I found myself in Las Vegas again the second official weekend in January for a weekend planned months in advance. The weekend started out as a close friend of mine's 12 Angry Men. tasting but also blossomed into a perestroika of sorts, when the following night became big Dave's Burgwhore event, a tasting group from Los Angeles that I have covered in issues past of Vintage Tastings, a group of which a close friend of mine is also a member. Since the event was on the road, both groups got about half their members to attend, making for a nice number of twelve guests the first night and fourteen the next. Playing the role of the Sharks this weekend were 12 Angry Manners: big boy. RR, JJ, Peter, guest Patman, who gobbled up various substances the entire weekend as if they were those dots in that video game, myself of course, and a close friend of mine. Playing the role of the Jets were the Burgwhores and the real. Jef Levy, big Dave, Kvetch. aka Matt, another JJ (Johnny J), guest Rock n Roll Steve, and guest Dee from Utah, joined on the second night by Tom and Tony of the Burgwhores as well. a close friend of mine, as always, had the most complex role, being a member of both the Sharks and the Jets, playing both lead roles in a love story of tragic Shakespearean proportions. It is very difficult to love oneself as well as a close friend of mine is capable when it comes to fine wines.
A few of us gathered together one night early on Thursday: RR, Patman, a close friend of mine and myself. RR and Patman were at the Blackjack tables before I could even get my bags into my room, and after I was able to catch up on the minimum work necessary for me to do and have a good conscious, let's call it three hours, I went downstairs to join them. Now I hate Blackjack, especially after losing $300 in ten minutes the weekend prior when I somehow ended up in the Venetian at 1AM with no poker tables in sight. Yes, I am a poker guy, and as far as my cards are concerned, there is only one game: Texas Hold Em. I quickly convinced RR and Patman to join me at the Poker tables as we waited for a close friend of mine's arrival at around 8PM, right before our reservation at Julian Serrano's Picasso, the very same restaurant that Gil had taken me one week prior to the day. We had the white truffle menu and started off with a couple of bottles of Champagne, of course, which is a close friend of mine's favorite beverage with white Truffles, and I cannot say he is wrong. First up was a 1964 Pol Roger Extra Dry, which a close friend of mine called the classic Pol Roger style lean and muscular, to which Patman quipped, kinda like Rob. Rob replied with a big smile and a gentle rub of his stomach. The nose was on the mature side, possibly past its prime by a couple of years with its nose of sherry, cream soda, lanolin, baked honey, bread and musk. The palate also had the cream soda thing happening, with additional flavors of white chocolate and a lightly slaty and gritty finish. I must admit, the white truffle and egg dish really made the Champagne start to sing, fattened it up and brought out more vanilla, toast and firmness to the finish. It actually brought my score up a couple of points, which food rarely does perhaps the food awakened some of my dormant senses from all the travel and cigarette smoke in the poker room, cigarette smoke to which I was oblivious since I ended up $700. a close friend of mine summed up the Pol Roger as beautiful and still lots of life & another razor sharp 64...(93) Next up was a 1973 Dom Perignon Oenotheque. (i.e., DP's version of a recently disgorged and released bottle of Champagne directly from their cellars). a close friend of mine again quickly set the game in motion, calling it a Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne of a DP. The nose was toasty and chocolaty with lots of earth, a touch of weeds that faded in and out, honey and toast. The bubbly was very fresh with a long, sturdy, fine finish. The acids were amazingly fresh and long. There was a touch of weediness to its flavors at first, but Patman saw more crÃ¨me brulee... The flavors developed into bread, fresh soda and even a touch of coffee. This weedy flavor bothered me at first, but the food again expanded the wine in the glass as layers of burnt honey and fresh nectarines, (RR) emerged. Pat called it Yquem-like...(95) I had brought a 1983 Rayas for fun, and it had a fabulous nose at first in that way that only Rayas can: classic, with great, ripe, sweet strawberry-rhubarb fruit and great tension between that and the earth, rust, iron and stone aromas. It had that extra edge of Chateauneuf/Provencal spice as well. There was lots of alcohol on the palate in a sadistic, good way. Its flavors were very rusty and earthy with kirsch fruit flavors. Wild herbs came in, prompting Rob to note its medicinal. side. The wine did not hold in the glass for more than 30-45 minutes, however, and started to disintegrate from the inside out. In retrospective, we probably should NOT have decanted this wine, but for that first half-hour it was flirting with an outstanding score, it ended up being excellent flirting with a very good score (93). I had also brought out a 1984 Henschke Hill of Grace, which was incredibly disappointing. The nose was way too American oaky bordering on gross, and the wine tasted sickly and gross, oaky and weedy & yick. I hope that 1984 is a bad vintage in Australia, and that when I do the vertical of HOG in April that we have a much better showingof Henschke's older HOGs. I had to give it the dreaded (NR) score, i.e., Not Recommended. We hit the poker tables again, this time at the Bellagio (we were at the Palms before), and we stepped up to the no limit/high rollers section, where we saw Celine Dion's husband playing the night away at another table. Now there is a guy whose table I want to be at, I thought. Visions of tens of thousands of cash danced in my head as I thought about how I could get over to that table, especially since I was playing well again and up another few hundred when it all came crashing down on one hand where I rode three aces to the grave and lost it all to someone who was obviously a member of the Chinese mafia. It was there that I learned lesson #1 of my weekend in Vegas: play sober.
