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.

Vegas Redux, West Side Story II

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I found myself in Las Vegas again the second official weekend in January for a weekend planned months in advance. The weekend started out as a close friend of mine's 12 Angry Men. tasting but also blossomed into a perestroika of sorts, when the following night became big Dave's Burgwhore event, a tasting group from Los Angeles that I have covered in issues past of Vintage Tastings, a group of which a close friend of mine is also a member. Since the event was on the road, both groups got about half their members to attend, making for a nice number of twelve guests the first night and fourteen the next. Playing the role of the Sharks this weekend were 12 Angry Manners: big boy. RR, JJ, Peter, guest Patman, who gobbled up various substances the entire weekend as if they were those dots in that video game, myself of course, and a close friend of mine. Playing the role of the Jets were the Burgwhores and the real. Jef Levy, big Dave, Kvetch. aka Matt, another JJ (Johnny J), guest Rock n Roll Steve, and guest Dee from Utah, joined on the second night by Tom and Tony of the Burgwhores as well. a close friend of mine, as always, had the most complex role, being a member of both the Sharks and the Jets, playing both lead roles in a love story of tragic Shakespearean proportions. It is very difficult to love oneself as well as a close friend of mine is capable when it comes to fine wines.

A few of us gathered together one night early on Thursday: RR, Patman, a close friend of mine and myself. RR and Patman were at the Blackjack tables before I could even get my bags into my room, and after I was able to catch up on the minimum work necessary for me to do and have a good conscious, let's call it three hours, I went downstairs to join them. Now I hate Blackjack, especially after losing $300 in ten minutes the weekend prior when I somehow ended up in the Venetian at 1AM with no poker tables in sight. Yes, I am a poker guy, and as far as my cards are concerned, there is only one game: Texas Hold Em. I quickly convinced RR and Patman to join me at the Poker tables as we waited for a close friend of mine's arrival at around 8PM, right before our reservation at Julian Serrano's Picasso, the very same restaurant that Gil had taken me one week prior to the day. We had the white truffle menu and started off with a couple of bottles of Champagne, of course, which is a close friend of mine's favorite beverage with white Truffles, and I cannot say he is wrong. First up was a 1964 Pol Roger Extra Dry, which a close friend of mine called the classic Pol Roger style lean and muscular, to which Patman quipped, kinda like Rob. Rob replied with a big smile and a gentle rub of his stomach. The nose was on the mature side, possibly past its prime by a couple of years with its nose of sherry, cream soda, lanolin, baked honey, bread and musk. The palate also had the cream soda thing happening, with additional flavors of white chocolate and a lightly slaty and gritty finish. I must admit, the white truffle and egg dish really made the Champagne start to sing, fattened it up and brought out more vanilla, toast and firmness to the finish. It actually brought my score up a couple of points, which food rarely does perhaps the food awakened some of my dormant senses from all the travel and cigarette smoke in the poker room, cigarette smoke to which I was oblivious since I ended up $700. a close friend of mine summed up the Pol Roger as beautiful and still lots of life & another razor sharp 64...(93) Next up was a 1973 Dom Perignon Oenotheque. (i.e., DP's version of a recently disgorged and released bottle of Champagne directly from their cellars). a close friend of mine again quickly set the game in motion, calling it a Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne of a DP. The nose was toasty and chocolaty with lots of earth, a touch of weeds that faded in and out, honey and toast. The bubbly was very fresh with a long, sturdy, fine finish. The acids were amazingly fresh and long. There was a touch of weediness to its flavors at first, but Patman saw more crème brulee... The flavors developed into bread, fresh soda and even a touch of coffee. This weedy flavor bothered me at first, but the food again expanded the wine in the glass as layers of burnt honey and fresh nectarines, (RR) emerged. Pat called it Yquem-like...(95) I had brought a 1983 Rayas for fun, and it had a fabulous nose at first in that way that only Rayas can: classic, with great, ripe, sweet strawberry-rhubarb fruit and great tension between that and the earth, rust, iron and stone aromas. It had that extra edge of Chateauneuf/Provencal spice as well. There was lots of alcohol on the palate in a sadistic, good way. Its flavors were very rusty and earthy with kirsch fruit flavors. Wild herbs came in, prompting Rob to note its medicinal. side. The wine did not hold in the glass for more than 30-45 minutes, however, and started to disintegrate from the inside out. In retrospective, we probably should NOT have decanted this wine, but for that first half-hour it was flirting with an outstanding score, it ended up being excellent flirting with a very good score (93). I had also brought out a 1984 Henschke Hill of Grace, which was incredibly disappointing. The nose was way too American oaky bordering on gross, and the wine tasted sickly and gross, oaky and weedy & yick. I hope that 1984 is a bad vintage in Australia, and that when I do the vertical of HOG in April that we have a much better showingof Henschke's older HOGs. I had to give it the dreaded (NR) score, i.e., Not Recommended. We hit the poker tables again, this time at the Bellagio (we were at the Palms before), and we stepped up to the no limit/high rollers section, where we saw Celine Dion's husband playing the night away at another table. Now there is a guy whose table I want to be at, I thought. Visions of tens of thousands of cash danced in my head as I thought about how I could get over to that table, especially since I was playing well again and up another few hundred when it all came crashing down on one hand where I rode three aces to the grave and lost it all to someone who was obviously a member of the Chinese mafia. It was there that I learned lesson #1 of my weekend in Vegas: play sober.

