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Bastardo & Mostcatel: the dinner wines 2011 – 1959

January 22, 2018 Leave a comment

After working through 20 different Madeira at Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830 it was time for the transition to dinner service.  As always there is an array of Champagne to work through. A pair old label and very tasty NV Krug, Champagne Brut Grand Cuvée, an oxidized 1985 Salon, Champagne Brut Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, a substantive 1996 Bollinger, Champagne La Grande Année, 1998 Pierre Peters, Champagne Brut Le Mesnil Blanc des Blancs, and 1982 Tattinger, Champagne Brut Millesime. There is an interesting trio of Dom: 1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon, a magnum of good 1988 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rose, and an old survivor the 1959 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon.

 

To transition from Champagne to red wine is a very good bottle of 1989 Clos St Hune, Riesling Vendanges Tardives Hors Choix of which I took note.  Then came a grab bag of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, and Portuguese wines.  I missed out on tasting a number of bottles but then I did manage to receive some healthy pours of some great wine!  Please find my general impressions below.

1989 Clos St Hune, Riesling Vendanges Tardives Hors Choix
Moderately sweet with Riesling fruit this is well balanced and dense. There is a lovely floral note.

1967 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
In fine shape, one gentleman described as the “perfect luncheon claret”. I agree, dark fruit, cedar, fresh acidity, and easy to drink.

1971 Chateau Latour, Pauillac en magnum
Shipped by Nathaniel Johnston & Fils.  Wow, in fine shape and drinking very well right now.  Dark fruits, wood box, and yes, graphite.

1990 Chateau Latour, Pauillac
Shipped by SEMAV. Imported by Ginday Imports. Alcohol 12.5%. A beautiful color, lighter than the 1989 Haut-Brion. Aromatic on the nose and flavorful in the mouth. The wine is thick in a sense, textured, and still developing yet the minerals and graphite are engaging right now.

1989 Chateau Haut-Brion, Graves
Shipped by Armand Roux. Attractive animale nose. Wow in the mouth, mineral, dense, and sexy with fat coated flavors. The animale quality persists in the flavor making it complete. This is only just starting to open up.

1959 Berry Bros & Rudd, Chateau Montrose, St. Estephe
Imported by Marine Trading Consultants. This is great and even better than my two chateau bottled experiences. The fruit is more concentrated and sweet. Clearly well-stored.

2011 Remoissenet, Montrachet Le Montrachet
Starting to mature.

1985 Bonneau du Martray, Corton Charlemagne
Yeasty and rich in the mouth with apple orchard flavors. The acidity makes it crisp and tense with a citric note.

1991 La Pousse D’Or, Volnay 1er Cru Clos de la Bousse D’Or Monopole en magnum
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 14%. This is entering maturity with vibrant red fruit over underlying blue fruit flavors. I am happy to discover the fine evidence of maturity.

1970 Avery’s, Domaine Gros-Renaudot, Richebourg Grand Cru
This is a gentle wine with an introduction of sweet, concentrated fruit infused with fat. The fruit is still supported by structure which leaves a sweet, wood note.

1990 Pierre Bouree Fils, Clos de la Roche Grand Cru
Selected and shipped by The Wine Society. Sweeter and softer with good depth of flavor. The wood notes are infused with a sweet finish.

1996 Jose Alfonso e Filhos, Rogenda, Veiras
Alcohol 13%. Fine ripe blue and black fruit, ripe wood texture, and spice. Nicely structured.

1990 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave, Hermitage
A good nose which is earth and animale. It is barely entering maturity. Right now it is perfectly balanced with the structure well-integrated. Plenty of grip.

