DC winos ring in 2016 with fabulous wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

9 January 2016

Welcome 2016! And a very special holiday dinner.

Like minded wine loving friends from my hometown of Washington D.C. get together to appreciate great wines, simply, with fine food.

It turned out to be almost too fast paced, as we could have taken a bit more time with each of the wines, but the idea was to have a festive time, which was very much the case.

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Fine menu at Ripple

Indeed I look forward to what has become an annual early January event in the past few years when I visit home. Ken Brown takes the initiative to organize our gathering, as we each bring two or three bottles to be paired with a multi course dinner at a fine restaurant.

So once again Ken Brown, Ken Barr, Randy McFarlane, Howard Cooper, Chris Bublitz, David Zimmerman, Paul Marquardt, Karl Kellar, Amy Ray and I started 2016 in style with great wines from many well known French appellations, from the northern Rhone to Champagne.

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Chris Bublitz decanting his Gruaud Larose 1982

For the past few years, we have been enjoying the excellent cuisine of Marjorie Meek Bradley at Ripple, one of the top wine friendly restaurants in the U.S. Her reputation lived up to the quality of the food we enjoyed, see below in the tasting notes, although some food-wine pairings were more successful than others.

As for the wines, alas, a couple of corked bottles – including my Dom Perignon 1996, particularly affected by TCA. But the rest were excellent to fantastic. Scoring seemed somewhat silly. Even sillier trying to pick a “wine of the night” as we tried several top wines from various appellations, hence comparing apples and oranges. So for Rhone lovers, we had a great wine like Jaboulet 1990. For Bordeaux, LMHB 82, for Burgundy a fantastic Richebourg etc.

Wines I liked in particular in bold, if red and bold even more, and when underlined, too, wine nirvana!

Flight One / Excellent white Burgundy, in particular a show stopping 1982

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So fresh and vibrant for a white Burgundy nearly 35 years old

  • 1982 Nicolas Potel Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
    What does a score here mean? Frankly, I could give it a higher number since this is what older Burgundy is all about. Nitpick criticism could be that a higher score would mean a somewhat fuller body? I have no clue. All I know is that this was crisp, fresh, with some lemon/lime aspects as well as a wet stone/earthiness that was not tired whatsoever. And this is nearly 35 years old. Premox? Before that became a problem, for whatever the reason. Thank you Howard Cooper for sharing this: what a way to start a great holiday dinner! (95 pts.)
  • 2010 Domaine Rémi Jobard Meursault 1er Cru Le Poruzot-Dessus – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    I did not take as much time with this as I should have. The aromas were somewhat reductive, a very early stage Burgundy but the palate showed much verve and coiled energy, with juicy citrus and touches of apple. Lovely Chardonnay from Meursault, subtle richness, long finish. Just needs a bit more time in the cellar, I think, to warrant a more pleasurable experience. Also came just after the 1982 Puligny Montrachet, so the contrast was reinforced. Thanks to Ken Brown for this lovely wine. (92 pts.)

Flight Two / Champagne: Would have been a dream if my Dom Perignon was not corked… but Salon saved the day

  • 1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon – France, Champagne
    Corked. Very much so. So sad. It was one bottle I brought to our holiday dinner. NR (flawed)
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The Salon 1996 was amazing, alas the Dom Perignon was badly corked

  • 1996 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    My, my. This was like drinking Montrachet with bubbles. Or at least a top notch Batard Montrachet. Very opulent, yet seashell fresh, maritime weather wine, beckoning oysters with lemon, grilled lobster, or some kind of fresh seafood platter, at a white glove treatment restaurant… It was crisp and precise, with fine bubbles, as it was broad on the palate – and long. As Howard said, we could have just continued to drink this for the rest of the evening … Thanks Paul Marquardt for this most glorious Champagne. Certainly a top five of the wine dinner, if not top three. (97 pts.)

Flight Three / A great pair of northern Rhones from excellent vintages

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Top notch Cote Rotie

  • 1999 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie Côte Brune – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Rather primary, impressive for its age, with some jammy ripe fruit that is never heavy or glossy. Certainly Old World nuances, earthiness but concentrated. With time in glass, gets more elegant but remains quite dense. Full body. Potential for higher score here, and I itched it up to 94+ after initially thinking 93… if you have any, wait another three to five years for a better drinking window. Long finish. (94 pts.)
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At 25 years of age this Hermitage is drinking very well

  • 1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    My first impression was how perfumed this was on the nose. Just gorgeous and complex, with many aromas including provence scents with black olive, incense, dark cooked cherry, plum, dark chocolate. The palate was enveloping, broad yet fresh, full bodied. The (13.9%) alcohol was felt on the finish, which was just slightly drying, but I’m nitpicking. Really delicious wine! Thanks to Karl Kellar for bringing this gorgeous wine, one of the very best of the evening. (95 pts.)

