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.

The Greatest Wine Day Ever?

Happy New Year! May 2023 be one of your best and brightest years ever. I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in a new year than an article about arguably the greatest wine day I have ever had. I will let you be the judge. This has been an article over one year in the making. Time flies, and business has been busy, and before you know it, another year is gone. As Confucius once said, ‘the days are long, and the years are short.’ A month or so before my 50th birthday celebrations, The Rev hosted his delayed 60th celebration, one delayed by that pandemic thing. Remember that? Seems surreal at this point, but one of the benefits was giving The Rev more time to procure more incredible bottles, about half of which he provided himself. The other half he got by with a little help from his friends, including Vintage Tasting alumni such as Big Boy, Bad Boy, Hollywood Jef, The Ambassador, Dr. Evil, the Attorney General and JBL. I am pretty sure that a record was set for most points ever awarded in one session by myself. Did we break 5000, it has to be close? Let’s see and let the (recap of the) games begin!!!
There aren’t too many events that begin with a Jeroboam of 1971 DRC La Tache as an aperitif!  Well, here we were, and this Jero delivered a fabulous experience.  It had a deep, dark nose that was a little woodsy but more on the autumnal side with some brick, rust and rose fruit behind it.  It had black fruits but also had menthol and cream to go with its great richness and lots of body.  Its acidity was endless, and the only complaint I might muster was that there was a touch too much forest floor.  Its citricity and brick flavors housed its finish.  It wasn’t the peak of what this wine can deliver, but it was close (98J).

A duo of Champagne took us to the afternoon dinner table, and it was quite the duo being from 1928.  The 1928 Moet was smoky and toasty, full and rich.  While it lost most of its bubbles, there was still a delicious persona with lots of vanilla cream.  It was rich and fleshy with burnt sugar and great caramel flavors on its finish.  Despite no bubbles, it was still so creamy with great oil and honey flavors (95).

A 1928 Roederer was another great aged bottle of Champagne, and while the nose had less vanilla, it was deeper with more citrus.  There were oatmeal flavors with some brown sugar kisses.  More austerity and vim marked the Roederer, along with brighter citrus and a touch of ceramic flavors.  JBL commented that the Roederer was ‘more Pinot driven,’ and he would know!  Big Boy was also in the Roederer camp (96).

A trio of Krugs followed our duo of 1928s, beginning with an apple-y 1976 Krug Collection typical of 1970s Krug.  There was nice soda and seltzer vivacity compared to the ‘28s, and some good earthiness.  The 1976 was balanced and elegant with nice citrus and wheat flavors (95).
The 1961 Krug Collection clearly had more richness and body than the ’76.  There was also that touch of apple, but a touch more meat to go with its great style.  Its wealthy fruit blasted and lasted in the glass (97).

Big Boy immediately said to wait on this superlative 1947 Krug Collection.  As the ’61 took the ’76 to another level of richness, so did the ’47 to the ’61!  While more mature brown sugar kisses, the 1947 was by no means too mature.  There was an incredible smokiness here in this great flavor profile.  There was a unique nuttiness and smokiness to go with the most savory and complex of these three heroes (99).

It was on to white Burgundy, and a pair of DRCs, beginning with a magnum of 1999 DRC Montrachet.  Ok, if you insist lol.  ‘So good,’ I wrote, so rich I continued, along with buttery, smoky and toasty with incredible yellow fruit.  Its palate was a beast with a monster finish to match.  There was so much acidity here, with a searing richness out of magnum.  It was admittedly too young out of magnum, but what proper grand cru white Burgundy wouldn’t be?  Big Boy found it positively ‘fat,’ while the Attorney General said it was ‘like a red wine.’  Someone else seconded my ‘monster’ emotion (97+M).
The 1978 DRC Montrachet that followed brought back so many memories, memories like dinner at Georges V with Bipin, Wolfgang and Aubert probably two decades ago!  Some dinners you never forget.  The ’78 was tropical and fully mature, kinky with its touch of apricot.  There was a honeyed, milky and creamy style to it.  ‘Awesome,’ I wrote, along with ‘so rich, so honeyed.’  While its flavors were mature, its finish was strong and still youthful.  Uni aromas developed in its exotic and complex nose (98).

The next wine was a bit tangy with a sour nose that was milky in the wrong way.  It had vim and a touch of tropicality but was not interesting compared to the others.  There was a bit of a morning mouth finish in this 1959 Bouchard Montrachet.  I have had spectacular old bottles of Bouchard, but this wasn’t one of them (90?).