“Legendary Potions”: An old wine dinner back to 1929

December 16, 2015 5 comments

Mature vintages are a normal part of any discussion with Darryl and Nancy.   However, when it came to selecting our wines for a recent dinner, they led off deep with a double salvo of vintages from 1929 and 1931.  This soon led everyone else to offer up bottles from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

It was easy to be seduced by the final wine list.  The vintages from 1929, 1931, 1937, and 1942 were at one time not only difficult but impossible to secure in America.  The oldest wines were initially not imported due to Prohibition.  The others would have been held up for a few years due to transportation difficulties caused by World War 2.  In fact, Jane Nickerson wrote in The New York Times that the first tasting of imported wines since the war only took place in New York City during 1946.  For these reasons, in part, all of the oldest bottles bore modern import strips.

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It turned out that ullage as an indicator of condition reined king.  With one loose cork, two bottles low in the shoulder, and even one below shoulder wine, these bottles were doomed from the start.  Whether this was due to poor storage in Europe or America is not known.

However, you cannot find fault in trying a low fill 1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac or even a 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion, Graves  for they are rather difficult to acquire.   The 1929 Duhart-Milon is largely regarded as an excellent wine.  This particular vintage represents the last great vintage of the estate before it succumbed to the economic depression of the 1930s and ravages of the war.  With no capital to spare, the old vines slowly died off with the overall acreage declining as weeds took over.  It was not until 1962 that the estate was turned around after the acquisition by Domaines Barons de Rothchild.

Such history was in the back of my mind when, with bottles in hand, eight of us gathered last week at The Grill Room in the Capella Hotel located in Georgetown.  Present were Darryl, Nancy, Tim, Scott, Lily, Josh, Morgan, and myself.  For our dinner Chef Frank Ruta created a six course menu around our wine flights.  The wines themselves were overseen by Master Sommelier Keith Goldston.  There was much discussion with about the service of the wines to let them show their best.  While there was no help for some bottles, the dead bottles of Bordeaux were tempered by other tenacious old red wines and an incredible opening flight of Champagne.

Tempura
cod and colossal squid from Denmark, sweet onions, dauphines
grilled soy braised daikon

I have drunk Salon only once before but given the situation I did not note the vintage nor how the wine tasted.  Our bottle of 2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne  from the current release was deep in the aromatic nose, with cream and fat in the mouth, and a racy finish.  It was young in the mouth but when I returned to it I could not help but see what all was in store.  It was a very good but perhaps due to youth not as compelling as what was up next.  The first mature wines were perfectly fresh.  The 1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne was a tremendous bottle, holding nothing back for the first hour or two.  I was beguiled by the fat and oil textured flavors.  As the 1973 began to fade the 1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne finally opened up.  This was always more austere in nature with yeast notes, dry flavors, and vibrant acidity.  It finally showed good complexity and even suggested the need for several more years in the cellar.

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2002 Salon, Cuvée ‘S’, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne
Imported by Vineyard Brands.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was very aromatic with remarkable depth, a hint of yeast, and underlying earthiness.  This lovely wine was rich in the mouth with very fine and strong bubbles that quickly dispersed to leave a dry texture and chalk infused finish.  With air it took on cream and fat, which never became heavy because it was racy.  Young!  **** 2020-2050.

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1973 Moët & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.7%.  The darkest of the pair, this bottle revealed pure aromas of coffee and latte with bits of nut added in.  In the mouth the lively, firm bubbles made way to a drier, richer, and creamy wine.  It lost bubbles with time but it developed remarkable amount of fat and oil before the racy finish.  This tremendous wine delivered all it could before fading after an hour or two.  ****(*) Now – 2025.

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1976 Moet & Chandon, Cuvée Dom Pérignon, Champagne
Imported by Schieffelin & Co.  Alcohol 12.1%.  Though it bore familiar aromas, there were more yeast notes.  The flavors were youthful with pretty floral components and better defined acidity.  Nice flavors developed after a few hours of air making this a vibrant, mature wine. **** 2020-2035.

Shoat Belly
chestnut coulis, apple and turnip salad

Michael Broadbent noted the 1973 German vintage as the largest vintage on record with most wines set for early consumption.  I might have hedged once the nose opened up on the 1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer but the flavors were getting tired in the mouth.  While fine enough to drink I did not crave more.

