Vintage Tastings

By John Kapon

Experience the finest and rarest wines in the world through the eyes and palate of Acker Chairman and globally renowned master taster, John Kapon (our “JK”). “Vintage Tastings” is a written journal chronicling the incredible bottles opened at some of the most exclusive tastings, wine dinners, and events all over the globe. These entries represent JK’s commitment to capturing and sharing the ephemeral nature and ultimate privilege of tasting the world’s rarest wines. Although ratings are based on a 100-point scale, JK believes there is no such thing as a 100-point wine. Point scores assigned to each wine are his own personal attempt to quantify the quality of each experience.

Hanging with Mr. Parker and Mr. Squires in Baltimore and D.C.

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Some last second cancellations got a close friend of mine and I an invitation to a wine weekend in D.C. and Baltimore, spearheaded by Wilfred and his aggressive charity bidding at the last Hospice du Rhone auction, where he won dinner for twelve with Robert Parker at RP’s favorite restaurant in Baltimore (the Charleston) , complete with wines out of his own personal cellar. The group of twelve came from all over the country: Chicago, Texas, Arizona, Seattle, New York and California, so it made sense to have a Friday night warm-up since many were coming a long way. Scott had organized a great meal and BYOB event at Citronelle, where all of us gathered and a couple others who could not make it Saturday, including Mr. Bulletin Board himself, Mark Squires. Parker was not there on Friday night, so Mark became our celebrity guest. The stage had been set for a great weekend, and after sliding down to D.C. and working all afternoon, I was ready to eat, drink and be merry.

We started off with some 1985 Louis Roderer Cristal, which was still young, a touch tangy, stony and minerally. I was a bit queasy from the previous night and the travel, so I wasn.t exactly ready for the Champagne, which was fine and long yet lacking weight on the palate. It was tart and light on its feet, with a touch of seltzer and not as expansive on the front palate as I would like (93).

We had a couple of whites off the list to make nice with the restaurant, beginning with a a controversial 2000 Louis Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles.. The wine was exotically tropical and had big-time butter rum on the nose, with a baked fruit quality, richness and oak atypical of most 2000s I have had. There were lots of nuts and honey, but the wine was too oaky, woody and buttery. according to one of my fellow enthusiasts , but it did have similar qualities to an incredible 1986 I had at someone’s house once. However, a close friend of mine did find it too advanced for a 2000, with which I did agree due to its caramel and buttered corn. The palate was very oaky and angular, with a touch of heat on the backside, and the acids were long in the belly. The palate was one-dimensional and only had some dust flavors, but I felt it was impossible to fully evaluate on the palate. Someone noted it was much better on the nose than the palate, and it was, and I didn.t mind its kinkiness although I was a bit perplexed by its character given the vintage and its youth. I have to think it will get better knowing the pedigree of the producer, vineyard and vintage (90+). Next up was a 1999 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet, served out of magnum, and it was much purer on the nose, really standing apart from the Jadot. The nose was clean, pure, fresh and racy, intense and wound yet flashy, full of minerals, citrus and rainwater. Ben picked up on some smoky flint, and the wine was flirting with a Raveneau Chablis Les Clos, I thought. The palate was also very pure, a bit stony and young on the back side with enormous acids. The palate was full of minerals and anise, stony and most likely outstanding in the long term, but a bit shut down in the middle right now on the palate, but I gave its great potential the benefit of the doubt (95). a close friend of mine said that the Cabotte. bottling by Bouchard is even better.

We had one more Burgundy before diving into the sea of Bordeaux assembled, but this time it was a red and a 2000 La Tache. The nose was rich in fruit, yet soft and approachable at the same time, although Mark found it very tight yet gorgeous.. There were loads of spices of stems, cinnamon, iron, alcohol and earth. There was also beautiful rose and plum fruit, green beans and exotic spice. There was the intensity of La Tache with the approachability of 2000. The wine was young on the palate but still drinkable, with very long acids, a touch of rust and a light earthiness to its finish. It was caressing my palate and soft on the front and mid-zones and certainly a very good, potentially excellent La Tache. It held well and the acids were there, but the weight was not that of a great one texturally (92).

It was on to Bordeaux for the remainder of the evening, and we started with a flight of 1989s. The 1989 Lynch Bages was served out of magnum, and a bruiser accordingly. There was an intense nose that definitely needed some air, but once you got past the windex, cat’s pee and alcohol action, there was meaty, beefy fruit with deep cassis, tobacco, earth and pencil shavings. The palate was very tasty with flavors of beef, cassis, pencil and earth, with a long earthy, rocky finish. The wine was outstanding with great power and finesse, and secondary coffee grind flavors (95). The 1989 Leoville Las Cases was very angular in the nose, a bit chemical at first but opened somewhat with air. Others were noting its greenish personality, but I found it more to be must, and there was a lot of earth, slate and Asian spice behind it along with beef satay, peanut and plummy fruit underneath. The palate was more intense than I expected or remembered, and its finish had some hair-raising alcohol and acid, along with a slaty finish. Mark found it corked and I saw it, but it was very slight, although it did come out more with air, making it hard to make a final judgment (92-3?). The 1989 Margaux had a delightful nose that was forward and ripe in a nutty way. The nose had carob, nut, meat and vanilla. The palate was beautiful with lots of finesse and drinking very well. It was silky, soft and very Margaux-like and had nice earth and light grit. A little lime and cola developed, and its finish was dusty, soft and pretty (94).

Cheval Blanc and Haut Brion were on center stage in the next flight, starting with the 1982 Cheval Blanc. a close friend of mine quickly no joy, no lucked. it, and it was a very controversial wine. Now both a close friend of mine and I made the point of how we have had more disappointing bottles of 1982 Cheval than not, and he and Mark thought that this bottle was corked. Now I got the must at first, but I felt very able to judge the wine. With all that being said, behind that must was an intense, deep wine full of alcohol, rose, olive, wintergreen, menthol, nut, cherry, earth and leaf. The palate was rich and round with a wallop of a finish and extraordinary acids and length, and this bottle was actually one of the better that I have had, but a close friend of mine was in disagreement (96). The 1990 Cheval Blanc had a stunning nose that was young and powerful yet flirtatious. There was both ripeness and spine, and seductive red fruit that was both glazed and lush, along with sexy nut, Asian sweetness, leather, meat, light pepper and all kinds of spice, collectively allspice in that it had all of them covered and was too complex to label individually. The palate was awesome and surprisingly approachable with finesse and style. There was elegance, breed and a long finish to go with its great flavors. a close friend of mine found it fat and exotic. (97). The 1982 Haut Brion was unfortunately an off bottle, indubitably cooked (DQ), but the 1989 Haut Brion was a sleeping lion in the nose, majestic yet reticent. There were aromas of cassis, pencil, earth, meat, leather and exotic banana. Loads of t n a were also present in its regal nose and came out with aeration but still remained reined in like a Triple Crown winner. The wine was so young yet so fabulously long on the finish with its earth, length and style. It is still one of the all-time greats (98).

All wines from the 1982 vintage were in the next flight, starting with a 1982 Lafite Rothschild. The nose was gorgeous, probably the best 1982 Lafite I have ever had, with meat on its bones and a cassis, nut and caramel trifecta, and even a touch of kinky citrus. I would certainly call it ripe, especially by the standards with which I was familiar. a close friend of mine called it perfect and gorgeous, the way it should be.. There was a light touch of bread and yeast, and the palate was very dry and long, with more finish than fruit and dominating slate (96+). The 1982 Mouton Rothschild was also controversial, with a close friend of mine calling it very advanced and practically maderized, but this time Mark disagreed, although he did concede it was an affected bottle. It did remind me of the 1928 Haut Brion with its coffee, espresso bean and milkshake. I was in the middle of the controversy; it was clearly more advanced than the average 1982 Mouton, but not completely maderized or undrinkable. There was loads of coffee in its meaty nose, with a caramel and liqueur spike. The palate was solid, but this should be a 97+ point wine, and it seemed lesser with a finish stripped of its normal intensity. It is nice to see an off. bottle perform so well, and if blind I probably would have given it 93 or 94 points, but this bottle had to be disqualified due to how this wine normally performs (DQ). The 1982 Latour had a similar situation, where lots of people thought it was off. or less than what it should be, but it was still better than 95 out of 100 wines. It did have a similar, musty edge to the Las Cases, but to me it was similar to other bottles I have had as well in its extremely wound and minerally personality. There was also pencil, slate, walnut and secondary cassis. The nose got hotter and finer at the same time, but the wine seemed muted on the palate, softer than usual yet beautiful. Although it should be better, I could give this bottle (95+) and still have a good conscious, although Mark felt it was overrated, as always.. The last wine in this flight (which may read more disappointing than it really was) was a spectacular magnum of 1982 Pichon Lalande, again one of the better if not the best experience I have had of this wine. The nose was super sexy, 1982 Pichon Lalande as it ought to be. The Merlot shone though in its gorgeous, sexy and plummy fruit, which was soft and sensual with a touch of olives, lavender, caramel and tobacco. The palate was incredibly rich and fleshy, with similar flavors to its nose and a gritty finish that is right there with a pinch of green bean. It seems perfectly mature, but I guess that is where it has been for a long time according to many. It certainly got the Miss Congeniality, aka most drinkable award. Mark was cooing, so sexy, so sweet, and there was lots of beautiful. and gorgeous. going around, and they weren.t talking about a close friend of mine and I, to be clear J (97).

One more flight, well, sort of&it was a fantastic four of 1990 Bordeaux, starting with the 1990 Montrose. Eric said it was like Australia meets Bordeaux, which raised some eyebrows, but what he meant was that the Montrose was very concentrated by Bordeaux standards. The nose was a little green and stinky, as it always has been in my book. There was green, barn, horse in the barn, horse out of the barn and earth to its nose, with some cassis underneath. The palate has similar flavors, though less wild. Interesting wine, Wilfred said tongue in cheek. The palate was a bit herbal and horsy, although Eric loved the wine, and its texture was its major redeeming quality (92). The 1990 Margaux I wrote was consistent with last night&feeling lazy.. It was another outstanding show for this fabulously stylish wine, which got many people’s wines of the night, the Musigny of Bordeaux, as a close friend of mine put it (96). The 1990 Lafleur had an amazing, kinky nose that only Lafleur can. It was superripe with cherry, plum, cassis and that overripe Lafleur kink, that sweet, jammy fruit. All that fruit was balanced by its stony palate and great structure, although there was a lot more finesse to the wine than I thought/remembered. That’s not a bad thing, of course (96). The 1990 Lafite was a bit overmatched after the Lafleur, a bit stinky yet classic with its pencil, carob and cedar. The wine was not as layered as others and had dry tannins still very good but not great (92).

There were three other wines, although I only had one of them, a blind wine served to us by the sommelier, billed as a 100-point Parker wine.. Now it was obviously Australian, to the point where Mark called it typical Australian swill, to which I replied, come on, it’s extra special Australian swill, playing along. The wine was over the top kinky, luscious and superripe, a floozy in the presence of all these Bordeaux, yet still fascinatingly rich, kinky but modern. If I wanted to be spanked by my wine, someone reasoned. The wine got beat up a lot more than it should have, and I still found it excellent, this bottle of 2003 Mitolo Shiraz G.A.M. (93). I called it a night, well actually I went across the street based on a tip from the doorman, for some sociological studies with one of my fellow enthusiasts . The 1995 Dom Perignon we shared was excellent, although no notes were taken&on the champagne, at least. However, half of the gang remained after dinner and polished off a 1990 Leoville Las Cases and a 2000 Cuvee Cathelin. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Some final tallies for the evening when everyone was asked for their three wines of the night, and only six wines got any votes: 10 for 1989 Haut Brion, 8 ½ for 1990 Margaux, 6 for 1982 Pichon Lalande, 5 ½ for 1990 Cheval, 4 for 1982 Lafite, and 3 for 2000 La Tache.

The Aussie to cap off the night was a nice transition for tomorrow’s day, spent working in the hotel room. Well, half of it was working and a good chunk of it was debating online on Robert Parker’s bulletin board on his website. Eric had emailed us all that he posted the tasting notes from the night before already online, so I took a peek, and then I noticed this post by the King of Milwaukee. called Anyone Else Notice a Growing Gulf between Hedonists. and Restraint-o-Philes???. Given the debate created last night by the Aussie wine, and the fact that I have been noticing this growing gulf myself, I threw in my three cents and responded:

I think the debate here comes down to modernism (which many call or equate with hedonism) vs. classicism (aka restraint-ism, naturalism, etc). There is a natural evolution that I have seen many collectors go through, where they start off adoring cult wines from Australia and California, but eventually end up gravitating towards the wines of Europe, particularly Burgundy as the final chapter of this evolution. I have seen it countless times. There is only so much modern wines that one can handle, as they are so over the top and almost a drink rather than a glass of wine.

Many wines are made in a style where they are not immediately appealing/drinkable/up-front, where they need time to blossom and develop, and I think that this fact is not always accounted for in critics’ evaluations. They are not flashy and hedonistic, but rather wound, complicated and you really have to work to evaluate and understand them, especially Burgundy. Conversely, many wines that are so amazing initially in this hedonistic way end up being ‘one-hit wonders’ or perhaps ‘one-year wonders’ is a better way to put it as they are only enjoyable for a couple/few years, and then they do not age well at all, or do not get better with age.

