So you thought I wasn’t going to come back with more notes this week, did you?
Dom Perignon, 12 Angry Men, Auction Lunch and a Holiday Party
This week saw me laying low for a few days in the early part of the week. As the week closed in on yet another weekend, and an auction weekend at that, sobriety seemed like a losing battle, so I began to surrender Thursday night at Caviarteria, with what started as an innocent evening of Dom Perignon.
The venue was Caviarteria, a New York staple which had just moved to Lexington and 72nd street. Since the move was after we scheduled the event, we had to figure out a way to make the space work, which was more like a Cafeteria than the usual, comfortable dinner setting. Since we were celebrating Dom Perignon, I figured let’s throw out the standard dinner format and just make it a cocktail party, with the cocktails being sixteen vintages of Dom Perignon back to 1949. The format worked very well, with everyone having a great time in a relaxed, standup, bar-like setting. It really felt like we were all in some speakeasy, gathered together on a rainy night in a top secret location. Caviarteria was up to the task with a non-stop assortment of 25 different hors d’oeuvres to go with the Champagnes, and we were off and running with the 1996.
The 1996 Dom Perignon had a very fresh nose (of course) full of stones, taut citrus, dust and pinches of anise and minerals. There was an intense, taut center flirting with pungency but not really pungent, more like intensity. Man, do I love the 1996s – the zip, zest and zoom of the vintage are tremendous and better than 1990 in my opinion. Bernard agreed with that opinion, calling the balance and acidity a notch above.. The 1996 had great acidity, and flavors of citrus, anise, bread, stones, minerals and raindrops. There were additional flavors of limestone and seltzer on the finish. Dan picked up on its “straw” flavors, and it got stonier with time. The 1996 had an unmatched verve for the evening (96). The 1995 Dom Perignon had a milder nose by comparison but was still very nice. There was a delicate freshness on the bready side with mild citrus and a quiet calm and balance to the nose. The palate was very stony and a bit more unbalanced by comparison to the 1996 in regard to the bread flavors upfront and alcohol on the finish. The 1995 was more medium-bodied but solid, and it went very well with the smoked trout, which balanced it out on the palate tremendously. The 1995 was very smooth, more ready, approachable and rounder than the 1996. Justin remarked that the 1995 was better balanced. It doesn’t have the stuffing of the 1996, but it’s more my style.. (94) The 1993 Dom Perignon followed and was a bit funky. It lacked the purity of fruit of the 95 and 96, with more earthy, weedy and bready aromas that seemed stale by comparison. There was a little more mature honey as well, but that aroma was secondary. Justin called it really light with a clover bordering on stale bread crumbs.. We concurred that it was funky, but not a good funky, more like a white guy funky. There was no front palate, and the backside was ok but had a touch of musty flavors. There was some structure but it was a one-dimensional wine, and it got disturbingly celeric on the palate (83). The 1990 Dom Perignon had a nose full of white chocolate initially, so much so that finding another descriptor was difficult. Those aromas carried over to the palate, which was also bready, (white) meaty and earthy with some straw and tobacco behind it. Justin thought the bubbles seemed finer. and also mentioned that he thought Champagne was the hardest beverage for which to do tasting notes (95). We followed the 1990 with the 1990 Rose Dom Perignon for comparison. I have never been a big Rose fan, except when they are very old, and the 1990 showed me once again why. The wine was a lot drier on the nose and the palate. It had the Rose, dry cherry and floral edge to the nose but was still bone-chillingly dry. Justin stood up for Roses in general and how much he loved them, although he did concede that they can be a bit treacherous.. A drop of honey squeezed its way onto the palate, but again it was big, forceful and so dry not my style yet, but I respected it. In fifty years, it will indubitably be great (93+).
