The Third or Fourth Greatest Los Angeles Wine Tasting Of The Decade

One entire weekend in Hancock Park, Lost Angeles.

Tasting Notes Courtesy of JK:

The 1961 Clicquot was delicious and a good drink, but the Salon from the same vintage was unfortunately ‘mushroomy’ per Mr. Vinous and a bit skunky.  There would be a few DQ’s throughout the weekend, but it was definitely a small Minority Report.  Let’s talk about the other three.
The 1955 Cristal was a gorgeous bottle, direct from the Domaine.  Merci beaucoup!  The nose has lots of wafer with a side of limestone, unfurling into caramel and a rusty sweetness.  It had great sweetness but was a bit stony and rocky.  Someone admired, ‘so much weight,’ but I got a touch of burnt rubber on the finish that kept this score from being even higher (95).
The 1979 Taittinger CdC was a laser by comparison.  There was still a lot of sweet fruit, yellow sugar and rocky solid flavors to this zippedy doo dah bubbly.  Its finish was starting to show more mature flavors, but this felt like it just got out of college in that regard.  Its fruit was oh so fresh, like a good tank top with some Daisy Dukes on the right piece of…fruit, of course (96).
The 1969 Salon won the flight, hands down.  It came from an OCB I believe.  The Bad Boy had to pancake a few people to get it, but it was definitely worth it.  It was also very fresh, but there were more mature nuances to its flavor, and a more linear personality versus a laser.  That extra decade of aging had done this bottle right.  White sugar and waterfall flavors cascaded down my palate in perfect harmony in this beautiful, long and smooth Champagne.  A leathery finish rounded out this winegasmic bottle (97).

We had five whites as well:

1966 Leroy Montrachet  (94)
1982 Ramonet Montrachet  (DQ)
1982 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres    (95)
1983 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres  (94)
1986 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres  (95A)

None of the whites were thrilling or that ‘best wines of my life category,’ but they were all excellent to outstanding, except the corked Ramonet, of course.  The Leroy was very Leroy, and the Coches seemed like they were all aged a touch too long and would have been better 5-10 years earlier.  Galloni liked the ’83 best due to its purity and cleanliness.  It had exotic lime, guava and peachy fruit.  The ’82 and ’86 had a bit of funk in their trunks, but behind that were two richer wines with more acidity, especially for the ’82.  The ’86 showed more mint and botrytis, but also had some corkiness.  The Bad Boy, aka Bruce The Returner, summed it up well when he said, ‘none of them really move me.’  I, too, did want more from this flight.

A pair of 1982 Pomerols were next.  I may be in a different Minority Report, in that I think 1982 Pomerols are overrated.  Ok, maybe that’s not good for business, but it is the truth.  The Left Bank is truly special, though.  Don’t get me wrong, the Pomerols are still excellent wines, they just aren’t best wines of my life category, which is 97 points and up for those of you still wondering.

1982 Petrus (94)
1982 Lafleur       (95)
Close But No Cigar
These bottles were both typical, the Petrus being classic and beautiful just not spectacular, and the Lafleur being jammy and kinky with lots of exotic fruit melanges.  There was a bit more zip and zow in thie Lafleur than the last couple of bottles I have had.  The Lafleur is as good as ’82 Pomerol can get, but it ain’t more than 95 points.  Sorry.

The next eight wines that followed definitely qualified as a ‘Big 8.’  We were now free to move about the cabin.