The divide is not only a matter of taste; it is almost about the future of wine. There is a growing fear amongst ‘classicists’ that many wines are now being made in a style to get a high score early, rather than being made in a natural way where it can evolve and become the flower that it should be.

I think the greatest wines in the world are those that can age thirty years in a great vintage, or still be quality in those ‘off’ years and be deliciously drinkable earlier on. Wine is supposed to get better with age is a classic theory. Young wines getting 98 and 99 points left and right that have no proven track record to me is not wine justice. Acordingly, these types of wines shoot up in price and become ‘collectible’ accordingly. Winemakers and winery owners are not stupid people, and many of them want to do what every one else wants, which is to make more money and get critical acclaim. The fear amongst classicists is that some wines will not age as well as the approach to making them becomes more ‘modern’ in style, especially in Bordeaux, where there is a great deal of paranoia right now amongst classicists.

I love all the styles that wine has to offer, but I must admit that I find it tougher and tougher to drink these hedonistic wines, even though I can appreciate them. There is something ‘larger’ missing in these wines, something secondary, despite their primary qualities and larger frames and bodies. I just hope there is enough room in the wine world for both camps, and that we will be able to have these debates for years to come. Only time will tell, as time waits for no weak wines.

My three cents…

A few people posted afterwards and echoed similar sentiments, although one woman claimed we were all a bunch of fascististas. as opposed to terroiristas, also saying So what if I follow point scores, and actually love wines that taste good. I guess that makes me some floozy that just enjoys having a good time.. A few made the point that classic wines can be hedonistic, and that word is often misused. Little did I know the big guy was reading and motivated to respond and stir it up. as he later smiled. He, Mr. Parker, said:

Some rather exclusive (as opposed to inclusive thoughts appear in this thread).

John…we can carry on this debate tonight if you want, but your comments strike me as provincial. Nothing wrong with liking one style or type of wine that meets your definition of "classic, but why can’t you or anyone else enjoy…or at the very minimum, respect both Burgundy and Barossa?

Too often on this board there is this pigeon-holing…black vs. white…good vs evil crap that seems aimed at silencing rather than encouraging debate and diversity (Iris…you are right on target, but I don’t think we have a bunch of wine fascists here). But yes, do these posters ever realize there can be no right or wrong when it comes to wine connoisseurship?

John….you certainly know that only a microscopic percentage of Burgundies or Bordeaux are truly better and more interesting wines at age 30 that they were at age 10 or 12.Can you name more than several dozen Burgundies from 1959 or 1964 that are still profound today?

Moreover,it gets tiring to hear the same lamebrain argument repeated over and over again that the best new world wines just don’t age. The evidence is irrefutable that they can age quite well, and this comes from an admitted Francophile…but the Napa cabernets 68s,70s,74s,and more recent vintages such as the 90s,91s,92a,93s,94s,and 95s suggest to me that the finest wines have easily 20-30+ years of life assuming they are well-stored. Jim Dove’s comments about me doubting the 94s are totally false,and where does he base such nonsense…on one HG tasting where an off bottle was tasted? Jim…hate to rain on your parade, but the top 94s are doing marvelously…

From the lower slopes of the Andes to the rolling hillsides of the Maconnais, wine quality and diversity of styles has increased 10-20 fold in the last quarter of the century. Of course there will always be the dangers posed by globalism and standardization, but if the truth be known, those dangers were far more acute 10-15 years ago than today. For every predatory conglomerate such as Constellation buying up all it can and turning over wine-making decisions to the accountants, there are hundreds of young men and women (passionate artisans and craftspeople) planting new vineyards and/or developing new high quality wines in every viticultural region of both the old and new world.

King….you seem to frequently confuse over-extraction with concentration….the latter comes…naturally…from low yields, and/or old vines, and relatively effortless wine-making. Over-extraction is easy to spot….producers who over-extract turn out astringent, bitterly tannic, hollow wines that stand out because they don’t possess the inherent concentration of fruit to balance out the aggressive extraction techniques….they never have balance and taste terrible…which is different than a very concentrated wine that often just needs plently of bottle age to digest its fruit and baby fat and reveal its soul and character.

For all of those coming tonight…think Jim Morrison…"nobody gets out alive".

Whoa! Great, I thought. I was finally going to have dinner with Parker, and I got his blood pressure up on a relaxing Saturday afternoon. I was sure to be a marked man, unable to discuss with him the things that I was dying to ask, probably to be blown off for the entire dinner to whispering in a close friend of mine’s ear. However, I had to respond, as I felt a little misunderstood. So I said:

.Ok ok – first of all, looking forward to tonight!

BUT in the interest of never being called ‘provincial’ again (and i thought i was a New York born and bred city slicker) , i have to re-speak a little because i think that there is a little misinterpretation happening with what i said

1) I would never ever tell anyone they were ‘wrong’ in their opinions. As a wine educator myself and conductor of easily 100 tastings and dinners a year, one of the first thing that i always tell people that what they like is what they like, and no one should ever tell anyone otherwise

2) i do enjoy and respect all wines and i think my own reviews show that; i did say that i love all the styles that wine has to offer, but i found it personally difficult to ‘drink’ as opposed to ‘taste’ what we all regard as modern styles, which should not always be equated with New World. last night was a perfect example, after we all tasted 15-20 of the greatest Bordeaux of the last 25 years, a blind aussie shiraz was served. there were lots of people making faces and saying they couldn’t drink this etc etc, but i actually enjoyed and respected it and gave it (the 2003 mitolo gam) 93 points for its ‘hedonistic’ appeal (what i categorize as excellent, the score, that is). i couldn’t drink it either though (after 20 wines who could?) , but i really want the record to be straight that i have an appreciation for all of vinogod’s children…another example is that I love Cali Cab and always have (my first love, sniff sniff). There are more outstanding cabs in cali that are not modern even though they are new world, or that find the balance between modern techniques and respecting the vine and the natural beauty of the fruit and other parts of the world, etc…it is a danger to transpose modern and new world, which i think a lot of people do…i think what it comes down to is that classicists want to taste the earth, the soil, and for that to occur, vines need to have decades or even centuries of care and attention put into them; hence the european advantage

3) I was making observations of what I see since I deal with many serious collectors and a lot of passionate and active wine drinkers. There is one guy that i know who is a major collector that started off in France and now drinks nothing but cali and australia and sold off all his bordeaux with me. everyone is different, but more often than not (and with an extreme majority) , i have seen the other transformation, myself included. I was not trying to say or imply that modern wine lovers are wrong, or unevolved neanderthals, but just making a factual observation based on my experience that i see that evolution regularly. i was trying to analyze this ‘gulf’ to which the original post was directed as it interested me because i am hearing about it myself all the time

4) you are right, RP, in that only a microscopic amount of wines are better at age thirty. what we have hear is a debate over the perception of greatness. there are wines that are great to drink in their first 5 or 7 years and absolutely delicious. greatness is a relative term – a bottle can be great because you have a hot date and she liked it (ha ha). My perspective is very skewed and I should admit that – being in the auction world and dealing in mainly the finest and rarest wines, i am exposed to an elite group of wines regularly, the best of the best if you will. So when i see a 97/98/99 score, i think that should be reserved for wines like 1945 mouton, 1947 cheval, 1961 lafleur, 1971 La Tache, 1978 jayer richebourg etc etc etc…now i have given 98 points to 1994 harlan, to 2002 RC this week actually, and for a handful of younger wines, but my overall philosophy differs in that i cannot see some of these younger wines being in that category, especially when they have been in business less than a decade and i have not seen these wines age thirty years and prove themselves. Now whether you score for here and now or for the future (or a combo) is how each individual scores; i have a tough time evaluating younger wines in general after exposure to many great, old wines. it is a skill that I lack. i believe wines should be scored as a combo, but if they are not built to go thirty years, then they should not be getting 97/98/99 points. it doesn’t mean i am right or wrong, it is just how i feel. also, i do think strongly that there would be a lot more older profound wines from 1959 and 1964 if they were all ideally stored from the beginning, however. i have had so many off-the-trodden, random great wines to believe that. unfortunately, it often comes down to the bottle and its storage rather than the actual wine or vintage, but point well-taken. i am referring to a tiny/tiny percentage of wines, but i think that a lot of the people who post are too, just not necessarily referring to older wines like i do.

ok i think i have rambled enough and set the record straight hopefully? any one who has had old granges and ridge, heitz, BV, (or the celestial 1941 inglenook) etc knows new world wines can age with the best of the old world; but will some of these wines from australia, spain, or even st. emilion age as well, these modernists? that is the question – there is not enough track record to prove it yet, and these wines might be better served in their youth…that’s all folks

damn i was supposed to work today too – see alan, that’s why i stopped posting – this board can just suck up your life! anyway, i will archive my notes on a website this year and get current soon – you guys know where to find em

and in the spirit of tonight i will have to quote yellowman to your jim, ‘nobody move, nobody get hurt’ J

I think we’ll be stuck in our seats for a while….

I thought I had set the record straight, at least on my side, and what began as a debate on stylistic preferences turned into a debate on greatness and ratings in general. As dinner neared, I became a bit nervous that I would be public enemy #1, and there were still some unanswered questions to ask.

Well, dinner was served at the amazing Charleston restaurant in Baltimore (the food was great and wine friendly, reminding me of New York’s own Cru). As we all sat down, the topic came up quickly. Before I get into that, I have to make a couple of observations on the man himself. Robert Parker is incredible company at the dinner table; he is warm, sincere, humble and genuine. He likes to enjoy himself, is not afraid to laugh and is also a great story-teller. He is incredibly sharp, quick-minded and witted, and any reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated. Now that I have gotten that off my chest, I must make a few important observations based on the conversation that generated itself regarding modern. wines and ratings in general. First of all, he does not rate wines absolutely; ie, a 98 point Australian Shiraz is 98 points for Australian Shirazes and not necessarily equivalent to a 98 point Bordeaux. I believe this is a very important distinguishing characteristic, and that many people take this for granted, myself included up to this point, especially since I do rate absolutely myself (ie, 98 points is 98 points no matter where the wine comes from). Secondly, he truly believes that these Australian wines will age masterfully. He cited Grange when it first came out and how over the first couple of decades of its life, the wine was ridiculed as being over the top and a fruit bomb, etc, and who can debate its greatness and ability to age now? He feels that the wealth of fruit in these wines and their underlying structure will allow them to be great 10-15-20 years plus. Let’s face it, Australia is probably Parker’s cross to bear, that and the fact he has not reviewed Burgundy for many years, but here he was speaking honestly and candidly about his belief in these wines, and I not only had to respect him, but I also had to/have to believe him until it is proved otherwise, as his experience is second to none. He also admitted that these young Shirazes are a bit tough to drink now, but he could see their potential and respect where they are going. He also confessed to being a bit of a Francophile himself when it comes to picking out things from his own cellar on his own time. In fact, a substantial majority of his personal cellar (now I won.t tell you what percentage) is comprised of French wine. The air was clear, I had my answers and felt understood, and I had more insight into the man who has meant more to the entire wine industry than any other individual. It was time to drink.

We started off with some 1990 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, which was a nice start. It was bready, nutty and fresh with citrus, bread and geyser flavors. The finish was a touch dry (92). All the other wines were selected by Parker from his cellar, and the theme of the evening was the Rhone. First were the whites and a flight each of Chapoutier and Chave.

The 1999 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc de l.Oree. was served out of magnum and is a 100% Marsanne wine made from eighty year-old vines, we were told. The nose was exotic, forward in its yellow fruit orchestra of citrus, pineapple and quince, along with baked honey and mineral. The wine had a lot more fruit than I expected in its pure nose with a touch of toast. The wine had an amazing texture, very dense and layered with lots of rock, mineral and glue flavors on its finish. There were yellow fruits there, yet shy, with reticent marzipan/almond as well, but in the end the palate was a stony, dry style, which made RP comment how these wines are magnificent very young or very old and how they always seem to go into a shell for at least ten years in between. It would be very easy to argue the wine should have a +. (93) . The 1998 Chapoutier Ermitage Blanc Le Meal, despite being a year older and also out of magnum, had not gone into its shell yet. There was more power and depth in the nose, with a lot of smoky depth and some baked honey, orange and yellow fruits, white meat and fat. The palate was round and rich, much more open flavor-wise. These wines are all about their texture when young, and are so thick and viscous that they bury the good acidity. There was nice dust and grit to the finish with good earth and smoke flavors, complimenting its oily fruit. The wine was smoky like a long cigarette with the filter being smoked by Lauren Bacall very stylish (96). The 1997 de l.Oree. had a civilized nose with the reticent yellow fruits, spice and sweet citrus jelly bean. There was the fresh rain, playful spice and toasty sexiness. There was a gorgeous elegance and style to the nose, but its palate was shut down on its fruit, very dry, minerally and slaty. This wine definitely needed to hibernate, although the nose got more jellied in that quince way, and the palate minty in a toothpick way (92). The 1995 de l.Oree. had a muskier sweetness to its nose with a leathery edge and white fruits to go with the obligatory yellow ones. The minerals were forward, blending into a glue aroma. The anise and alcohol were more noticeably aggressive, but the structure of the wine was outstanding. It was more finish than fruit, rocky and a hair alcoholic, but it had really long acids, the longest so far. The palate was a bit shut down, but the nose stayed exotic and the palate held well in the glass. This was a great vintage of de l.Oree. (95+). The 1992 de l.Oree. had a very exotic nose; in fact, it was a dead ringer for a sweet Loire wine with its apricot, peach and musk aromas. It also had the honey, but the palate was more mature with a touch of fino sherry flavors and a dry finish. Some thought it was cooked, but I felt it to be more mature and unique (90).

