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A brief history of the 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots

A Brief History

According to the Christie’s auction house, the wines of Dr. Albert Barolet have their origins in a business created by his father Mr. Arthur Barolet.[1]  Mr. Arthur Barolet would purchase wine in barrel for delivery to his cellar in Beaune.  Here the wine would undergo elevage, bottling, and maturation at which point it was privately sold to various customers.

Map of Pommard from Camille Rodier “Le Vin de Bourgogne” c.1920.

There appears to be but few records regarding the Barolet firm which might be the result of it dealing with mostly private clients.  The firm of Arthur Barolet et Fils was founded in 1830.  This date is found on a blank menu titled “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” from 1906 as well as on company letterhead from the 1940s.[2] In the early 20th century, there are a few listings of the firm mostly with regards to the annual sales of wine at the Hospices de Beaune.

Service announcement for the death of Arthur Barolet, 18 November 1931. [3]

Arthur Barolet passed away in 1931 at the Hospices de Beaune. [3]  The business was taken over by Dr. Albert Barolet who placed a few advertisements for the sale of barrels over the next few years.  The public side of the company appears to leave few traces after this point.

Advertisement by Dr. Albert Barolet during 1934. [4]

Upon Dr. Albert Barolet’s death in 1969, the wines were left to his two sisters who in turn sold the wine off to the Swiss firm Henri de Villamont.  That fall, Harry Waugh, wine director at Harvey’s of Bristol, visited the Barolet mansion.  Here he found tens of thousands of binned bottles with vintages dating back to 1911.  The youngest vintages, such as 1959, were still in wood.

The Villamont firm agreed to a major auction with Christie’s in order to determine the market pricing.  The bottles were unlabeled so new labels had to be created.  The Dr. Barolet wines continued to be sold after the first Christie’s auction in 1969.  According to Michael Broadbent’s notes, there was at least a second tranche released which had been recorked by de Villamont.

Local Sales of Dr. Barolet Wines

Dr. Barolet Wines offered at MacArthur Liquors’ Grand Opening, May 7, 1972. [5]

The wines were also available in the Washington, DC area beginning in 1972.  The pricing at MacArthur Liquors puts them in the range of the then recently released wines of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.  In reviewing two distinct periods of advertisements by Woodley Discount Wines & Spirits, also of Washington, DC, we can see that the prices nearly doubled between 1972 and 1979.

  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $26.95 in 1972
  • 1928 Dr. Barolet, Pommard-Rugiens – $69.95 in 1979
  • 1929 Dr. Barolet, Beaune – $17.95 in 1972
  • 1935 Dr. Barolet, Vosne Romanee Malconsorts – $49.95 in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Chambolle Musigny – $39.95  in 1979
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Gevrey Chambertin – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $18.95 in 1972
  • 1937 Dr. Barolet, Grands Echezeaux – $39.95 in 1979

The Bottle

The bottle of 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots features a tan label which is both torn and stained.  It appears to have been damp at some point resulting in an awkward positioning.

The back of the bottle features two gold foil stickers, one from the auction house and one from the importer.  This particular bottle was purchased at the 2006 Acker Merrall & Condit auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  The 1,700 lots which were sold brought in nearly $11 million.  As the bottle came from Kurniawan’s cellar it is immediatley suspect as a fake.  The importer strip label declares the contents as “3/4 QUART” which would date the label prior to the fall of 1976 when the metric system was adopted by liquor companies in America.  It also features a spelling mistake in the statement, “IMPORTED EXCUSIVELY FOR: VINTAGE CELLARS” which appears to reference a company that did not exist in the early 1970s.  The strip label itself is found over the embossed “75 cl” at the bottom of the glass wine bottle.

The metal capsule is clearly not from the 1920s nor is the cork.  The cork has some age to it and could possibly originate from 1969 or later when Henri de Villamont offered a tranche of recorked bottles.  There are no marks on the sides of the cork but the top does bear a circle with “F.S.” inside of it.

Detecting whether the wine in the bottle was blended by Rudy Kurniawan or is the real thing is a bit of a task.  It is a long-held belief that Dr. Barolet doctored his wines.  Back in 1990, the great collector Lloyd Flatt felt the wines had either see the addition of Port or Brandy.[6]  This is echoed in the opinion of John Tilson who was told Cognac was added to the barrels.

When I saw the mark on the cork, a particular phrase came to mind which is the exact same phrase that occured to my friend.  After I showed him my various pictures of the bottle, labels, and then the cork he quipped, “Fake Sh*t.”


[1] COLLECTION DU DOCTEUR BAROLET. Christie’s Fine and Rare Wines, Sale #1206, New York, 19 March 2003.

[2] “Gargantua aux Hospices de Beaune” published by Arthur Barolet et Fils. FR212316101__menus__M_III_01906. Bibliotheque municipale de Dijon.