‘Great nose, great wine’ started my note on the magnum of 1985 Ramonet Montrachet.  This was smoky city, with that kinky, corny and minty Ramonet sweetness.  There was heavy cream to its palate, along with lots of butter – this was a French chef’s dream white lol.  More corn and mint effused out of its tasty palate, and the Ambassador agreed with me on my 98-point rating, although he disagreed with me on the DRC, which he gave 99 points.  I can see him being impressed with the DRC; like the ’99, he is still so young lol (98).

There were two more Montrachets to go, and we were walking this way towards the 2012 DRC Montrachet.  It was so young yet so exotic, with cleavage spilling out of its shirt, pick your own sex lol.  It was long and deep, a bit painfully so, but its showy fruit more than made up for it (96).

There was one of these cooperative 2016 L’Exceptionelle Vendange des Sept Domaines Montrachet that was a collaboration between DRC, Lafon and others due to the tiny crop that year due to inclement weather.  This was a sweet, young baby, and while it had some richness and decadence, it was too young, and one could see the effects of that devastating vintage (95).

The first red served was spectacular and one of the wines of the night.  It was a 1971 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze.  This was so good, singing with its leather, autumn, citrus and rose aromas.  Its spice was catnip to my inner feline, and this exotic potpourri blended into a garden worthy of Versailles.  Its alcohol and acidity seeped and creeped out of its nose, while the palate seconded all emotions in both a rich and elegant way.  There was great mouthfeel and lots of spice to go with light iron on its magical finish (99).

The 1971 Rousseau Chambertin was similar yet lesser in every way, with more autumnal qualities.  At this age, it always comes down to the bottle as much as the wine.  While this bottle was still solid, it was showing a touch older and with less vim than the Beze (95).

A litter of La Taches were next beginning with a near 80 year-old 1942 DRC La Tache.  There was sweetness in its nose, along with a bit of old library.  It was on that ‘shroomy, earthy and foresty floor side, more brown than red, showing its signs of age (93).

The 1943 DRC La Tache was more on the touch oxidized side but still nice.  It was richer with more tomato and weight, better with air but not a better bottle than the 1942 (93A).
The 1959 DRC La Tache was flat-out awesome, heads and shoulders better than the others so far.  It was a perfect bottle, dripping with rose and its oil.  JB admired its ‘juicy’ quality.  It was also saucy, full of juicy red tomatoes to go with its juicy red fruits.  ‘So good,’ appeared over and over again in my notes, and a touch of benevolent cereal.  This was a La Tache firing on all cylinders (99).

There were some questions about volatile acidity in the blind wine that was served next by the Attorney GeneralI liked its sour cherry flavor to go with its long citrus and earth core.  It was dusty and tasty, a bit leathery like an old Italian before tobacco took over.  It might not have been perfect, but it wasn’t a bad bottle either, this 1964 Burlotto Barolo (94).

We got back to our usual programming, and the 1978 DRC La Tache delivered the same level of experience as the 1959.  Big Boy hailed it as ‘the real deal.’  Mint, menthol and spearmint punctuated its permeating nose.  It was rich and almost buttery with tasty caramel and brick flavors.  It had a long, long finish like a long, long time ago but still had plenty of legs left in it.  So complex, so much fruit, so much length and acidity in all the perfect places; this was true greatness (99).

The 1979 DRC La Tache was the second wine that felt out of place.  It was woody and full of celery, which is my least favorite food on the planet for those of you that don’t know lol.  There was good texture, but its flavors were sickly.  I have had much better bottles of 1979 DRC out of large format, I should add, and that’s a whole ‘nother topic (88).

1980 DRC La Tache has always been a pet wine of connoisseurs of this majestic vineyard, and this bottle delivered.  At first, it was a touch shy with its lighter impressions of mint and leather in the nose.  Its palate had great flavors of rust, citrus, strawberry and more leather, and this vintage of La Tache found the perfect harmony between flavor and balance (96).

The 1985 DRC La Tache was smooth with clearly lots of acid and nice, mature autumnal edges.  There were lots of classic characteristics in this vintage, one that is holding onto its outstanding status but just barely, although large formats might disagree (95).

The 1990 DRC La Tache was ‘dirty’ per The Rev and ‘as usual’ per me.  There were chocolate and earth flavors to go with its solid concentration, but as great as it was, it didn’t deliver the knockout experience (96).