Now, it was Chave’s turn, the second mini-vertical of Chave Blanc I have gotten to experience in the last three months. Sometimes in this world of wine, when it rains, it pours. While Chapoutier’s Blancs were 100% Marsanne, Chave’s average about 20% Roussanne. In fact, we were reminded that in the 1800s, Ermitage Blanc was more expensive than Montrachet! We started with the 1999 Chave Hermitage Blanc, which had a gorgeous nose with layers of complexity. There was kinky, baked, yellow fruits, citrus, butter, honey, marzipan, glue, smoke the nose was incredibly exotic, and the palate was smooth, buttery and minerally shy but going to be great (94). The 1996 Blanc was served out of magnum and had a smoky, more forward nose. Though lighter in weight then the 99, the 96 made up for it with its sweeter honey, spice, musk and (good) wood. The palate was smooth, long and almost mature, with good spice and flirting with heat on its finish (92). The 1995 Blanc had benevolent, pungent fruit, with more kink and tang in the nose, buttery and Montrachet-like in its nose, although a close friend of mine quickly called it more like Chassagne.. Aromas of corn rounded out the nose, and the palate was buttery and young with the glue and minerality, and a spicy, subtle, long finish. The wine was smooth and reminded me of the 1999, except the palate was more buttery (94+). The 1990 Blanc was an off bottle and quickly written off (DQ). The 1989 Blanc had a fabulous nose great spine, spice, fruit and alcohol. There was also mineral, bread and anise there. The palate was long and pure with lots of long acids and grapefruit flavors. The nose stayed incredibly pure and complex, with impeccable balance and a piece of the Hermitage rock, so to speak. It is potentially the greatest Chave Blanc of the modern era (96). As a footnote, RP said he thought the Chapoutiers will last longer, and with their incredible texture, it was hard to argue.

It was finally time for some reds, and we started with a spectacular flight of La Chapelles, beginning with the 1990. The 1990 Jaboulet La Chapelle had an incredible nose that was full, rich and meaty with the Rhone game, fabulous earth, smoke, stone and plummy, figgy fruit underneath. There was great balance of fruit and spice, structure and fruit, and a pinch of pepper. The structure was huge, very long but lots of finesse to its dry length (96). The 1989 was musty and corky (DQ). The 1985 La Chapelle was classically rendered and had good character with its fig, beef and spice. The wine was more leathery and earthy but with definition, not an over the top vintage but a very good and overlooked one (93). The 1982 La Chapelle was a huge hit, with lots of oohs and aahs and good reason: this is what mature La Chapelle is all about. a close friend of mine was admiring its high-toned raspberry fruit, which there was along with mint, game, earth, fig and cherry. a close friend of mine observed that it did not have the density of the 1990 or 1978, which it did not, but there was still great structure, and the wine was not plateauing just yet. There was also still expression of tannin in its leathery, dry finish. It was a beautiful wine and very open (94). The 1979 La Chapelle was no slouch either in the nose, more leathery but still with prime beef, fig and caramel, but the palate was very dry and angular comparatively to the nose. I do not think it is coming back, either, and the 1979 certainly seemed just past its prime (89). The 1978 La Chapelle lived up to its reputation and hype and was an incredible bottle. The nose was absolutely fabulous, with everything just right: the beef, fig, blood, earth, leather, musk, smoke and game. The palate is still so young, dry, fine and long. This wine is still a keeper after 25 years (97+).

Chave was back on tap in the next flight, beginning with the 1991 Chave Rouge, a personal favorite of Chave’s according to a close friend of mine. RP revved us up by asking us if we were all ready for some Pinot Noir from Hermitage.. The nose was gorgeous, and I liked RP’s comment about the style of Chave. The fruit was soft and tender with earth, bacon, violet, plum and a touch of soy. The wine was pure and gorgeous, but the palate was all about finesse and elegance. a close friend of mine loved the 1991, reasoning he was a finesse, elegant, complex guy, which sounded more like a personal ad than an endorsement of the wine (93)! The 1990 Chave was much more intense in its meaty, earthy and figgy nose, which gave me a Count Dracula impression. There was freshly grilled meat with a sizzling, marinated, Asian style. There was complex fruit and spice tension, and nice citric tension on the palate with dust, rust and lust as well. The palate was fine yet long, hearty yet smooth, and intense (96+). The 1989 Chave had a roasted nose but lacked the power of the 1990. It still was nice, with medium finesse and style. The palate had citric spice, nice earth, medium-body and a finesse-driven palate. The wine got a little nuttier in the nose (93). a close friend of mine and I tried to equate our scoring systems at this point (he uses six stars) , which we almost did with slight variations, but I will save that for another event where I write down more of his scores I had too tough a time keeping up with my own scores tonight with all the wines! The 1988 Chave had a great nose, one of the more expressive ones for Chave with lots of fireplace action: wood, brick, smoke and ash. The nose was rusty and leathery but in complete balance with the roasted fruit. The alcohol was there but not intrusive, and the nose had a nice, nutty edge. The palate was less exciting on the palate and a bit horsy at first, and a close friend of mine found it a touch acidic. RP commented how the horseshit blew off. and how he didn.t mind it. Eric then said one of the all-time quotables when he said, A good, steaming horse pile is a good thing if it has the intensity to back it up.. Hmmmm no comment. It was a very good Hermitage that gained a little on the palate but did not live up to the nose (91). The 1985 Chave was next, and the signature style shone through. The nose was mild yet deep, with the roasted fruit, nut, vanilla, plum, meat and leather. The nose was fine and intense, quite classic, but again the palate lacked the weight and complexity that the nose hinted at, still very good though (92). The 1983 Chave was more forward with its rose, roasted earth, nut, bacon and moderate t n a. There was secondary vitamin, citrus and tang. The wine was smooth on the palate with good citrus, dust and a touch of game. The wine seemed mature, but like it will be staying there for a long time (93). I have never been a huge fan of the 1978 Chave but have always respected it. This bottle had a plummier nose with some forest, pine, game, bread and the bakery. There was also muffin, oat, leather and dust. It was excellent, just not as great as one might expect (93). It was time to segue to the South and the Chateauneuf du Papes, but a close friend of mine generously purchased a 1990 Chave Cuvee Cathelin off the list. The Cathelin was meaty, intense and ripe in the nose with toast, menthol, beef, blood, eucalyptus and mint. The palate was similar and a little more than outstanding were in winegasm territory (97).

It was on to the Chateauneufs and a flight of 1998s, beginning with the 1998 Rayas. I super-sized you on this flight, RP joked. The nose had stony yet ripe strawberry fruit, very sweet and approachable without the weight of a great Rayas but still delicious. There was also spice and tea, and the palate was leathery and gamy though more about the finesse than the power one would expect out of the vintage (92). The 1998 Vieux Donjon Cuvee Speciale. is a bottling so rare that I did not even know it existed! Apparently it was made in only 1990 and 1998 and is more Mouvedre from older vines and a 200 case production. The only way you can tell it is the Cuvee Speciale is by the lot number and/or gold sticker. You could smell the Mouvedre in the nose, with its dark, earthy and violety side coming out, that dark side of Chateauneuf. There was also earth, hay and almost a bread quality, but not negative. It was a very intense wine, with lots of earth and rust in the nose and a great, earthy palate (95). Next up was the 1998 Roger Sabon Cuvee Prestige, whose nose had this bready, yeasty edge that took center stage, and some cherry maraschino/marzipan fruit behind it. There was earth, teabag and some form/cousin of brett (again not negative but the best way I could describe it). The palate was surprisingly smooth and easy (93). It was at this point that I realized how many great dinners RP can.t take notes since everyone wants to talk to him. The 1998 Janasse V.V. was served out of magnum, which was the equivalent of a sledgehammer when a seven year-old, 1998 Chateauneuf du Pape is in it. The nose was heavenly and full of sexy, red fruits: strawberry, raspberry, red currant and red berry, along with tannins, alcohol, spice and leather. It was especially intense out of magnum, I’m sure. The earth and game were intertwined and buried amongst each other, and the palate was great spicy, hot and long yet smooth, with red fruits and supplemental earth and leather to the rich fruit (96). The 1998 Domaine du Pegau Cuvee du Capo. was shy, yet had a core of incredibly exotic fruit: raspberry and strawberry, gamy fruit with spice and new leather. The wine lingered in the belly longer than any other wine by far so far, to the point that after 29 wines, it hit me in the gut and almost made me queasy. Seeing how I like Pegau, I think it will be extraordinary, although it may not be drinkable to a lot of purists, along the line of those Aussie Shirazes, I suppose (97). The 1998 Marcoux V.V. was next, but a close friend of mine was fading fast, and his fade crossed over to me. I raised the white flag for this wine, which was completely shut down but wow wow wow. on the breed (95+).

We jumped back in time with a magnum of 1989 Beaucastel, which had a heavenly nose and is still their greatest regular. Chateauneuf du Pape to my knowledge. The wine was earthy, gamy, rusty and spicy with great Provencal action and perfectly integrated alcohol. It was an outstanding wine and still shy (95). The only wine from the 1999 vintage was next, a 1999 Vieille Julienne Reserve. The nose was a touch modern, but also got a wow. out of me in that it was deliciously so. The nose was meaty, intense, broad, wide-angled, bready, nutty, and syrupy. The palate was intense as well earthy, rusty and citrusy. It was fine and distinguished, distinctive and long (95). We skipped back to 1998 with a 1998 Chateau La Nerthe Cuvee des Cadettes.. I had this the night of the Super Bowl and found it holding on to very good but definitely not great, and I had a similar impression this night. Oak is more noticeable in the nose for the first time in a Chateauneuf tonight, after that I went right to the palate, which was better and earthy but still a bit oaky (90). There were three more wines to go & inhale & exhale & inhale & exhale. My note for the 2000 Clos du Caillou Reserve started off, I am officially done.. I did scrape together that the back end and acid levels were enormous, and that one should not drink for a few years (95+). The 2000 Beaucastel Hommage a Jacques Perrin. had the best nose of the flight and perhaps the night. You could really smell the meat of Mourvedre and its nut, earth and structure. The wine was long, fine and sturdy (96+). The 1989 Hommage a Jacques Perrin. was da bomb. (97). I recently scored it 98 points out of magnum as well. We are talking RK six-star. territory, that is if he was awake at this point! Actually, a close friend of mine was hanging tough, and his previous generosity motivated me to buy off the list a 2002 C. Dugat Griottes Chambertin, which was very toasty and oaky to the point I couldn.t deal with it, although many were loving it. There were a couple of New World Syrahs thrown in at the end including Pandora and Seymour, I guess from Alban, but I really could not judge any more. Time to go back to the hotel.

In sum, I must say it was a wonderful weekend where I made many new friends. Dining with Parker was a treat, and I hope to see him again soon. It was an event where I gained a new found respect for him and his work, not that I did not have respect for him before, but a new respect that I see many taking for granted out there, a respect that I had been taking for granted as well, relating to his enthusiasm for younger wines. I suppose it is tough being on top of the mountain, but RP seems to be handling it with a Zen-like grace and wisdom. It must be all that ginseng. 🙂


2002 Romanee Contis and Mt. Sinai Charity Event

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The 2002 Romanee Contis

The 2002 vintage for Romanee-Conti is about to be released this Spring, so as is customary, their U.S. importer, Wilson Daniels, held an exclusive tasting of all the new releases at Per Se for the who’s who of the New York Metro area wine trade. Aubert de Villaine was there himself and spoke about the wines and answered questions. There was one unasked question, Why is Romanee Conti the world’s greatest wine?. Because if you ask me, it is.

The event started at 10AM, with a round of Champagne amongst friends, countrymen and Romans such as Daniel Johnnes of Montrachet, Tim Kopec of Vertitas, William Sherer of Atelier, and Fred Shaw. You knew it was a big tasting how often do you see Michael Aaron and Jeff Zacharia in the same room? Let alone, yours truly. 🙂

Everyone eagerly took their seats in the main dining room at about 10:45AM, when the room quickly fell silent to Jack Daniels. (of Wilson Daniels) introduction. Aubert then spoke and later answered questions, but more on that later. First, the wines :

The wines were opened at 9AM and single decanted, poured approximately at 9:45AM, and the tasting really did not start until 11AM by the time everyone was seated.