[3] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 20 November 1931. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353 URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[4] Le Progrès de la Côte-d’Or : journal politique. Dijon. 12 August 1934. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Droit, économie, politique, JO 88353. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32844000t

[5] Grand Opening advertisement for Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Liquors.  May 7, 1972.  The Sunday Star.

[6] Berger, Dan. “At New Orleans Tasting, Everyone Raised a Glass to Vintage Burgundies”. May 3, 1990.  The Los Angeles Times.

[7] Tilson, John. “THE SORDID STORY OF WINE MANIPULATION & WINE FRAUD COVERING OVER 40 YEARS OF TASTING OLD WINES”. The Underground Wineletter. URL: https://www.undergroundwineletter.com/2012/01/the-sordid-story-of-wine-manipulation-wine-fraud-covering-over-40-years-of-tasting-old-wines/

Mature Burgundy: Barolet, DRC, Giroud, Roumier, and more

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A group of us recently gathered to taste mature bottles of Burgundy.  Due to everyone’s generosity, several different flights were formed.  We began with a blind flight of three different Champagne from the 1996 vintage.  This was followed by the main focus on both the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Romanée-Conti.  A very old bottle of Burgundy was then served.  A pair of Champagne Brut Rose was served while dinner was prepared.  After a slew of dinner wines, both young and old, dessert wines were deployed.  Several of the wines were off but due to everyone’s generosity, there was plenty to drink at a generally high level of pleasure.

1996 Champagne

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We kicked off the evening with a trio of Champagne from 1996.  The guest who generously brought these bottles poured them so we could taste them blind.  Of course I had no chance of guessing correctly, I have far too little experience with Champagne.  But I suspect with that experience these wines could have been identified blind.  The Gosset is mature and vinous, a wine to drink now. The Billecart-Salmon is elegant and lively, delivering its tart and chalky flavors with verve.  The Philipponnat is intense, rich and ripe, yet balanced by green apples and lemons.  I particularly enjoyed the last two.

Blind #1 – 1996 Gosset, Grand Millésime, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12%. A touch of stink eventually blows off. In the mouth are mature flavors followed by ripe fruit in the middle. Age has given it a vinous quality. Additional air reveals this is a wine to drink now.  *** Now.

Blind #2 – 1996 Billecart-Salmon, Cuvee Nicolas Francois Billecart, Champagne Brut
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Elegant on the nose with a fine mousse and lively precise nature in the mouth. The flavors cut through the palate, supported by acidity. Quite enjoyable with attractive verve. It wraps up with tart citrus and a chalky finish. **** Now – 2029.

Blind #3 – 1996 Philipponnat, Clos des Goisses, Champagne Brut
Alcohol 13%.  A touch more aged yellow in the glass. The most intense nose with an intense offering in the mouth. The bubbles explode upon drinking, leaving a short-lived mousse which is replaced by a green apple note. It moves on to rich and ripe flavors with a lovely lemon finish. **** Now – 2029.

1965 and 1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti

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I was fortunate to purchase a small parcel of old wines including the following quartet of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. The wines were originally purchased by a couple in the Washington, DC area who bought their wines from MacArthur Beverages. For decades these bottles were stored in the basement.  I am not sure what happened during those years, perhaps a basement flood, for the labels and fills varied.

These were not the best looking bottles but given the scarcity and generally insane pricing of these wines  I had to organize a tasting around them.  For I doubt I could ever again taste the 1965 and 1966 vintages of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche in one sitting.  And what a pairing of vintages, the disastrous 1965 with the very good 1966.  But I had another reason for pairing the two vintages.

Neal Martin wrote in Fermented Grape Juice: Romanée-Conti 1953-2005 how Aubert de Villaine recently served the 1965 Romanée-Conti to a large group.  Michael Broadbent rates this soggy vintage zero stars yet the very late October picking resulted in a wine that Neal Martin found “mocks its vintage reputation and defies all expectations.”  One guest with deep Burgundy experience believes he had never before tasted any Burgundy from the 1965 vintage.

The wines were single-decanted then immediately poured.  With all four glasses in front of us it was obvious our bottle of 1965 Romanée-Conti was flawed as was the 1966 La Tâche.  The 1966 Romanée-Conti was suffering a bit but the 1965 La Tâche was in fine form.  Despite being less than ideal, the 1966 Romanée-Conti  initially offered a complex nose I had trouble describing.  The 1965 La Tâche was the star of this flight for me.  A lovely wine all around and complete shock given the vintage.  Compared to some of the other wines with similar age, this has quite a bit of substance.  I held on to my glass for a long time.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 01281
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Very clean on the nose, revealing incense and perfume. Elegant yet with depth. This is a mid-weight wine which still sports some supporting tannins. With air it reveals a silky nature, infused with fat, and a baking spiced finish. **** Now but will last.