The last of our La Taches was nipping on the heels of the ’59 and ’78.  The 1999 DRC La Tache has long been one of my favorites, ever since Aubert told me it might be the greatest vintage ever for the Domaine.  Does he say that every year lol.  This was rich, concentrated, ‘great’ and ‘special.’  It was deep and dark, full of black fruits and forest and would normally be 99 points, but not in this company (98)!
It was time for a refresher, and we had one of the best guests in the world for that, known as ‘JBL’ to his closest friends, although I am not sure how that translates into French.  We were all saying ‘ah oui oui’ when the ex-Domaine 1976 Roederer Cristal Rose came out.  This was a ‘lights out’ bottle, disgorged in 1982, and despite twenty years later, it still had so much freshness.  It was so good and so zippy, possessing light strawberry flavors and a touch of splendid sweetness.  A touch of complex pine needles emerged on its spectacular finish (98).

The 1982 Roederer Cristal Rose magnum had a cinnamon-y nose with a porridge-like richness.  Its acid was screechy and extraordinary, with a ‘wow’ and bigger finish, as it should out of magnum.  The Attorney General found it ‘tight,’ and Big Boy was heralding its ‘pitch and acidity.’  Its ‘cheesy’ quality was admired by another, a good thing for those of us that love cheese (96M).

The Rev was born in 1961, so a bunch of Bordeaux had to happen before the end of the night.  Now seemed like the right time, especially when a magnum of 1961 Haut Brion.  Its nose was the perfect blend of deep purple, chocolate, charcoal and tobacco.  ‘A little too young for you,’ Dr. Evil smiled, but I was more than content with its rich plum and chocolate flavors.  This was creamy, long and wealthy with long acidity.  ‘So good’ appeared in my notes repeatedly (98M).

A bottle of 1961 La Mission Haut Brion usually is a length ahead of the Haut Brion, but this bottle couldn’t keep pace with the magnum.  There was classic band-aid and charcoal, but it softened in the glass sooner than I wanted, but it was still outstanding with decent richness and long acidity that gained back (96).

The 1961 Palmer was our first off-ish bottle.  At this level, for wine #29, I will take it every time – no rating was necessary.  The 1961 Latour was another small hiccup, another soft and plush bottle, and while it wasn’t great, it wasn’t a bad bottle either (95).
The 1961 Petrus was a touch tight, but all its Pomerol goodness expressed itself.  There were clay and ceramic borders to its deep purple fruit.  Rich and decadent with great minerality, this was a superlative bottle of Petrus, so fleshy and a ‘Burgundian style of Petrus’ per one guest (98).

This was now officially wine number 35, and it was all Ponsot, Dujac and Roumier.  I took a break before this flight, and it was tough to focus for a minute, but I managed.  Here is the summary: 
1979 Clos de la Roche 95
1980 Ponsot Clos de la Roche  97
1985 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV 94
1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche  98
1990 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV  94
1990 Dujac Clos de la Roche 95
1991 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV  97
1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares VV  95

A summary paragraph would go a little bit like this.  The ’79 had a milky goodness along with lots of zippy, citrusy fun.  The ’85 disappointed given its reputation, but it had lots of strawberry and earthiness to go with its roundness.  The 1980 was delicious and minty, with its acidity lifting the wine to new heights along with its menthol, red cherry and oil.  This was a superb wine with lots of rust and spine.  The Dujac announced itself on the scene admirably.  The 1985 was rich and saucy with autumnal action and an enticing herbal goodness.  It was fully mature but so good with a lot of how now brown cow action.  The ’90 Ponsot was meaty and yeasty with nice concentration in a softer way, while the ’90 Dujac was not as great as I wanted it to be but still solid.  The ’91 Ponsot took it up a notch, noticeably better than the 1990s, decadent but still elegant with its fruit.  After having a blockbuster ’88 VV within the last year, I ‘just couldn’t do it,’ I wrote, meaning I was hitting my limit.  This wine usually scores near the top of the food chain, but perhaps I was done with ‘young’ wines at this point.  It was wine #42 after all.