The next day was busy, busy, busy for me in my hotel room (work-related don.t have such dirty thoughts!), and I did not have time to play as I was still recovering in the fact that I was now down $1000 after being up close to $1500. The night quickly descended upon us, and it was time for an Angry Men celebration at Mix, Alain Ducasse's newest restaurant/nightclub (that's right slash nightclub) atop The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Apparently they put $20 million into the joint, and it showed. The view was spectacular, looking out over Vegas like a lite-brite set for grown-ups. Just a reminder as to how us Angry Men work: each month, one of the members hosts an event at a restaurant or in their home and treats all the guests to dinner. The host also sets the theme and sets the table with three bottles minimum, and then each of the guests are required to bring a bottle as well. One last little detail: the host has veto rights on any bottles that guests want to bring. OK, back to our story. a close friend of mine set the stage with a magnum of the great 1990 Dom Perignon Rose. What a baby/monster/rock star of a Champagne,. my notes started. This bubbly was super-intense, so young. Matt noted, or was he looking at those two girls in the corner? The magnum factor really makes a difference in Champagne as well as wine, and I HIGHLY recommend magnums for collecting and aging in the cellar. The DP Rose was incredibly fresh and wound up like a 100 mph fastball, and the finish was even faster (clocked at an impressive 180 mph by my radar gun of a tongue), and its never-ending acids begged for more cellaring. Sorry, Charlie not this night. This will be an all-time great Champagne, especially out of magnum. It was racy, spiny and fresh on the palate (96).

The first flight was a flight of 1993 Musignys, starting with the 1993 Comte de Vogue Musigny, Vieilles Vignes. The nose was great, wound and intense with rose, vitamin and wood aromas, but not wood like too oaky just to be clear, more like a wood/tannin aroma. There was beautiful, saucy, cherry fruit that poked its head out from behind, still in reserve, and a firm presence of t n a in the nose. On the palate were flavors of vitamins, perfume and leather, all beautiful yet shy, with a touch of animal as well. The nose widened out in a saucy direction, and the finish also expanded. a close friend of mine also noted its woody nature, especially after being compared to the Mugnier later in the flight (95). The 1993 Mugnier Musigny had a more expressive nose, where the freshness of the alcohol jumped out, still integrated underneath the fruit, however. There was a spicy edge to the nose with its crushed red fruits, vitamins and leather, combined with a pinch more game/wild animal fur action. The palate was thicker, with more meat on its bones it seemed than the Vogue, and good grip, earth and leather flavors to the finish. a close friend of mine found the Mugnier the most pure, like a laser beam...(95) The 1993 Roumier Musigny stood out to me by comparison, as the pitch in its nose was much higher than the previous two. There was something brighter and more expressive unfound in the Vogue or Mugnier. There was a lot going on in the nose, a veritable symphony of Burgundian bliss. First off, there was an animal, leather, wood and vitamin quadrafecta (damn I shoulda bet that before dinner!), accompanied by musky fruit aromas of rose, cherry and redcurrants a veritable bright, red fruit salad. It was then that a friend of mine blessed us with his wisest statement of the weekend, Young Burgundy is all about the balance and texture forget about flavors...There was a youthful, interior/varnish quality here as well (a positive), and the finish destroyed, make that defeated in battle as a close friend of mine corrected me, the finish of the first two Mooses. There was massive length and power here, and the nose got more and more complex and had an amazing, exotic quality marked by its stems, which were singing in full chorus. It is the only wine here tonight that uses 100% stems,. a close friend of mine advised (97+).

The second flight featured three wines from 1985, starting with an outstanding 1985 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. It had a warm, sweet, fat nose with edges of animal, vitamin, stewed cherry, musk and a light sprinkle of brown sugar. The tannins and alcohol were fabulously silky, as well as long and penetrating. The nose was as good as its gets at close to age twenty. The palate was great as well, with taut fruit and flavors of game, animal and leather. The finish was long with great earth on it, and a close friend of mine admired the fact that it was so perfumed and balanced... He went on to call Rousseau the Musigny of Gevrey the only one to make perfumed, elegant and stylish Gevrey... (95) The next wine was a 1985 Bouchard Mazis Chambertin, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Madame Collignon. It was supposed to be Leroy, but big Dave didn't read the fine print on the label. The Bouchard was a disappointment. a close friend of mine noted that it was almost New World, it's so extracted... There was a touch of must to the nose but that almost New World. intensity behind that. The nose was heavy and more on the leather, olive and wood side. There was a touch of plum to the fruit in its fat, wide nose, along with vitamins and soy. The wine was brawny on the palate but without spine, as a close friend of mine agreed. It got woodier and woodier with time bordering on sickly, and after a little time it was tolerable at best despite a few deliciouses at the table (85). The third wine of the flight was the 1985 Chezeaux Griotte Chambertin. The nose was kinky, milky and gamy with nice fruit. There was some citric tension and more wild game and spice. The nose was a touch sugary but not overboard. The palate was on the drier side and very large, barely reined in. Some complained of over-extraction. and claimed it was a Parker wine, but I liked it nonetheless and found it to be excellent. a close friend of mine gave it a low 88 points and called it unbalanced but I did not mind its heat, alcohol and spice and found it tasty (93).

