Fine wine fireworks

Happen once a year

From a magnificent Salon 1996 to a surprisingly great Latour 1967 – in a vertical of the first growth – by way of Yquem 83, we had a fabulous time.

By Panos Kakaviatos for

31 January 2018

Once again Ken Brown succeeded in organizing a most memorable holiday dinner for a group of great wine loving friends in the Washington D.C. area.

Each of us brought wine and the overall effect of the evening was (far) greater than the sum of the wines brought. It was quite important to spit, because there were quite a few bottles, divided into 8 flights.

From left to right: me with the MacBookPro laptop, David, Ken Barr, Scot, Ken Brown, Karl, Paul, Chris, Howard and Charles.

Many thanks to Karl, Randy, Howard, Charles, Ken Barr, Ken Brown, Paul, Scot, Chris and David for bringing so many fantastic wines for one dinner sitting in late January.

Tasting notes: As usual, if in bold, I like in particular. If red and bold, even more. If underlined, too, a veritable wine nirvana.

Flight One: Apart from one faulty bottle, a great series of bubbles

  • 1996 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – France, Champagne
    The color looks evolved. It is fine enough, but over evolved. Somewhat nutty. Proof positive that there are great bottles more than great wines. It gets better in glass, and there is a core of energy, impressive, but a far cry from the magnum I had had earlier this month, which earned 100 points. This just seems either premoxed. Or just faulty. NR (flawed)
  • 1996 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire – France, Champagne
    Wow! Really crisp and pure, lovely freshness, the color is far healthier than the Krug 1996, but let us get beyond comparing a faulty bottle with a healthy one. Apple and citron, precise. Delicious. Very fresh, and the best Billecart Salmon I can recall ever enjoying. Including their rosé bubblies. Thanks to David Zimmerman for this. Rivals the Salon 1996 – coming later – for precision, even if it cannot match it for density. (95 pts.)
  • 2004 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill – France, Champagne
    Not as nuanced or as interesting as the Billecart Salmon. Well, not yet? It is tightly wound up. It is too young methinks. There is lime and lemon. Over time, it develops brioche notes. But the palate is not as consequential to be sure as the Salon and not as fascinating as the Billecart Salmon, for now. Still a very elegant expression, finesse in the bubbles and texture, but give it time if you have any in your cellar. (93 pts.)

The top of the bubbly pops.

  • 1996 Salon Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut – France, Champagne
    Seems to have just slight hazelnut aspects, at first, but very elegant and refined in approach. Like a fine white Burgundy. Gorgeous density. Really fitting for a lobster. Gorgeous full body. This is worthy of high 90s. Beats the Billecart overall and gets so vinous and mouth filling, yet elegant and refined. Candidate of wine of the evening. (97 pts.)

Flight Two: An excellent flight of white Burgundies

  • 2014 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Toasty aromatics; oak driven but wonderfully integrated. So vinous, so opulent. Red apple, wet stone, but like a ripe wet stone? Can you have that? I really enjoyed this on its youthful expression even if a bit oak driven. It was mouth watering good. (92 pts.)
  • 1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils Meursault 1er Cru La Pièce-sous-le-Bois – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    Wet socks, at first, but not so much. Indeed, that aspect blew off quickly. Lanolin, opulent. Not premox. Hints of truffle. Finesse and elegance on the palate. Baked pear. This is how white Burgundy should age, remarked Howard Cooper, who brought the bottle. Indeed. This would go so well with a dish involving shaved truffle. (94 pts.)

The sliced hamaji (yellow tail tuna) from Japan with king crab and blood orange reduction with citrus radish was a nicer match for the 2010. But the 1995 was very nice too with it, even some truffle topped dish would have been better with the 1995. The 2014 was perhaps too young for it. In any case, kudos to Black Salt for refined cuisine.