Bernard started to lick his lips over the fact that we were entering the junction between Champagne and wine, where Champagne starts to morph into more of its wine-like characteristics, and the 1988 Dom Perignon backed up exactly about what he was talking. The 88 had a sexier, muskier nose with forward bread components and a glazed sweetness in a honeyed, toffee style. There was a peanutty side to its musk, Thai style. Given the small age difference between the 1988 and 1990, the 1988 seemed a lot more mature than the 1990. The palate had a great bread, nut and honey three-way happening, which led me to think how a sexy nose should always lead to a three-way on the palate. The palate was actually brawnier than I expected, with a very bready finish. Dan liked its overripe, Bacchanalean fruit.. (94). The 1985 Dom Perignon had a spinier nose than the 1988, with a touch of that honeyed maturity as well as some oat and straw aromas. Nicole observed that there was so much going on in the nose.. The wine was very well-balanced and got breadier in a sweet, cinnamon-raisin way. The body was more medium than full but still had good character although it lacked tertiary depths. This bottle was the first Oenotheque. bottling, DP’s version of RD. (93). The other Oenotheque bottlings were 1983, 1978, 1976, 1966 and 1964. The 1985 Rose Dom Perignon was more approachable than the 1990 and had some warmth and open, sweet fruit, showing some similar characteristics to the regular cuvee and representing the vintage consistently. There was maraschino, honey, glazed donut, grain and stone aromas, and the palate was rich, meaty and round, showing great texture and length. I guess twenty years is what I need to enjoy my Rose Champagnes! (95). The 1983’s Dom Perignon nose was so honeyed and full of crÃ¨me brulee that it gave a sinful impression. There was a touch of seltzer and minerals, but the 1983 was definitely living in plateau city. To me, this vintage signified crossing that bridge that Bernard alluded to earlier. Bernard was impressed with the freshness of the 1983. The palate had a woodsy edge but was still very smooth and caressing, with good seltzer vim to the finish. I concluded, In a great spot right now.. (93)
The 1970’s were next, with 1978, 1976 and 1971 on tap, so to speak. The 1978 Dom Perignon was another nice nose that was classy and more about the bread than the honey. There was a grilled vegetable edge (not in the negative sense), and we got into an eggplant versus zucchini debate. There was a lightly burnt toast edge, and it got a little musky but more perfumed. The 1978 was smooth, lovely and still fresh (91). The 1976 Dom Perignon had the mildest and least expressive nose of the night. Justin chipped in very Chardonnay, and I found a splash of cinnamon. The 1976 was mild, although it did seem younger than its age, although in that young and confused way. The palate was light and yeasty with not a lot of definition. It was good not great, fresh but lacking levels of character (87). The 1971 Dom Perignon was the first bottle with a noticeable gold color, and was the only non-Oenotheque bottling between 1983 and 1964. It has an herbal edge in the beginning that integrated into its complex bread aromas. There was some lime there as well, with some delicious vanilla ice cream soda flavors. The 1971 was great very smooth with mature malted flavors (95).
Now came the oldies: 1966, 1964, 1959 and 1949. Dan noted about the 1966 Dom Perignon , it still has acidity but is Sauternes-like at the same time!. He was absolutely right on with that comment, as I got the honey, musk, apricot and leather with touches of wild herbs and forest. Sabrina pegged this mint/basil thing, and there was a touch of rye as well. It was smooth, supple and delicious, with a golden raisin edge, and a nice lingering quality. Bernard commented that it was so much more wine than Champagne, almost like a White Burgundy. You can see the evolution.. He also explained that on average, Dom Perignon is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, although the 1996 was 50/50 (95). The 1964 Dom Perignon was a touch pinchy and weedy at first, but the bread, butter and honey came and joined the party shortly. No bubbles but great White Burgundy, Bernard insisted. There were citrus, dust and straw edges and a touch of the cat’s meow (pee) that crept out in the glass. It was still excellent, but definitely better a decade prior when it blew me away after being re-released, or perhaps that was just this bottle (94). The 1959 Dom Perignon was severely oxidized and undrinkable (DQ), and the 1949 was a touch oxidized but not as bad as the 1959, more so in that benevolent, British way. Bernard called it vin santo. and there was that fino style to this bottle, which was still drinkable but not perfect. It did have good texture still (90+?).
The idiot that I am, a few of us ended up hopping around downtown to a few different places, drinking vodka until 2:30AM. One fight was thankfully averted that was definitely not my fault, and needless to say that I got off to a slow start Friday.