On to the 1978s. First up was a 1978 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. The nose was similar to the 1985 as the signature style of Rousseau shined through, but there was more brown sugar and mature sweetness to the fruit, along with the vitamins, game and leather, of course. The nose was musky, meaty, edgy and almost soupy with some bouillon character. However, the palate was extremely acidic and way out of balance in that regard, with lots of citric flavors. Will it ever balance out? I doubt it, as the fruit seemed too mature for the acid levels (90+?). The regular 1978 Rousseau Chambertin was far from regular. The nose was seductive and sweet, silky and gamy with pretty, beautiful, soft and caressing tendencies. There was some brown to the fruit, not negatively, and great earth, hay and musk to go with it. The palate was outstanding, balanced and stony with great citrus flavors. The wine was very tasty, a lip-smacking experience, although Matt found it all stewed tomatoes and acid, the same recipe that got him through junior year of college, I joked a close friend of mine agreed with me and its greatness, however (95). I was perplexed by the bottle of 1978 Henri Jayer Echezeaux we had, finding it lacking the extra depths and greatness that this vintage of Jayer usually delivers. I feel very strongly that the 1978 Jayers are some of the greatest Burgundies ever made, and this did not come close, so I DQ'd it (DQ).

Two jeroboams (three liters for Burgundy) were the grand finale courtesy of Rob and a close friend of mine, and since they were both 1971 wines, I can safely use the word grand... First up was the 1971 La Tache, one of my all-time favorite wines. The nose was incredibly young out of three-liter, so much so that I might have guessed 1990 or 1993 if served blind! It was wound without the t n a part of being wound. The fruit was dark, deep and dank with aromas of vitamins, leather, iron, earth, Asian spice and menthol. The palate was full of peppermint, rose, minerals and slate. The wine was so smooth and polished, with incredible amounts in reserve, most likely that three-liter factor. Looking forward and comparing it to the Romanee-Conti, a close friend of mine observed not as much finish, but so much more fruit right now... The spice on the palate was awesome, and the wine got more and more exotic and pronounced. The 1971 La Tache was incredible again, delivering as always (98). The 1971 Romanee Conti had as incredible a texture as I have ever experienced in a wine this old a close friend of mine noted its seductive tea and beet root qualities. The layers of spice, vanilla, forest and mint were mind-boggling, and the concentration and texture seemed infinitely long, with rich acids lingering like call girls at casinos. a close friend of mine felt the La Tache was more mature, but the RC was the better wine... It was indeed younger, and I saw the potential here for more long-term greatness, but for this night I preferred the La Tache. There was no doubt that the finish, length and acid were superior in the RC, but the flavors of the La Tache were so divine comparatively at this stage (97+).

Oh yeah, there is one tasting note from the after-party at Tabu: 12 bottles of 1989 Krug tasted with consistent notes.

Saturday was the Burgwhores. night, featuring a tremendous assortment of 1990s. Unfortunately, my notes have been misplaced, so I will try to put together a paragraph of observations based on my memories of the evening. We dined at Boa in Caesar.s, whose food was fabulous, by the way. First up was an encore performance of the first Angry Man flight, Musignys from Vogue, Mugnier and Roumier, this time 1990s, of course. There has been much speculation about the 1990 Vogue Musigny and how inconsistent it has been out of bottle and how many less-than-outstanding batches of it are around, but this bottle of it was the best that I have ever had (and a close friend of mine concurred) and showed that this can, indeed, be an outstanding wine. There was a wealth of fruit and length, and it was outstanding. The Mugnier was pure and excellent bordering on outstanding, and the Roumier, although a touch more modern in style than the other two, was also outstanding with a size and weight unmatched by the previous two. The Vogue stole this flight, however. All the wines were served blind, fyi, and the rest of the flights were served Noah's Ark style, two by two. I can.t remember everything, but there were a lot of Leroys for starters. The 1990 Leroy of the night was the Chambertin, which was ironically forgotten to have been served at the dinner (yet opened at the club afterwards) and was the only Leroy that I would call outstanding, although many of the wines bordered on being outstanding as well. The Leroys were typically flirting with modernity and more wood, yet still reined it in just enough to allow one to taste and appreciate the Burgundy in them. Perhaps with time, these giant wines, which can come across a bit brutish, will ascend the point scale and expand even more. All of the Leroy wines were indubitably excellent, and if the fruit can keep up with the tannins and length, they will outlive many of their classmates from this vintage, and other vintages as well, I presume. The RSV and Clos de la Roche stood out a little more than the Latricieres Chambertin. There might have been one or two more. There were four 1990's: Grands Echezeaux, Romanee St. Vivant, Richebourg and La Tache. The first two were solid wines and representative of the Conti style and on the very good/excellent border, the Richebourg a step up of course, and the La Tache was incredible so young, tight and long with just hints and flashes of its greatness, and endless layers of complexity. It had the best length of the night by far and was right there for wine of the night. There was also a fleshy, gamy and chewy Rouget Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux that had sweeter and more expressive fruit than most wines this evening, and as a result it also flirted with an outstanding score; a pretty Dujac Charmes Chambertin that was classic Dujac all the way although lacking the depth of the other three Dujac Grand Crus (in general the other three were not served that night); a disappointing Ponsot Clos de la Roche V.V. (bad bottle as good ones of this are spectacular); and many people's wine of the night, the great, always outstanding and divine, 1990 Rousseau Chambertin. Sorry I lost my notes, but hopefully you will at least get a snapshot of the night. I almost forgot we had two surprises at the end, a head-to-head showing of 1982 vs 1986 Mouton. This night, the 1986 won,not by a knockout, but by a unanimous decision. The 1982 was very closed and could have been a bottle that is lesser than others, but when the bell sounds, you have to jusge what's in the ring.