The next day was busy, busy, busy for me in my hotel room (work-related don.t have such dirty thoughts!), and I did not have time to play as I was still recovering in the fact that I was now down $1000 after being up close to $1500. The night quickly descended upon us, and it was time for an Angry Men celebration at Mix, Alain Ducasse's newest restaurant/nightclub (that's right slash nightclub) atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Apparently they put $20 million into the joint, and it showed. The view was spectacular, looking out over Vegas like a lite-brite set for grown-ups. Just a reminder as to how us Angry Men work: each month, one of the members hosts an event at a restaurant or in their home and treats all the guests to dinner. The host also sets the theme and sets the table with three bottles minimum, and then each of the guests are required to bring a bottle as well. One last little detail: the host has veto rights on any bottles that guests want to bring. OK, back to our story. a close friend of mine set the stage with a magnum of the great 1990 Dom Perignon Rose. What a baby/monster/rock star of a Champagne,. my notes started. This bubbly was super-intense, so young. Matt noted, or was he looking at those two girls in the corner? The magnum factor really makes a difference in Champagne as well as wine, and I HIGHLY recommend magnums for collecting and aging in the cellar. The DP Rose was incredibly fresh and wound up like a 100 mph fastball, and the finish was even faster (clocked at an impressive 180 mph by my radar gun of a tongue), and its never-ending acids begged for more cellaring. Sorry, Charlie not this night. This will be an all-time great Champagne, especially out of magnum. It was racy, spiny and fresh on the palate (96).
The first flight was a flight of 1993 Musignys, starting with the 1993 Comte de Vogue Musigny, Vieilles Vignes. The nose was great, wound and intense with rose, vitamin and wood aromas, but not wood like too oaky just to be clear, more like a wood/tannin aroma. There was beautiful, saucy, cherry fruit that poked its head out from behind, still in reserve, and a firm presence of t n a in the nose. On the palate were flavors of vitamins, perfume and leather, all beautiful yet shy, with a touch of animal as well. The nose widened out in a saucy direction, and the finish also expanded. a close friend of mine also noted its woody nature, especially after being compared to the Mugnier later in the flight (95). The 1993 Mugnier Musigny had a more expressive nose, where the freshness of the alcohol jumped out, still integrated underneath the fruit, however. There was a spicy edge to the nose with its crushed red fruits, vitamins and leather, combined with a pinch more game/wild animal fur action. The palate was thicker, with more meat on its bones it seemed than the Vogue, and good grip, earth and leather flavors to the finish. a close friend of mine found the Mugnier the most pure, like a laser beam...(95) The 1993 Roumier Musigny stood out to me by comparison, as the pitch in its nose was much higher than the previous two. There was something brighter and more expressive unfound in the Vogue or Mugnier. There was a lot going on in the nose, a veritable symphony of Burgundian bliss. First off, there was an animal, leather, wood and vitamin quadrafecta (damn I shoulda bet that before dinner!), accompanied by musky fruit aromas of rose, cherry and redcurrants a veritable bright, red fruit salad. It was then that a friend of mine blessed us with his wisest statement of the weekend, Young Burgundy is all about the balance and texture forget about flavors...There was a youthful, interior/varnish quality here as well (a positive), and the finish destroyed, make that defeated in battle as a close friend of mine corrected me, the finish of the first two Mooses. There was massive length and power here, and the nose got more and more complex and had an amazing, exotic quality marked by its stems, which were singing in full chorus. It is the only wine here tonight that uses 100% stems,. a close friend of mine advised (97+).
