Fit for a wine groundhog 2017

Top Bordeaux back to 1970, with Marla Maples

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

3 February 2017

Bravo to Kevin Shin for making this happen. The DCWino is in top form. And I got to meet some new wine-loving friends in the area as well as seeing old friends. Once again, we found ourselves at Ripple. The service is great, corkage minimal, and the food superb, by chef Ryan Ratino, who made some of the best courses I have ever had at the restaurant for this Groundhog Day dinner. Here a link to a justifiably glowing review from the Washington Post:

A most happy Groundhog Day for #winelovers. With master chef Ryan Ratino standing in the back.

We were nine participants: Greg Ossi, Paul Marquardt, Robb Johnson, Alan Strauss, Randy McFarlane, Reginald Brown, David Zimmerman, Kevin Shin and myself.

Marla Maples with dear wine loving pal David Zimmerman.

And seated next to us was none other than Marla Maples. Talk about burying the lead. We shared some wine with her and her party at the adjoining table. One person at her table sang the Star Spangled Banner with such gusto and talent that the restaurant broke into applause. You will see later which wine she really liked, as we shared a couple with her table…

As usual, wines in bold I liked in particular (almost all of them this evening), red and bold even more and when underlined, too a sort of wine nirvana! Seven flights, with a surprise eighth!

A truly grande dame!

First flight: Great series of whites

  • 1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame – France, Champagne
    Well, above the average Cellar Tracker score. Why? Smooth, yeasty, crackling apple, citrus, brisk, streamlined – and I was thinking: “Where the hell are the oysters?!” I went back to this bottle several times, and even when it was a bit too warm – having sat through the entire dinner – it was spanking delicious. I recall visiting the estate in Champagne, and it was so marketing oriented. To the max. While the NV is no great shakes, the Grande Dame can kick ass. And so it was this evening with the 1990. A gorgeous bottle of bubbly. (95 pts.)


  • 2010 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Tasting so primary, this. Coiled in. But such distinct notions of wet stone, coupled with a very broad and opulent palate, always contained in its richness, as if trying to say: “Wait a few more years, mate.” I arrived a bit late for the dinner, and the wine was too warm to truly appreciate, but even so, it was a beautiful white Burgundy, and overshadows the Puligny Montrachet Clavoillon of the same vintage that I had purchased in Beaune a few years ago – which is excellent. Long finish! (96 pts.)

A “full-on” white, and very well done!

  • 2007 Château Pape Clément Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Well, let me say that this grew on me. I know, this is not a style of pristine focus and freshness that you would encounter for example with Domaine de Chevalier. I score it 94 more to tip the hat to lovers of this style, but also to appreciate the very well made nature of this wine, which began a bit to butterscotch-y for my taste, but balanced out with time in glass – and thoroughly impresses by its concentration and sheer palate enveloping nature. Full bodied? Yes. But not in a modern, or New World, style. 2007 is a vintage of fine acidity and so it was reflected even in a Bernard Magrez production. Could have gone well enough with the partridge we enjoyed… And in fact, I poured some more to see – and it was delicious. (94 pts.)

Premox? This isn’t even Ox 🙂

  • 2004 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Are you concerned about premox? Premature oxidation in your white Burgs? I am. But this was not even oxed. A steely Chablis, showing reductive notes that persisted throughout the dinner. Not much of a pleasure to drink now, but certainly showing much concentration and substance on the palate. But rather steely for now… And this is well over 10 years in bottle. (92 pts.)

Second flight: Yes, 1995 is indeed a fine vintage, loaded with tannin that is resolving itself: here a nice trio!

  • 1995 Château Cheval Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Very balanced, gorgeously integrated acidity lends verve, but overall a sense of super high quality brownie, cocoa powder, cinnamon spice, violet and damson. Over time the wine gives off an orange freshness, and stays very smoothly textured through to a long finish. Lacks the grip and length of, say, 2000, but this is delicious and aromatically appealing and elegant. (95 pts.)