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1965 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 00578
Imported by Frederick Wildman. The stink on the nose is hard to get around. Shame as it is round and dense in the mouth with a mineral cut. The flavors have power but the nose reveals it is a flawed bottle that eventually falls apart. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, S/N 03090
Imported by Frederick Wildman. Shame, the worst nose and gross in the mouth. Not Rated.

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1966 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Romanée-Conti, S/N 01221
Imported by Frederick Wildman. An exotic nose with perfumed aromas that I have difficulty describing. In the mouth it is supple and elegant with some spice. *** Now.

A Blind, Rather Old Bottle of Burgundy

After the DRC flight we were treated to a bottle of Burgundy served blind.  Two lines of inquiry developed as to the vintage and appellation.  Though one guest eventually narrowed in on Pommard, I do not possess that sort of experience so I focused in on vintage.  It was certainly older than 1964.  Based on a handful of bottles I have tasted from the 1940s and 1930s I decided it had to be older, perhaps 1920s or even 1910s.

The bottle was revealed to be 1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots.  I was excited to guess the general age but more so to finally have tasted a Dr. Barolet wine.  The excitement level rose even more when we next learned that it was acquired at the 2006 Acker auction of Rudy Kurniawan’s “THE Cellar”.  I will write more about this particular bottle in a subsequent post but whether it be a real or fake bottle, it was very good.  Michael Broadbent writes that the 1928 Epenots and Rugiens were among the best of original bottles at the 1969 Christie’s auction.  At our tasting, it was one of the best bottles as well.

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1928 Collection du Docteur Barolet (Henri de Villamont) Pommard-Epenots
Purchased at “THE Cellar”, Acker-Merrall & Condit, January 2006. The lightest and most mature brick color of all wines tasted this night. Clear in the glass. A fine, scented nose with ripe hints. It develops with air showing apple orchard and hints of red fruit. In the mouth it is red fruited, tart with some vein of very old wine flavor. There is a meaty note. Precision comes from the spine of acidity. It focuses with air.  **** Now but will last.

Champagne Refreshment

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A pair of Champagnes acted as a palate refresher while the preparation of the Coq au Vin was finished.  The Paul Bara, Special Club is on the sweet side for my preferences.  I can imagine serving it outside at a BBQ.  I prefer the Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne.

2012 Paul Bara, Special Club, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Envoyer Imports. Alcohol 12%.  A burst of sweet fruits comes with the initially firm bubbles.  A creamy mousse persists along with the sweet fruit.  *** Now – 2024.

2006 Tattinger, Comtes de Champagne, Champagne Brut Rose
Imported by Kirkcrest Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Aromatic.  Focused flavors and firm bubbles lead to dry, baking spices.  There is a vein of sharp acidity around which rounded, berry notes form until picking up a racy hint in the finish.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

Dinner Wines

With dinner we moved on to several old and a few young Burgundies.  Some of the oldest Burgundies I have drunk comes from Maison Camille Giroud.  Founded in the 19th century, this negociant firm still believes in long barrel aging.  They hold back stock, releasing some wines decades after the vintage.  The 1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru and 1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes reflect perfect provenance.  Both wines sport some old-wine concentration but the 1949 is more tangy and elegant from age whereas the 1966 is completely different with its attractive baked cookie notes.  It was my second experience with the 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux and I still like it very much.  It is a hedonistic wine for drinking now.  In moving forward nearly two decades, the 1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny is certainly younger but still full of character.  I particularly liked the scented nose and understated complexity.  In contrast, the 2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets  is very young and tonight, in need of more age.

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1949 Camille Giroud, Volnay Santenay Premier Cru
Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  Round with sweet and sweaty flavors with a beautiful, old-wine concentration.  The finish is initially a little short and there is some heat but there is plenty to engage with.  The wine does flesh out with air, taking on tangy citrus, spices, and stones in the long, lifted, ethereal finish. **** Now.

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1966 Camille Giroud, Volney 1er Cru Clos des Chenes
Imported by USa Wine Imports. Burgundy Wine Company Selection.  A deep mahogany color.  The array of spices on nose reminds me of Nurnberger Lebkuchen.  A round and sweet start brings on some old-school flavors carried by a structural vein.  Sandalwood. **** Now – 2024.

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1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Exotic perfume on the nose.  The cherry fruit flavors persist with good acidity.  This is a weighty, expansive wine with fat in the finish.  Hedonistic and drinking well right now.  **** Now.

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1994 Domaine G. Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny
Alcohol 12.7%.  Nice with a strawberry scented nose.  An elegant wine with some gravelly density.  It balances youth with complexity leaving the impression of a lovely, characterful wine.  ***(*) Now – 2029.

2002 Domaine Annick Parent, Volnay Les Fremiets
Very youthful, pure, almost candied with flavors of red grapefruit.  In the end, I think this wine needs more time.  *** 2022-2032.