We headed over to Pure, one of the hottest new clubs in Vegas, where we partied in the VIP section (thanks to Rob) all night long & literally. Tasting notes from that session are strictly off the record.

It was a very spontaneous and special selection of Champagnes sampled this Saturday and Sunday. I hope you enjoy this catalog and these three special collections as much as I have over the years!


The European Grand Jury Tasting, Vegas Style

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My first major event of 2005 was in Las Vegas two weekends ago at Picasso, where wine consultant extraordinaire Gil Lempert-Schwartz assembled an esteemed panel of fifteen wine judges to participate in the European Grand Jury’s three city event, the other cities being Venice and Paris, I believe. Besides Gil and myself, some of the other judges included Larry Stone, Ursula Hermanski, Andrew padbury, Kevin Vogt, Archie McLaren and other distinguished wine professionals whose names elude me as I write this. There were ten producers and thirty wines to be tasted blind from three different vintages: 1985, 1990 and 2001. Each vintage was knowingly tasted separately, and most of the wines were Bordeaux, Chateau Montelena and Sassicaia being the international diplomats. The tasting was conducted under the auspices of a legal entity, in this case a top jurist, who ensured that the order of the wines, as well as identity was not divulged until after the tasting was completed. Results were tabulated and sent to Europe immediately for analysis and final tabulation by the Grand Jury Europeen,. Gil explained, a tabulation which will be released soon to the public. For now, the results from Vegas will have to do. Gil had warmed a few of us up with a wine dinner at Picasso the night before, a dinner that ran a little late, so when we had to be back at Picasso the next day at 11AM, there were a few groggy looks around the table. Once the tasting started, however, everyone got down to business, and the room became deafly silent. At the end of the tasting, everyone turned in their scores (a 100-point rating system was used), and the average scores were compiled. Three hours were allotted for the event, and the earliest that anyone finished was about an hour and forty-five minutes, with it taking me two hours exactly to evaluate, approximately four minutes per wine. I can safely say after the fact that it was a tough crowd when it came to the ratings, and a fascinating exercise as well to see the group’s s average scores versus my own. I look forward to getting the results from the two other cities and updating all of you when I do.