1929 La Mission Haut Brion (98)
1945 Haut Brion   (98)
1945 Latour (93)
1947 Cheval Blanc (97)
1959 Lafite Rothschild    (98+)
1959 Mouton Rothschild  (95)
1959 Haut Brion    (97)
1959 Petrus    (DQ)
The 1945 Haut Brion that followed was another superb bottle.  The wine was wheaty and yeasty in a good way, with a nose full of caramel oil, cassis, minerals and razors.  It had divine toffee butter crunch flavors.  Rich, heavy and concentrated, this was a very sexual wine.  ‘The dawgs are howling,’ said The Rev, as these two spectacular back-to-back Bordeaux set the bar high for the rest of the show (98).
Speaking of spectacular, the 1947 Cheval Blanc wasn’t too shabby, either.  It had a deep nose full of signature motor oil, and these wheaty and smoky qualities like burnt crops.  Its palate was thick, sweet, long and round.  This was lush and rich, although I have never had it reach the heights it did on New Year’s Eve in 1999.  The wine may be in a long, slow decline, but it was still knock my socks off good.  Hollywood Jef agreed, even though the Bad Boy was hating on it (97).
 The Punisher was loving the 1959 Haut Brion, and what wasn’t to love?  This has always been a pet favorite wine of mine, even more than the ’61.  It had a heavy, smoky and nutty nose, exuding mature and classic aromas of coffee, cassis and a pinch of gravel.  The palate was thick and strong with great flavors and a loud finish.  This wine still has upside (97).

Of course, what would a great flight of 40s and 50s Bordeaux be without a 1959 Lafite Rothschild?  This has always been my favorite all-time Lafite and one of the greatest bottles of the 20th Century, and this bottle didn’t change either of those opinions.  The ’59 had a superb nose of sweet cassis and pencil with a great perfumed quality.  This was a rich, sumptuous and sensual claret.  Andy admired its ‘smooth’ character, and I did its thick finish (98+).
As for the other wines in the flight, the 1945 Latour was not as good as usual.  I consistently rate this wine around 98 points as well, but this bottle was a bit stripped and possibly reconditioned.  It wasn’t off; it just wasn’t a great bottle (93).  The 1959 Mouton Rothschild had the disservice of following the Lafite and was no match for it despite being an outstanding wine.  There were more black fruits and signature mint here, but it was a softer, kinder claret that had a gamy finish (95).  The 1959 Petrus was an Eschenauer negociant bottling and off (DQ).

There were three votes for the La Miss, two for the Lafite and one each for the Mouton and ’55 Cristal as wine of the night so far.  We had some more Cristal on the way as an intermezzo, and then it would be time for the Burgundies.

So where were we?  It was still Friday night, I was still in LA, and I swear I didn’t inhale.  It was time for a Cristal intermezzo before the Burgundies, that’s right, and it was a pretty good one.  The 1966 Roederer Cristal got ‘fresh,’ ‘great’ and ‘beautiful’ from the crowd.  It was sweet and flavorful with a long backside.  It had an outstanding finish, showing the greatness of the vintage, and its sweetness dominated (95).

The 1976 Roederer Cristal Rose was only the third vintage ever for this luxury cuvee.  It had a gorgeous nose of orange blossoms, rose petals and rainwater.  It was also sweet but more restrained and stylish on the palate.  This was rock solid every which way, and The Canadian Baked One was all about the ‘butterscotch.’  Oh, that’s right, he is now to be known as The Bulldog (97).

We began the Burgundies on the wrong foot, with an off bottle of 1937 Leroy Richebourg (DQ), but the 1949 Leroy Richebourg that followed was spectacular.  ‘This is more like it,’ I wrote.  Its nose was sexy with a minty freshness.  Its fruit was sweet with a citrus smack to it.  Its finish was brick city.  This was an older release and a spectacular bottle that was deep, deep inside (98).
We continued with the Riches, but this time with DRC.  The 1955 DRC Richebourg was quite sappy and full of menthol.  It was a flashy and fleshy wine, with lots of alcohol that was still reined in.  It had a painted quality in the best of ways.  Flavors of garden and oil joined the mint and menthol.  It was an exciting wine, but twisted in a way, and a celery soda kick emerged on its finish (94).
The 1978 DRC Richebourg was another great bottle.  There was signature menthol, along with sweet meat and loads of autumnal qualities.  Its palate was oily, so much so I wrote it three times.  Long and brothy, this was a great ’78 (96). 
The 1985 DRC Richebourg was ‘surprisingly’ disappointing.  It felt weak by usual standards, and it had lots of cherry diaper going on (91?).
We were back to the spectacular with a 1990 DRC Richebourg.  There were loads of vitmains in this rich, saucy and sappy red.  Aromas of tree bark and green moss supported massive t ‘n a.  Its palate was Superbad, not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good lol.  Minty pine flavors tickled the roof of my mouth.  This bottle was about as good as it gets for this wine (98).
So was the 1999 DRC Richebourg.  It was so young, so primary, the only one so much so.  While super rich, it was more about the stalks and stems, along with an ocean of purple fruit.  Keep these babies on ice another decade (97+).
A 1953 DRC Romanee Conti was unfortunately shot (DQ), but the two La Taches that followed were not.  The second was a 1978 DRC La Tache, which all I wrote was ‘solid’ (95).  The previous ’78 Richebourg actually outshined the La Tache for a change, but it was also all about the other LT that preceded it.