Dessert Wine

With a chocolate tart we had a small grouping of dessert wines.  In order of age, the 1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles is perhaps the most concentrated wine I have drunk.  With notes of dried figs and baking spices, this unctuous wine has enough acidity to keep it balanced.  There is so much flavor packed in that you only need the tiniest of pours.  The 1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen continues to deliver unctuous flavors with tea notes but this bottle showed a touch less acidity than before.  It is always a treat to taste these old bottles of Riesling.  Finally, the 1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva offered a good surprise.  The nose was pungent, evocative of Madeira, with dried fruit and spices, along with a touch of red fruit.  I had no idea what to expect so I was pleased.

1946 Bodegas Albala, Don P.X. Convento, Montilla-Moriles
Imported by Classical Wines.  Alcohol 17%.  Bottled in 2011.  Surely, the most concentrated wine I have tasted.  Incredibly dark and viscous enough to stain the glass brown.  Lifted aromas of dried figs and baking spices.  An acidity driven start followed by a knife-edge of acidity pierces through the unctuous and sweet flavors.  Fresh, wet baking spiced flavors coat and persist in the mouth for a long time.  One of the most concentrated wines I have ever dried, you only need a tiny pour.  **** Now until whenever!

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1964 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Kehr und Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines.  Imported by Wine Cellars. From the Don Stott Cellar.  A youthful yet aged golden yellow color.  Baking spices on the nose.  A sweet core with weighty flavors of apricot and tea.  A bit soft, plumped up with fat and perfume.  There is less obvious acidity but the tea and tannins keep the wine fresh.  *** Now.

1968 Lodovico e Piero Antinori, Vino Santo Rosso Riserva
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  Alcohol 16%.  Wow, of course I like this wine for the pungent aromatics remind me a bit of Madeira.  There are flavors of sweet, spiced, dried fruit and plenty of texture around the fuller bodied wine.  There is enough acidity to be supportive.  The wine tastes of mature flavors with old leather and old-school notes in the finish.  Towards the end this viscous wine becomes more red-fruited.  ***(*) Now – 2039.

Wines That Were DOA

The following three bottles were bad!

  • NV (1970s) Simi, Burgundy, Sonoma
  • 1978 E. Guigal, Hermitage
  • 1985 Comte Armand, Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux

A blind tasting featuring wines from Yvon Clerget and Duroche

February 12, 2019 Leave a comment

I was fortunate to be Phil’s guest at the lastest blind tasting he held for the group.  Phil had smoked some chuck for dinner, providing a savory reminder of what was to come after the blind tasting.  First up, we sampled the 2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes.  It is a good wine to drink this year and a reminder that I do not drink enough Rhone-style white wines.

I do not drink enough red Burgundy to have even remotely narrowed in on the six blind wines we tasted.  Beyond the particularly tasty bottles, Domaine Yvon Clerget and Domaine Duroche represent wines made by a young generation.  Thibaud Clerget produced his first wines in 2015 and Pierre Duroche took over his father’s estate in 2005. It is quite something then, that the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle is in the best spot for a wine to drink now or cellar for the future.  It is tasty from the first pour but develops over an evening.  I will admit the ripeness of the 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ had me guessing New Zealand Pinot Noir!  Despite that grave error, this is satisfying being the most fruited, forward wine we tasted.  The 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux  is another fine wine for drinking now.  There is maturity already reflected in palate with additional complexity from the earth.  It is the most expensive wine of the evening yet also the most attractive.  I found these three wines the most enjoyable that evening.  I guess that the others did as well for these bottles were completely finished.  For those with patience, do not overlook the 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens.  It has an impressive future ahead.

With dinner we drank a bottle of 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja.  While not the most impressive wine, it was consumed quickly and I suspect it would benefit from further decanting.  I typically like Rabaja very much.  The final wine of the night is a library release that was recorked in 2018. At 27 years of age the 1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel is a modest, fully mature wine.  It is quite lively on the tongue which keeps it refreshing.

Starter

2017 Chateau L’Ermitage, Auzan, Costieres de Nimes
Imported by Terrison Wines.  This wine is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 20% Grenache Blanc, and 20% Viognier.  Aromas of flowers and nuts.  Modest in body and light in weight.  Quite floral in flavor with tree fruits, stones, and a very floral finish.  A solid wine to drink once the spring weather arrives.  *** Now – 2021.

Burgundy

1 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with a touch of VA on the nose.  The young flavors in the mouth are tart with ripe fruit soon developing.  Some concentration, slightly chewy, young structure, and tart acidity.  Becomes tighter with air.  **(*) Now – 2024.

2 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Volnay 1er Cru Carelle sous la Chapelle – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13.5%.  A young color with violet.  A touch more aromatic.  In the mouth are expansive flavors of blue and black fruit supported by fine and drying tannins.  It picks up more weight in the finish.  Clearly more serious than #1.  This remains the easiest drinking of the six blind wines, taking on hints of spice and some lifted, ripeness in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2029.