First up was the flight of 1985s. All wines were served in the same order, although people were supposed to begin their flights with different wines. I was supposed to start on wine #8, but that fact eluded me in the introduction, so I tasted in traditional 1-10 order each flight. The first wine had a lighter nose, still with some character of cedar, olives and light alcohol. It definitely gave a Left Bank impression with its pinch to the nose. There was a grape grappa edge trying to push out that was still somehow suppressed. The palate was fairly straightforward and had a touch of heat from the alcohol and mild cedar flavors. There was not a lot of definition beyond that. Although the nose got better, the palate got worse and lost definition. I found the wine to be average it was the Sociando Mallet (84/88.4). My score is followed by the group score, fyi, and remember that none of the wines were revealed to the tasters until after the three flights were tasted by all. I was very surprised that the group scored this wine that highly, to be honest, especially given the average scores of other wines to come! The second wine was much more open and fleshy in the nose, but in a very pungent and animalistic way. It had a meaty edge, a meat with a funky marinade that needed to be cooked quickly (pungent). The animal edge flirted with the root vegetable side but did not eat it, so to speak. The aromas were leathery and dark, and a splash of cement emerged. The palate was rich and fleshy with good plum, olive and earth flavors, with nice texture. There was just a hint of pown to the overall palate, but I liked its unique character and funky personality. In fact, it was my wine of the flight, and it was La Conseillante (93+/84.7). Again, I was stunned to find such a large discrepancy here. To me, this was clearly the most open, ripe and expressive wine of the flight. It had character and was loud where others were shy and quiet. I guess that’s what happens when you ping a New Yorker to a civilized wine tasting. PS I used the half-point here to account for my usual plus + ,. as I felt since average scores were being taken the plus + factor could not be accounted for without the half-point. The third wine from the 1985 vintage had some old wood in the nose and pinches of nut, cedar, mahogany, black fruits and cassis. There was a touch of forest to its nose with its woody and leafy edges. The old wood merged into a little caramel and got better and more complex in the nose. The palate was again simple and straightforward, mild yet classically Left Bank. Flavors of cedar, dust and earth were decent, but the wine left an unexciting impression overall, and its nose hinted at much more than the palate delivered it was Mouton Rothschild (89/90.2). Next up was a wine that was very wound in the nose with more alcohol and anise, although it was subtle and refined as well. The nose left a delicate and fine impression overall. There was a tingle. quality to its spiny nature as some fruit tried to escape, but the palate put the wine right back into the jails of its tannic and alcoholic systems. Although neither its t. nor a. was overtly dominating, those were its standout characteristics on its palate. The balanced and refined qualities were very good despite that fact for this bottle of Latour (90/90.3). The fifth wine had a similar edge to the fourth initially with its alcohol and anise, but there was much more vigor and character here, led by cedar, smoke and slate. The palate was spicier with better definition and length, nice balance and a sneakily long finish. There was good t n a on the palate with cedar, mineral and slate flavors, and nice length. It was an excellent wine and classically Left Bank, Haut pion to be specific (93/89.4). The sixth wine struck me as a cross between #2 and #5 (La Conseillante and Haut pion), with its plummy and stony fruit. There was a ripe sweetness to its plums, with vanilla, anise, and stone supplements, andnice pungency. The wine was actually ripe on the palate but maintained its stony side. There were flavors of earth, unsweetened cocoa powder, cedar and plums, skins and all. There was a shred missing in the middle, but I though that might change in the future for the Ausone (90+/86.5). The lucky seventh wine was a big left turn and seemed Caliesque right off the bat. There was sweet, chunky fruit of sun-dried cassis, caramel, leather and sprinkles of earth, chocolate and stone. The nose was meaty and full of cherry sherry. It seemed a little oxidized, but I still liked it and found while it was perhaps a bottle whose maturity had been accelerated, I could still appreciate and enjoy the wine. Others wrote it off immediately. I enjoyed its reductive. edge and the big t n a on the palate, its cream soda flavors and very dry finish, and so did others in that minority. It was Chateau Montelena (92?/82.5). We were back to Bordeaux with the eighth wine, which had a milder nose and a touch of out-of-place oak. The wine was a little mildewy, to be frank. There were cedar, nut and olives behind that, and the flavors were very nutty, the most so far that day, with a light glaze but not much. The nose and palate was best summed up as eh. for this potentially off bottle of Lafite (83?/88.7). The next wine had a dirty nose with an earthy, soil-like quality. There was plump fruit behind that on the plum and cassis side, but only if you could get behind it, which I could see a lot of people not doing. There was good lingering alcohol, but the palate was a bit offensive in its dirtiness, but the wine still had great structure. It was one of the better overall wines in the flight, I thought, and its finish was most superior, but the flavors in this particular bottle were disturbing, especially since it was another disappointing bottle of 1985 Sassicaia (91+?/83.7). I swear that there are more disappointing bottles of this wine out there than there are good ones. Three questionmarks in a row? Since this was Vegas, I was hoping I might win something for that, but no luck there. The last wine from 1985 had cedar, oak, vanilla, olive, mineral and some steak in its nose, which was impure in its wood qualities. The flavors of old oak were simple and lacking character, uninspiring but decent in an average way. It was Chateau Margaux (84/89.6). Yikes! I was glad to be done with the 1985s, which overall were very disappointing and not in a friendly stage that many of the seconds, thirds and fourths have been. Only Haut Bion, La Conseillante, and the Montelena, despite being slightly oxidized, had that extra level of excellence, although Sassicaia sometimes does but not this time. On to the 90’s