The 2002 Vosne Romanee Premier Cru, Cuvee Duvault-Blochet. had a noticeably lighter color than the rest of the wines, but a fresh nose nonetheless with rose, plum, stems and an herbal/dill edge. The fruit seemed plump but dressed elegantly to the point where you can’t see the fat&yet. It got less herbal with air, and more violet came out with a pinch of vanilla and wood. The palate was clean and pure, with long acids yet soft tannins and obviously young with some woodsy flavors wrapped around its tender core of violet fruit flavors. There was a drop of that dill on the palate, with a side of crème fraiche (90).

The 2002 Echezeaux had a reserved and shy nose that was instantly emitting more cinnamon, brick, rust and earth in front of a cascade of cherry fruit. The nose was smoky, almost ripe but not quite, possessing great tension between the fruit and spice in a medium way. There were some secondary floral aromas, including stalks. The palate showed a lot more stems and tannins than the Vosne Romanee. William was scratching his head as he found it very closed, especially compared to his memory of 2001 last year. It was reticent, but there was a lot of wine still there! The palate was more stemmy and slaty, with a touch of earth. There was nice a hybrid of red and purple fruit flavors, and the wine’s finesse was most appreciable (92).

The 2002 Grands Echezeaux also initially had an herbal edge with the dill (almost pickle), forest, pine and menthol, but it also had lovely rose aromas, leading into the cherry, dusty and lightly snow-frosted earthy side of its personality. There was a pinch of aggressive wood in its herbal component, but the palate was certainly more powerful than the Echezeaux and much more finish-centric at first. The finish was heavy with its wave of tannins, alcohol and acid that was put together well enough to satisfy the most skilled of wine surfers. I must admit, at first the flavor bothered me a little as I got a bit too much of the wood and herbal side, along with extreme citrus. The wine was wound and a bit angular, but it really fleshed out with time in the glass it really needed that time to get deliciously fleshy and lose that herbal edge (94).

Just when I thought that I would not have another wine from Romanee St. Vivant for a while, next up was the 2002 Romanee St. Vivant. It had a garden-fresh nose with lovely fruit balanced by the green of the stems and fruit, not a bad green, but a green as in an adolescent green of fruit about to bud. There was iron, rose, blood and earth behind it, all buried in the wide-bodied red, violet and plum fruit. A touch of caramel sweetness poked its head out with a band-aid on top of it. The palate was fleshy and deep, with wide-angle fruit, firm yet elegant structure, and a long, slinky and earthy finish. There was excellent balance that was both powerful and feminine. The wine blossomed in the glass, getting redder and less green, and the wine overall was cleaner and fresher in its overall impression and was a bit more elegant on the palate than the Grands Echezeaux (93+).

Ahhhh, the great 2002 Richebourg. It was a step up as the fruit was much more in your face thick, rich and ripe with meaty, plummy and smoky aromas along with vanilla and sweet fruit on the blackberry and plum side. The nose had gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous fruit. It was stunning. There was a touch of cinnamon, and someone keenly observed it stood out for its amplitude and opulence.. The palate was deliciously rusty, with great length and style to its acids, and tannins that make you lick the roof of your mouth but not smack your lips. There was almost perfect sweetness to the wine on the palate and its black fruit, a fruit only matched later by the Romanee Conti itself. A touch of leather rounded out its palate (96).

The 2002 La Tache was a left turn with a very distinctive nose that initially put you in a room recently, yet not freshly, painted. You really had to work the wine in the glass to wake up this sleeping giant’s rose, pre-budding green (as mentioned before), and touches of smoke, rock and wood. There was almost an unsweetened mesquite edge and a pinch of herbs still lying on the vine fresh in the garden. The nose had the royalty factor but was indubitably young and a bit confused, or grumpy perhaps. Why was it being disturbed this early in its life? J There was no confusion about the palate, which had an explosive and long finish, that of a thirty-plus-year wine without a doubt. Don.t touch it for at least five more years, though. The nose morphed into this exotic chocolaty, almond, caramel, marshmallow and Smores thing, and the palate stayed young with its signature green bean flavors accompanied by forest, tang and unbudded fruit waiting to grow up. There is no doubting the pedigree of this wine, but it was the least ready to be evaluated. I am sure it will climb the point ladder in decades to come (95+).

The 2002 Romanee Conti made me want to pull out a dozen clichés such as the real deal, the same as it ever was, the best of the best.. The nose was unbelievably great, phenomenal, awe-inspiring and death-defying, if you will. It is really hard for a young wine to turn me on like this Romanee Conti (and Richebourg for that matter) did. What amazed me the most was how inviting and warm the fruit was in the nose. There was incredible depth of rose, plum, cassis and blackberry aromas. The wine was heavy, yet light on its feet as far as its nose was concerned. Ladies and gentlemen, the heavyweight champion of the worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrld, Romanee Conti! (Applaud now). There were also stems, smoke, coal, forest and chocolate in the nose. The palate was rich, luscious, thick and seductively long. The wine kept getting more and more exotic, and although I assume that the wine will have to shut down in the bottle sooner or later, for the time being all I could say was wow wow wow.. (98+)

The 2002 Montrachet was like licking a rock, William jested, because it was all mineral. to him on the palate. There were piercing minerals in the nose but very tropical and buttery aromas as well, almost Cali-esque I hate to say, but I did have flashbacks of young Kistler and Peter Michael – on steroids, of course. Jason Giambi should get a case for his cellar ouch. (Let’s go Mets, by the way, but I am not a Yankee hater either, for the record). It did have that smoky edge, as well as nice citrus ones. The palate, however, was obviously not California Chardonnay with its layers of fruit and acid, and its length to both. There were great citrus, butter and mineral flavors to the palate, which was very intense and wound with a rocky (positive) finish. The wine was still a baby, but definitively great Montrachet and a bridge between Old and New World styles (95+).

I will close this segment of Vintage Tastings with some comments from Aubert, snippets I got here and there between the introduction and Q & A session. Aubert said that while some have said that 2002 is an extremely opulent vintage with wines that offer immediate appeal and drinking, that was not the case with . There is quality, purity, elegance, finesse and transparency.. In the end, Aubert thinks that 2002 will be another magical vintage like 1962 because it has the finesse and feminine character to back up its substance. The climate can sometimes be your enemy and sometimes your friend, and the vintage is a combination of what we do and the climate.. There was an extraordinary window that opened in the beginning of September thanks to Mother Nature that made the 2002 vintage what it is today. On responding to technology and science, Aubert wisely commented that Science teaches us what we did in the past was right.. He also said that he preferred the Grands Echezeaux and Romanee St. Vivant most today, but that the La Tache had more expressive tannins. and that there was something larger in Romanee Conti.. He also said that the Domaine bottles by barrel or makes an assemblage depending on the vintage.

There is no doubt that the 2002 Romanee Contis are extraordinary wines.

Mt. Sinai Charity Dinner

A couple of nights later I found myself at Patroon for a charity wine dinner to benefit underprivileged patients at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City that raised over $185,000 that night. Notable attendees included Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator and the masterful and always entertaining Kevin Zraly as auctioneer. The event was put together by Robin Solomon and Michael Abbott and resulted in a great time for a great cause. There was a serious wine dinner, and in between courses bottles of wine from the JFK cellar were auctioned off, courtesy of Nice Matin, the restaurant that recently purchased the remainder of the cellar. It was a great event.

There were three flights of wine and a port to be sampled this evening, and we started off with three whites, beginning with a 2002 Moreau Chablis Les Clos. The nose was smoky and stony with nice citrus and mineral overtones, semi-open and definitely on the smoky side of Chablis. There were also aromas of lemon, lime (with the peel and dust of both), and a rainwater freshness there. The palate was tart and tangy, a real mouth-puckerer, and a touch of noticeable wood marked the palate despite its decent acid and citrus flavors. There was no doubting the breed of the vineyard, though (89). Next up was an uninspiring 2001 Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres.. Ms. Casino Royale, secret agent of the wine world, complained that the wine was watery, and it was. The nose was very oaky with lots of wood, toast and not much more than a little butter. It was average at best, smoky and oaky on the palate with that watery edge (82). The last white, a 2002 Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne, was also milder than expected, with a lightly toasted nose and aromas of smoke and bread. The palate was shut down and muted, not complicated or well-bred, quite average and uninteresting (85).

The red Burgundy flight was thankfully better, although the first wine was again either in a shell or just not that good. The 1999 Louis Jadot Corton Greves was slightly alcoholic in the nose with some earth, game and a touch of barn. The oak was a little intrusive, and the nose was wound and rusty overall but not powerful. It was shut down like a lot of 99s at the moment, but the palate had no front, no middle and very little backside. It could develop I suppose, but it was average on this night (85). The 1999 Clos de Tart was next, and finally we had a real wine! The nose was more intense meaty with judicious oak and slight caramel. There was good spice and cedar, earth, forest and pine. The palate had great purity and balance with a nice, gritty finish. The wine was feminine and sexy, and the acids were long (93+). The last 1999 of the flight was the 1999 Clos des Lambrays. It was more herbal in the nose in a positive way, and gamy. It was a touch out of balance on the back side, very slaty and earthy. Ms. Royale noted its raspberry fruit, but the palate was overall earthy and dry, but still quality (90).

The final flight more than made up for the first two, as Bordeaux took charge with the great 1990 vintage and three of its finest wines from said vintage. First up was the 1990 Cos d.Estournel, which had a meaty nose with pencil, walnut, sweet black fruits and dry currant overtones. There was actually a pinch of cantaloupe that I got as well. The palate was smooth and easy, long in the belly with incredible acids but polished tannins, and fine ones at that. The wine was a bit in reserve but excellent with lots of potential (93+). The 1990 Margaux had a heavenly nose with fabulous purity and fruit, showing much better than it did in Vegas last month. The nose was still very subtle, but also meaty in a healthy supermodel kind of way. The fruit was meaty and yes, ripe as well, with cedar and pencil edges. You could smell the prime real estate here. There was a pinch of olive and incredible acids to its fine, long, silky and refined palate (95+). The 1990 Latour was no slouch either, and it was nice to see it perform well. I had actually been fed three shots from three different bottles earlier, served to me by Robin Kelley O.Connor of the Bordeaux Wine Bureau on my way to the men’s room, and it was interesting to see subtle bottle variation even from the same case. There may have been variation, very slight, but there was no doubting the quality of this case overall. So many of the great Bordeaux have been traded so frequently that bottle variation is an issue, even for wines from 1982 or 1990. You know who may be even guiltier than retailers or customers taking shipping or storage for granted? The answer is ignorant wholesalers that did not even have temperature-controlled storage in the 1970s and 1980s; you would be surprised to find out how many did NOT until as late as the 1990s. Anyway, enough of that rant. The 1990 Latour had a deep and rich nose with beautiful cedar aromas. The wine was fragrant and perfumed with a touch of benevolent green. It was long, pure, rich and classy, although the always controversial and opinionated Big Boy. RR thought that all 1990s are in a shell right now. and that the 1996 blows away the 1990.. The Latour was the wine of the night for me, and it will have a long future ahead of it (96).

We had a 1977 Fonseca, which was excellent, but I did expect more. It lacked the power I expected out of a 25-30 year-old port from this vintage (93). There was trouble to get into downtown at the Soho House, where our own rock star Wendy Agah was waiting, but everyone threw the towel in on me, and Wendy did not pick up her cell, so mercifully I stumbled home, ready to go to D.C. for a weekend with a close friend of mine, Robert Parker, and 12 of his ebob. followers that won a charity dinner with him. a close friend of mine and I were invited when two of the original bidders could not make it, and I was looking forward to my first dinner with the man/myth/legend himself. You.ll have to wait until next week for that one.


Romanee St. Vivant Marathon

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You have probably heard of the New York Marathon, but last week New York saw a different kind of marathon take place courtesy of master organizers/puppeteers Doug Barzelay and Michael Rockefeller: the Romanee St. Vivant Marathon. In fact, the course was so long, I couldn.t even finish the last leg! But more of that later

It started off innocently enough on Thursday night at the Mark hotel. a close friend of mine and I were both a little green in the gills from the previous two nights, where we pummeled ourselves into oblivion with back-to-back doubleheaders. Well, here we were again, although on this night we were both spitting more often than not in order to survive the night and live to tell about it. Allen Meadows, aka the Burghound, was also there, telling us the biggest news in this commune of twenty-five acres and ten owners (and one absentee one) is how Drouhin will no longer be making RSV, as the one absentee owner (Poisot) has now started selling to Folin-Aberet (this spelling could be very wrong), who will debut his RSV with the 2004 vintage, which is being tended to by Dominique Mugneret. Now I could be mistaken, but I think that Jadot also got his fruit from Poisot, but I am unsure if he maintains that relationship or if we have seen the last of Jadot’s RSV as well. Allen is off in France in some cellar tasting as we speak, so I will have to fill you in on the exact details later.