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1973 Egon Müller, Scharzhofberg Kabinett, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer
Shipped by Weinexport Hattenheim BMGH.  Imported by Kobrand Coporation.   The nose was first evocative of geraniums before developing complex aromas of herbs and old lady perfume.  In the mouth were apple-like flavors with some old and dusty notes.  ** Now.

Hand Cut Tagliatelle
with kabocha squash, truffle and shaved reggiano

The 1929 Duhart-Milon, Pauillac turned out to be a shell of its former self.  Perhaps speaking to its original potency, the nose was incredibly aromatic but of herbs and greenhouse plants.  This was followed by tart and strange flavors in the mouth.  No doubt old but refusing to let go was the 1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo.  This is a remarkable bottle because very little appears to have been written in English about this vintage let alone the wine.  The Wasserman’s described the vintage as “widely considered to be the greatest of the century” in their book Italy’s Noble Red Wines (1991).  Michael Broadbent wrote that “pre-war vintages are scarce” for Italian wine which remains true to this day for there are but a handful of tasting notes.  The  Wasserman’s made note of the 1931 Giacomo Conterno, Barolo, there is also Michael Broadbent’s note on the 1931 Giacomo Borgogne, Barolo Riserva Speciale, and finally Jamie Wolff (Chambers Street Wines) mentions a  good bottle of 1931 Marchesi di Barolo.

Fontanafredda has a royal history dating back to the mid-19th century.  Trying times began with World War I and reached a low mark with the economic depression of 1929.  After changing ownerships a few times, Fontanafredda went into bankruptcy in 1930 then was acquired by a bank in 1932.  Kerin O’Keefe writes in Barolo and Barbaresco (2014) how this bank turned the estate around.  You can imagine my delight when this bottle, produced during economic turmoil and bottled under new ownership, turned out to be fabulous.

Darryl had double-decanted the 1931 Fontanfredda, Barolo almost 24 hours prior to our tasting.  He reported that the wine had gained weight since he first pulled the cork.  It was in the mouth that this wine shined.  It had richness and weight but it was the tension which kept me returning to my glass all night long.

Also drinking very well, was the 1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay.  The excellent 1937 vintage also happens to be the same year of the first Burgundy pavilion during the Paris Exposition.  Our bottle was fairly pigmented when first poured but the color shifted to include more browns which matched the old wine flavors that also came out.  The wine was sexy but unlike the rich body of the Barolo, our Volnay had structured black fruit and minerals.  If it was more firm the aftertaste was coating and long.

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1929 Chateau Duhart-Milon, Pauillac
Shipped by J. Calvet & Co.  Imported by Ginday Imports.  Alcohol 12.5%.  Below shoulder fill.  The dark brown color let to aromatic herbal and greenhouse aromas that also took on notes of dill.  The flavors were similar in profile with a tart start, strange flavors, and an old wine finish.  Sadly not worth drinking.  Not Rated.

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1931 Fontanafredda, Barolo
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports. Alcohol 11%-14%.  The nose did not prepare one for the surprising richness of the flavors.  It showed a racy personality with inkiness and most importantly, tension.  This was an elegant, compelling wine.  **** Now – 2035.

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1937 Camille Giroud, Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Blondeau, Volnay
A Becky Wasserman Selection imported by Old Vine Imports.  Alcohol 13%.  There was still red color in the glass but with air it took on browner and garnet tones.  This was a sexy, old wine which showed proper mature flavors with air.  It still sported some tannics with a touch of dusty, black fruit and minerals.  I particularly liked how the old fruit flavors clung to the mouth in the rather long aftertaste.  **** Now – 2025.

