Best Wines of 2020

This past Fall, I hit a significant milestone – turning 50. My first two observations were that the same workouts keep getting harder, and it takes longer and longer to recover from the previous night lol. Also, my scale refuses to acknowledge or congratulate me quite regularly. I haven’t cut it off yet; we still speak every day. Speaking of every day, I am also still happily married – well, at least three out of four weeks a month 😊. I now have two adult children, and two minors to go, although I should say four to go as they are all still on the payroll, so to speak! I am not sure I am any wiser, but I can say that I am all the richer thanks to a quarter-century of great memories of great wines and great times. This past Fall was certainly extraordinary in this regard, thanks to celebrations on both coasts over the course of a month, a week of which led up to my birthday in New York City. After warming up with a couple of great Wine Workshop events Monday and Tuesday, Wesdnesday saw a group of some of my closest friends and best drinking buddies host an evening of mainly 1971s, which is, of course my vintage. We didn’t always stay on topic, but that can happen with attention span these days. Appropriately, it was chez Big Boy. The gang was all there, Chef Hardy was in the kitchen, and we were ready to celebrate life once again.

The evening had a bit of turbulence taking off, as a magnum of 1971 Salon was a bit advanced, not DQ’d but not perfect. It had nice texture but was soon an afterthought (94A-M).

The first official flight was an oldie and a greatie. I don’t think I’ve ever had close to half a millennium in one flight of wine before. We started with my 1914 Pol Roger. It was Montrachet-like with a nutty and oily mouthfeel. Creamy and honeyed, there were nice wheat flavors to its magnificent texture. This was round and made me want to be Champagne-bound. Richness, roundness and greatness kept appearing in my notes, ‘what a body’ someone remarked. While it had lost all of its fizz, and I have had another bottle or two of this wine this century that hadn’t, there was no doubting its deliciousness and potability at age 107 (97).

The most appropriate wine to follow a 1914 Pol Roger is certainly a 1914 Moet. This was before Moet made Dom Perignon, so all the Dom was still in the Moet. The Moet was a bit grassy, lighter than the Pol Roger but a little fresher to Jetski, and he was right, unusual as that may be lol. It was still round and creamy, ‘so sharp’ per Gentleman Jim, and that was a compliment. There was a lightness and elegance here in an ethereal way, and someone commented on its ‘vitaminy sweetness from dosage.’ There was still enough honey and cream to go around in this ancient wonder (96).

#14) 1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares VV – All I can say about the 1988 Roumier VV is that it remains one of the greatest Burgundies ever made and respectfully request that Roumier makes another, and another, and another. Hands down the wine of the night and thanks to Big Boy for this special treat. ‘Vapor Juice’ according to a very experienced guest, which means it barely exists. For those of you keeping score I would go 99 no question. This was in a perfect spot, its richness, body and length in perfect harmony. Its fruit was rich, its finish was spicy, yet it was still delicate. What a wine!

An original bottle of 1911 Moet followed, and while it was a touch oxidized in the nose, its palate was ‘holy f***’ per Big Boy. It was sugary in an Icee good kind of way, clearly richer than the ’14, with some sasparilla action on its finish. It wasn’t a perfect bottle, but it was still great (97A).

One good 1911 Moet deserves another. This was a later release; in fact, it was released by Moet to celebrate the 100th year of this vintage. When first released, it was sold at auction along with a date with Scarlett Johansson. I’m not sure if the first buyer ever got that date, but I do know that the second buyer insisted if he got that date, Hollywood history might have been a little different lol. There was a ‘bigger finish’ here per Big Boy, and Jetski admired its ‘smokiness.’ There was so much exotic to this bottle – exotic fruits, exotic fireplace. It was clearly the most complex, and most people’s favorite. 110 years old never tasted so good (98).

A couple of DRC Montrachets segued us to the reds, beginning with a 2010 DRC Montrachet, which had a spectacular nose. It had lots of cut, great minerality and a long, elegant and stylish finish. While a bit young, there was no doubting its pedigree. This was hallmark in every sense of the vineyard and vintage, with that extra touch of DRC weight and kink (98).

The 2002 DRC Montrachet was clearly more mature, and some were not sure of its purity. It was nutty and more cloudy, showing more botrytis. While not past its peak, it clearly wasn’t on the fresher side of the daisy. There was a lot of lanolin and game in this still impressive white. It was on the mature side and arguably affected but still outstanding. I think the freshness and verve of the 2010 altered the perception. That’s a real thing and why company is so important (96).

A flight of Monfortino began with a 1971, of course. The 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was a perfect bottle of this wine, ‘as good as it gets’ per Diamonds. It was ceramic and leathery with darker fruits on the black and tar side of things. Its acidity was tremendous, and ‘straw on fire’ came from the crowd. This was a special bottle of Nebbiolo (98).

The 1958 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva was more elegant with redder roses. It had an stylish finish but was still very strong with lots of stony qualities. Leather abounded, and Lady Agah found it hit ‘the sweet spot.’ This was a gorgeous, mature Barolo (95).

The 1937 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva had some VA but also some sex appeal per The Admiral. I couldn’t do it at this stage. Old Barolos get highly risky after age 70, but sometimes still hit it (90A?).

It was Bordeaux’s turn to take a spin around the 1971 vintage with a couple of Pomerols in charge, starting with a magnum of 1971 Trotanoy. It was much fresher that the bottle the night before, but then I wrote fresher wasn’t the right word. The other was much more oaky, while this magnum was rich, creamy and coconutty, more classical in every which way. This was a perfect Trot, with round and tender leathery supplements, along with citrusy ones and a succulent, plummy core (96M).

