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. 🙂