One pass-through on the noses led me to write about 1990, Clearly the superior vintage to 1985.. The first wine had a jump up. in intensity and character right off the bat, with a much more intense peed to its tannins and alcohol. The nose was deep and intense with a hint of sear,. I put. There were great cedar, cassis and plum aromas, which I found to be A+. with pure and clean fruit. It got riper in the glass and pointed in that Caliesque direction, and I was sure it was the same wine as the seventh wine in the last flight, which it was. The palate was meaty and minerally with a long, dry finish for this Chateau Montelena (93/90.9). The second wine had a pinch of wintergreen and more noticeable red fruits mixed in with the black, and a splash of ice cream soda, earth and tobacco. A big worchestshire sauce edge came in that carried over to the palate, with its A1 edge to its steak flavors and lots of cedar and minerals behind it. There was nice, fat, black fruit on the palate for the Sociando Mallet (93/91.2), which showed much better than its 1985 counterpart. The third wine was another excellent one, with a more pungent and gamy nose that reminded me of the second wine in the first flight, which it was. The wine was very fleshy and animalistic, although there was an extra edge of cinnamon complete with roll to go with its funky, forward and fleshy fruit. There was a pinch of olive, too. There was great peed here and rich and meaty fruit on the palate, which took a little more coaxing to hit its stride, but it did and was an incredibly tasty La Conseillante (94/87.2). I thought when the score was revealed later. It was not a Pomerol crowd, for sure. Fortunately, I do not have that problem. The fourth wine was my wine of the flight, and my note started off with the universally accepted Mmmmmm.. The nose was deep and inviting, with great cassis, cedar, mineral and smoke aromas, and great nuts too. There’s a bad joke to be made there, but I digress. The palate was consistent with the nose and had a long, fine finish. This wine was clearly a thoroughped, and the finish exploded in one’s mouth after it went down the hatch, lingering. It was Haut pion (95/90.7), which was quickly asserting itself as wine of the day. 90.7? Come on guys! Tough crowd, tough crowd. The following wine had a sweet, meaty nose that was rich and seductive, full of fatty fruits with plum, mocha, game and nuts. There were olives on the palate and a flash of heat to the finish, which was fine and medium-long. It was a fastball of an Ausone (93+/88.3). Our sixth wine in the 1990 flight was pungent in a different direction, in the green, dirty earth and housecleaner way (sounds delicious, no?) It was intense, but eight out of ten people would find it unpleasant. I saw the peed, but I wasn.t sure I still respected it. The aromas carried over to the palate. The body was pretty, but man was that face rough on this Mouton (88/89.1). Next up was a wine with a classy nose, less opulent but long with a good center of anise, alcohol, plum and minerals. The nose flirted with a cinnamonesque spice, which manifested itself into pure nutmeg on the palate, with a medium body, nice texture and a pleasant minerality to its finish. It wasn.t incredibly complex, but it was still a very good 1990 Sassicaia (90/91.6). Three wines to go, and the first of this last trio was a wine with an exotic edge of citrus fruits merging onto the plum and cassis highway here, with nice, subtle minerals and alcohol. The nuts and cedar started to flex on the palate, which was all cedar and nuts, two-dimensional but very good, but not a heavyweight. It was Chateau Margaux (91/90.8). Time to sell or palate fatigue? The next wine was another shy nose, fine and pure but coy. There were light edges of cedar, leather, mineral, chocolate, tannins, alcohol and smoke. The finsh was very long and dry and continued to sneak up on my palate. There were pure and refined flavors thatwere consistent with the nose in this excellent bottle of 1990 Latour (93/91.6). The final wine of the flight was corked, although one could find traces of cinnamon, cedar, minerals and smoke behind it, but the wine was unpure. The corked quality masked the palate, and normally I would DQ this wine, but since we were obligated to score the wine, I gave this bottle of Lafite (86/89.6). That average made me scratch my head again.

The weekend continued Friday night at Mix, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant/nightclub atop of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay. Yes, it is half nightclub, which Ducasse-ophiles probably have a tough time envisioning. Welcome to Vegas. It was a BYOB magnum affair put together by Gil, and it was a nice lineup of wines to cap off the day. First up was a 2000 Weinbach Gewurztraminer Cuvee Laurence. The nose was exotic, – classic Gewurz and very pure and lacking the aggressive, woodsy edge that can plague many a Gewurz. There was lychee and pineapple with pinches of petrol and citrus. The palate was lush and incredibly sweet, too much so for a non VT wine, and there was also a chalky awkwardness to go with light minerals and slate on the finish. The nose was much better than the palate. I respected it but just did not like it that much (88). The 1996 D.Angerville Volnay Clos des Ducs had a great nose full of those 1996 screechy acids, with lots of minerals and rose petals as well. There were also stones, wound cherry fruit, alcohol and a touch of pick, smoke and firewood. The alcohol and acids were the dominant characteristics in the nose, though make no mistake about it. The palate was pretty, still wound with nice flavors of stones and minerals. The acid kicked in on the length, and its vitaminy and rosy fruit flavors emerged, and what acids, indeed (91). Next up was my 1995 E. Rouget Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux, which was a big wine with lots of meat and alcohol in the nose. There was a touch of sulfur and gas at first, but with some extra swirling, the wine rounded out well. The wine was very intense, with a balance between modern and classic winemaking styles. There were aromas of crushed black and purple fruits, vitamins, minerals, iodine, iron, rose, game and Asian spice. The nose was big, intense and spicy. The palate was very rusty and earthy by comparison, very shy on the fruit but not on the structure and balance. There were long acids and plum and smoke flavors (94). We had a domestic Pinot next, a custom wine bottled for Archie McLaren’s birthday personally by Jim Clendenen. It was a 1990 vintage, and I believe it was from La Bauge au Dessus fruit, but for now we will call it the 1990 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Archie’s Cuvee.. The nose was great with more vanilla, cream and oak spice along with sexy black cherry fruit. There was lots of spice and soda, and the wine almost crosses the oak line but not quite. The palate was rich and spicy with lots of expressive tannins and good grip, but the fruit started to show pown flavors. The wine got more gamy and was definitely flirting with necrophiliac territory and was just holding on (90). The 1998 Ornellaia was a modern left turn with rich vanilla, cream and black fruits, and a touch of yeast and natural gas. There was a distinctive cardboard edge, which is usually a negative, but strangely enough in this case it was a positive, so I adjusted my descriptor to be Christmas day cardboard. There were nice dusty flavors (desert action) to its meaty palate with black fruits, leather and earth. However, this was definitely a wine that was more winemaking than terroir. Blair picked up on sesame.. (93+) We took a trip up to Bordeaux next, starting with the 1985 Haut Bailly. It had a nice nose of cedar, light cassis, nut, meat and carob with an earthy and semi-spicy palate (or was that that damn peppercorn bison actually, it was). The palate was a touch musty, and the Graves factor really came out on the palate. There was tobacco on the finish, but the wine was still short of being very good (88). The 1982 Clos Fourtet also had a nice nose with some meaty, St. Emilion Cab Franc, violety fruit with nice spice and dust, alcohol, earth and plain yogurt. The palate was rich and full of olive flavors, medium rich, with a mid-palate that is lacking a little but still OK. The wine was nice and has definitely entered the fully mature zone (90). The last wine of the weekend for us was a gorgeous magnum of 1974 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a bottle from a case acquired by Sid Cross directly from Robert Mondavi, so we knew the provenance was great! The wine was very fresh with great spice and alcohol up front, along with cedar, pungent fruit, anise, mineral and lots of heat. The palate was meaty but a lot softer than the nose would lead one to believe but still plush, round and smooth with a dusty finish. The Mondavi was a wine that was right Thurr.. (93)