I needed a palate refresher, and I could ask for none greater than a magnum of 1961 Dom Perignon Charles and Diana Wedding Cuvee.  This was a come to Jesus wine, and I’m not sure how anyone who attended that wedding didn’t have a religious experience or a baby.  Either or.  This was one of the, if not the, greatest bottle of Champagne I ever had.  It was electric on the palate, bringing the zippedy, doo dah and beautiful day all in one.  It was so young but had such maturity and wisdom to its flavors.  Bready, meaty, oily and long, this was rich, decadent and full of itself, as in its finish and length.  So good as in so great (99M).
There were two more flights, well, technically three, arguably four, but let’s just say I consolidated what I could handle.  The ’61 Wedding Cuvee did me a huge solid, as it resuscitated my palate, and it needed to be for the fantastic four wines that followed.  The first was a 1959 Lafite Rothschild.  It was deep and dark with rich purple fruit and classic pencil, cassis and carob.  This was a rock star bottle of Lafite and the greatest of all-time along with the 1953.  Everyone was in the ‘older is better’ zone, one I agree with more with every passing day lol (99).   

Right on cue came the 1953 Lafite Rothschild.  This was another spectacular bottle, perfect in every way, another ‘holy shit’ wine I eloquently wrote.  There was more caramel in the ’53, and while softer like the vintage, it still had great concentration and unbelievable sweetness.  The two best Lafites showed the best they could be on this magical night (99).

You didn’t think we could complete this night without a bottle of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, did you?  The wine that I once ranked as my #3 bottle of all-time delivered yet again, and it confirmed its previously ordained position (1945 RC is #1, and 1945 Petrus is #2, although a 1947 Petrus late last year has a legitimate claim to a top three slot.  Need to think about it 😊) Back to the 1945 Mouton, half my notes I can’t even read today, but I could read ‘so deep and so insane.’  I could also read my infatuation about its eucalyptus, pine, sage and herbal greatness.  This was a caramel sex machine and the greatest bottle on this greatest day (99+).

There was a 5th bottle in this flight, but I believe it was corked, unfortunately, as it was a 1947 Cheval Blanc.   I can’t quite read my writing again, could have been cooked, whatever it was, it wasn’t on (DQ).

There was one more bottle of Bordeaux to go, and it was one I expected to be a dud, but it was another incredible Pomerol.  While most 1947 Lafleurs would be DQs within seconds, this was a Vandermeulen bottle that had the embossed crest on the label, and I was a believer.  The concentration on the ’47 reminded me of only two other wines, and both ‘47s: Petrus and Cheval.  Its plumminess played with my senses in erotic ways, and its concentration was as intense as any other wine on this night.  This was as hedonistic as wine gets (99).

I know it seems like the 99-point ratings were getting handed out like candy at the end of the night, but believe you me, that’s what happens on the greatest wine day ever!  There was only one wine that could keep me interested at this point, and that was Chateau Rayas.  The legendary trio of ’78, ’89 and ’90 were on call, and the 1978 Rayas delivered another near-perfect experience.  Cherry cola oozed from its sexy nose, and the art of Grenache was on full display with that fleshy decadence and red fruit gamy greatness.  Strawberry, cranberry, lingonberry, if you were a red berry, you were invited to this party, and all the gentlemen in attendance were trying to introduce themselves this late in the evening lol (99).

The 1989 Rayas had a touch of cotton candy and bright acidity (97), while the 1990 Rayas was ‘wow’ concentrated, with loads of cherry and oil (98).
There was one more wine I took a note for, and seven more I didn’t (all Rhones and Port, no disrespect intended), but 52 wines is my limit.  I think I did a pretty good job.  The 1966 Guigal La Mouline seemed like a great place to finish.  The acidity on this bottle was impressive, and the violet and white pepper were dancing with the stars together.  It was another ‘so good’ wine, and at this point I was officially done (98+).

A million thanks to The Rev for this pandemic delayed party.  I am not sure you can ever outdo yourself, but I look forward to you trying for many years to come.  Anyone that wants to try to achieve the greatest wine day ever in 2023, you know where to find me!  Happy 2023!!!!




Escape From New York

Escape From New York

There has been a lot of news about the exodus of people out of New York over the past couple years; heck, I made the move six years ago myself after 44 years in the city. However, I do come back often, and my favorite trip of the year is every summer, when I spend three weeks towards the end of July and early August in the Hamptons. My folks and other extended family live out there, not to mention a very illustrious list of fine and rare wine lovers. But after three weeks in the Hamptons and night after night after night out, not to mention a few days as well, it is always time again to “Escape from New York.” My last three nights there were a pretty good illustration of how it can become very dangerous, and the need for an effective escape plan!