12 ANGRY MEN
So Friday night we were at Triomphe for the monthly meeting of my only official tasting group, the 12 Angry Men. Without getting into too many details about our ire and rage, I can safely say that it is a bit challenging to keep a group of guys together in a tasting group and maintain a positive experience every month, but so far so good. Despite a lot of behind-the-scenes drama, we have managed to stick together for nine months, including evenings of 1950s Bordeaux, La Mission, the Best Rhone You.ve Ever Had, ABC’s, All Star Italians, Unico, Pre-1961 Bordeaux, La Tache, and this month, which was an Old World vs. New World, double-blind tasting orchestrated by Mike. I will get you all caught up on the previous eight events shortly, I promise! There have been some truly spectacular events, although this month was a little more low-key but as enjoyable as any.
A brief synopsis as to how the group works: Each month someone has to host and take everyone out to dinner, whether it be at a restaurant or in their home. The host picks the theme and sets the table accordingly with the three (or more) bottles that he is bringing, and then everyone else brings a bottle (or two) as well. One little thing the host has veto rights on any BYOB, which has certainly caused a few ruffled feathers. Believe me, it sounds a lot simpler than it ends up being!
So this month, Mike put us up to the test in this double-blind tasting where no one knew what anyone else was bringing except for Mike. Every flight featured at least one wine from each world, and we played lots of guessing games as Mike pulled our puppet strings all night. The games began with two whites. The first white had a very oaky nose that seemed buttery, but the oak was too dominant at first to tell. There was a pinch of mineral and corn and a touch of exotic, artificial flower, and the wine certainly seemed over-manipulated. Ray was the first to call out Cali Chard. The wine had a big palate with a lot of alcohol it was a bruiser of a palate, in fact, considering the streak of alcohol on the finish. Some comments were a little too much wood. and heat on finish.. The wine was a little clumsy and tough to drink, actually. Bob had a tough time getting focus. from the wine. Rob was digging the nose, and the wine did develop some secondary custard aromas. You had to be somewhat impressed with its enormity, but not necessarily with the drinking experience (90). It was the 1994 Peter Michael Point Rouge. Yikes! Maybe drink in the first 3-5 years? The second wine I immediately called out Leflaive and it was, the 1995 Pucelles in fact. It had that signature Leflaive style: a very toasty nose with great kernel, corn, butter and minerals. The wine was gritty and youthful with a long, stylish finish although a bit shy in the middle. There was a whiff of rubber (positive) and the acids were strong, suggesting the wine still needs time to widen out (93+).
The second flight was comprised of three wines. The first was so Nebbiolo the tar, spice, alcohol, leather, roses, earth, old book, tobacco and varnish exploded out of the glass. It was incredibly wound up and complex. The palate was great as well with intense length, structure and acids, and matching flavors to the aromas. It was clear this was a very special wine, and it turned out to be my wine of the night. I guessed Giacosa or Sandrone, and it was the 1985 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva Dom Perignon . Amazing wine (97). The next wine had a Jammy Pinot nose , and if you thought too hard you could see both Old and New World characteristics, but if it was Old World it was certainly a more modern style. A little Kistler-ish, I thought, but it was not. The nose was jammy, smoky and oaky, with gas in the back. as Rob put it. There were also cherry aromas with a touch of vitamin and game, but the fruit is over. as Jim A. put it. The palate lacked depth and was definitely past its prime (87). It was a 1989 Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Olivet Lane. not a bad showing