3 – 2015 Domaine Y. Clerget, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens – $119
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 13%.  Tart, young, and dry structured yet clearly possess power for the flavors to develop.   Younger in profile than #2, it has a big future ahead.  Though primary and grapey with a mineral, black fruited finish, the fine almost bitter tannins make it trying to drink at this point.  It is best left in the cellar for several more years.  **(**) 2022-2037.

4 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin – $59
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Aromas of sulphur never blow off but there is some grapiness.  In the mouth it tastes like a natural wine with cranberry fruit, crunch acidity, and light finish.  In no way like the other wines so must be off.  Not Rated.

5 – 2016 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin Champ – $69
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  A lovely nose.  Very ripe and sweet fruit with just enough acidity and supportive structured.  Perhaps a hint of heat in the end.  It develops citrus notes.  Structured.  Tart acidity. *** Now – 2024.

6 – 2015 Domaine Duroche, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champeaux – $129
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Kirsch on the nose.  A hint of maturity in the mouth make this the most drinkable of the Duroche.  A ripe core of fruit, cherries, and a hint of earth make this a beautiful wine. **** Now – 2024.

Dinner Wines

2004 Produttori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja
Imported by Vias Imports.  Alcohol 14%.  Starting to mellow, maturing but focused with ripeness and grip to support future life.  Balanced.  Served immediately from a decanter, it was consumed quickly.  ***(*) Now – 2034.

1992 Weingut Wegeler, Vintage Collection, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Imported by Comete Wines.  Alcohol 8%.  A little spritz on the tongue then fully mature flavors are evident.  Dense lemon with modest ripe yellow fruit are fresh but the finish is short.  A slightest hint of tea.  *** Now but will last.

An Array of German Wines

December 12, 2018 Leave a comment

My two plans for childcare did not materialize so I had less than the duration of a birthday party to taste through an untold number of German Rieslings. There was naturally Champagne and as we met up at Q by Peter Chang, a constantly refreshed supply of Sezchuan dishes. There were bags packed with bottles and even one guest brought an entire cooler of wine. I knew I would not taste through everything but I also knew I made the right decision to try.

Of the Riesling I managed to taste, there were many solid bottles with just a few duds.  Standouts include the 1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen which is the oldest wine of the evening.  It is in fine shape.  Lighter in weight, more floral and a fresher spectrum of flavors than the 1915 Hermannshof, Niersteiner Flaschenhahl Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen tasted a year ago.  An interesting comparison.  Both the 2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer and 2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel are spot on.  Both have energy from the acidity with the Adam richer and the Schaefer chalkier.  You might develop a preference but I love the difference.  Exciting wines to taste.  Finally, the 2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau is unctuous, mature, and racy.  I tasted this straight from the bottle right before I left and wished I could have drunk more.

Thanks to everyone for their generosity.  I know I missed several other wines but it was purely by accident.

Champagne

NV Bourgeois-Diaz, ‘RS, Champagne Rose de Saignee
Imported by Selection Massale. Batch RS14, Disgorged 21/11/17. A cranberry color. Fresh on the nose as if smelling from the vat. The cranberry juice aroma has hints of apple mulling spice. It eventually smells more like apple pie. In the mouth is piercing acidity, spiced flavors, and a very dry personality. Killer nose so the dryness is a bit of a surprise.  Of strong personality but not for everyone.  Drink now while the aromas are preserved.  ***(*) Now.

2008 Henriot, Champagne Brut Millésimé Rosé
Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 12%. A fine vein of bubbles, yet strong acidity and toast, with watering acidity. This is pleasantly chalky with a clean finish. A youthful vintage but is building ripe, bottle-aged flavors with good body. ***(*) Now – 2023.

1996 Dom Perignon, Champagne P2
Finely scented. Strong acidity carries a mature, dry note. Very dry, clean, and light in fruit so opting more towards mineral.  Fresh, capable of long life, and for my taste, in need of further age. ***(*) 2023-2038.

1996 Philipponnat, Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses
Fine stuff! Biscuit on the nose with fresh, crisp mouthfeel, with bottle-age flavors.  In mid-life. **** Now – 2028.

Riesling

1934 Hermannshof (Weingut Hermann Franz Schmitt), Niersteiner Kehr Riesling Auslese, Rheinhessen
Shipped by Allyn & Scott Wines. Imported by Wine Cellars. Alcohol 13%. The Don Stott Cellar. A light golden straw. Rounded body with flavors of green floral and tea convey the freshness of the bottle. A light to mid-weight wine it is supple with an old-school flavor and not quite leather finish. There is a gentle edge from nearly eight decades of age but in no way is this a challenge to drink.  Holds up well in the glass. **** Now but will last.

1961 Langenbach & Co, Zeller Schwarze Katz, Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by Milton S. Kronheim. Toast! Not Rated.