It started off innocently enough on Thursday night at the Mark hotel. a close friend of mine and I were both a little green in the gills from the previous two nights, where we pummeled ourselves into oblivion with back-to-back doubleheaders. Well, here we were again, although on this night we were both spitting more often than not in order to survive the night and live to tell about it. Allen Meadows, aka the Burghound, was also there, telling us the biggest news in this commune of twenty-five acres and ten owners (and one absentee one) is how Drouhin will no longer be making RSV, as the one absentee owner (Poisot) has now started selling to Folin-Aberet (this spelling could be very wrong), who will debut his RSV with the 2004 vintage, which is being tended to by Dominique Mugneret. Now I could be mistaken, but I think that Jadot also got his fruit from Poisot, but I am unsure if he maintains that relationship or if we have seen the last of Jadot’s RSV as well. Allen is off in France in some cellar tasting as we speak, so I will have to fill you in on the exact details later.

We started off with a flight of three wines from 1980 and 1979. First up was the 1980 (I am not going to type out Romanee St. Vivant or RSV for every wine remember they are all Romanee St. Vivants!). After some initial confusion as to what the order was, we settled into the gorgeous nose that had a whiff of mint, menthol and delicate, sweet red cherry fruit with sexy, liqueur-like and candied rose sweetness as well. The 1980 had catnip on the nose but not the power of the La Tache that we had a couple nights before. The palate was still taut with mature flavors, some citric tension and a mild, dry finish. There were meat and menthol flavors as well, and the wine was a little meaner on the palate than the nose indicated, but it was pure and layered. as someone noted, with a nice dollop of minerals (92). The 1980 Arnoux had a weedy nose with some rotten vegetable, wood and allspice that was lacking the all.. There were light, minty, red fruits underneath. The structure was decent, but the flavors were all earth, citrus and tree, although someone noted lychee.. a close friend of mine picked up on its strawberry and sugar,. as the nose developed a little, but the palate was very dry and one-dimensional with its earth, tree and unpleasant marsh flavors (85). The 1979 Charles Noellat had a wild, unique and exotic nose with lots of floral, purple fruit and flower aromas and a touch of sap and jasmine, and almost a weird tea aroma. There was a quick detour into the forest, almost grassy but more artificial reminding me of taxicab air freshener. The palate was undrinkable, lacking fruit and very woody and dry (NR).

Next up was the 1972s and 71s, six wines in total. The 1972 Arnoux had lots of animal and what the French call, scent du merde,. with leather, citrus, hay, meat and chocolate all supporting underneath. The more you aired it, the better it got, with more of the earth and dry cherry fruit coming out. The palate was mature with citrus, earth and oat flavors, and a brown sugar sweetness. Ben called it a little sweaty but ok,. and the flavors got earthier in the glass (88). The 1972 Marey-Monge () had a sweeter, more masculine nose in a woody way. Robert said that all the 72 ‘s I have had are tired,. but a close friend of mine made a counterpoint that out of large format he has been exceptionally lucky. There was a lot of animal, roasted meat, charcoal, old wood and almost BBQ/jerky in the nose, while the flavors were more menthol and citrus, with lots of power and hidden length, but also overly earthy and a touch weird on the palate, lacking the layers one would hope (88). The 1972 Charles Noellat was a worthy follow-up to the 1979 with its disgusting nose of spinach and turpentine and rotten flavors. I wonder if this was ever good, Rob quipped (NR). A corked bottle of 1971 Arnoux followed (DQ). The 1971 Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux. was a touch cooked in the nose with its brown sugar and molasses but had some plummy fruit behind it. The fruit was indeed baked and port-like, and the palate was chocolaty and earthy, with the long acids of the vintage. a close friend of mine felt it was heavily chapitalized. and Geoffrey joked pasteurized,. i.e., cooked. I was unsure if the wine was like this or the bottle was affected, but I leaned towards the latter. There were some pleasant citrus and earth flavors and the structure of the vintage shone through, but the wine was not what it could have been (90+?). The 1971 Marey-Monge () was the finale to this disappointing flight. It was more mature than other wines I have had fromthis vintage from with a beefy, stewed nose and aromas of duck sauce, spice, flowers and baked bread. The palate was excellent with lots of intensity and tremendous expression on the finish. The bottle still seemed a touch advanced for the vintage with its browned flavors, though, accompanied by citrus, oat, leather and brown sugar. There was nice balance and texture here, but I couldn.t help but think this bottle had also been affected somewhere along the way in its thirty-four years (92+).

We jumped to the 1964 Remoissenet, every one’s favorite poster boy for chapitalization and authenticity jokes, and Rob immediately jumped in with it smells like it’s direct from Algeria,. which got a few laughs. The nose was a bit off-putting and very wound too wound with some bad earth, synthetic cleaner and a stemmy/branchy edge. There were good tannins but horsy flavors and bad cardboard to match. It barely avoided the dreaded NR. (not recommended) due to its structural and textural components (80). The next wine was also a 1964 Remoissenet bottling, but a Marey-Monge one this time. Geoffrey observed that it was very animal,. and there was lots of horse, wet hay, animal and some green blending into the earth. The palate had good spice and alcohol with lots of earth, tobacco and coffee grind flavors. It was a touch aggressive by Burgundian standards, and I could see it rubbing a lot of people more wrongly than me (90). Next up was the real deal, and the best wine of the night so far, a 1964 Marey-Monge () . Josh observed that it was hands down the best wine of the night so far, four or five points higher than the next.. It did have a gorgeous nose of balanced rose, cherry, citrus, nice spice and good leather aromas. The wine was long, balanced, firm, yet feminine. The palate was rich, long and creamy with light spice and soft tannins. It was a gorgeous wine (95). The next 1964, a Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux, . was 100% cooked, no doubts about it (DQ). Finally, we had a semi-drinkable Charles Noellat, the 1964. The nose was mild and pleasant with more dark, black fruits. It was simple and easy, an average wine that stood the test of time, at least. a close friend of mine said that in Chinese one would say nolah,. as in I don.t want it,. and I translated that into auction-speak, No Lot,. as in I don.t want to sell it.. It was better than the first two disasters (85).

The following flight was comprised of wines from 1961 and 1959. The first wine was completely maderized, a 1961 Moillard The 1961 Marey-Monge () had a deep, heavy nose full of plums and black fruits, with a pinch of brown sugar sweetness, earth, leather, chocolate, coffee and hay. The palate was also heavy and thick with a medium finish, nice balance and good flavors on the oat and sugar side (91) The next wine was the only magnum of the evening, and it seemed to make a difference. Experienced tasters and collectors know that magnums often deliver fresher and better experiences when drinking older wines. This magnum was a 1961 Drouhin, and it was very fresh. a close friend of mine observed that it smelled like a Chambolle or Musigny,. admiring its style. There was lots of feminine spine in the nose with a touch of citrus, beautiful perfume and spice, gorgeous cherry fruit and solid vitamins. The palate was fresh and full of vitamins, cherry, rose and dictionary (old book) flavors. Geoffrey cooed so elegant,. and that it was true to Drouhin’s style.. There were lots of oohs and aahs for this pure, graceful beauty (95) . The heat of the 1959 vintage manifested itself in the 1959 Marey-Monge () with its sweet, baked fruit. The wine was a touch stewed, and Rob was a bit sad, as he felt it should have been one of the wines of the night.. It had the game, spice, and chapitalized, silky, webbed fruit. a close friend of mine felt it was funky.. There were meat and leather flavors, and the wine was oaty on the palate, and Ben noted marshmallow.. It didn.t hold it together on the palate and the nose got mustier as well. a close friend of mine remarked how he was not a big fan of the 1959 vintage as they are fat and low in acid., and Rob concurred that they are dying off left and right.. I don.t think this was the best bottle of this wine, hence the question mark (87?). Ben through in his own two cents that hot vintages don.t hold,. including the 1964 vintage in his book, but thenAllen counterpointed 1923, 1928 and 1937. En garde! Allen also made a comment about how should make the best RSV every time because they have almost 50% of the land in the commune, giving them the luxury of being able to declassify more than other producers, which was the same comment he made about Vogue in Musigny earlier in the week. The 1959 Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux. had a gorgeous nose, just as I remembered it. It was youthful and fresh, delicate but still having an underlying backbone. There was cherry fruit, lots of dust, light leather and earth, and some meat and tobacco rounding out the nose. The t n a really came out. The palate was tasty, not over the top but still sweet, with good earth on the finish. The wine was balanced and pretty and had a moderate finish (93) . The 1959 Drouhin was a touch cooked in the nose, although a close friend of mine attributed it to the 59 vintage more than bottle variation. There were aromas of brown sugar, oatmeal, earth, and a touch of Asian BBQ/hoisin. The palate was earthy, sturdy and thick but a little clumsy, still very good but I thought the bottle was somewhat affected. A pinch of mint graced the palate as well (90+?). The 1959 Bouchard Aine had a minty and wintry nose with earth, air freshener, citrus, mineral and earth aromas. The palate was sturdy, heavy and thick with lots of earth and oat flavors. The palate was balanced, and the finish was good, on the oat and earth side as well, but not too much as in some of the other wines. Some people liked it, some people didn.t. There was a touch of baked flavors, but good ones, definitely the vintage in this case and not the bottle (91).

There were six wines in the last flight, beginning with the 1955 Charles Noellat. There was a drop of cat’s pee, leather and mineral with some strawberry fruit, earth and baked bread edges. The palate was out of balance with lots of citrus and spice on the back end, but the fruit had this moldy flavor. The finish was long, but it got worse quickly. If I had waited longer to score this wine, it probably would have kept declining in points as it already had in my notebook (85) . The 1953 Arnoux I did not like at all, but I wasn.t sure if it was my glass since Geoffrey was digging it. I switched glasses, but the wine was still very angular with weird wood aromas and a palate that could be best described as being ick. (NR) . The 1953 Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux. had a pretty nose, with sweet, spiny fruit and great balance of ego and id. There was gorgeous rose, book, spice, mineral and t n a in the nose, and a gorgeous palate to match with sweet fruit and a good finish with nice slate, minerals and length. There was a tasty drop of orange, jellied, citrus fruit. Geoffrey called it one of the benchmark vintages for Louis Latour,. and the wine was beautiful; in fact, I think it is a great decade for Latour RSV on the whole (94). The 1953 Comte d’Orthez was exotic and controversial, and a lot weren.t sure it was Burgundy. It was a bit Rhonish, but decent whatever it was (89). The 1953 Bouchard Aine was corked (DQ) , leaving us with the 1948 Charles Noellat Richebourg as the grand finale&uh-oh. Actually, the 1948 was very good, redeeming a shred of dignity for Charles, although it was again out there in its style. This time it had a stinky, pretzel nose with a bit of mustard too, I swear! It was a hot dog of a nose, beefy and meaty, earthy, and actually tasty in an earthy, bookwormy way (90) . a close friend of mine and I had a few drinks afterwards at the Peninsula, but there was no trouble to get into mercifully on this brutally cold night.

The next day started with a light lunch at Per Se, where we had the 1986 and 1987 ‘s to warm up. The 1986 had lots of alcohol, iodine, iron and rust in the nose with gamy red fruits behind it. The nose was stony and screechy with the alcohol taking charge, and tangy and sexy fruit behind it. The palate was very wound with lots of expression to the tannins on the palate, which was also dry and citric. The fruit was drying out a bit, and Ben noted that it was not a great vintage very rustic.. There were lots of brick and rust there, and the palate had very little fruit left with time in the glass and became overly dry, citric and acidic despite its pretty nose (87). The 1987 was more mushroomy in the nose and more approachable with some beef broth, fading red fruits and autumnal leaf and floor in its nose. There were more purple and black fruit expressions there as well and decent minerals. The palate was not as exciting, still with weight and some length but a touch beefy, citric and minerally (87) .

The next day started with a light lunch at Per Se, where we had the 1986 and 1987 ‘s to warm up. The 1986 had lots of alcohol, iodine, iron and rust in the nose with gamy red fruits behind it. The nose was stony and screechy with the alcohol taking charge, and tangy and sexy fruit behind it. The palate was very wound with lots of expression to the tannins on the palate, which was also dry and citric. The fruit was drying out a bit, and Ben noted that it was not a great vintage very rustic.. There were lots of brick and rust there, and the palate had very little fruit left with time in the glass and became overly dry, citric and acidic despite its pretty nose (87). The 1987 was more mushroomy in the nose and more approachable with some beef broth, fading red fruits and autumnal leaf and floor in its nose. There were more purple and black fruit expressions there as well and decent minerals. The palate was not as exciting, still with weight and some length but a touch beefy, citric and minerally (87) .