The 1971 Petrus was ‘the same as last night’s bottle’ (last night was the Wine Workshop’s 1971 Dinner, btw). I couldn’t fish the note out from that, but the Petrus was richer and more decadent than the Trot. Even Jetski was impressed. It is pretty rare that anything similar can top a Petrus, even when owned and run by the same family (97M).

The Rhone took over with a pair of legends, the top wines from the North and South. A 1971 Chave Hermitage was musky and full of animal aromas – sweat, skin, fur and meat. It was rich, hearty and smoky, crackling with fireplace action. This was a tasty wine with a finish full of mesquite flavors. It is always a treat to have an old Chave like this; I rarely see anything older than 1978 (95).

The 1971 Chateau Rayas took the vintage up a notch. Certain years hit slightly differently in the Northern and Southern Rhone, and the Rayas hit almost as hard as it gets. The Admiral admired its ‘delicious’ and ‘jammy’ personality. It was tender and honeyed, balanced in its body and its sweet strawberry and honeyed flavors. Its palate was fresh and so lively, whistling ‘like the Western wind’ whatever that meant. Old Rayases are super rare, and incredible treasures (98).

We finally made our way to Burgundy, where 1971 sits amongst the pantheon of great red vintages, and a vintage whose wines are still singing at full strength right now. You know I had to be born in a great vintage, right 😉 The 1971 Dujac Clos de la Roche is another wine you don’t see every day. It is the third vintage commercially released by the Domaine! While its nose was a little mushroomy at first, certainly a touch funky, its palate was spectacular. There was a savory decadence here to go with prime earthiness and rich fruit. The full mélange of black, red and purple was on display here. Amazing wine (98).

The 1971 Rousseau Clos St. Jacques that followed had a crispy nose, citrusy and honeyed, reflecting like a mirror in a honey crisp way. It had a musky and sexy nose, and it was dusty, dusty, I wrote twice, make that American Dream Dusty for those of you up on your wrestling references! What was most amazing about the Rousseau was its freshness. That citrusy smack carried over to its flavors, and the wine vibrated on the palate. It was another great 1971, completely different in personality (97).

The 1971 Vogue Musigny VV, which can be great, wasn’t the best of bottles. It was darker, deeper and on the blacker side of the fruit spectrum. Someone also commented, ‘this can be exuberant but this is the darker side of this wine.’ The force wasn’t with it (94).

There was only one place to go for a celebration of 1971, and I will give you three clues. D…R…C. And five of them, no less! I love my friends 😊 We started with the DRC Romanee St Vivant, which was a great bottle of this wine. In fact, it was the best bottle of DRC RSV I have ever had. It had a brothy and foresty nose without the usual minty green goodness, though. Its acidity was bright, and the palate stayed brothy and sexy. This was an overachiever of an RSV, and a Wilf Jaeger bottle, that always helps (97).

I didn’t write much about the 1971 DRC Grands Echezeaux, of which I am usually a huge fan. This bottle got lost in the sauce of the RSV and the Richebourg that followed, even though it can often steal the limelight from both. Citrusy was the main takeaway, and while still outstanding, it was the fifth wine in the Fantastic Four (95).

The 1971 DRC Richebourg was smooth and satiny, special and sexy. It was incredibly sensual, long and unfurling in an elegant, playful way. There was more pitch here, hitting a high note previously unachieved by the last two. The Rev admired its ‘expressiveness,’ while I admired its rosy, red fruits and amazing spice (97).

1971 DRC La Tache. My birthday month was a great one if measured by this legendary wine. Two bottles, one magnum and one Jero. In fact, this was the second of three nights in a row with this wine. I think that’s called peaking lol. This was the second bottle of the week, and the best of the two. I’ll get to the magnum and the Jero in the next couple articles, I promise 😊 This bottle was incredibly decadent. Its nose was full of honey, menthol, musk, black fruits and tar. Its acidity was endless and perfect, lingering like a sunset during summer in Europe. Its palate was minty and dripping with cherry and ceramic goodness. This was a perfect bottle of what will always be a perfect wine to me (99).

Hold on there, fella. There was still a 1971 DRC Romanee Conti to be had. It was much deeper and darker, showing a beefier side than the LT. It had more earth and yeast as well. There was a density here unequalled by the La Tache. This was the masculine to the feminine of the LT, and let’s just put me in the ladies camp lol. While thicker and more substantiative, the elegance and grace of the La Tache stole the show, and stole my heart (98).

There were two more wines on this night, one of which I had taken a note, and I am glad I did, as it was a once-in-a-lifetime, perfect bottle of 1947 Petrus. Knowing the cellar where it came from, and how long it had been there, I was extremely excited to have this bottle, and it didn’t disappoint. I had never before had a bottle quite like this and might never again. The signature motor oil of the Right Bank in this vintage, which isn’t always there, was on full display here. The bottle hadn’t been moved in decades btw. There was so much chocolate and cream, oceans of fruit, and a thickness and richness unmatched by any other wine on this incredible night. ‘Sex appeal’ and ‘wow’ came from the crowd. With its kinky fruit and a sexy, stylish finish, this wine was all dressed up with only one place to go: “In my belly!!!” (99+).

The 1950 Cheval Blanc was another spectacular, old Right Bank wine. It was definitely in the 97-98 point territory, but I was no longer taking notes. I don’t recall how I got home, but I do remember there was another dinner the next night. Twice as many people were attending, so we had to do magnums. The celebration would continue!


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