1995 series

  • 1995 Château Mouton Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Well, at first – this was popped and poured – the aspect was steely and tight but from the get go, the aromatics had such precise and clean notions of cassis and graphite, vivid notions and not dusty in any way, giving off the impression that the wine was much younger than its just over 20 years. With time in glass, the palate came across as quite concentrated and intense, and then burgeoning notes of thoroughly pleasing crushed tobacco. Later on, at the end of the dinner, I went back to this and it was comparatively tight – and almost uninviting – after we had had the wines from the 80s and 70s… Give it (lots of) time in your cellar :-) (96 pts.)
  • 1995 Château Léoville Poyferré – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Somewhat more austere and even a bit more rustic as compared to both the Cheval Blanc and the Mouton, but the wine showed much strength and poise on the mid palate, with full body and still unresolved tannins. The finish was long and as it sat in glass, it opened up more (although it had been opened since last night). A very good Saint Julien in tough company :-) (93 pts.)

Third flight: LLC in three. The 1990 won so to speak, but all were at least excellent.

  • 2001 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Very pure lead pencil aromatics, a rather scrumptious nose! I recall trying this over 10 years ago after it had been recently released and it came across as somewhat stolid, but now it is entering a pleasing phase that is not yet the optimal drinking window by a long shot, but shows more promise. Full bodied, not yet nuanced, the wine has much grip with tannins smooth enough and refined, with a long finish. Forget about it another five years however! (93 pts.)


  • 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    So far, it edges out – perhaps – the Mouton and the Cheval Blanc because it is in a fine drinking window. There is a touch of herbal/green pepper but it comes across as fine seasoning! Time in glass reveals (to me at least) a Romeo Y Julieta cigar, so smooth and refined, subtle full body, fine expressions of mature dark fruits, but more tertiary notes, a streamlined elegance, if lacking the veritable punch of the Mouton 95 in the previous flight. (96 pts.)
  • 1982 Château Léoville Las Cases – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Gorgeous aromatics of fine chocolate – again, as I had experienced curiously with the Cheval Blanc 1995 – combine with graphite and some roasted aspects but the palate is not among the strongest LLC 82s I have experienced, as it came across as somewhat light, or rather somewhat fading from past glory days. Paul remarked that it would have been better five years ago and that made sense. This particular bottle, mind you… (94 pts.)

Fourth flight: Heading back nearly 50 years and Palmer is subtle in its expression.

  • 1970 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    The Lynch Bages shows rather evident power even at this relatively old age, although the tannins are somewhat rustic and dusty. Over time in glass it becomes a bit monotone after an initial impressive feeling, leaving the taster with a sense of austerity on the finish. But don’t get me wrong, if this were enjoyed alone, most tasters would have appreciated it more. (88 pts.)

These first went on sale about when Led Zeppelin IV was released.

  • 1970 Château Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux
    Tasted side-by-side with the Lynch Bages of the same vintage, this at first had a faded flower aspect, with dusty tannins – just like Lynch Bages. At first, I preferred the superior grip of the Lynch Bages, but with time in glass (the bottle was popped and poured), a pleasing sense of sweet cocoa powder and more floral notes arose and made it more pleasing and quite enjoyable to drink, with a subtle finish. (90 pts.)

Fifth flight: How appropriate to enjoy this towering Pauillac in a single flight!

They don’t call this a mini Latour for nothing

  • 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    Some participants were saying that this was the best wine so far of the evening. It was impressive indeed, and I really liked it. But it seems to be still in a “towering Pauillac” phase, just a touch rigid and in need of more time to permit the tannins to better integrate, in my opinion. It is as if the structure were just slightly hiding the fruit. I recall tasting this side-by-side nearly 10 years ago with the Comtesse 1989, and the latter showed more evident fruit and tertiary nuances. Well, now the Baron has not moved much, at least based on this bottle, probably very well stored. In any case, upward score potential to be sure. (94 pts.)

Sixth flight: My wine flight of the night :-)

A great to start to the best flight of the evening

  • 1982 Château Léoville Poyferré – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The adjectives flowed as I smelled the wine and tasted it: gorgeous, complete, fresh, focused, pretty, floral, balanced and long finish. This could possibly be the best 1982 Leoville Poyferre I have tried, although I still recall a lunch with owner Didier Cuvelier who served the 1982 with the 2003, explaining how by 2003, the yields had been cut by half. Enjoying the 1982 now, I still wonder: why bother? This is superb Bordeaux and certainly the best wine so far of the tasting, for current drinking. (96 pts.)