2008 Trimbach, Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile, Alsace
Imported by Atherton Wine Imports. Alcohol 13%. A light straw color. Floral, greenhouse notes with some maturity. Very dry, tart and light with white fruit flavors on a razor edge. Elegant. *** Now – Whenever?

1981 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Sang Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 8%. A maturing edge with sour white berries, focus, and a bit of lively acidity. Not too interesting.  * Drink Up.

2012 Willi Schaefer, Himmelreich GG, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Alcohol 12%. Zip in the start with textured, white fruit, lemons, and a tooty-fruity flavored finish.  Not my favorite style.  *** Now – 2028.

2012 Thomas Haag, Schloss Lieser, Jufer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel
A Rudi Wiest selection imported by Cellars International. Alcohol 7%. A medium straw color. Mid-weight with ripe yellow flavors that drape over the tongue. The lower acidity seemingly adds more weight to the yellow fruit.  Good intensity of flavor but not the most verve.  *** Now – 2028. 

2009 A. J. Adam, Dhron Hofberg, Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Shipped by J & H Selbach. A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Alcohol 7.5%. A medium yellow gold color. Lovely. Textured acidity exists with ripe fruit in energetic balance. There is supple, seductive weight. Richer than the subsequent bottle of Willi Schaefer.  **** Now – 2038.

2009 Willi Schaefer, Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese #5, Mosel
Imported by Wine Cellars. Lovely with even finer texture to the zippy acidity driven flavor. An attractive start becomes drier through the finish. A lovely wine, beautiful acidity, with chalky finish .**** Now – 2038

2006 Dönnhoff, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by Julienne Importing. Unctuous, not as lively as it is honied with hints of tea spice and suggestions of ripe tannins on the gum. It is flavorful with a developing tart, citrus note. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2001 Dönnhoff, Norheimer Kirschkeck Riesling Spätlese, Nahe
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. Turning amber. Rounder and drier in the mouth with herbs, minerals, and honey. A long finish. ***(*) Now – 2032.

2005 Weingut Max Ferd. Richeter, Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. Black tea mixes with weighty flavors and moderate acidity. There is a mineral vein.  *** Now – 2023.

2007 Fritz Haag, Braunenberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
Finely articulated acidity, sweet and soft, with just enough texture. The ripe fruit even takes on some stones. A good sweet wine.  ***(*) Now – 2028.

2004 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, Mosel Saar Ruwer
A David Shiverick Selection. Imported by Langdon-Shiverick. A similar flavor profile and density as the Fritz Haag. It is almost oily and racy which I like very much. ***(*) Now – 2028.

2017 Hofgut Falkenstein, Krettnacher Euchariusberg Riesling Auslese, Mosel
Lars Carlberg Selection. Imported by Williams Corner Wine. Alcohol 7%. Very pale in color. An elegant, floral nose, delicate and fine. In the mouth delicate floral flavors. This is a clean wine with a fine acidic edge though slightly short in the finish. ***(*) Now – 2023.

2001 Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese, Rheingau
Imported by Premier Cru. Alcohol 8%. Unctuous and mature with a sweet tea note, racy vein, and quickly building complexity.  Lovely.  **** Now – 2038.

Red

2005 La Pousse d’Or, Pommard 1er Cru Les Jarollieres
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  Decanted into a metal jug which seems to have afflicted the wine.  Not Rated.

Mature wines at an annual dinner

December 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Lou and I gather the families every year for a pre-holiday dinner featuring mature wines.  This year we were joined by Darryl and Nancy for whom mature wine is a bit of an obsession.  To accompany the dinner of crab cakes, coq au vin blanc, and leg of lamb we had planned nothing more than opening a random series of mature red wines.  This was then surrounded by a Champagne and white wine starter eventually to be concluded with a dessert wine.

The Champagne was in the form of the impressively boxed 1990 Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Vintage Cave Privée.  This is surprisingly fruity on the nose with precise flavors in the mouth that are supported by robust bubbles.  There is only a touch of yeast and the sense of maturity really takes many hours to develop.  It was a good showing.

The white wines moved us onto experimental territory.  The 2008 The Scholium Project, Naucratis, Lost Slough Vineyards is Verdelho on steroids.  Unfortunately the 16.3% alcohol breaks through towards the finish as pure alcohol.  No matter how seductive and correct the nose is, I could not get past the burning sensation in my throat.  The 1998 Hugel, Riesling Jubilee Hugel, Alsace is only made in the best vintages.  You get that sense from the lifted aromas on the nose but in the mouth the wine is starting to tire.  Switching gears once again, the 1995 Pierre Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres  is a wine for mature Chardonnay drinkers.  The apple orchard flavors and bits of subtlety speak of maturation but the fat draws you back to peak drinking.