The 1971 DRC La Tache showed why this is one of the legendary La Taches of all time and in a peak performance zone right now.  Come to think of it, it’s been there about 10-15 years.  Its nose was beyond spectacular with crazy complexity.  The signature menthol, the red and purple fruits, and spices from seemingly every country on earth – Asian, Indian, Jamaican, insert your own country here.  Its finish was endless as its acidity continued to rock on past the witching hour (99).

There was one last intermezzo to the DRC’s, that being a 1969 Rousseau Chambertin, usually the wine of the vintage that transcends its overall quality.  This bottle had a bit too much brown sugar, and more menthol in the DRC direction than usual.  It was a bit forward and faded quickly, but you could tell the raw materials were great (95A).

Ok, one last flight to go:

1985 DRC La Tache (DQ)
1990 DRC La Tache (98+)
1996 DRC La Tache (95)
1999 DRC La Tache   (99)

While the ’85 was unfortunately an off bottle, the 1990 was ‘delicious’ per The Punisher.  Hollywood Jef agreed.  This was a deep, rich, ripe and saucy LT.  ‘A nice bottle of 90,’ The Punisher continued, ‘a great bottle of 1990,’ someone countered.  The Punisher’s perspective is a bit 20,000 feet lol.  This was a heavy wine with a spicy finish, which was also thick and lickety-split, so to speak.  The 1996 was smooth and solid, a bit mundane after the 1990, and a bit green, gardeny and weedy by usual standards.  The 1999 was another powerhouse, adolescent perfection.  The only criticism was that it was too young.  Antonio summed it up, ‘the two 1999s are staggering.’  There is a reason Aubert once said to me that it may be the best vintage the Domaine has ever made.

We began night two with an incredible magnum of 1961 Dom Perignon Wedding Cuvee.  This was labeled in celebration of Charles and Diana’s wedding way back when, and the Royal Family couldn’t have picked a better bubbly to celebrate absolutely any occasion, although recent press about Charles might have them reaching for something stiffer.  The ‘61 was practically as good as it gets.  It was grainy, zippy, strong yet mature with loads of white fruit and sugar flavors.  Delicious and balanced, this ’61 was traveling “peak” hours, but it isn’t getting off the train anytime soon (98M).

There were four Champagnes to flight number one, and they were all extra special.  The 1929 Louis Roederer (regular) proved once again how good these old cuvees can be.  They are some of the best kept secrets in fine and rare Champagne.  This ’29 was a spectacular bottle.  ‘Beautiful, look at that color’ came from the crowd.  It was buttery but in a lightly buttered way.  This was a smooth, long and ‘delicate’ Champagne that was also hailed as great and ‘exceptional.’  It was flat out great and such a thrill to have a perfectly kept 87 year old bottle of Champagne (97).
We followed with another Roederer, this time a 1962 Roederer Cristal, which was quite buttery, a bit like a DRC Montrachet.  There were lots of caramel and rich maple flavors to this oakier Champagne.  It got a little musty with some time in the glass, and while still outstanding, I am not sure anything will reach the heights of that one magical bottle I had with Bad Boy at Spago many years back.  It is all about the bottles when it comes to old wine (95).
The 1962 Krug Private Cuvee was bottled for Great Britain, and it had that apple nose with the juice.  Its finish was drier and brought out more sour apple in a good way, and its acidity and finish were huge.  It got better and better, as if it was powering up with more oxygen, and it also had ‘more bubbles’ per Mr. Galloni (96+).