The first wine had a fresh and vibrant nose full of crushed red fruits, violet, stems, minerals, velvet, earth and wood. The wine was very clear, and the vitamins really came out along with its violety, cassisy and plummy fruit. The palate was so young and had good components and nice clarity, with a lightly spicy finish and nice feminine length to its acid. The fruit was almost impossible to evaluate at first but started to open like a young flower. Ben got stems out of it too, thinking it was maybe . The wine was clean, vibrant and fresh it was the 2001 Drouhin (93). The second wine was milder on the fruit side in the nose with more brick, subtle wood and fireplace action. The nose was also clean and clear, a characteristic of the 2001 vintage. It had an Asian spice, tea and fortune cookie trio with a unique tree-like edge. Its sweetness was in its earth more than the fruit. The palate had a grappa-like flavor to it and long expressive tannins with what I like to call the bitterness of youth,. but it was still stylish, as Daniel Johnnes agreed. It was a heavy wine that needed to resolve a lot of things, and Doug found it simple and not well-knit,. and another observed less intensity over time.. It was the 2001 Domaine de l.Arlot (89+). The next wine had more intense breed and depth in its nose, with cinnamon edges and great spice. There were minerals, judicious wood and a touch of pine. The fruit was on the purple side and had a smokehouse edge and also that grappa edge. The palate was fine, long, and excellent; the fruit was purple but shut down. The tannins were refined and expressive, and it was Doug’s and Josh’s favorite of the flight, and it was the 2001 Hudelot-Noellat (93). It was a long way from Charles. We were back to the foresty side with the fourth wine in this flight, with a wood floor supporting brick, earth and stem. The fruit was buried in the nose besides a touch of plum. It had a milder nose than the first three wines, and the flavors werealso quieter and shut down. There was some leather and earth on the finish and this splash of grappa (again!). The wine seemed lean on the fruit, and Tim Kopec called it not very serious soda pop and a drying finish.. Daniel observed more oak tannins,. as opposed to natural ones for the 2001 JJ Confuron (87). The next wine had a deep nose with layered fruit but a bit of aggressive wood. You could smell the thickness, but the wood had this THC component that mellowed with aeration, but still a bit off-putting. The mineral and t n a aspects were more expressive and pronounced, suggesting great structure, but the weird flavor carried over to the palate which bothered me. The wine had me confused by its confused palate, but maybe it was me as it was Allen’s favorite of the flight, and it was the 2001 (90+?). I am a big fan of the 2001 .s, so I was a bit perplexed here. The last wine of this flight had a staggeringly different nose than the rest in that it was much warmer and seemingly advanced for its age by comparison to the rest of the wines in the flight it wasn.t that it was advanced, it was that it was open and had great fruit expression red, black and purple, the entire fruit rainbow. There were nice chocolate edges in its wood, along with orange citrus, brick and smoke. There was actual fruit in the mouth for a change and great length and style to its length. There were also flavors of stone, iron, meat, vanilla, vitamins and an A+ finish. There were a lot of Leroy guesses, and it was. Tim said that the Leroy was the best to enjoy now, but the others needed time (95) . Tim also appreciated the common theme amongst the wines (the vintage) and liked all the wines except the Confuron; he also observed that the and Leroy were the biggest, with the Leroy being the most complete but the Hudelot being the most elegant.

Next up were the 1999s, and this flight gave me the thought again that almost all young Burgundies should have a + next to their scores because they almost all get better with time. The first wine had an intense nose with more tannins, alcohol and weight that was noticeable right away compared to the 2001s. There was a lot of crushed action fruits, minerals, stones, brick and leather. The fruit was black and purple. I must be in a grappa mood because I noted it again. The palate was shut down, spicy from mid to back, long and hot but not layered, or perhaps completely shut down as many 99s are right now on the palate for this 1999 Drouhin (90+). The next wine had a deep nose as well that you really had to dig at to get to its alcohol, rust, grappa, red rose fruit, mineral, vitamin, spice and iron. The flavors were very meaty and expressive with thick, dark fruit, and nice flesh and texture to the front palate, which is tough to get this early in a 1999. It had a great finish that was long and stylish with good grape tannin expression and length, and toned, muscle-y fruit that gets better in the nose. The palate did crawl back into a shell with some time in the glass. It was the 1999 Domain de l.Arlot (93). The next wine was a cherry bomb in the nose, sweeter, more playful and delicate with its beautiful sweet cherry fruit, and some nice tension of citrus, minerals and acid behind it. The wine was pure and more 2001 in style than 1999 because it was so clean. There were great smoke, brick and cedar supporting aromas and nice spice and heat to the palate, which held well on this surprising 1999 Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux. (94). I wish we had some more Louis Latour this afternoon, and you won.t hear me say that too often. The fourth wine of this flight had more vanilla, oak and caramel in the nose; it was very modern but still intoxicating. There was a bruised meat character with great earth and complex black fruits, lemon tea cake and even a drop of honey. Thepalate was spicy, still feminine with good balance; long, silky and acid-laden on the finish (in a subtle and soft way). The 1999 Jadot made up for its initially modern impression quite well (93) The 1999 Potel was corked, although Allen called it off,. not corked, but either way it was a (DQ). The sixth wine in what was to be the longest flight of the night had a pure nose. The t n a were wound and dusty, with nice citrus to go with the mélange of dark fruits and drop of vanilla extract. There were some light traces of cedar, or more like mahogany. The alcohol was a little forward on the palate flavor-wise, and although the palate was not as hot as the others, the flavors of this 1999 Hudelot-Noellat were locked up right now and not allowed any visitors (90). The oak was much more noticeable in the seventh wine, and not in a judicious way but more in a bubble gum, floozy kind of way. The wine seemed like a California ringer. The palate was much better with spiny flavors and gritty t n a on the finish, along with nice mineral, citrus and cedar flavors in this 1999 Cathiard (91). The first sign of green reared its ugly head in the next wine, and it was unpleasant with the weeds and rotten vegetable action. The palate was better but very uninspiring and just a hair above average. Doug said it had premier cru weight,. and it was the 1999 Arnoux (86) . I have to say that of all the wines I had this weekend, there is not one producer who I came out more disappointed with than Robert Arnoux. The following wine had a seductive nose, unique yet shy, with a complex spice rack of a nose cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean and others. There was a touch of sweet caramel to its purplish fruit. There were vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and cedar flavors and very dry tannins to this very good 1999 JJ Confuron (92). Geoffrey picked up on a sea air/salt flavor. in wine #9, and I saw exactly what he was saying. There was kinky, fleshy and edgy fruit there as well, and the palate was long, dry and fine with great violet flavors and tannin expressions. It was at least a head above the rest so far, and it should have been since it was the 1999 (95). The 1999 Leroy, last in this flight, was either an off bottle or an incredibly disappointing wine. The nose was more modern and New World in style, and the palate was unpleasantly oaky and tasted manipulated. It was average at best, and someone said it was more 1999 than RSV (85). Tim threw out the 2001 is better than 1999 gauntlet after this flight, and time will certainly tell.

The 1998s were next. The first wine had intense pitch to its nose you could see why some say good things about 1998. Thee nose was expressive with lots of citrus, wound red fruits, brick, fireplace, rose, mineral and leather aromas. The palate was moderately leathery and spicy and lingered well with nice citrus twists. It certainly had a nice approachability to it but still the tension of the earth, which is what makes 1998 a good vintage to enjoy now. This first wine was the 1998 Drouhin (92). The next wine had a similar expression with its pitch but more jasmine, tea, earth and forest action, with a splash of freshwater. The palate was shut down in the front and middle, but its backside had heat and length, so this 1998 Domaine de l.Arlot could develop (89). The third wine had much more violet and animal aromas, showing a touch of the wild side with a pinch of green. The palate was big and chunky with a spicy, hot, square finish. It was still very good but had a lot of wood flavors without being oaky. Geoffrey noted a stemmy thing. in this Hudelot-Noellat (91+). The next wine had the green part of floral in its nose, as in no buds yet. There was dandelion and grass, but behind that some meat, petrol, mineral and almost sulfur. The palate was decent at best, both one-dimensional and still vegetal. Surprise, surprise, it was the Arnoux (83). The following wine was the wine of this flight, I thought, despite its very shy and shut down nose. The palate, however, was very tasty with brick, cedar, cinnamon and mineral flavors. It was very balanced and had nice length. It was a beautiful wine with its plush, leathery finish, and it was the JJ Confuron (93). The sixth wine of this flight had a great nose with lots going on and a fabulously plummy and rocky dichotomy with beautiful, pure fruit and lovely earth, leather, tobacco and ash aromas as well. The palate was very timid comparatively and overly dry at this stage without as much depthas the nose promised. The finish showed promise, though, for this Jekyll and Hyde 1998, which will most likely be better served by time (90+). Well, the flights were starting to get predictable, and the last wine was Leroy again. The sommelier Paul Roberts, whose discretion was used in the ordering of the flights, said that he felt that he couldn.t serve the and Leroy earlier in the flights as they would mask the following wines, but I disagree. In blind tastings, a random order is always best, and quality always stands out and pretenders will not, no matter what the order. Anyway, the Leroy had a gamy, animalistic nose with lots of garden, earth and forest action. It was a Flash Greendon. of a wine, with lots of brick and acid on the palate, and more green and earth as well (87) . The 1998s on the whole did seem to get softer in the glass more quickly than I expected.

The 1995s were the only flight served out of vintage order, and I am still not sure why. As I mentioned in last week’s reviews, more people seem to be giving up on the 1995 vintage in Burgundy than democracy in Iraq (yes, I’m really proud of that line), and this flight showed a little bit of why that is. The first wine had a stony, briny and alcoholic nose with lots of dust but not a lot of fruit. The palate was one-dimensional and simple with anise and citrus flavors, lacking depth in this 1995 Drouhin (86). A milky nose marked the second wine, which was so distinctive I could pour it on my morning cereal. There was some spice behind it, and more fruit here as well, with earth and leather behind it. There were some chocolate shavings on the palate and a leathery finish, with dry, cedary flavors as well in this 1995 Domaine de l.Arlot (89). The third wine had a stemmy nose with leather and cedar (sensing a trend?). The palate was the same, dry and citric and lacking excitement, but this 1995 Jadot was still above average (88). The next wine had more vanilla, wood, cola, anise, rust and good t n a in its nose. The palate had spine and rusty and citric flavors with good intensity and balanced fruit, balanced at least by this vintage’s standards. The palate got very mentholy and pepperminty, but it was still very good in this 1995 Hudelot-Noellat (91). We passed the halfway point in this flight of eight with the next wine, which had a pleasant nose with some cinnamon, firewood, rust, cedar, minerals and that dry citric edge that is in almost every wine from this vintage. Indeed, the vintage came through more than the terroir in this flight. The palate was very one-dimensional with oak and leather flavors and no depth or concentration beyond that, and it was the 1995 JJ Confuron, which was quickly establishing itself as a hit or miss wine each vintage (85). Ben j oked that the next wine must be Ramonet with all the spearmint and menthol,. which I saw along with anise, leather and earth of course. There were rust and cinnamon flavors on the palate, along with lots of mint and cedar finally a decent Arnoux (90), and it is ironically the vintage where most other wines were not as good. That could not be said for the seventh wine of the flight, whose nose actually had fruit! There was dusty, cherry fruit with lighter leather and earth, as well as sweet tobacco and a splash of cocoa powder and milk. The palate was stony and spiny with a leathery and cedary intensity consistent with the vintage. This bottle of 1995 was certainly the best of the flight and rock solid (93). The last wine had a better nose versus the rest of the flight as well, with violets, plums, and dark soda. The palate was ok but not great with herbal notes of citrus and leather. There was not a lot of length or drive here, and the palate was very mentholy, but the wine was good&for $100 a bottle or less maybe! Those who know prices know that is not the case for the 1995 Leroy (90). In sum, someone said that this flight was marked by dried, tannic finishes that make me suspicious whether they will ever come into balance..

The first wine of the following flight motivated me to write Yes, 1996 is in the house.. One of the cleanest and highest acid vintages of all time was at the plate, ready to take its swings in this home run derby of wine. The first wine had the racy, screechy and spiny nose that is so indicative of the vintage, with lots of tannins and alcohol and a wound personality. The citrus, leather and cedar were there, with great acid, of course, enough to keep one’s interest piqued. There were stony and cherry flavors in this very good 1996 Domaine de l.Arlot (92). The next wine had a great nose of crushed cherry and red fruits, stones, acid and alcohol, with nice citrus and anise as well. The palate was surprisingly one-dimensional, lacking acid, length and depth, however, in this 1996 Drouhin (87). The third wine in this flight had a horsy nose with the earth, shit, and shit in the earth too. There were traces of carob, but the flavors were sweaty with lots of earth and animal, and as a result the 1996 Cathiard was not my cup of tea, so to speak (87). The next wine had a pretty nose with gorgeous, sexy fruit perfectly balanced between its cherry and citrus components, with nice supporting aromas of stones, minerals, herbs and cigar. The palate was very citrusy and a bit too tangy, with earth, unsweetened BBQ and mesquite flavors. It was a tale of two wines, written by the 1996 Hudelot-Noellat (90+). A nice yet very shy nose characterized the following wine, which had some rose, citrus, polished t n a, minerals and ice palace to its nose. The palate was full of stems, iron and rose with nice length. The 1996 Jadot was a pretty wine (93). The 1996 Arnoux was a touch horsy in the nose, make that more than a touch with the shit, earth and hay in there. Maye I should use merde. it sounds so much more distinguished, non? Anyway the palate was much better with deep, plummy, purple fruit and a nice finish, delicate yet meaty (91). The next wine was very wound up in the nose with lots of dust, earth, positive cardboard, minerals and coffee grinds with the filter (wet paper). There was also tobacco, rose and leaf. The palate was simple and easy shut down? There were citrus and cedar flavors, but no oomph in this 1996 JJ Confuron (89). It was at this stage that I had a quick chat with Ed about how I was a little disappointed with the 1996 vintage here so far, to which he replied, Yeah, but look at the producers we are dealing with,. to which I agreed that Romanee St. Vivant did not have as many great winemakers playing with its grapes. The next wine, almost on cue, was corked. It was the 1996 Dominique Laurent (DQ). The next wine was obviously the 1996 , as I wrote here we go again with a and Leroy finale.. The nose was full of iron, stems, menthol, rose and cedar. The palate was long and dusty, fine with long acids. It was still shut down a bit on its dusty and minerally palate (93+). The 1996 Leroy made up for the disasters of 1999, 1998 and 1995 quickly. It had a nice nose with meaty, cigar-laced fruit. There were additional aromas of plum, raspberry, blackberry, currant, red meat, smoke, toast, cream and carob. The palate was rich and fleshy actual wine here,. I wrote (94).