for an 89, I suppose. The third wine Ray quicky and incorrectly guessed Dugat, and the Old or New World debate ensued. The nose had some beefy, woody overtones it was very meaty and intense with a little pinch of barn around the edges. It was certainly intense for a Burgundy alcohol-wise, and Bob accurately assessed that the acidity makes it Old World.. The wine was from Leroy, which made the intensity and alcohol factors make sense, and it was a 1992 Vosne Romanee Les Beauxmonts. For a 1992, it was fabulous, blowing away the weedy memory I had of a 1992 Vogue Musigny the month prior. Ray said that Leroy made great 1992s and that they were all spectacular right now (92)
The third flight was obviously a Bordeaux/Cali Cab flight according to most, although two of the wines were international ringers, including the first. That first wine had a very intense, tangy nose with some BBQ edges, very smoky with some herbs. The nose was meaty in a deli meats way (sparked by a Jim H. analogy) and then Jim A. found it indeed very brisket.. The palate was great with a lot of sweet soy characteristics and good leather, wet earth and semi-sweet chocolate flavors. When someone guessed Spanish. after a dozen erroneous guesses, it all came together as that leathery, meaty, kinky Tempranillo edge became obvious. It was a 1952 Cune Vina Real. Rioja Gran Reserva (94). The second wine struck me as having a Latour. nose the pencil, walnut and meaty black fruits. There was decent cassis there but behind the mineral and slate side. The palate was stony and stalky with a huge finish and lots of length, and all the flavors were stone and slate by then. There was a quick flash of violet on the palate, but that’s about it. I was sure the wine was 66 Latour, but it was 66 Palmer. At least I got the vintage right! It was a wine that still seemed young, especially given its age, but I did not get as much out of it as others (93) The third wine Gorky jumped to the front with aromas of cockroaches, which got some laughs and a lot of I wouldn’t knows.. He explained the memory of going to Thailand and seeing people cook them and eat them on the streets, and this wine reminded him of that smell. Jim A. confirmed the same experience. Yum. I got the sidewalk/cement thing, and there was a lot of brooding complexity behind it. The palate was enormous with mountainous alcoholic fruit, a little too much in that direction. It was a New World wine in an Old World style, I concluded, like an old, classic Cali Cabernet. Some fruit came out, but not a lot; the flavors were so minerally they flirted with musty. I found more must than the mint and eucalyptus. that others found. Well, the wine was 1966 Latour (Ray actually guessed 1970 Latour), and we concluded that it wasn’t the best of bottles. I should have known by that Sotheby’s sticker on the back just kidding, (92+?). The fourth wine in this flight of five was super intense. The nose was very kinky, meaty and chocolaty, with inky, melted black fruits on hot asphalt. There was stony balance to the fruit, like a spine. The flavors were full of chocolate, minerals and meat; the wine was thick and heavy and had to be a great Cali Cab. It reminded me of Pride’s style, and I thought it was a mid 1990’s Pride Reserve Cab. It was 1978 Montelena. Wow! With time, the wine got a little oakier and more herbal in the glass without crossing the line of indecency, showing more of its age (95). The last wine was perplexing it smelled like an old Burgundy, but why would that be in this flight? Chris pegged some old Dr. Brown celery flavors.. I found some nice citric tension, good old strawberry fruit, and Jim A. got some orange peel.. Ray insisted the strawberry component was an artificial one, implying the wine was impure. There was also a little ice cream to the sweet, soft flavors. It has a unique, exotic spice as well. It was the 1975 Musar (92). I was thinking Musar for a second, but never said anything so Ray was all over me with the positive, reinforcing Yeah sures.. I told you it was the 12 Angry Men, right?