Sunday lunches are usually of the lighter fare, but this was my last Sunday in the Hamptons, so I should have known better. A 2004 Bollinger VVF started us off with that biscuity, bready Blanc de Noirs goodness, with the freshness to go with its weight. I liked its citrus and kumquat fruit action, as well as its salty finish. It stayed fresh while getting gainfully gamey (95+).

A taste of 2008 Raveneau Chablis Les Clos from the night before was also salty, but it was so rich, meaty and ‘bracing.’ There was an ocean of sea breeze blowing in, settling in around a nice yellow core. This was a savory white wine that got richer in the glass despite it being kept overnight in the bottle. I often do that with many wines and find that just recorking and putting back in the fridge does just fine for evaluating over 2-3 days more, sometimes longer. This was a perfect example of that and as good as this wine gets (98).

We had to open at least one white for lunch, and a 2004 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres was a superlative choice. Wow wow wow. ‘Best Coche MP ever?’ I wrote. What a nose, it was smoky and full of gunflint and gunpowder. I also got salt here. Its acidity exploded amongst its flavors if white fruits and honeysuckle goodness. So much acid! Can’t recall a better experience with a Coche MP (98).

It was time to say goodbye to the two glorious whites and say hello to a 2002 Rousseau Chambertin. I must have been enjoying myself as I already can’t read everything I wrote oops. Wine number four is a bit early for that! The Rousseau had a great nose full of lots of earthy and tannin expression, showing off that t ‘n a and that va va voom. Its terroir was crackling in its nose, along with a full spice cabinet extraordinaire. Amazing red cherry tied the whole wine together, and leather snapped on its lengthy finish. There was strength and true grit here. The was the first official orbit of the Gastronaut, who was also enjoying the red, creamy, berry goodness of the Rousseau. Three in a row that hit (98)!

Everyone should aspire to have at least one bottle of Jayer every year, and out came a 1990 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. Yes, please. The voluptuousness of a Jayer wine cannot be understated. The producer that comes closest today is Comte Liger-Belair. There was so much deep purple fruit, with a hint of benevolent mushroom. Its palate was satin city, wealthy and decadent, luscious ad honeyed. Blue fruits came and joined the purple party, and this was so sweet and so fleshy, ‘so pleasing’ per our host. Why not 98 again – well, as good as it was, its finish was completely integrated, perhaps seamless to some, but I always like a little bite at the end. Our host was in the 98-point category, I would attribute his score to his initials, but HR has banned that combination (97).

One good Jayer deserves another, so our host dug deeper into his cellar and pulled out a 1991 G&H Jayer Echezeaux. The ’91 seduced us immediately, one even calling it ‘more exciting,’ although that might have been a bit premature. There was a great spiciness here, along with a saucy personality. There was excellent vim here and more acidity than the 1990. It was stylistically different but tough to say it wasn’t qualitatively equal, but it didn’t keep up over time in the glass. It was high-toned but got sappy compared to the 1990. It was sweeter, with more dried fig and raisin emerging, and the wood was more noticeable in the end. It was ‘grippy’ but didn’t improve, but it was still an extraordinary wine. It just couldn’t keep up with its counterpart (96).

There was one more wine on this magical afternoon, and it was a divine bottle of 1978 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline. There were Coches and Rousseaus and Jayers oh my, but this Guigal was wine of the day. There were all the signatures here – the bacon, the violet, the garrigue, the smoked meats, the menthol, the white pepper – if you ever had any aroma or flavor in a Guigal wine, it was here. There is something transcendental about the first twenty years of La Mouline, whose first vintage was 1966. Not that the younger ones are lesser, but over time those first two decades have hit some legendary high notes over and over again. The 1978 had a body wouldn’t quit, and there was no doubting this was one of the greatest Syrahs ever made (99).

It was time for an Uber. Lunch had run late, and we went straight to dinner. Jetski was hosting, and we were primed and ready. We were welcomed with an aged magnum of MV Krug, estimated to be from the 1980s. While all the “multi-vintage” Krugs, also known as Grande Cuvees, now come with ID numbers to identify the blend of vintages within, for anything significantly old, it is a guessing game. This was a treat, drinking beautifully and a classic, old Krug. This is arguably the best buy in the world of fine and rare Champagne, although now that there are official batches, the older ones are escalating in price now (95).