The 1990 Jacques Selosse that followed exceeded everything, and maybe its youth helped.  When it comes to all the assorted multi-vintage cuvees that Selosse makes, there can be varying degrees of quality; I sure wish he would make more vintage Champagne as they never cease to amaze me.  This was a spiny and super fresh Champagne, with hot sugar cube action and a long and flavorful personality.  This was a superb Champagne with spectacular length and cream and as good a bottle of Champagne as I can remember…ever (99).

Four continued to be the number of choice, and four white Burgundies were up next, beginning with a (DQ) 1993 DRC Montrachet.  It was a bummer, but two more were on tap, including the 1996 DRC Montrachet.  While a bit wooly in the nose, its palate was out of control great.  There was so much dimension to it, I felt like I left the third one behind.  This was a thick and staggering Chardonnay (98).
The 2004 DRC Montrachet was more oaky and floral but no slouch by comparison.  There was good weight to its full body and a rich and buttery overall feel.  Todd found it ‘magical,’ and Antonio and JP were also loving it.  It got thicker and more integrated as time went on, much better than the bottle I had recently (which was two months later), for those of you keeping score (97).

We had to have a little Cochy Cochy Koo, of course, and what better than the 1996 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne.  We actually had two bottles, as the first one was a bit mature.  The second was ‘rockin’ per The Rev and a perfect bottle.  This was kinky stuff, but in that ‘oh it’s ok, it’s legal because it’s regal’ way lol.  This was a stylish, spectacular white that was liquid gold and diamonds rolled up into one (98).

Three wines from 1947 led the procession of red Burgs, beginning with a 1947 Vogue Musigny Vieilles Vignes.  It had a deep nose with lots of citrus smack, barn, cracker and autumnal brown sugar.  Its palate was a bit thinner than I expected with more citrus than anything else.  The Rev summed it up succinctly as ‘not exceptional,’ although other bottles over the years have been for me (93).
The 1947 Leroy Musigny was super sweet with thick orange fruit.  This was a great Moose, rich and classy with added peel to the orange, and added body and length to the Vogue.  Solid stuff (95).
I believe the 1947 Pierre Ponnelle Musigny was made by Georges Roumier, but someone can get me a fact check on Aisle 9.  It was the best wine of the flight, so chances are it was.  There was a lot of fruit to this smoky wine, and its alcohol and acidity were sizzling.  Firm, long and full of citrus with the black to back it up, the Ponnelle loved, lingered and loved some more (96).
It was 1959’s turn, and we started with a whimper thanks to an affected 1959 Faiveley Musigny (DQ).  Musigny was the theme on this night, and a Bouchard Pere et Fils Musigny helped get us back on track.  This was a solid wine, earthy and rich with sweet brown sugar flavors and a leathery finish.  It was best upon first sip, and oxygen took it down a point (94).
The 1959 Prieur Musigny didn’t excite much, getting ‘very dry’ from Mr. Vinous and ‘still tannic’ from another.  It was gamy and creamy, a bit hard and while still very good, very good wasn’t what this crowd was looking for (91).
It was on to 1969, and back Pierre with a 1969 Ponnelle Musigny.  Its nose was full of cobwebs and super sweet.  Its finish was quite metallic with lots of aluminum (91).
Just when the Musignys were putting us to sleep, out came the 1969 Roumier Musigny.  Hot damn.  There were loads of vitamins in its nose, along with rich and sexy cherry fruit that tasted like it was just popped.  Hollywood Jef hailed it as ‘crazy wine,’ and it definitely felt like it was transcending many categories.  I felt a tug at my leg, and it was The Bulldog humping it.  It was that good lol.  Even Antonio hailed it as ‘one of the best wines this weekend.’  Nuff said (98).

