, but you will read about that one in due time.
In Vino Veritas,