Ok, we were halfway there, and three flights remained. We had another Red Bordeaux/Cali flight to work our way through, although the wines seemed much younger by comparison to the previous flight. The first wine had a meaty and inky nose with chunky, melted chocolaty qualities. There was good structure and alcohol behind the fruit. The palate was huge with loads of asphalt flavors, tannins and alcohol the wine was absolutely enormous Gorky agreed there was serious stuffing.. There was a splash of bacon there and great breed and length. It was a great showing for the 1989 La Fleur de Gay (95). The next wine got the bomb. sound from Rob after he took a whiff tough to put into words other than the sound of an explosion being recreated by a human voice box. I found the nose modern, but a little milder than Rob and on the shy side with some plum and red cherry fruit. Bob now exclaimed, These are all monster wines.. I found it more reserved with charcoal flavors, but don’t get me wrong, it was still intense, in a ribs. kind of way. When it was revelaed to be 1999 Pavie, someone who shall remain nameless cried Impostor Bordeaux!. Well, we all know that story already. (93) The next wine had some stink and diaper in the nose, but also some more positive steak and earth with a pinch of barn. The flavors were a little on the medicinal and herbal side, St. Emilion-ish with the wintergreen thing. The wine had very good balance and length, but it was a bit disappointing to find it to be a 1990 Pichon Baron (90?). I was also reminded how poorly a 1989 Pichon Baron showed at our 1989 Blind Bordeaux tasting earlier in the year either off bottles or perhaps some off batches out there? The fourth wine in this flight was a monster, for sure. It had an amazing nose thick, syrupy and meaty; chunky and chocolaty; ink, cassis and ripe blue fruits on both nose and palate supplemented by nice minerals. It was massive on the palate; long, pure and balanced in an elephant in a tutu kind of way. There was great chalk and length to thefinish, and the wine was heavy but maintained its balance all the way through, with great expression by the tannins on the finish. It was the 1995 Pride Reserve Cabernet out of magnum, and Rob said that this wine is always softer out of magnum, something that he could not explain (96+). The fifth wine of this flight had another great cult Cali nose with nice perfume and musk blue fruits again, with more red and purple as well. Great caramel rounded out the wine, which had a palate that was a bit lopsided with the alcohol on the finish. There was some meat and tar there but the wine seemed a little confused on the palate right now, and not as great as when I had it side by side with an 82 Latour a few years back when it stood toe to toe with that wine. There’s always that chance of bottle variation (94). After being assaulted by the Pride and Abreu, the final wine of this flight seemed shy by comparison. The nose was wound with some oak blots. Some thought this was Syrah due to a little bacon and charcoal here. The finish was long, fine and dusty but this wine clearly lacked the stuffing of the previous two (91). When we discovered it was the 1994 Insignia, a few of us agreed that this was a very poor and atypical showing for this wine.
It was this fifth flight where I started to wane a little on my notes. The first wine had an open nose with a mesquite edge and a fields of wheat thing, with great earth and leather. It had a good stink like no comment, and a worstechire (someone teach me how to spell that please) splash. The palate was still intense despite some age with an older, gamy, earthy Provencal palate, and Chateauneuf was suspected by many. Flavors were a bit dirty, and there was still a boatload of alcohol on the palate. It was the 1981 Chateau de Beaucastel (92). Next up was a superb wine that most were convinced was a Guigal La La wine. There was so much menthol, bacon and violety fruit it had to be! The palate was meaty, fine and long with great purity. It was the 1982 Chave Hermitage and a great showing (95). Last up in this flight was the 1982 Grange, which showed itself to be very oaky and creamy with lots of eucalyptus. The wine was not Chris. style, who said that he had never drunk a glass of Grange in his life he has tasted plenty but never found the desire to drink it. The wine had some maple flavors and good length, but it did not show as well as other memories I have of this wine (93).
The last flight I barely took any notes, so here are my recollections. The flight consisted of 1997 Hill of Grace (93), 1998 Hill of Grace (95), 1999 Chave Hermitage (95) and a 2001 Il Borro (93) by the Salvatore Ferragamo family. The Hill of Grace and Chave pairing was sheer genius in retrospective and really bought the HOG’s my respect for the first time. The 1998 was more intense than the 1997, although both had the silky, smooth style and lots of roasted earth flavors (similar to Hermitage), along with vitamins and minerals. The wines were very fine and stylish, although they sucked. to Rob as I suppose they weren’t Big Boy enough for him. The 1999 Chave Hermitage was great again (see last week’s notes), and the 2001 Il Borro actually fit in and held its own in this flight. I can’t tell you a thing about the wine except the Ferragamo family thing. It was about 1AM, and with a 6AM wakeup call for the auction tomorrow, there were no after parties tonight.
SATURDAY AUCTION LUNCH
Every auction we do a lunch where we feature assorted, random wines from the cellars from the sale. Eleven hours after last night’s dinner finished, it was time to start drinking again. For the first time, I decided to take some notes during the lunch.