A 1981 Roederer Cristal was interesting as you don’t see this vintage too often, and perhaps with good reason lol. It was a touch mature and a bit of celery soda to its usual buttery bomb self, but it didn’t quite have the usual definition (93).

It was a Coche kind of day, and out came the 1999 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. It was musky, nutty and smoky, standing out right away. This was a rich and decadent wine, apropos for the vintage, quite buttery on the palate with more signature white smoke flavors. This was a thick and masculine white wine, flexing the strength of 1999 while still maintaining that Cochy sexiness. I was oscillating between 97 and 98 points so settled on (97+).

The 2008 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres that followed was spicy but also milky. This was another butterball of a Coche; the 2008 has long been adored by Coche connoisseurs as a hedonistic vintage for them, and it was a good pairing with the 1999. The ’08 was so honeyed, Winedaddy noted ‘flamboyant and open for business!’ It was quite creamy and ostentatious, and buttery appeared over and over in my notes (96).

A pair of 1991 Red Burgs changed our course, starting with a 1991 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche. There was a lot going on in its nose as it unfolded and found itself in the glass. It was milky and yeasty at first, morphing into nutty with a jasmine spice. Its palate was clean and fresh, opening up into a beefy, bouillon edge with an earthy finish. The earth took over a bit on its finish, overpowering its delicate mintiness (94).

The 1991 Rene Engel Grands Echezeaux also had a touch of milkiness, is this an emerging vintage trait, I wondered. This was much meatier than the Lignier, with a hint of spit on the grill, so to speak. Its finish was long and smooth, quite sensual despite its beefy richness (96).

A trio of two Rousseau vintages came out next, as we put to test the 1990 vs 1993 debate again. The 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze was ferocious; ‘totally nuts’ per one. It had the royal garden trumpeting out of its nose amongst its manicured landscaping, along with a gravy-like goodness that had me licking my lips. Its palate was spicy and earthy, smoky and beefy, but beefy in a bloody way with lots of iron and rust. This was a ‘benchmark’ Rousseau, ‘dynamic’ per the Gastronaut and another exemplary bottle of this legendary wine (99).

The 1990 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze was much more lush with its red fruits and tomato goodness. This was a breadbasket of a wine, including the buttered croissants. Winedaddy noted ‘a touch of vegetal’ and another some ‘mushrooms,’ and while not up to challenge the 1993, the 1990 Beze remained an outstanding Rousseau that’s starting to mature (96).

It is always fun to compare the “regular” Chambertin vs. the Beze, as either one can come out on top any given Sunday. I still don’t understand why the Beze trades 10-15% less; consider it a better buy in general, but yes the label isn’t as pretty lol. The 1990 Rousseau Chambertin also had that maturing vibe, with a bit more jam than the Beze, along with more game. This was a saucy glass of red, with more spine, leather and (good) rubber. There was more intensity here on its finish. Chalk up one for the “regular” (97).

There were three wines to go, so I chugged down a glass of water and slapped myself a couple times to get ready for this grand finale. That’s right, it was still Sunday. Out came a 1990 DRC La Tache. I have had my share of legendary bottles of this wine, but there is also a batch of this that is on the “dirty birdie” side, and this was one of those. It was more on that chocolaty, tootsie pop side of things. While still a deep, dark and brooding wine that was rich and dense, the chocolate tootsie pop was the dominant trait. Blood and menthol fought their way out on the finish, but I wanted this wine to hit the heights that the next wine did (95).

The 1991 DRC La Tache delivered quite the show, leaving the confused 1990 in the rear-view mirror. All kinds of spice hit all kinds of treble notes in this vimful and ‘double stuffed’ wine. This was bitey and spiny in a great way, nibbling on my senses surely and with confidence. It was strong, long and ‘ding dong,’ yes, it was that time of the night, I suppose I was trying to rhyme and signify that the ’91 was hitting all the right notes, or a welcome guest, work with me people! This was a zippy and clearly better bottle next to the 1990, and even though it had a bit of chocolate to go with its rosy red and berry black fruits, it was very complementary and subtle. A truly great wine (98).

The 1990 LT sent off a signal that there was trouble in Gotham, but the Batman came to the rescue for DRC and the 1990 vintage with a spectacular bottle of 1990 DRC Romanee Conti! Now this was the alpha 1990 DRC that I remembered, but never quite like this. It is not often I get to taste “RC RC,” and this bottle delivered everything I could possibly ask for. It was deeper and darker than anything day or night. It had this leathery intensity in its nose, a nose that unfurled in spectacular fashion. Its finish was also long and intense, such a strong finish, practically endless! This was clearly a special wine, a mouthful like no other in Burgundy. It was a black hole of greatness, leaving me mesmerized with its rich and honeyed palate. There was a bunch of illegible notes at the end, but one note clearly stood out: ‘ENERGY!!!’ (99).