Flight Four / Bordeaux 1970s: a surprisingly amazing Les Forts de Latour 1970, a textbook LLC 1978

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Howard Cooper uses his Durand to open the Haut Brion 1970

  • 1970 Château Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    This particular bottle showed quite a bit of bandaid-brett on the nose initially that was somewhat off putting, but that blew off over time in glass, even though some remained throughout. The palate was better, with a medium body and freshness and smoky tertiary notes typical of Graves leading to a longish finish. Although not as positive an experience that I had had two years ago at our group’s holiday dinner. (90 pts.)
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Darn good Les Forts 1970

  • 1970 Les Forts de Latour – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This was gorgeous. The second wine of Chateau Latour overshadowed the Haut Brion of the same vintage in some sense, although the Haut Brion had a longer finish. What all of us liked so much about this wine was its freshness, precision, balance and full body. It had some cassis still, with telltale cigar box notes. The only limit was a somewhat short finish, but as one taster remarked, it did not taste like a 45 year old wine. Perhaps the most surprising wine of the evening – and a testament to the great chateau that is Latour. Thanks to Ken Barr for bringing it over! (93 pts.)
  • 1978 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Interesting how I kind of preferred Les Forts de Latour 70 to this LLC 78, which I brought. At least on one level. The one thing about the LLC is that its acidity was a bit too high for me, making it less balanced than from a better vintage. However, the foreboding tannin made this wine very young for its nearly 40 year mark. It had loads of pleasing aromas, including cigar box, red fruit, notions of bitter dark chocolate.
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The Durand used to open the fine LLC 1978

The palate was medium plus body, a bit high toned from the acidity, but with time in glass, more and more pleasing and a good match for the rabbit confit, even if the roasted baby beets and blood orange seemed to conflict… would have been better with more meatier stuff. In any case, it was a delicious bottle of wine and things were so aplenty and somewhat fast paced, that we really did not get a chance to “study” this over a longer period of time. Medium finish. (92 pts.)

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Marinated endive, rabbit confit, roasted baby beets, walnut butter, blood orange

  • 1978 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    OK, yes this turned out to be slightly corked. When I first took a whiff, I thought it seemed off, but there were signs of faded rose that are so typical of Ducru and I instead focused on these… Opened after the LLC 1978 and the difference was palpable. The LLC was far more firm, Pauillac like, while the Ducru more delicate if a bit musty. I thought it was better on the palate, but indeed, the mustiness detracted quite a bit, making it simply a flawed bottle. Alas. NR (flawed)

Flight Five / Bordeaux 1982: three greats

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Great Gruaud!

  • 1982 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The first of a trio of 82s that did not disappoint. And of course Gruaud Larose 1982 is legendary. Why? The sheer complexity of aromas, all very pleasing: spicy, cigar boxy, slightly gamey but just so, dark fruit including dark plum and baked blackberry, violets, a hint of “sweet” cedar… well you may get my drift. The palate was quintessential Bordeaux from a great vintage: full bodied yet fresh at the same time, layered and silky textured, very long… With enough tannic backbone for further aging but certainly in its sweet drinking window. Just a great bottle of Gruaud 82! Thank you Chris Bublitz. Oh, and the food pairing was terrific by the way: lamb merguez ragu and ricotta cavatelli, which – along with all three 1982s – was the best of all the pairings. Yum! (95 pts.)
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A good time had by all: Amy, Randy and Paul

  • 1982 Château La Mission Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    A top five wine of the evening in difficult competition? Fellow tasters loved Gruaud Larose and Cos 1982 for current drinking and said that the LMHB 82 will just get better in about 10 years, as it is akin to a first growth. Certainly, but I just loved it now as well. The tannic edge was very pleasing to me, not so foreboding that one must wait until later. If we had nursed this bottle with more time at the dinner table, I think the air would have made it open up more properly. I loved the wintergreen fresh aromatics, combined with bright ripe cassis and darker fruits, clear cigar box like smokiness, very classy, a smooth texture, full bodied, long, long finish… Just fireworks 82 Bordeaux. Bravo and many thanks to Karl for gracing our table with this gem. (97 pts.)
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Memorable 1982 trio

  • 1982 Château Cos d’Estournel – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Another lovely 1982 in the vertical of three that we had. Perhaps not as complex and “sexy” as the Gruaud Larose or with as much verve and power as the LMHB, this was nonetheless smooth and fresh and youthful for its age. The aromatics were seductive, including India spice, and dark red fruit. On the palate, fully resolved tannins, almost sweet, and delicious – beckoning further sips. Really quite a lovely wine, long finish. Thanks to Howard for this – and a fine preview to a grand 15-vintage vertical coming up later this month with Cos director Aymeric de Gironde!(94 pts.)