First up was the 1974 G. Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva, which had a nice nose with good forward fruit (by Italian standards), a little mesquite and intense and pungent leather, earth and smoke aromas. Rob found the palate a little dried out, and he was right. It was on the dry side and probably starting to pass its peak. There was still a load of alcohol on the palate, but the citric flavors were a little too tangy on the finish (91). The 1991 Jean Gros Richebourg had that fabulous Burgundy stink to the nose, with a bacony, Cote-Rotie. edge Rob observed, definitely in that vitamin section of the aroma wheel. Rob then also got an 83 Cheval impression out of the wine due to its wintergreen characteristics. The wine was medium-bodied with a touch of benevolent barnyard on its gamy palate. It was an excellent Burgundy that is probably peaking now (93). The 1998 Rousseau Clos de Beze had something to say as well, showing lots of ripe strawberry fruit on its nose in a surprisingly forward way. There was good musk and spice and decent earth there as well. The wine had good flavors and good balance although those flavors leaned a little on the youthful, earthier side (92). The 1996 Cheval Blanc was a pretty, tasty Cheval that was on the lighter side by Cheval standards with good, fine tannins and a touch of stalk and earth to its palate. There were pinches of wintergreen and nice creamy cherry fruit throughout, with good earth on the finish (90). The 1997 Casanova di Neri Cerretalto Brunello di Montalcino had a great nose with a nice mix of Old and New World just right, in fact. It had a Piedmont edge with its leather and tar, with very meaty, dark fruit and spice. The finish was long and fine (95). The 1985 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva paled by comparison. The nose was mild and light with some tobacco, tar, earth and a pinch of caramel but very light and lacking. The palate had little to no flavor definition despite decent length (87). The 1996 Vogue Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru had a nice, pungent nose with that 1996 intensity and taut, meaty, vitaminy fruit. It was in a good spot right now with excellent balance and length (93). The 1995 Beaucastel Chateauneuf was a monster wine, full of dark black fruits, light pepper, a touch of garrigue, stones and huge alcohol. Drinking the wine was infanticide, and it had way too much alcohol now; it needs time to widen out or about a week in a decanter (93+). The 2001 Behrens & Hitchcock Ode to Picasso. Red was delicious. It was inky, thick, syrupy and chunky on the nose and palate. The wine was a hedonistic Cali Cab-styled wine but still maintained a classy personality and showed some restraint as well (94). The 1998 Araujo Cabernet Eisele Vineyard. was also a nice drink, showing lots of minerals in the nose with sweet fruit of cassis, pencil and exotic nuts. The wine had good fruit for a 1998 with no sign of green and a medium body and style. It’s a great buy to drink now (92). Last on the lunch menu was the 1992 Dominus, which was a little weedy in the nose with a touch of carob, meat, sugar snap peas, cassis and nut. It had grit and dust to the finish and was also very good, but less enjoyable perhaps than the Araujo right now (92).
AUCTION DINNER AT PUBLIC
Ok, it was time for one last hurrah for the weekend, a holiday dinner party that I hosted for the gang at Public, a great scene and restaurant on the Lower East Side in New York. After the auction, I had gotten a 90-minute massage for which I was asleep half the time; otherwise, I would have been dead for dinner. Speaking of dinner, I had kangaroo for the first time tasty little suckers. We kicked it off with three whites before dinner, the 1988 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet, the 1998 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, and the 2002 D.R. Stephens Chardonnay. The Leflaive was another wine in a great spot right now. It had an awesome, honeyed nose with grilled hazelnuts, minerals and bread. The palate was wide and expressive with great corn flavors and minerals and still long acids. The flavors were mature and delicious with some wheat and wax on the finish it probably won’t get any better, but boy is it good now! (94) The 1998 Pahlmeyer had bright citrus aromas with some hay, musk and dust with an easy palate and light citrus and mineral flavors (89). The 2002 D.R. was a fruitier, more tropical expression of Chardonnay with a creamy, rich style still big but only a touch of that brawn of the finish. There were toasty, grainy flavors and a pat of butter (90). A recent barrel sample of Cabernet I had from this Estate in Napa was outstanding, though, so keep an eye out for this property.