The Top 100+ Wines of the Century aka The Big One

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Fellow Wine Lover,

I wanted to start 2005 off with a bang, so here is my seventeen page opus covering the Top 100+ Wines of the Century event last October. I hope you enjoy reading the notes and that it offers everyone the opportunity to experience the event somewhat themselves.

Writeup of 2006 Event

Writeup of 2005 Event

Writeup of 2004 Event

Acker, Merrall & Condit Presents:

The Top 100/All Star Weekend

An extraordinary Weekend – October 20 to October 22, 2006 in New York City


OCTOBER 20-22ND, 2006

The top wines, tasted with meals at three of New York’s finest restaurants:

Per Se, Daniel and Cru

Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis and are strictly limited

$17,500 per person

Year III is finally upon us, and we have assembled another once-in-a-lifetime assortment of the 20th Century’s finest and rarest wines for a culinary celebration unmatched anywhere in the world. The first two years each sold out so do not hesitate to make your reservation; we will be limited to 35 pours maximum, served from either two bottles or a magnum. Due to popular demand we have limited the actual number of wines a bit this year’s actual total will be somewhere around 85 wines, but the ‘Top 100’ concept remains the same, and we have tried to outdo last year’s selections accordingly! Shared pours are available for an extra $500 per person per meal. Reservations will be accepted on a first come, first served basis and only confirmed upon payment. There will be no refunds for this event unless the event is sold out, and we are able to find a replacement. Wines subject to change, and changes, if any, will be minor.


6:30 Champagne reception, 7pm Sit Down
1976 Salon out of magnums
1996, 1995, 1992, 1990 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne
1993, 1990, 1985 Meo-Camuzet Richebourg
1969, 1966, 1964, 1962 Rousseau Chambertin
1949, 1947, 1945 Calon Segur all out of magnum
1929 Haut Brion, La Mission Haut Brion, Latour, Mouton Rothschild
1971, 1969, 1966 La Mouline
1969, 1967, 1966, 1963 Penfolds Grange
1921 Huet Vouvray


6:30 Champagne reception, 7pm Sit Down
1947 Pommery out of Jeroboam
1985, 1982, 1978, 1970 Montrachet
1993 Drouhin, Mugnier, Roumier and Vogue Musignys
1949 Clos des Lambrays, La Tache (magnum), Rousseau Chambertin (magnum), Vogue Musigny (magnum)
1928 Latour, Montrose, Mouton Rothschild, Palmer
1959, 1955, 1953, 1952 La Mission all out of magnum
1994, 1970, 1968 Vega Sicilia Unico
1998, 1995, 1990 Chave Cuvee Cathelin
1945 Graham’s out of magnum


12 Noon Champagne reception, 12:30pm Sit Down
1959 Dom Perignon ‘Oenoetheque’
1996, 1990, 1989, 1985 Raveneau ‘Les Clos’
1999, 1996, 1993, 1990 La Tache
1959, 1955, 1953, 1952 Romanee Conti
1949, 1948, 1947 Vieux Chateau Certan
1921 Cheval Blanc, L’Eglise Clinet, Lafleur, Petrus all out of magnum
1966, 1964, 1959, 1952 Jaboulet ‘La Chapelle’
1958, 1952, 1947, 1945 G. Conterno ‘Monfortino Riserva’
1959 d’Yquem

$17,500 per person

All the best in 2005 – time to get live!

Tuesday Night Burgundy Dinner at Montrachet

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A recent purchase of a case of 1971 Roumier Bonnes Mares brought together one of the finest cartels of Burgundy collectors known to man this past Tuesday at Montrachet in New York City. I say cartel in good fun, as Doug likes to remind me that it’s only a group of friends.. The lawyer in him knows the difference! There was one unfortunate absence due to a cold, but a friend of one of the group’s filled in, making it six of us, or seven if you count the omnipresent Daniel Johnnes, omnipresent at least when it comes to great Burgundy events.