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1990 Veuve Clicquot, Champagne Vintage Cave Privée
Imported by Moet Hennessy.  Disgorged October 2008.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose is quite pretty with a surprising amount of berry fruit.  The fruit continues in the mouth but soon picks up lemons and baking spices with a touch of yeast.  With air the flavors develop towards maturity.  The wine has good precision to the flavors which are enlivened by fine, robust bubbles.  This is more of a fruity wine than yeasty/biscuit wine.  **** Now – 2026.

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2008 The Scholium Project, Naucratis, Lost Slough Vineyards
Alcohol 16.3%.  There is a rich, nutty, creamy, and seductive nose.  In the mouth is a rich mouthful followed by toast and baking spices.  The wine finishes spicy with a sharp, alcoholic jolt in the end.  It starts of promising but is unpleasant by the end.  *** for the nose but for drinkability * Now.

1998 Hugel, Riesling Jubilee Hugel, Alsace
Alcohol 12.5%.  There is an attracted, lifted nose with lemons and herbs in the short finish.  Interesting to smell but tiring out.  ** Now.

1995 Pierre Morey, Meursault 1er Cru Perrieres 
Alcohol 13.5%.  The golden amber color speaks of maturity.  In the mouth is an moderately dense wine with apple orchard flavors and spot-on acidity.  It is clearly at its peak, with a suggestion of subtlety, that is briefly waylaid by the fat in the finish.  *** Now.

While Lou and I finished our dinner preparations we required some red wine.  Together we had both stood up a dozen or so bottles to try which we arrayed on a desk.  A fine looking 1976 Bitouzet-Prieur, Pommard was selected at random.  I was curious about this wine, Pommard being the first mature Burgundy I ever drunk.  This bottle is from the first year Neal Rosenthal began working with the estate.  The significant amount of muddy looking mold under the capsule foretells disaster in my experience.  While not completely gone the dusty, dirty aroma pervaded the flavor.  Down the drain it went and out came the cork on the half bottle of 1969 Sterling Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  From the first released vintage, this wine was in good, though fully mature shape.  Peter Newton and Michael Stone founded Sterling Vineyards in 1964 with Ric Forman as the winemaker.  Both Peter Newton and Ric Forman went on to found Newton Vineyards once Sterling was sold to Seagram in 1977.  So this is an historic wine in two senses.  It proved a solid experience though the aroma of bananas and sweet rather than lively aspect of flavor prevented it from being excellent.  No regrets though, for one should try as many 1960s Californian wine as possible, for it is an historic period.

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1976 Bitouzet-Prieur, Pommard
Shipped by Neal Rosenthal.  Imported by Select Vineyards LTD.  Alcohol 11-14%.  It smells of dust and dirt.  There are some dark flavors in the mouth but the dusty, dirt aspect is less than subtle. An off bottle.  Not Rated.

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1969 Sterling Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (375mL)
Alcohol 12%.  The nose reminds me of red fruit and bananas.  In the mouth are clean flavors of red fruit which are sweet.  With air this becomes quite a mouthful. The assertive acidity brings forth a burst, of sweet flavor.  It leaves the impression that this was a larger, slightly sweet wine in youth.  *** Now.

With dinner we sat down to some serious wine.  The glass bottle of the 1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant was covered with cellar grime and label damage from racking.  It is one of those bottles whose provenance was lost over the years or decades.  There was a fair bit of ullage but the color through the green glass, though light, reminded me of watered down cranberries which is a good indicator.  With a gorgeous nose and lively flavors, there is much on offer with this wine.  If I nit-pick, it does not have the harmony of the 1964 Momessin, Clos du Tart but it has personality.  I really like this type of wine.  Just one year younger the 1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac had very top-shoulder fill just below the neck.  This was my first experience with Lafite.  Yes, I have sadly written about more older vintages than the number of bottles tasted.  Still this proved a great start.  The nose is great, unique, and worth spending some time on.  In the mouth this is a fully mature wine with just a touch of fat and graphite.

I admit the 1945 Chateau Calon-Segur looked horrible.  As you can see by the picture, it still does, with the label almost falling off after lying in my equally old Eurocave.  Inside the glass is what counts so the top-shoulder fill, dark color, and firm cork waylaid some fear.  All of that aside, being of the 1945 vintage and bottled by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol, where I spent my sophomore year abroad, warranted trying it out.  The color is the darkest of all opened that night.  The nose and the flavors are marked by eucalyptus with bright, tart, red fruit.  In the end it is a relic.

With calls for more fruity wine I selected the 1979 Chateau Cabrieres, Chateauneuf du Pape.  The fill was excellent and the capsule contemporary so I suspect this is an ex-domaine release.  I cannot imagine someone would fake a modest vintage of Chateauneuf du Pape.  I liked it a lot.  To me it offers a balanced, mature Chateauneuf.

I recently wrote how I prefer equally old dessert wine following an old wine tasting.  I am happy to report that the 2009 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes marks me wrong.  It is incredibly complex and flavorful both on the nose and in the mouth.  This is an outstanding wine.