The second flight featured three wines from 1985, starting with an outstanding 1985 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. It had a warm, sweet, fat nose with edges of animal, vitamin, stewed cherry, musk and a light sprinkle of brown sugar. The tannins and alcohol were fabulously silky, as well as long and penetrating. The nose was as good as its gets at close to age twenty. The palate was great as well, with taut fruit and flavors of game, animal and leather. The finish was long with great earth on it, and a close friend of mine admired the fact that it was so perfumed and balanced... He went on to call Rousseau the Musigny of Gevrey the only one to make perfumed, elegant and stylish Gevrey... (95) The next wine was a 1985 Bouchard Mazis Chambertin, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Madame Collignon. It was supposed to be Leroy, but big Dave didn't read the fine print on the label. The Bouchard was a disappointment. a close friend of mine noted that it was almost New World, it's so extracted... There was a touch of must to the nose but that almost New World. intensity behind that. The nose was heavy and more on the leather, olive and wood side. There was a touch of plum to the fruit in its fat, wide nose, along with vitamins and soy. The wine was brawny on the palate but without spine, as a close friend of mine agreed. It got woodier and woodier with time bordering on sickly, and after a little time it was tolerable at best despite a few deliciouses at the table (85). The third wine of the flight was the 1985 Chezeaux Griotte Chambertin. The nose was kinky, milky and gamy with nice fruit. There was some citric tension and more wild game and spice. The nose was a touch sugary but not overboard. The palate was on the drier side and very large, barely reined in. Some complained of over-extraction. and claimed it was a Parker wine, but I liked it nonetheless and found it to be excellent. a close friend of mine gave it a low 88 points and called it unbalanced but I did not mind its heat, alcohol and spice and found it tasty (93).
On to the 1978s. First up was a 1978 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. The nose was similar to the 1985 as the signature style of Rousseau shined through, but there was more brown sugar and mature sweetness to the fruit, along with the vitamins, game and leather, of course. The nose was musky, meaty, edgy and almost soupy with some bouillon character. However, the palate was extremely acidic and way out of balance in that regard, with lots of citric flavors. Will it ever balance out? I doubt it, as the fruit seemed too mature for the acid levels (90+?). The regular 1978 Rousseau Chambertin was far from regular. The nose was seductive and sweet, silky and gamy with pretty, beautiful, soft and caressing tendencies. There was some brown to the fruit, not negatively, and great earth, hay and musk to go with it. The palate was outstanding, balanced and stony with great citrus flavors. The wine was very tasty, a lip-smacking experience, although Matt found it all stewed tomatoes and acid, the same recipe that got him through junior year of college, I joked a close friend of mine agreed with me and its greatness, however (95). I was perplexed by the bottle of 1978 Henri Jayer Echezeaux we had, finding it lacking the extra depths and greatness that this vintage of Jayer usually delivers. I feel very strongly that the 1978 Jayers are some of the greatest Burgundies ever made, and this did not come close, so I DQ'd it (DQ).