This was the first of three days in a row, well actually four, but in the interest of getting something published, let’s end it right here and TBC. It was a heck of a Sunday.


Turning 50 Part II

Turning 50 Part II

There were actually six celebrations, arguably seven, when I turned fifty, it was one heckuva week. This evening in particular was also noteworthy. It was a dinner of only magnums, and 24 of New York City’s finest collectors, most of whom were already friends before (and certainly friends after), all came together to share many toasts throughout the night of their favorite tipples. By the end of the night, I was feeling fuzzy, slightly warm and definitely tipsy.

We started with a trio of Champagnes, the first being a perfect magnum of 1979 Krug Collection. There was great spritz to this long and effervescent Krug, which also had great sweetness of the apple cider variety. There was still the signature cream and butter with a tasty amount of toast on its lingering finish (97M).

A 1971 Dom Perignon took it up a notch, if that was even possible. This was another perfect magnum, perhaps blessed by the birth year glow. It was long and zippy with superb acidity. Bad Boy hailed it ‘a 101-point wine.’ He would know. ‘SUPER’ appeared in my notes on multiple occasions. This was white fruits, white ice and white sugar all combining for a sparkling white wine wonderland (98M).

We dialed it further back with an even older magnum of 1964 Salon. It was another white and wintry Champagne, but it also showed more minerality and white leather chaps. There was cream and sugar in this percolating bubbly, which had a long finish, but it fell a touch short of the sheer pleasure of the Dom P (97M).

The white flight was what dreams are made of. Thankfully, no one had to pinch me, although I was feeling quite punchy after one sip of a unicorn magnum of 2001 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet. Perfect seemed to be the word of the night; here it was again. Its nose was super smoky. This was a rich, creamy and honeyed Chardonnay, showing the botrytis of the 2001 vintage in long, seminal fashion. There was great richness here, but there were more Montrachets to follow (96M).

It is rare when a magnum of Ramonet Montrachet finishes “last” in a flight of wine, but it will soon become obvious why the 1999 Ramonet Montrachet did. There was great acidity and power here, as top ‘99s are prone to have, but it was a bit coy. Someone hailed the flight ‘as spectacular a flight of whites as you will see.’ There was a nice, sweet core on the waterfall and mint side in the middle, but it was still shy. It was also definitively long and lifting…to be continued (95+M).

The 1992 Ramonet Montrachet delivered out of magnum as always. This has always been the wine of the vintage in Burgundy, and even more so out of magnum! Its nose was on the sweet side of this tropical vintage, showing lots of rainwater. Its palate had great texture dripping with sticky honey. Its palate was absolutely gorgeous, sweet in all the right spots. There was a harvest full of corn here, and this regal white sat in my belly as it sparkled on its finish. Thank you, Bill (99M).

There was one more Ramonet magnum that followed, a 1986 Ramonet Montrachet magnum. This was another rich and dense white, the most buttery of them all with a citrusy kiss. Its tremendous finish unfolded like a good plot, and it was thick as a brick. It had the longest finish but it was a hair brawny compared to the effortless 1992. That would what we call nitpicking, and some were in the 1986 camp. Ambassadors are not always right (98M).

A duo of Dujacs was next, and the 1996 Dujac Clos de la Roche had the difficult position of following that extraordinary flight of whites. It answered the bell admirably. This was a classic 1996, screechy and with vibrant acidity. There was great musk here along with mint and leather, and a lot of backside in this large and stylish red (95+M).

The 1993 Dujac Clos de la Roche had great fruit for a 1993, with a wet kiss of game. It was purple and dusty with leather, cream and exotic spices. It had the whole spice cabinet, in fact. The Ambassador found it ‘way better than the 1996.’ He is always very opinionated lol (97M).

A trio of Rousseaus was next, and they were all extraordinary. The night was in full throttle mode, and I must confess that I didn’t take many notes for the spectacular magnum of 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. I have written this wine up many times over the years, and it has always been one of the most extraordinary wines from this extraordinary vintage, the Burgundy vintage that Robert Parker trashed when he was still allowed to visit Burgundy, remember that lol. For this magnum, my most telling note was ‘finished it first.’ It’s a true story (98M).