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1961 Drouhin, Domaine General Marey-Monge, Romanee St-Vivant
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby, & Co.  This is almost light brown in color.  The nose, though, is gorgeous with aromas of cranberry and vintage perfume underpinned by an earthy note.  With air it develops both bacon aromas and hints of smoke.  In the mouth the vintage flavor tastes sweeter with air.  This is a vibrant wine with fine acidity.  As should be the case, this old Burgundy develops with air, improving at first then maintaining its lovely state until finish.  **** Now but will last for a decade.

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1962 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Pauillac
Shipped by Mestrezat-Preller.  Imported by White Company Ltd.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose is aromatic and beautiful from the very first pour.  It sports sweet, unique aromas of blood and iron.  In the mouth are bright, clean red fruit which follows the nose.  There are hints of fat and hints of dry graphite.  This is drinking at its peak.  **** Now.

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1945 Chateau Calon-Segur, Saint-Estephe
Bottled by John Harvey & Sons of Bristol.  The color is remarkably dark but of proper garnet brown.  There is a fresh nose of eucalyptus and dust.  Similar eucalyptus mixes with bright, tart red fruit carried through with watering acidity.  There is even some structure.    *(*) Now.

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1979 Chateau Cabrieres, Chateauneuf du Pape
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose smells of a library and garrigue.  This wine peaks after 10 minutes providing an attractive blend of blue and red fruit, garrigue, and leather.  Everything is in balance with this properly mature wine.  It still suggests at ripe fruit.  *** Now.

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2009 Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes
The nose is amazing and almost effervescent as the aromas fly out of the glass.  In the mouth is a core of butterscotch flavors, ripe pineapples, and sweet cream.  This racy wine is already, impressively complex.  Why not drink it now?  ****(*) Now – 2036.

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Tasting a trio of old wines with Lou

When sorting through old bottles of wine I first reject those with the lowest fill, sick color, depressed or extended corks, and signs of seepage.  I then gently check that the cork is firm by pushing on the top of the capsule.  Sometimes a bit of liquid comes out from old seepage and other times the cork shifts under the slightest pressure.  So it was to my surprise that this first bottle of 1969 Domaine Duchet, Beaune Bressandes revealed a thick crust of dried mold that shifted with any pressure from the worm of my Durand.  I think the top of the capsule was firm enough to trick me.  Needless to write the wine was a disgusting mess.  That is a shame as 1969 is considered the finest vintage of the period according to Michael Broadbent.  According to Robert Parker, the Duchet holdings were put together in the 1940s.  In the 1960s Monsieur Duchet was estate bottling half of his wine with the intention of selling it direct to client.  However, this one-time mayor of Beaune became busy with politics and never sold the wine.  Robert Haas discovered this cache of wine in the 1980s and imported it into America.  Thirty years later that labels are still in perfect shape.

As for the drinkable wines, the 1985 Domaine du Clos des Epeneaux, Pommard 1er Cru Clos Des Epeneaux Monopole showed great promise at first.  Though initially in clear need of air, it had good power, a youthful profile, and attractive minerals.  In my mind it was going to be better than the 1971 Chateau Haut-Bailly, Graves which was in very good shape.  The cork is the cleanest one to date.  The Clos des Epeneaux oscillated in behavior and never settled down.  The Haut-Bailly, on the other hand continued to develop with air.  The last glass was the best, worthy of three stars.  I am beginning to believe that the old Bordeaux from this cellar need to be decanted and aired out for 30 to 60 minutes.  They have thrown so much sediment that this will yield an extra glass of wine.  The wine will also drink better, albeit for a shorter window, so make sure your partner or a friend is around. These wines were purchased as MacArthur Beverages.

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1969 Domaine Duchet, Beaune Bressandes
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  A bad bottle!

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1985 Domaine du Clos des Epeneaux, Pommard 1er Cru Clos Des Epeneaux Monopole
Shipped by Cannan & Wasserman.  Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  Alcohol 11-14%.  The nose turned after one hour offering up strange aromas.  In the mouth there were still hints of ripeness, tart flavors, and eventually hints of wood.  The wine was generally nice in the mouth with supportive structure.  It oscillated between citric flavors and ripe fruit.  In summary, this was young at first, pretty at times, and showed depth at other times.  **(*) Now-2025.

WithLou3

1971 Chateau Haut-Bailly, Graves
Imported by Dreyfus Ashby & Co.  Alcohol 12%.  There were fresh evergreen aromas at first then darker and dusty notes. The mouth was fresh in the front with some initial weight, grip, and juicy acidity.  With air the wine fleshed out, ultimately taking on dark red fruit, some Big Red flavors, and cherries.  The wine was expansive with juicy body, and an ethereal finish that left texture on the gums.  The aftertaste even brought a hint of vanilla.  **/*** Now.

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