Two jeroboams (three liters for Burgundy) were the grand finale courtesy of Rob and a close friend of mine, and since they were both 1971 wines, I can safely use the word grand... First up was the 1971 La Tache, one of my all-time favorite wines. The nose was incredibly young out of three-liter, so much so that I might have guessed 1990 or 1993 if served blind! It was wound without the t n a part of being wound. The fruit was dark, deep and dank with aromas of vitamins, leather, iron, earth, Asian spice and menthol. The palate was full of peppermint, rose, minerals and slate. The wine was so smooth and polished, with incredible amounts in reserve, most likely that three-liter factor. Looking forward and comparing it to the Romanee-Conti, a close friend of mine observed not as much finish, but so much more fruit right now... The spice on the palate was awesome, and the wine got more and more exotic and pronounced. The 1971 La Tache was incredible again, delivering as always (98). The 1971 Romanee Conti had as incredible a texture as I have ever experienced in a wine this old a close friend of mine noted its seductive tea and beet root qualities. The layers of spice, vanilla, forest and mint were mind-boggling, and the concentration and texture seemed infinitely long, with rich acids lingering like call girls at casinos. a close friend of mine felt the La Tache was more mature, but the RC was the better wine... It was indeed younger, and I saw the potential here for more long-term greatness, but for this night I preferred the La Tache. There was no doubt that the finish, length and acid were superior in the RC, but the flavors of the La Tache were so divine comparatively at this stage (97+).
Oh yeah, there is one tasting note from the after-party at Tabu: 12 bottles of 1989 Krug tasted with consistent notes.
Saturday was the Burgwhores. night, featuring a tremendous assortment of 1990s. Unfortunately, my notes have been misplaced, so I will try to put together a paragraph of observations based on my memories of the evening. We dined at Boa in Caesar.s, whose food was fabulous, by the way. First up was an encore performance of the first Angry Man flight, Musignys from Vogue, Mugnier and Roumier, this time 1990s, of course. There has been much speculation about the 1990 Vogue Musigny and how inconsistent it has been out of bottle and how many less-than-outstanding batches of it are around, but this bottle of it was the best that I have ever had (and a close friend of mine concurred) and showed that this can, indeed, be an outstanding wine. There was a wealth of fruit and length, and it was outstanding. The Mugnier was pure and excellent bordering on outstanding, and the Roumier, although a touch more modern in style than the other two, was also outstanding with a size and weight unmatched by the previous two. The Vogue stole this flight, however. All the wines were served blind, fyi, and the rest of the flights were served Noah's Ark style, two by two. I can.t remember everything, but there were a lot of Leroys for starters. The 1990 Leroy of the night was the Chambertin, which was ironically forgotten to have been served at the dinner (yet opened at the club afterwards) and was the only Leroy that I would call outstanding, although many of the wines bordered on being outstanding as well. The Leroys were typically flirting with modernity and more wood, yet still reined it in just enough to allow one to taste and appreciate the Burgundy in them. Perhaps with time, these giant wines, which can come across a bit brutish, will ascend the point scale and expand even more. All of the Leroy wines were indubitably excellent, and if the fruit can keep up with the tannins and length, they will outlive many of their classmates from this vintage, and other vintages as well, I presume. The RSV and Clos de la Roche stood out a little more than the Latricieres Chambertin. There might have been one or two more. There were four 1990's: Grands Echezeaux, Romanee St. Vivant, Richebourg and La Tache. The first two were solid wines and representative of the Conti style and on the very good/excellent border, the Richebourg a step up of course, and the La Tache was incredible so young, tight and long with just hints and flashes of its greatness, and endless layers of complexity. It had the best length of the night by far and was right there for wine of the night. There was also a fleshy, gamy and chewy Rouget Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux that had sweeter and more expressive fruit than most wines this evening, and as a result it also flirted with an outstanding score; a pretty Dujac Charmes Chambertin that was classic Dujac all the way although lacking the depth of the other three Dujac Grand Crus (in general the other three were not served that night); a disappointing Ponsot Clos de la Roche V.V. (bad bottle as good ones of this are spectacular); and many people's wine of the night, the great, always outstanding and divine, 1990 Rousseau Chambertin. Sorry I lost my notes, but hopefully you will at least get a snapshot of the night. I almost forgot we had two surprises at the end, a head-to-head showing of 1982 vs 1986 Mouton. This night, the 1986 won,not by a knockout, but by a unanimous decision. The 1982 was very closed and could have been a bottle that is lesser than others, but when the bell sounds, you have to jusge what's in the ring.
We headed over to Pure, one of the hottest new clubs in Vegas, where we partied in the VIP section (thanks to Rob) all night long & literally. Tasting notes from that session are strictly off the record.
It was a very spontaneous and special selection of Champagnes sampled this Saturday and Sunday. I hope you enjoy this catalog and these three special collections as much as I have over the years!