It was on to the 1993s, the vintage of the decade for many at the moment, and after tasting 44 of the 76 wines on tap for the afternoon, a brief nap might have been in order. This was work! The first wine of the 1993 flight had a nice nose with a great balance between fruit and finish. There was black cherry, pure earth and a drop of sugar. The palate had a lot of 1993 characteristics without the layers, though. There were lots of earth and tannin flavors, and a touch of bothersome cardboard in the 1993 Domaine de l.Arlot (89). The next wine had a sexy, dusty nose with aromas of coffee, red fruit, cedar and earth. The palate had the mild citrus, solid earth and a balanced finish. It was elegant and refined, lighter in body but still very good and Geoffrey’s favorite of the first four wines. It was the 1993 Drouhin (92). The following wine had a minty, mentholy style, with a wintry character and nice flesh to its red strawberry fruit. There was a lot of menthol on the palate with nice length, good earth, sawdust and 2×4 flavors (ask me about that one later). There was flesh and zip here, and it was the 1993 Arnoux (93). Someone remarked that Arnoux’s entire reputation was made off this one vintage. The next wine had a touch more coffee and tea, bread and cake as well, with a drop of A1 it was kinky stuff. The palate was yeasty and funky (a good funky, like play that music white boy). There was plenty of earth and animal on the palate to this 1993 Hudelot-Noellat (90). Brian was disappointed with this wine, and Geoffrey said that the property was not making good wine at the time, but I did not mind it as much. There was more cherry and earth in the nose to the fifth wine, with good tension that carried over to the palate. The palate had a milky, creamy texture and citric peel flavors, although Ben said with food I could see it,. although someone else admired its purity and balance.. It was a very good 1993 JJ Confuron (92). The next wine had anexotic nose with lots of vanilla, barn, hay, meat (bird), light leather, light earth, black cherry and cotton. There were bigger acids here with a long, long finish. I saw a lot more potential here. There were flavors of earth, citrus and dark fruits. It was a touch modern, but I wrote, you know what I don.t care it is expressive!. It was the 1993 Jadot (94). There was pretty cherry fruit and tobacco in the next wine, with some rainwater, almost lavender bath action. The palate had lavender flavors and intense citrus on the finish, but it was a touch too sour but still very good with decent character. It was the 1993 Leroy, which given the reputation of the 1993 Leroys had to be considered a disappointing bottle (90). The last wine was a little horsy and earthy at first but blew off into lots of nice menthol and red cherry fruit. It was very gamy on the palate with good character and game, citrus and earth flavors, although Ed thought it was a touch advanced. It was an excellent 1993 (94).

On to the 1991s. The first wine had rose and wood in its nose, not cedar or mahogany but I couldn.t quite put my finger on it. There was a lot of t n a and varnish in the nose, lending itself to an artificial edge. a close friend of mine called it tutti frutti. fruit, and it was. Simple and easy, the 1991 Domaine de l.Arlot was definitely a 2AM phone call (88). The next bottle was definitely flawed, maderized/cooked, and too bad it was, as it was the 1991 (DQ). The next wine had a nose with tension, stress, agony and joy all there. It was complicated. It had minerals, tannins, alcohol, acid, citrus and rose in the nose. There was a big finish with acid, citrus, pine, earth, leather and band-aids. It was an excellent 1991 JJ Confuron, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the afternoon, although Leroy could lay claim to that as well (93). The next wine had a very shy nose there was not a lot there except style. The palate was straightforward and easy in this 1991 Hudelot-Noellat (89). The last wine of the flight was the only one that Ed liked. It had a complex, chocolaty nose with nice earth and game aromas and flavors. There was a long, meaty finish and a garden of complexity in this 1991 Leroy (92). Ann Colgin noted that you want to drink these wines,. alluding to the fact that many of the younger wines were, well, young and not that drinkable.

The 1990s were next, and it was a disappointing flight. I joked that the 1990s always show worse in Allen’s company and that he scares them since he is not a big fan. The first wine had game, leather and rose in the nose; it was kinder and softer as in maturity. It was fleshy although austere on the palate with lots of earth and interior flavors on the finish. It was the 1990 Drouhin (90). The second wine had nice tannins in the nose, with leather, earth and tobacco as well it was an autumnal nose with some broth and bouillon to match. It was a touch stewed on the palate; smooth, easy yet simple. It was a 1990 Jadot (88). The next wine had figgy fruit in the nose, gamy and mature with tea, broth and earth. The palate was the same very figgy, with an accompanying austere, bitter flavor in this Louis Latour Les Quartres Journaux. (89). The next wine had bouillon in the nose with nice leather and rose to go with its locker room impression. It was an easy palate, but browned and affected with a leathery finish definitely an off bottle of 1990 (DQ). The 1990 Arnoux was also maderized (DQ). The JJ Confuron was better with rose and citrus, brand new leather, spice and earth. The palate was gamy and dusty (90)VINTAGE TASTINGS – Romanee St. Vivant Marathon. Yes my notes were waning, but the show had to go on. The next wine had a horsy, gamy, sweaty nose, but its fruit was red with lots of vitamins and citrus. The palate was better still a bit stewed and gamy for this Hudelot-Noellat (92). The last wine in the 1990 flight was very herbal, with lots of eucalyptus in the nose and awkward wood. The palate was similar and not complex, and it was a disappointing bottle of 1990 Leroy (85).

There were three flights left but mercifully only nine wines. The first 1989 wine had a lovely, pretty nose with red fruits, game, delicate citrus, musk and nice alcohol. The palate, however, was austere with vitamins, plums and must in this 1989 Drouhin (89) . The 1989 had lit match and some bad ass in the nose, but the palate was leathery and dry, sturdy, long and solid (91). The 1989 Leroy had a shy nose and not a lot there but a solid palate with nice citrus flavors and an expressive finish. Geoffrey called it the freshest. (92). The 1988 Arnoux was excellent; lots of vitamins, musk, leather, earth and rose in the nose. The palate was also excellent with citrus, dust, musk and earth; it was a rock solid 1988 (93). The 1988 Leroy was decent but lacking and uninspiring to take further notes at this stage (89). The 1988 Hudelot-Noellat had loads of vitamins, spine, spice and leather and a nice meaty and leathery palate (92). I spoke about the 1988s and 1989s and said I preferred the 1988s, of which every one did not seem to be a fan; in fact, I was slightly crucified by a few. I have always had a soft spot for 1988s despite the abundance of tannins and dry finishes that rub many the wrong way; so be it. The 1988 was corked, by the way (DQ). The flight of 1985s was comprised of Arnoux, Hudelot-Noellat and , and either I had nothing left or the flight sucked probably a combination of the two.


Mugnier Musigny with Burghound & Assorted Extras

Untitled Document

The auction was this past Saturday, and each auction seems to bring out the out. in me the preceding week as the momentum builds towards the auction. It was one of those weeks, where each night had parts one and two, and I over-indulged a bit, finally crashing on Saturday after the auction. a close friend of mine was in town, of course, the only person who can get me out four nights in a row. No drinks this week, I swear!

The week started off Tuesday night at LCB Brasserie (formerly La Cote Basque), where the Wine Workshop kicked off its spring schedule with a near complete vertical of J.F. Mugnier’s Musigny, whose first vintage was 1985. We did not have the 1992 or 1987, and the 1986 was actually Vieilles Vignes, a fact that made a big difference at the end of the night. We had scheduled the event to coincide with the Burghound’s trip to NYC as he passed through on his way to Burgundy. For those of you that don’t know, Allen Meadows (aka the Burghound) has become the country’s, if not the world’s, leading expert on Burgundy over the past few years. His knowledge of the wines, the Domaines, and the people behind them is incredible, and any serious Burgundy collector or drinker should make an effort to subscribe.

Allen started off with a wealth of information to set the stage for the wines of Freddie. Mugnier, who has become one of the most collectible and respected producers in Burgundy over the past decade. Most of this paragraph is paraphrased from Allen, fyi. The vineyard of Musigny is 10.7 hectares (approximately 27 acres) and has three climats.: Les Grands Musigny, Les Petits Musigny (which is 100% owned by Comte de Vogue), and a tiny parcel in La Combe d’Orveaux that is actually Musigny and 100% owned by Jacques Prieur. Mugnier’s village Chambolle comes from regular Combe d’Orveaux fruit. Comte de Vogue is the twenty-foot elephant of the region, owning two-thirds of all property that is officially Musigny. Allen reasoned that Comte de Vogue should make the best Musigny every year because they have the luxury of declassifying sub-standard barrels. Roumier, Jadot, Leroy and Faiveley, who all make one to three barrels every year, have to work with what they have or make nothing at all. Allen cited two recent examples: Faiveley only made a half-barrel (12 and ½ cases) of its 2002 Musigny Allen almost felt guilty sampling it, as one bottle is 00667 of the world’s production, akin to drinking 2000 bottles of a First Growth in one sitting! There are only 40,000 bottles of Musigny made every year on average. Also, Roumier wanted to use a custom-made, oversized barrel for his 2002 Musigny, one about 150% of the size of a standard barrel, but this custom barrel was flawed and lent way to much char in the 02, potentially ruining a great Roumier. He still bottled, however. Mugnier owns 1.3 hectares (2 and ¾ acres), and the average age of the vines on the property is 50 years old. Allen went on to call Musigny one of the top three pieces of dirt in Burgundy, along with La Tache and Romanee Conti. We’re talking high-class cotton, he jested. The history of Mugnier is a short one, at least related to wine. His father was a Parisian banker, but his grandfather and great-grandfather were in the liqueur business and did well for the family. Freddie was an oil engineer until 1984, when he got bit by the wine bug and took a crash course in oenology in Dijon for six months. Six months later, he was getting ready to make his first vintage of Musigny. His holdings include Chambolle village (half of his village wine is declassified 1er and grand crus), Les Fuees, Les Amoreuses, a tiny 0.4 hectares of Bonnes Mares and the aforementioned Musigny. Freddie has always been modest and whip-smart, according to Allen, and will confess to this day that he had no idea what he was doing early on. His earlier vintages tend to be more masculine, and as time went on and Freddie gained more experience and wisdom, his wines became more and more feminine and elegant, like a classy Musigny should be. Early on he experimented with Vielles Vignes. cuvees between 1985 and 1989, which was his last one. Roumier has influenced him to use some stems. Allen made one last point, as he saw drool forming in the corners of all of our lips, which was that Mugnier is not for everyone. I think it is brilliant, but it is a connoisseurs. wine. Wines are designed to come to you, but you have to come to this, where elegance and internal genius can be appreciated.. Mugnier once told him, We don’t need winemakers. Everything we need comes from the vineyards, and all I need to do is not screw it up.. Allen continued to put his own two cents in and say that this culture of celebrating the winemaker is like putting the cart before the horse. Allen is clearly a terroir-ist. and bleeds Burgundy red.

We started with a flight of four wines, 2001 back through 1998. Allen said that Mugnier was his personal favorite when it came to Musigny, and explained further that the problem with Roumier is that he doesn’t make enough! The 2001 Mugnier Musigny was young yet pure, with lots of alcohol in the nose but sweet, crystal-clear fruit to match. There was red and black cherry fruit, musky and kinky spice in the nose, and a close friend of mine was all over its transparency.. The wine did have beautiful clarity in the nose. On the palate, what I call the bitterness of youth. enveloped the wine with its wood, alcohol and mineral components. The fruit was not ready to be fully experienced, although it got saucier in the nose. It will certainly be a great wine, and probably climb the point ladder (93). A close friend of mine was complimenting the approachability and drinkability of the 2000 Mugnier Musigny when Allen shared that Freddie felt his 2000 was better than his 1999, although Allen was careful to make clear that he was unsure whether he agreed. The nose was seductive, noticeably lighter in weight but gorgeously perfumed and elegant. There was some delicate sweetness and a combination of red fruits and sweet spice, along with a touch of leather. The palate was rusty and taut but balanced and long. The wine was still young but much more approachable than the 2001. My friend Don, who has one of the greatest collections of Burgundy in the world, told me recently that when he is in the mood for something young, he usually opens a 2000 (in general, not specifically Mugnier) (92). The 1999 Mugnier Musigny was actually lost in translation in our warehouse, but with only thirty minutes until the event started, we called up Robert Bohr of Cru, seeking an emergency replacement. He had four bottles on hand thankfully, another reason why Cru is the best restaurant in New York City today! The bottle came just in time and was a little unsettled to some due to the quick trip, but the nose was still deep and intense, although one had to dig a little. There was a meaty core with some fig, animaland more pronounced leather wrapped around it, and earth wrapped around the leather. The fruit was more on the black and plummy side. The finish was huge with lots of t n a but shut down on the fruit side. The flavors were vitamin and cola, and while one could not discount the density and length of the wine, it would be a waste to open one for at least another five years (94+). The 1998 Mugnier Musigny has been a personal favorite of Allen’s since release, and a close friend of mine was also right there in his admiration. The nose was divine and had impeccable balance of fruit and spice. The fruit was warm and inviting and had great spice and stone accompanying it. The nose was wound up yet still inviting, in a stage of divine schizophrenia. The flavors were pure – cherry, soda, oat and earth, and the finish was very fine and long (95). Allen chipped in a few comments after flight one. The orchestrated fruit is the brilliance of Musigny with its kaleidoscopic expression and its layered personality, like an onion, as Shrek said. Each sip reveals something else, like each layer of that onionI hate vintage charts look at 1993 and 1998Mugnier uses 25% new oak.. I want to add my own observation about tasting and evaluating young Burgundy: a majority of wines have the potential to score higher, as tasting young Burgundy is more difficult than any other wine, and the great wines often need ten to fifteen years to start to show their fruit. Always keep that in mind. I gave the 1999 a + as I thought it was clear that it would go up in score and had the most potential in this flight, although the same could be said for the 2001.