Time for some Pinots. I figured Pinots with the Kangaroo, even though I had never had a marsupial before. The 2001 Claude Dugat Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques was a complicated wine. I got some weird fish oil quality at first, but it wasn’t the glass because it was the same glass I had the Leflaive in. Wendy got some tropical fruit edge that I saw as well. The nose was intense with a twist of chemical aromas as well, but it blew off into thick, black cherry and pomegranate fruit with a touch of vitamins and more than a touch of wood. The palate was intense, the finish was huge, and there was big oak without the oaky flavors. Will it ever balance out? (91+) The 1997 Dugat-Py Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques was unfortunately corked (DQ). The 1996 Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques, on the other hand, was a great wine. Any day where one can have two bottles of Rousseau at two different meals and sell $1.5 million worth of wine in between is a good day in my book. The Clos St. Jacques monopole wines are one of the best kept secrets in Burgundy today. The 1996 had a fabulous nose full of taut, cherry fruit and vitamins with great spice, musk and earth. There was a beautiful balance of the fruit and the acids. The wine was great, pure and beautiful (94). The 1996 J. Roty Gevrey Chambertin Fontenys Jim noticed as being more extracted, which I translated also to be not as pure as the Rousseau. It had a big, modern edge with lots of vanilla, and it lacked definition and a centerpoint. It was big yet clumsy and seemed more man-made than natural (85).
We kept things moving with some Bordeaux and a Cali, beginning with a 1998 Clos Dubreuil. This St. Emilion was excellent, with a meaty (I think I was in a carnivorous mood this weekend with all the meaty adjectives) nose, thick with vanilla and aromas of structure deep alcohol and a brooding nature with a sexy, peanutty edge. There was buried alcohol that manifested strongly on the flavor profiles with lots of stone and acid to match. The wine was enormous on the palate. This actually could be an incredible wine one day, but for now let’s just call it excellent with lots of potential (93+). Next up was the 1999 Harlan Maiden, which had a grapy and cassisy nose, much more open in that Las Vegas way with fig, depth and style to its nose. The palate was rich with hot alcohol, sturdy and wound with a fine finish. The wine gained in power in the glass (93). The 2000 Pichon Baron ended this flight with a bang, with its sexy nose that was rich, inky and meaty but still perfumed a concoction, indeed, with rich cassis, chocolate, violet, coffee and blackberry aromas. It had a big, intense palate (94+). What was so interesting about this flight was the homogeneity between the Harlan and the Bordeaux, either a testament to the greatness of Harlan, the modernization of styles in Bordeaux, or a little of both.
Ok, there’s only nine more tasting notes bear with me, will ya? Now it was time for the Aussie/Syrah flight. We transitioned well with a 1998 Greenock Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Roennfeldt Road. that was intense, deep and brooding in the nose despite some flashy, chocolaty fruit. The wine was very meaty with a toffee and buttery rum quality. It had a supercharged palate with big, sweet, meaty fruit and leathery sidebars and a long, long, long finish. Jim caught some black licorice, good n. plenty style.. (95) The 1995 Araujo Syrah Eisele Vineyard was next, and Tim didn’t like it at first, and I could see why. The nose was very angular and wound with hints of alcohol and turpentine with very little signs of fruit. The palate was intense, though, with long charcoal, bacon and pepper flavors and enormous length (95). The 1992 Grange was Penfolds representative this evening and also had an intense nose with eucalyptus, vanilla wood, a touch of mint jelly and Krispy Kreme. The palate was also intense with meaty and earthy flavors and traces of American oak on the finish (94).
We had some throw-ins at the end to keep the party going, including a corked 1997 Delas Hermitage (DQ), a rich and complex 1999 Arrowood Cabernet Reserve Speciale (92+), a grapy, figgy, leathery and alcoholic 1999 Turley Zinfandel Juvenile. (90), as well as a pretty and classic 1996 Vieux Chateau Certan (90), a surprisingly smooth 1996 Smith Haut Lafitte (87) and a dried out and uninspiring 1996 Beausejour Becot (83) well as two more locations and lots of vodka for the rest of the night. I got home at 3:30AM. When will I ever learn?