We warmed up with a couple of interesting whites, a 1993 Roumier Corton Charlemagne and a 1988 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets.. The Roumier was very toasty and perfumed in the nose with good butter, kernel and mineral aromas. The nose was fresh and had light citrus edges, a splash of anise and a healthy dose of vanilla. Daniel brought up the previous evening’s 1993 Marc Colin Montrachet as a fabulous example of the vintage, as Doug was there the prior night as well, proving the age-old adage that there is no such thing as too much Montrachet. The Corton Charlemagne was a pretty wine, round and plateau-ing, with a medium body. Its citrus flavors were starting to sour a little, and there were traces of light minerals and yeast on the finish. With time, its finish got toastier and smokier, and the wine did gain in the glass, flirting with a very good score but ultimately falling a hair short (89). The Ramonet’s nose seemed very mature with a lot of bread and caramel, a pinch of mint and an overall yeasty character. I was remarking how much good luck I have had with the 1988 whites in general as of late, and Doug 2 (there were two Dougs there) concurred, calling many superb.. Unfortunately, this wasn.t one of them! There was a medicinal edge that blended into this wild, waxy and foresty wine. The flavors were much more disjointed, and Ben called it very dry and more apple cider.. The palate was a severe letdown from the nose and showed tart and musty flavors (84).

Next up was a 1995 Roumier Musigny. Ahhhhhhhhh. The nose was very complex as there was a lot happening in it, but it was a little chaotic as it was moving in so many directions at once. There was a (positive) stemmy, stalky and almost bready edge to the wine with a splash of wild cherry liqueur. The wine had gamy tendencies and a pinch of medicine blurring into its olive aromas. There was an exotic and fleshy character that was also stewed with some benevolent vegetable edges. The palate was absolutely fabulous with flavors of bloody mary (see Truly), taut cherry, earth and mineral. The wine was smooth and long with a good, fine finish. The 1995 was delicious at this stage, but I could see its shyness at the same time, that innocence of youth. A lot of iodine came out on the palate in the glass (94). Ben had a funny line that wasn.t related to the Musigny, but I figured I would share it anyway: Owning a vineyard in California’s become like owning an airplane..

We had two wines in the next flight. The first was a very rare 1966 Gouges Nuits St. Georges Les St. Georges.. It had a dark, deep nose full of meaty, gamy fruit, bacon, earth and some back of the barnyard. Jim commented that he felt like I’m out in the forest scampering about being chased down by some truffle-seeking pigs.. It was actually a great analogy! The wine was indubitably dirty and stinky, but many Burg lovers like that. The palate was rich, meaty and long with lots of alcohol and dirt on the finish, a bit too much earth and dirt for me, though. Dwight found just a pinch of maderization that others were less sensitive too (90). The Gouges was accompanied by a gorgeous bottle of 1972 Ponsot Clos de la Roche. Ben started off sharing a comment that was shared with him by the current Ponsot, which was that when the father was making the wine, which he was for 1972, he drank seven bottles of Cremant de Bourgogne a day! Hiccup. The nose showed more youth than age, with the alcohol sneaking to the foreground in a subtle manner, accompanied by beautiful leather and black cherry aromas. The palate was rich and saucy with a touch of Tabasco to its heat. It was a beautiful and sturdy palate, at full maturity but still not fading, holding and with excellence. It had the stems, spice, minerals and a touch of benevolent tomato (93).

We started with a 1978 H. Jayer Vosne Romanee Les Brulees. with two other wines to accompany the entrée. The nose was fabulous and incredibly youthful. Dwight accurately observed how the 78 smelled like Grand Cru but tastes like Premier Cru.. The fruit in the nose was creamy, rich and full of purple and black fruits, vanilla wafer, and white meat, with great earth and a sprinkle of chocolate. The tannins and alcohol were still vigorously buried. The palate was initially meaty, rich and long, far from light. as Dwight said, but I definitely saw the less filling. factor of the Premier Cru sandwiched in between the two Grand Crus. It did not expand in the glass, either, all combining for excellence but short of outstanding (94). The 1971 Roumier Bonnes Mares, the reason we were all together in the first place, finally made an appearance. Doug 2 called it nice and raunchy.. The nose was exotic, gamy, earthy and horsy. There was still sweet fruit there, a brown sugared sweetness. There were also nice rose and vitamin aromas, with a pinch of citric tension. The palate had nice richness, meat and a long, fine finish but was still gamy and horsy and got more confused in the glass. The alcohol held, and the citrus factor crept up the ladder, as did the game. Someone likened it to Macon bacon.. (94) The 1969 Faiveley Musigny had a sugared nose with oat, hay, nutmeg and a gingerbread sweet quality to its fruit, which I found atypical of the rustic 69 vintage. There was also a locker room quality to its nose, yes locker room. Both the nose and palate had a lot of character, but the palate was more about the earth, band-aid, tomato and worchestshire. The wine gained in the glass a little without elevating and started to fade sooner rather than later (91).

At this point, things were starting to digress a bit as the topic started changing to our second favorite topic, but there were still two wines left, the first being a 1953 Leroy La Romanee, a recently re-released one. It was consistent with the bottle I had prior. The nose was sweet and baked, with crushed grape, plum, nut, vanilla, tea and Asian spice. The fruit was mature, and the palate had good leather, was long and fine. There was lots of brown sweetness there (93+). The 1945 Noellat Richebourg was completely maderized (DQ). See you next week.


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