This may have been my red WOTN… But splitting hairs and moods.

  • 1982 Château Lynch-Bages – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    The second of three 1982s in this most amazing flight, and we were very lucky to have such a great bottle! Possibly “better” than Leoville Poyferre in terms of superior concentration and more youthful tannin. Here the “Poor Man’s Mouton” is turned on its head and one could say that Mouton is the “Rich Man’s Lynch Bages”. The aromas are sheer perfume, all in focus, crisp and fresh, with a youthful palate that puts some more recent vintages that are on faster aging tracks to shame. Bravo! (97 pts.)

Ample proof of pedigree

  • 1982 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    The third and last of the 1982s in this flight, and what a flight. Yes, there are Gruauds from this era without brett. This was clean and pure and has shed its muscular aspects that can be so typical of the estate. Touches of white flower as well as tertiary notes place us in Saint Julien, but the palate shows much grip – more so than at Leoville Poyferre, which is albeit a touch silkier. The subtle full body led to a clean pure and long finish. What a match for the splendid partridge course, by chef Ryan Ratino, who is making justified waves in the Washington D.C. area. (96 pts.)

Seventh flight: Yquem and Climens? What more can you want?

  • 1988 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    A gorgeous wine from half bottle, giving the taster such pleasing notes of white apricot, ginger, fresh peach, pear and touches of black tea. It is juicy and brisk, with mid palate opulence and salty briskness, displaying all the attributes of this most marvelous vintage for Sauternes and Barsac. (96 pts.)

  • 2001 Château La Tour Blanche Sauternes – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    The color is much darker as compared to the 1988 Climens, and indeed the notes from this half bottle seem a bit more evolved, with more roasted aspects and some hints of dry fruit, and yet there is pleasing botrytis spice and rich ripe fruit along with notions of toffee that are pleasing, if not as nuanced as the Climens 1988. (92 pts.)

1988 on the left, 2001 on the right

  • 2001 Château d’Yquem – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Certainly longer and more full bodied than the Tour Blanche of the same vintage and yet somewhat of a let-down, not fully matching expectations, as I have had better bottles of the Yquem 2001, even if it was a while ago. I was somewhat struck by the dark color, darker than the Climens – both coming from halves. It certainly conveyed opulence, verve, and botrytis spice like clove and nutmeg, with citrus like freshness, as in orange rind. (94 pts.)


  • 1990 Château d’Yquem – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    A fine bottle, here, with cinnamon, creme brulee, roasted fruit and burgeoning dry flower and yellow apricot, all nicely encased in a lively delivery with balancing acidity. Here is Yquem at its quintessential. Such opulence on the mid palate, layers of flavor and echoing in its long finish. A nice book-end to the Climens 1988! (96 pts.)

Surprise flight! The Marla Maples wine :-)

  • 2005 Château Bellevue Mondotte – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
    Sorry, but here a case of a wine now over 10 years old and still delivering an over extracted aspect that cloys. Is it the wood tannin that remains unresolved? I just do not understand the high point scores, sorry! Interestingly enough, Donald Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples, was seated at a table next to us. Kevin generously poured them some Yquem 1990, which they seemed to like enough. But then he poured this wine, and Marla was gaga over it. So, hey, it has its punters.

The saffron was a great touch to this most tender strip

Just to mention two great food highlights: the aged beef strip loin with leeks, salsify and saffron was divine. So tender and flavorful. But it was not the best course. We all marveled at the grey partridge with mushroom and brioche.

The partridge was gorgeous and went well with the brioche and huckleberry.

It came as a thigh and a breast and both were so utterly tender and flavorful and matched the reds very well. In fact, the course would have been well paired with the rich Pape Clement 2007 white, too.

Out of this world risotto with octopus and lobster, bone marrow and parmesan.

A great evening of wine and surprises, bravo to Ripple and to Kevin for putting it together – and thanks to all for bringing such fine bottles of wine.

I am planning my visit to assess Bordeaux 2016 from barrel, so stay tuned to Wine-Chronicles.Com.

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