The next flight was again four wines, from 1997 through 1994. The 1997 Mugnier Musigny was wild and open with meaty and gamy edges. There was a touch of sulfur, animal, and almost milky aromas, with wet stones and minerals to match. The palate was rich and alcoholic, a touch unbalanced with the alcohol, and much denser fruit-wise than any wine in the first flight. Despite its intensity and heavy finish, there was still balance and long, dry tannins (93). I should note that Doug, a reknowned Burgundy aficionado from New York, did not care for it. The 1996 Mugnier Musigny had a shy nose, but was regal at the same time. There were hints of peppermint, dark chocolate, leather, slate and musk. The palate was exquisitely balanced, long and pure-bred. The palate was also shy with its citric tension. The wine showed its beautiful body, but a close friend of mine made the point that the 1997 was better for a 97 than the 1996 was for a wine from 96 (93+). The 1995 Mugnier Musigny, a vintage which more people seem to be giving up on than democracy in Iraq, showed a touch of funk in the nose, again pepperminty a la the 1996, also flirting with cinnamon and eucalyptus. The nose was rusty and leathery in general its layers were certainly of brick origin. The palate was very dry and long with great vitamins, earth, brick and unsweetened sun-dried cherry flavors. Although Freddie claims he blew it. with this vintage and the fact that Allen felt the 1995 is one-dimensional, I found some merit in the wine, and if some fruit ever develops (which does seem unlikely), it could increase in score. I could see why some would find it overly dry (a flaw of the vintage in general it seems) and lacking layers of fruit, but I found it to be very good right now, not turned off by its overly dry personality (something it shares with the 1988 vintage, which I often find myself liking more than others as well) (92). A touch of pungent, leathery fruit marked the 1994 Mugnier Musigny, whose nose was also musky, taut and citric with sprinkles of vitamins, but light overall. The wine was simple on the palate and did not have a lot there it was ok, average at best. Rob remarked that it doesn’t have the Musigny going on.. Stay away from 1994 Burgundies is the JK recommendation, as I have yet to have one I really enjoyed, come to think of it (85). Allen shared some wisdom, of course, noting that this would probably be the least successful flight of the night, since he does not like the 1994 or 1995 that much and has never been as enthused with the 1996 as he has wanted to be. He told us that 1994 was actually shaping up to be the vintage of the century until September arrived, when it started to rain and never stopped. As a result, the phenolic ripeness never occurred. There are 1 in 100 wines that you will actually enjoy. It is my least favorite vintage of the decade.. I knew I hadn’t had a good one! 1995, he continued, was problematic as a lot of people picked too soon due to the hot weather, and there was also rot. The wines were explosive from cask but eighteen months later shut down and have never reopened. The late pickers in 1995 were much more successful, he continued, and the triage (sorting) table was much more important. There was that if it’s really hot, it must be great. stigma with the vintage early on amongst critics, he went on, which sent him off on this tangent about schools of wine criticism. He categorized critics as either adjectivists, which he personally rejects, or structuralists, whom he considers himself, who are more concerned with how the wine is going to age. The balance between acid, tannins and density is what is most important flavors will come later, the same point that a close friend of mine made in Vegas two weeks prior. Great minds think alike! Allen also made the clear distinction that extraction is not a synonym with density. Count me in the middle somewhere, but on that structuralist side if it was an election (I’m saying, I like my adjectives, too!) I do agree with Allen in that there is not enough concern with how wines are going to develop. 99 point ratings are flying all over the place for wines with unproven track records. Wines made in more restrained and elegant styles are under-rated because they don’t hit critics over the head with their extracted ways, more so in Burgundy than any other region. The world’s greatest wines are ones that last thirty years or more and develop, which doesn’t mean a wine can’t be great for its first five or ten years. However, too many people are looking at wine in the here and now. They need to drink more old wine! Back to our regular programmingthe only problem with 1996 was that the crop was superabundant. It was one of the cleanest crops ever, with big, fat berries and high liquid-to-solid ratios. As a result, it was hard to make a dense 1996, but the detail of the wines is incredible. 1997 was a very hot vintage as well, a la 1947 and 1959. There is a big debate over the phenolic ripeness of the vintage, as in whether or not it was achieved since it was too hot, and some wines do have a greenness to them as a result. Allen gave us an example of why hot vintages are not always great: The vine is a living organism, and it will not risk its own life for the sake of its babies (grapes). If overly stressed, the vine will shut down.. He then rattled off every major, great vintage of the 20th century that was not a hot vintage: 1993, 1969, 1961, 1952, 1949, 1945, 1937, 1929, 1921 and I might have missed a few.

The third flight was here, and three wines were there for our evaluation: 1993, 1991 and 1990, a nice trio to evaluate together for any great producer in Burgundy. My note for the 1993 Mugnier Musigny started, Oh baby, as its nose was super-intense, with power and finesse, as well as meat, black fruits, vitamins, minerals, t n a, leather, earth, saddle, musk, spice and animal fur. The palate was great long and chock full of vitamins, taut and wound by comparison to its expressive nose, with a touch of citric tension. The intensity in the nose doesn’t wane and someone called it precise.. (95+) The 1991 Mugnier Musigny had a pure nose with great t n a. It was very penetrating and long with great Asian spice to it. The palate, however, was very tight and unyielding too wound for me at the moment. There was some secondary rose/floral spice that developed in the nose. The palate was long, but very dry, so much so that I am not sure the fruit will ever get there (91). The bottle of 1990 Mugnier Musigny we had was very controversial, and certainly not consistent with the one we had in Vegas a couple weeks prior. a close friend of mine and Rob found it stewed, although others called it delicious.. The nose was shy and removed, with anise, milk, leather and alcohol, and the palate was long and clumsy. Based on the bottle I had two weeks ago, I had to disqualify it (DQ). Time for some Burghound analysis: both Allen and Freddie feel that the 1993 is the best he ever made. 1993 is for Burgundy lovers, while 1990 is for wine lovers.. Why? 1993 is all about terroir, and the wines have a transparency that exists that you cannot find in those from 1990. 1991 is almost a combination of 1993 and 1990, Allen continued, calling the best 1991s better than the best 1990s, because Mother Nature didn’t let one overcrop in 1991. 1991’s biggest problem was that many wines are too austere, something we saw in the Mugnier. Allen also commented, Style is not content, and content is not style, although I can’t recall the context of the comment about content. Say that five times quickly.

There were two flights left, and two wines in each flight, but I will review them all in a final paragraph. The 1989 Mugnier Musigny had a forward, gamy, plummy and minty nose, but its mintiness was more Crest and manufactured than natural with its thick and heavy accents. The nose was a bit wild and crazy with lots of forest floor. The palate was pretty with a light sturdiness, leathery and on the drier side with its mid-to-light finish. It is holding on to being very good and most likely will decline sooner rather than later (90). The 1988 Mugnier Musigny had a milky nose with red fruits, eucalyptus, leather and a touch of rust. The palate was rich with lots of vitamins, citrus and t n a. It was brawny and sturdy but just short of three-dimensional call it two and a half. The palate was rusty and long. a close friend of mine liked it a lot as well (92). The 1986 Mugnier Musigny Vieilles Vignes was extraordinary, especially given the context of the vintage, and it was a perfect example of a wine needing time to be fully and properly evaluated. The nose was amazing and the nose of the night for sure, as it was both youthful and mature heaven scent, if you will. There were intense aromas of rose, vitamin and mineral. The wine was hot, hot, hot as in sexy and not alcohol! The palate was meaty and rich with loads of iron and iodine, leather, earth and spice. The wine was incredibly youthful still with long acids and cinnamon. according to Bob. Allen called it high-toned with clove. and none of the harshness. of the 1986 vintage.. He also explained that Freddie himself confided that he lucked out when he made this wine, as he was still learning the ropes (96). The 1985 Mugnier Musigny was corked. Bummer (DQ). Allen shared that the 1986 was the most interesting aromatically and shows that even in an average vintage that the best terroirs and producers can transcend the vintage.. In sum, he said that despite the evolution of the winemaking style, you can still comment on the fact that it is Musigny. The wines don’t shout, they’re not showy and they are refined.. It was a most enjoyable and educational evening but it wasn’t over. Allen, a close friend of mine, Andy, Rob, Doug and I headed over to Atelier, which is the restaurant in the Ritz Carlton on Central Park South, a restaurant that has a great list of Burgundy and other wines as well. No notes were taken, but wines were consumed, and some pretty special ones at that, so what follows are reflections of the rest of that night. It is tough to remember anything besides the glorious, last bottle there of 1952 Richebourg that we had, which was spectacular. It had everything one could want fabulously complex aromas of saucy, sexy and meaty fruit laced with menthol and minerals. The wine was still incredibly fresh, layered in the nose like one of Allen’s onions. The texture on the palate was incredible: thick, meaty and layered as well. It was a rose garden of a wine the rose garden at Versailles, that is. Incredible, incredible wine (98). We actually started with a 1990 Dujac Clos St. Denis, which was close to outstanding but a little musty and wound. It needed more time, both in the glass and in the bottle. It was very minerally and rocky, but still class in the glass, of course, since it was from one of the top six producers in Burgundy (, Rousseau, Roumier, Vogue, and Jayer are the others, fyi) (94+). We also had a corked 1999 Roumier Musigny (it was also the last bottle) (DQ), and a pair of 1980 ‘s: La Tache Richebourg. We had the La Tache first, which was still fresh, alive and kicking with lots of power and alcohol and a mentholated palate. It was intense and excellent, bordering on outstanding but lacking the depth of fruit I require to give it that badge of honor (94). The Richebourg should have been had first, and while it was still very good, it did not stand up to the power of the La Tache (91). Time for bed.

The next night was dinner at Nobu, courtesy of Big Boy, who treated all of us (including a close friend of mine and Patman) to dinner and Champagne Champagne as in 1961 Krug, 1969 1975 Dom Perignon, and 1985 Krug. All the Champagnes were original bottlings, and unfortunately the mag of 1969 was shot (DQ). The 1975 DP was a little tired as well, perhaps past its prime or just an affected bottle (86). The 1961 Krug was gorgeous, pure, refined and still fresh (94). The same could be said for the 1985, except you had to add the fact that the 85 was massive by comparison, with incredible power and intensity (96+). I look forward to having it another hundred or so times over the next couple of decades. I should also note that Krug Collection (late-released) bottles of 1961 would probably score higher than original releases. The after-party on this night was at Cru, where I tried to get the blind game in motion and put one of my fellow enthusiasts on the spot, since he has been guessing too many wines correctly when we taste blind together. So I plucked a magnum of 1983 Rousseau Chambertin off the list, it was served blind, and what did a close friend of mine guess? Yup, the 1983 Rousseau Chambertin. Ok, I give up. The wine, by the way, was gorgeous, beautifully mature, distinctively Rousseau, gentle and soft, caressing and smooth. It was as if someone poured rose petals into the glass while one was walking barefoot on Holy Land. Who says 1983s can’t be great? The magnum helped, I’m sure, but it was an excellent wine, although at its peak and not layered to be a fifty year wine, I think. Hopefully, I am wrong (93). Andy ended up stumping a close friend of mine by serving him Premier Cru wine. Now why didn’t I think of that? The 1993 Comte Armand Pommard Clos des Epeneaux was big and clumsy, lacking a center although packing a wallop of a finish, laced with too much oak for my taste (86). Andy also pulled out a 1949 Remoissenet Richebourgstrong>, I think, which was mature and tasty in that been chapitalized kind of way, as in maybe I’m Richebourg and maybe I’m 1949 but damned if you will ever know (90). That was it for this night. Tomorrow was the beginning of Doug and Michael’s two-day Romanee St. Vivant extravaganza, but you’ll have to wait until next week to read all about that one.


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