From Barolo 1964 to Palmer 2002: wine with friends

By Panos Kakaviatos for

25 May 2015

Long weekends, friends and wine.

A balmy summer-like evening, time for barbecue as well.

We were 8 altogether and enjoyed 10 wines spanning 50 years.

Wines in bold I liked particularly, when red and bold even more and when underlined, too, wine nirvana.

Flight One / Champagne duo

2002 Pol Roger Champagne Pure Brut – France, Champagne

Brisk, with wet stone, bright acidity, elegance, a touch of quince and signs of ripe fruit but well structured with an overall feeling of pristine dryness. Lovely! (93 pts.)


A pair of nice 2002s

2002 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne

Full bodied, more expansive on the palate than the Pol Roger 2002, but then again slightly less elegant, perhaps just a bit too “broad” on the mid palate? At least some dinner guests felt that way. I liked this wine a lot. At first I preferred it to the Pol Roger, but then, tasting back and forth, I just appreciated the two different styles. (93 pts.)

Flight Two / Fine white Burgundy

Sadly spilled half my glass while working with the grill

A top producer from Burgundy almost stole the entire show for some friends this evening. I adored this wine 2002 Coche-Dury Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignères – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet. For a village white Burgundy this takes the cake. OK, some thought it a touch short on the finish and given the high prices that the producer commands, one should have high expectations. But the iodine like freshness and slightly reductive notes lead to a medium plus to full bodied aspect all very subtle and utterly delicious. It went very well with a fish based terrine. Thanks to Mike Lux!  (94 pts.)

Flight Three / Two from Bordeaux

While preparing heating the barbecue grill for steaks, I poured some 1995 Château Soutard – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru, which I recall enjoying at the estate during a Vinexpo event four years ago, where it stood out for me as particularly delicious. Tonight it proved slightly disappointing, as it came across as slightly raw and a bit thin. The positive side was that the wine came away with freshness and vivacity. (87 pts.)


Question of decanting management …

Just before the steaks were ready, the next wine had far more concentration and contours: 2002 Château Palmer – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux. Could I have given this bottle too much air? Well, that was an opinion at the dinner table when I explained that I had opened the bottle the evening before and put into a decanter four hours before the dinner. I loved the attack, red and black fruit and a concentrated mid palate, showing “breed” and fine Cabernet ripeness from the late summer of 2002, but the finish did seem to dry off just a bit… Decanting takes special care. The initial palate curiously indicated a wine still too young. (92 pts.)

Flight Four / From Italy to California

Old Barolo

1964 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva Antichi Vignetti Propri – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

At first I felt as if this was smelling of an old mahogany banister in a church, with some dust. But given air, it developed into a lovely aged wine, with plenty of acidity and life. Although it was overshadowed by what came next, at least for my tastes, I tip my hat to this fine wine. Thanks to Jürgen Steinke! (92 pts.)

Lovely California Cab

Lovely California Cab

1991 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Trailside Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford

Full of fruit and yet nuanced with a graphite feel, and some licorice. For a wine that is nearly 25 years old, it tastes youthful vibrant and complex. Really a super highlight this evening. There is still tannin to shed and owners of this should not be afraid to cellar it for a few more years, especially if they have more than 6 bottles. Thanks to Jürgen Steinke! (94 pts.)

Flight Five / Back to France


Nuanced Clos Vougeot

As we started to enjoy Comte and Reblochon among other cheeses, perhaps the best red turned out to be the Clos Vougeot. But Figeac was not far behind 🙂

2002 Domaine Georges Mugneret/Mugneret-Gibourg Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru

A gorgeous wine that needed air. When popped and poured, the expression was tight even though the aromatics seemed promising. With about two hours in a carafe, it began to sing. How? Nuanced flavors, combining primary fruit with tertiary complexity. A gorgeous texture on the palate with tannins still not really resolved and an expression that Pinot Noir from great terroirs does very well: power without brawn. Rather full bodied but in a subtle manner with a sneakily long finish. Thanks to Mike Lux! (95 pts.)


In a sweet spot today

2001 Château Figeac – France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

This vintage at Figeac once again proves itself to be undervalued. While the 2000 seems to be a touch green, the 2001 is balanced, ripe and nuanced. At this stage a fresh and minty Cabernet Franc aspect seems to dominate the aromatics, but the palate combines Merlot richness with Cabernet structure – and not without subtle succulence. A lovely wine, in a sweet spot now but with years ahead for future pleasure, too. (93 pts.)

Dinner in Alsace should at least end with Alsace: a lovely late harvest Gewurztraminer!


2012 Albert Mann Gewurztraminer Altenbourg Vendanges Tardives – France, Alsace

Many thanks to Albert Mann co-owner Maurice Barthelmé for bringing this to dinner. Subtle notes of ginger, rose petal and ripe stone fruits and a pleasing freshness clearly evident. Maurice said that the wine has 82 grams of residual sugar: double what dinner guests guessed when he asked how much sugar was in the wine… A very successful late harvest Gewurztraminer. Bravo! (92 pts.)

Sure the wines were excellent, but having friends over to truly appreciate them – and to have interesting discussions – made it the great evening that it was.

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2 Comments on “From Barolo 1964 to Palmer 2002: wine with friends

  1. I thought you only did these types of dinners when you were in DC or when I am in Alsace. Reading about you, Michael and Maurice eating together reminds me of our wonderful dinner in Alsace. Keep it up.

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