There was a 1969 Leroy Musigny served thereafter, but I didn’t quite put any notes together.  Antonio found it ‘fantastic’ and another ‘very pretty.’
Some palate cleansers were on tap, so this was a good time to take a break.  Older Burgundies can be spectacular, but it is harder to hit as many consistent heights as Bordeaux when you get in that 50 year plus category.  Good thing we had nine ’61 Bordeaux still to go amongst others.
We left off with some 1969 Leroy Musigny, and picked it up with a 2011 DRC Montrachet.  I love 2011 whites right now, and the DRC didn’t disappoint.  It was sweet and tasty, more delicate than I expected but admittedly an adolescent.  It was still abundant in its usual, sweet fashion, but it needed more time than most 2011s (95+).
A magnum of 1971 Dom Perignon Rose continued our palate cleanse with its ‘strawberry sundae with caramel and apples,’ per Hollywood Jef.  It had a curds n’ whey palate and was super zippy, but a bit sharp as well.  I fluctuated between 95 and 96 points, but the old Roses always get a little dirty for me, keeping it at (95M).

A 1975 Dom Perignon Oenotheque was disgorged in 2007.  It was wafery and spiny, more Oenotheque than 1975 (94).

And now it was time for our main event, eight great wines from 1961, and from Bordeaux.  It was only right, since our host, The Rev, was born in 1961.  1961 Mouton Rothschild was first, and it was served a bit cold, to be honest.  There was still nice mint, that old, signature mint that develops in great Moutons, just like a great, old Heitz Martha’s Vineyard.  It’s palate wasn’t perfect, though, and this bottle was a bit mature once it warmed up (93A).

The 1961 La Mission Haut Brion that followed was spectacular.  There was typical gravel and chocolate in the nose, with aromas of stones, smoke and black fruits.  This was a rich and decadent wine, sexy juice that was absolutely delicious.  It doesn’t get much better (98).
The 1961 Haut Brion put up a good fight.  It, too, was delicious, super nutty with sweet peanut butter and honeyed flavors.  This was also rich and decadent, very long and stylish, keeping pace with the La Miss (97).
A 1961 Palmer was good, but weird.  The Punisher found it ‘vitaminy,’ and I wasn’t sure about the bottle (93?)

There was no Lafite or Margaux tonight, but there were four extraordinary bottles of Pomerol.  The 1961 Latour a Pomerol was a honey bunny of a wine with a super sexy nose.  This had the 1960s all over it in Hugh Hefner fashion.  There was a pudding and gingerbread edge to this kinky wine.  Smooth, creamy and tasty, this was yet another decadent ’61, but even more so.  It had that almost Zinfandel-like decadence, typical for this wine and vintage, similar to 1982 Lafleur for some.  There were maple syrup flavors to its finish (97).

The 1961 Petrus, as usual, was the top of the pyramid.  This was a classic wine in every which way.  This was a lot of people’s wine of the night, including mine.  While my notes were waning, I did find it ‘rock solid with enough fine chalk and stone for a quarry,’ and its fruit was ‘absolutely perfect.’  It also got a ‘longggggggg’ (99pts).
1961 Trotanoy held its own quite well with its usual chocolate city party.  It was like George Clinton performing in a glass of wine.  ‘Great,’ ‘tasty’ and ‘solid’ were semi-legible, and other notes weren’t (96).
There was still one more Pomerol power display, the 1961 L’Evangile.  Someone found ‘something extra’ here, and I found the usual chocolate, but this bottle was a little dirtier than previous memories.  It had a little wheaty funk to it, but it was still an outstanding wine (95). 

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The Punisher hailed the last flight as his favorite flight of the weekend, and The Bulldog gave it two woofs.  And there were two wines to go, a couple of 1978 Rhones, beginning with a 1978 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape.  The Punisher thought this was a great bottle, and Andy was ‘smelling marijuana.’  There were lots of kirsch and strawberry aromas and flavors, along with hot stone and provencal herbs.  This was a tasty left turn to exit the building (96).
But the 1978 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle was even better. I have had mixed experiences with this wine, but this bottle was superb. This wine was black as night with bacon, chocolate and that Rhone hot rocks action. It kept getting bigger, longer and better, and its acidity crackled. I finally felt the ’61 comparison thanks to this bottle (98).

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