  • 2004 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Corton-Charlemagne Quintessence – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
    It at first seemed just a bit tired, a bit dog eared, as compared to the … 1995! There is density but it seems to convey a most “obvious” palate. Old vines, it is said. This is flavorful but the least subtle of the bunch. A bit hot on the finish, as well.
  • 2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    This is very savory and delicious. No premox. Quite youthful in aspect, but it has depth and richness, but not as nuanced or complex – too young for that – compared to the 1995. Excellent balance and the color was appropriate and showed no signs of excess age. In fact, it looked even younger than the seven years. Give it time and see it gain in complexity, but let us hope it does not get premoxed… (93 pts.)

Flight Three: Matching Montrose 03 with Latour 03 was interesting enough!

  • 2003 Château Montrose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Fine perfume on the nose. Color matches the Latour 2003 tasted alongside. This has flavor, depth. The nose shows just a bit of confected fruit. It has raisin. Chris Bublitz preferred it to the Latour 2003. Temperature difference to note: the Montrose was warmer. In any case, it competed admirably with the Latour 2003. A fine wine. Somewhat abrupt on the finish, by comparison, but it conveys a sumptuous tasting experience with plenty of mid palate depth and nuance. 13% alcohol. (94 pts.)

Interesting to compare two top wines from the 2003 vintage. For me, the Latour proved deeper and longer.

  • 2003 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This shows comparative greater depth on the palate than the Montrose 2003, tasted alongside. Very fine purity and depth for the vintage, even if some hints of roasted fruit – just hints. Or could it just be very ripe? Dinner participant Ken Brown finds nothing roasted about it, while Charles Stewart did. Indeed, Ken says this is his wine of the flight for the future. I really liked it, but preferred the cooler blue fruit of the 1996, tasted next. This may well be the best 2003 red Bordeaux money can buy. 13% alcohol Going back, and yes, it is a bit more “backward” than the Montrose, more impressive. (95 pts.)
  • 1996 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This is far cooler in aspect than either of the two preceding 2003s, as expected. In fact it starts out a bit steely. For California drinkers, the 2003 would be mecca. Over time in glass, it gives off graphite, basil aspects, and cassis. Lower pH to be sure, than the 2003, and this acidity matched the steak well. There is something classy about this wine. Not as sensual as the 2003, but smoother and more refined. 12.5% alcohol. (96 pts.)

Nice to have so many of these for dinner.

  • 1990 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    This exudes fresh forest aromas, Hermes leather, ripe roasted fruit, cigar box. Very succulent. Leather aspects come to the fore on the finish but not obvious or heavy. A very endearing Port like richness, here. Just a lovely match to the steak and its mushrooms. A wine at its peak, as Ken Brown said, and one of the most enjoyable of the evening. (97 pts.)

Flight Four: A most wonderful surprise – to most readers: the 67 Latour

  • 1970 Château Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Alas, it seems that this was not an optimal bottle, as I have had better experiences with the Haut Brion 1970. A bit dog eared? It is satisfying to be sure. Tobacco, but more burnt than fresh ;-). A bit of nail polish? And a pinched finish. NR (flawed)
  • 1970 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Certainly fresher than the Haut Brion 1970, tasted just before. A sweeter nose and more pure. There is a succulence to this wine. Something like the 1990 but not as focused or as concentrated. Recently having had the Palmer 1970, and this has more verve and more grip. It is really drinking nicely, but just not as pleasurable as the 1990. (94 pts.)

Many thanks Chris for such a special bottle!

  • 1967 Château Latour Grand Vin – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Pretty damn good for a 67. Bravo and thanks to Chris Bublitz, who said it was the first time he has had it since 20 years. Fresh and savory, and alive, too. What the hell? This is a very nice wine, and lively and more life than some recent vintages of Bordeaux. Whoever had this has a great cellar. I have to say that this impresses a bit more than the 1970, on one level. It is not as sweet and the finish more abrupt, but it has more verve! Hence the same score, here. This is an Ode to Robert Parker, as Chris Bublitz had been following Parker, who called Latour one of the top wines of the 1967 vintage, along with La Mission Haut Brion and Palmer, I believe. And Chris said that this particular bottle was an “optimal” showing. (94 pts.)

Flight Five: I kind of lost focus on these two … a bit of palate fatigue setting in ?