The 1995 Rousseau Chambertin magnum that followed was also quite good, make that really good. It admirably held a candle to the blindingly good 1993 Beze, and it was outstanding stuff. Fresh, creamy and with great red fruits, this mag showed the brightest sides of the 1995 vintage. Rousseau does that for every vintage now, doesn’t it? There was still a lot of stuffing to go with this beauty of a bird (96M).

The 1985 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze magnum, just wow. This wine wasn’t just rich, it was wealthy, at least three generation’s worth lol. The energy here was practically existential, and while it was the oldest and wisest of the flight, it still had this baby fat goodness that made me want to make strange sounds and noises with my lips. Its fruits were darker and blacker, and while it had great development, it was still very young. It was immediately crowned WOTN by many. Thank you Peter (99M).

The 1985 Rousseau Clos St. Jacques that followed was a bit disappointing, or perhaps just a bit outclassed by the Chambertins. It was a little musty but still a pretty wine. It danced in the glass and was quite elegant, but it just didn’t stack up to the three beauties and beasts that preceded it (94M).

This is likely the only time I will ever be able to say that I had 1971 DRC La Tache on three consecutive nights, and this time it was out of magnum, one that I had acquired from The Don RIP. This was the most expensive wine I had ever opened on my own; I figured a 50th birthday was as good an occasion as any to do so! A combination of anticipation and trepidation quickly led to jubilation once my nose was in the glass. ‘Perfection,’ was the first thing I wrote; there I went again! It was so musky and full of spice, with an arousing sensuality. Its sweet, red strawberry fruit played with roses and exotic spices. It was definitely time to dim the lights. There was so much minerality to go with incredible acidity and lift. Even though it was the third time this week, it was a once-in-a-lifetime wine, and the magnum stood heads and shoulders above not only the previous two bottles, but also every other magnum on the night. Thanks JK lol (99+M).

The 1970 DRC La Tache can also be exceptional out of magnum, but this one had no shot after the 1971. It should have been served first. Its nose was on the leaner iron, mesquite and band-aid side of things, and its palate was soft, tender and fleshy. Nice wine, but it was on to Bordeaux (94M).

The first Bordeaux of our sinister six was a magnum of 1959 Haut Brion. It was silky and chocolaty, elegant and sensual, soft and creamy. However, this wine often hits the 98-99 point heights, and this magnum didn’t. It was still outstanding, but it is tough to get truly excited when you have multiple, superior reference points (96M).

The 1953 Haut Brion magnum that followed actually took it up a notch, which isn’t easy for a ’53 to do over a ’59 in general. It was also creamy but more honeyed. This was a rich, perfect 1953. ‘So good and so delicious’ kept appearing in my notes, as did recurring notes of chocolate and cream. If served blind, I might have guessed this to be the ’59. 1953 has always been a giving and pleasing vintage, comparable to 1985 per Bipin, someone drinking them for a lot longer than almost anyone reading this (97M)!

Unfortunately, La Mission Haut Brion took the fall for every other wine on this night. A magnum of 1953 was cooked, and a magnum of 1959 was corked. Ouch!!! But we were feeling no pain, and two Pomerols got us quickly back on track. This was the 1982 Lafleur I had been looking for my whole life! Many adore this wine, but frankly most experiences with it have been disappointing for me. I’m not going to get into the whole 1982 vintage thing, nor the ’82 Right versus Left Bank thing either, because this Lafleur changed the narrative. Another ‘perfect bottle’ made its way into my notes, along with so rich and so decadent. This was a purple, plummy extravaganza, dripping with fruit and exuding class (98M).

There was a magnum of 1970 Petrus, but I was starting to run out of gas. Classic, rich and decadent were all I had left (96M). There was an equally exceptional magnum of 1971 Cantina Mascarello Barolo Riserva, which awoke my senses with its unique Italian sensibilities, along with great citrus, rose and freshness (96M). There was also a mag of 1989 Giacosa Falleto Riserva, but I was officially illegible.

As spectacular as my 50th birthday week was, and the two dinners in particular that I wrote up, there was another birthday event that was even more spectacular, and it wasn’t mine. The Rev turned 60, as unbelievable as that is to those that know him, and his celebration was delayed due to the pandemic. He more than made up for the delay with one of the greatest wine dinners of my entire life...


Turning 50

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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