Flight Six / Burgundy: first series includes gorgeous 1966

  • 1985 Domaine Heresztyn Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Corbeaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
    Part of a flight of three Burgundies that included a glorious 1966… Anyway, this was the weakest of the bunch but that takes nothing away from its deliciousness. There was a fresh wet earth aspect to this, like a forest after a rainfall, notes of mushrooms and even tobacco leaf, as well as baked red fruit. The only caveat is that the competition made this seem slightly too low key and a bit diluted by comparison. But, hey, a fine bottle of 30 year old premier cru Burgundy. (90 pts.)
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50 years old, going strong

  • 1985 Georges Lignier et Fils Clos St. Denis – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru
    Like the preceding wine in this first Burgundian flight, it exuded “autumnal” notes, yet fresh and more vibrant, with greater density as well as more lingering fruit, for me like a sweet dark cherry skin that beguiled throughout the palate, medium+ bodied leading to a long and saline finish. Indeed, I really liked the salty and brisk aspect, lifting the finish. Many thanks to Amy for bringing this super fine wine! (93 pts.)
  • 1966 Remoissenet Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Les Combottes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
    A surprisingly fresh tasting 50 year old Burgundy that somehow impressed me more than the two 1985s served along with it. I am tempted to score even higher, so enthusiastic did it make me, but upon further reflection it was not exactly the most complex or long wines as some of the others gems we enjoyed for this special holiday dinner. Nonetheless, it exuded – still – a slight dark fruit aspect along expected tertiary notes associated with fresh wet earth and, lightly so, champignon. There was juicy freshness on the mid palate, leading to a clean and smooth, longish finish. Quite a feat, and not everyday that I enjoy a 1966… Many thanks to Ken Brown for this special bottle, the cork of which was easy to pull, as it had been recently reconditioned, Ken explained. (94 pts.)
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Venison loin, kale, pink lady apples, acorn squash, chestnut puree

Flight Seven/ Burgundy: second series of more recent vintages

  • 1998 Domaine Anne Gros Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
    This bottle no doubt needed more time to understand but in a flight with two other grand crus it was the weakest. Yes, the palate had density and a long finish but I could not get over a certain sharpness to the tannins that detracted from the overall experience. More time needed? Cross the fingers? (90 pts.)
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Superlative Fourier Griottes-Chambertin 2002

  • 2002 Domaine Fourrier Griotte-Chambertin Vieille Vigne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru
    As opposed to the sharp tannins of the Anne Gros 1998, this wine exuded tannic spine, but very refined, nuanced on the palate – and quite like a silk texture. Layered, powerful and ripe expressions of bright red fruit. The precision and focus was impressive, as was the long finish and the 14% alcohol was very well integrated. A top wine of this magical holiday dinner tasting. I initially scored it 97, but – hey! – it is still perhaps too young for truly optimal drinking. Nice match with the venison, and many thanks to Randy for sharing with the group. (95 pts.)
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Yes, that’s grand …

  • 2002 Alain Hudelot-Noellat Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
    Another top wine of this magical dinner tasting, even if it was a “primary beast”. By the time I got to this, I was getting somewhat influenced by the alcohol that we were consuming… Let’s face it: we had spit buckets, but we really did not want to spit out wines likes 82 Cos or LMHB or Salon 96 among the others. Anyway, loved the intense ripe red and black fruit here, framed by refined tannins and bright acidity, the elements just coming together, certainly in a pre tertiary stage and thus perhaps not the optimal time to appreciate (hence reducing score from an over enthusiastic 97 to a more realistic 95+). It did match up very well however to the venison. Boy oh boy, I loved this… Thank you Randy! (95 pts.)

Flight Eight / Great end game stickies

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Climens 40 years apart

  • 1961 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    What can one say about a top notch Barsac at well over half a century of age? Subtle potpourri, dried fruit, toffee and nut flavors and aromas pleased the senses. A very smooth texture on the palate, if somewhat short on the finish, but that’s just splitting hairs, as I write this after having tasted the glorious 2001 that was paired with the 1961… Bravo to David Zimmerman for bringing this old and delicious wine. (93 pts.)
  • 2001 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Well, well, well. Howard Cooper remarked: could this be the wine of the dinner? Here again point scores become subjective so on this morning reflecting on the wines we had, I recall reaching over and “trying” more of this… Why? Because it was so complex first of all, with a cornucopia of flavors and aromas ranging from apricot and white peach (cobbler), to wild forest honey, lanolin and breakfast tea spice. Oh, yes, a specific and pleasing note of cinnamon I recalled vividly. The palate? Endlessly opulent, yet framed by fine acidity that kept the wine “dancing” on your tongue. It just felt good too, in terms of velvety texture, and then left you with a long finish that echoed. The freshness of the wine and its youthfulness is positive for long term cellaring but one can (thoroughly) enjoy it today. Thanks to Randy for bringing this over! (97 pts.)
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Yquem!

  • 1997 Château d’Yquem – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    After reaching the peaks of Climens 2001, this could be considered a “letdown”, but at what other dinner could one say Yquem 1997 is a letdown? Let’s get real. This is a great bottle of wine. It shows off crème brûlée and toffee like flavors that keep you coming back for more. There is a sumptuousness to the palate, that Yquem richness that leads to a long finish. Thanks Chris Bublitz for this great premier grand cru classé! (93+ pts.)
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Well, that was fun! Randy, Chris, David and Karl

Next year, the group decided to do this over an entire day, starting with an early lunch through to dinner, with a nap (or massage) in between. #winelovers unite!

 

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