  • 1999 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    This came across as most disagreeable to my palate and several other tasters agreed. Not sure if it was faulty.
  • 1998 Giuseppe E Figlio Mascarello Barolo Monprivato – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Paired with the 1999, just before, this was a better bottle of wine, but I was not as focused as I should have been. Just recall enjoying it but not loving it, either.

Older Barolos, too!

Flight Six: A fascinating series of older Barolo

  • 1971 Dosio Barolo Riserva Speciale – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Lovely nose, and the palate has loads of grip, but the austerity on the finish detracts. (89 pts.)
  • 1974 Francesco Rinaldi e Figli Barolo – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Elegant if giving off a somewhat diluted impression. It is refined enough, but lacks enough grip and focus to truly compel the taster. (88 pts.)
  • 1964 Sordo Giuseppe e Figlio Giovanni Barolo Riserva Castiglione Falletto – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Elegant and suave, on the nose. Better than the 1961, in that sense, which was tasted just after this (see next note). But the palate lacks freshness and the finish is a bit short. I miss the Latours, tasted just before … It has elegance and juiciness, yes, but we are a bit lower on the totem pole as compared to the Latours. I suppose I was waiting for a revelation given the 60s era. (91 pts.)
  • 1961 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    The nose here is a bit too old leather, almost like the soles of your shoes. And yet, this wine has more verve and structure than the preceding wine, which was three years younger. Was 1961 a great vintage for Barolo? I do not know, but this one has grip and staying power for its age. Pity I could not focus as much as I would have liked, as we had so many wines over a single dinner. But many thanks to Scot Hasselman for bringing this and other fine Italian wines for us. (92 pts.)

Yes we can.

Flight Seven: Red Burgundies? Why, yes as well!

  • 2001 Domaine Dujac Clos St. Denis – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos St. Denis Grand Cru
    The best of three red Burgundies. At 13% alcohol, rich and elegant at the same time. This has such a perfume about it. Pinot Noir ripe cherry, black cherry. Beguiling. Sexy like a fox. 93 points. Or 94? Heck, give it 95 and be done with it. Indeed, Ken Brown and Charles Stewart and I all three preferred this more than the other two! So, pretty clearly a winner. Bravo! (95 pts.)
  • 2000 Domaine Joseph Roty Charmes-Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
    Roasted cherry fruit? More solar in aspect than the Dujac tasted just before it. The palate is lip smacking, but slightly drying. As compared to the previous wine. Just a bit easy? And yet, going back to it, it is darn delicious, given that lip smacking juicy mid palate. Just not as nuanced, layered or long as the Dujac. (91 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine Dujac Charmes-Chambertin – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
    The nose is sweet. This is a bit more austere on the palate however, as compared to the Clos St Denis, not as, well, charming. Still, the structure impresses and maybe it is in an awkward phase, given the sweetness on the nose? (90 pts.)

Flight Eight: Climens 71 and Yquem 83 carried the day!

  • 1971 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Candied orange peel. This palate is gorgeous! There is energy and elegance. And such verve and brightness. Quince indeed. A bit lighter in color than its younger brother by 9 years – tasted next – and a better vintage indeed. (95 pts.)
  • 1980 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    Sweetness and elegance but all in lower degrees than the 1971 tasted just before this one. It seems that this also comes across as more evolved even if the 1980 is younger. It was very good, but not great. (91 pts.)
  • 1983 Château d’Yquem – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    What lovely grip and botrytis! A superb showing from a half bottle. Really very special. I cannot imagine how good this would be from, say, a magnum. Already delicious now. Poppy seed tart, cardamom, too: this is very complex and appealing. The color seemed a bit dark but in the end, it proved to be the most fresh. It has sweet herb aspects. A top wine of the evening to be sure. (97 pts.)
  • 1990 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Rechbächel Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese – Germany, Pfalz
    By the time we got here, my palate was a bit fatigued, but I enjoyed the opulence of this wine, with custard aspects and grilled almond sweetness. There was just a bit of pastiness, a low acid aspect that lacked balance, and I preferred the Sauternes overall. (90 pts.)

Looking forward already to January 2019 ????

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