Bobo Farms Air Chilled Duck Breast
glazed beets, juniper sauce

This next flight featured two well regarded bottles from excellent vintages in Rioja.  In The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain (2011) the vintage comments point out that 1942 “Vina Albina from Bodegas Riojanas” is in “top form today.”  The Vina Tondonia “in gran reserva format, represent the peak of the vintage.” The 1942 Bodegas Riojanas, Vina Albina, Rioja was in top-form and really deserved even more air than it received.  This textured wine had citric red fruit flavors and a youthful personality that reminded me of a demi-john aged wine.  Sadly, our bottle of 1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja was on the tired side.  With the fruit largely gone it was tart and acidic with less flavor.  Both bottles had metal capsules.  The Riojanas bore a more modern Consejo Regulador  Garantia de Origen label on the back with the de Heredia sporting the older Diploma de Garantia.  I feel these labels spoke to the relative release dates of the wines.

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1942 Bodegas Riojana, Vina Albina, Rioja
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  Bottom neck fill. Quite clear and vibrant in the glass with a meaty nose of sweet berries.  In the mouth the citric red fruit flavors and tannins made it taste like a demi-john aged wine.  The flavors were dry and mouthfilling with watering acidity, a hint of old wood, and a cool, meaty note.  It left good texture on the tongue.  **** Now – 2035.

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1947 R. Lopez de Heredia, Vina Tondonia, Rioja
Imported by T. Elenteny.  Top-shoulder fill.  The wine smelled old with notes of soy.  In the mouth the flavors were very tart and citric, leaving a first impression that the wine was older.  The fruit had largely faded leaving prominent acidity and some old wine flavors.  ** Now.

Dry Aged Shenandoah Rib Roast
locally foraged winter oyster mushrooms, glazed celeriac, red wine jus

This final flight of red wines turned out solid at best.  With the 1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves clearly evocative of bananas and the 1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe even worse, the 1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe  once again exhibited reliability.  This bottle had better fill and a different shipper than the bottle I tasted this summer.  It proved different too with a robust, tannic, and textured personality.  It is what I drank with my rib roast.  The mallet-shaped bottle of 1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie was aromatically described by one guest as “fog of ass”.  It was odd and certainly stinky so much so that I did not revisit the wine until after I finished my course.  Surprisingly, the nose cleaned up and developed a core of robust fruit.  Though a bit clunky, it was a decent glass.

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1949 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Though the bottle smelled of sweet fruit, in the glass the wine was strangely evocative of banana foster.  This sweetness quickly faded to reveal old vintage perfume.  In the mouth were highly astringent flavors of tart red fruit and perfume.  It was a bit salty too.  Not rated.

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1955 Cos d’Estournel, Saint-Estephe
Shipped by Tarbes & Co.  Imported by Vintage Wines Inc.  The smelly nose made way to tired, old flavors of menthol.  Worse than the 1949.  Not Rated.

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1959 Chateau Montrose, Saint-Estephe
Imported by Direct Import Wine Company.  Alcohol 11% – 14%.  The wine looked good with a garnet color of color infused with some redness.  This wine presented mature flavors in a youthful, robust, and tannic nature.  While not sporting a ton of fruit, this wine craved air, filling the mouth with textured flavors of maturity.  A good drink.  *** Now – 2025.

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1964 M. Chapoutier, Cote-Rotie
Frederick Wildman and Sons.  Imported by Schallery Wine Company.  Bottom shoulder fill.  This was a very dark cola color.  I initially thought it too old with its odd nose one person described as “fog of ass”.  Upon revisiting it had cleaned up tor reveal a core of red and black fruit with surprising robustness.  A solid wine which just needed to shake its stink off!  ** Now – 2020.

Tarte Tatin aux Coings
Honey buckwheat ice cream, vanilla quince sauce

The final wine of our evening was a fitting last glass.  The mature flavors fit in with all of the other wines but the sweet, tense flavors acted as a refresher.  As such I was satisfied and felt no need to taste anything else.

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1959 Moulin Touchais, Anjou Blanc
Imported by Rolar Imports.  Alcohol 12%.  With a color of vibrant, dark gold and a nose of membrillo this wine was attractive to all of the senses.  The rich flavors hinted at sweetness but this old wine had strong focus and good life from the acidity.  The acidity drove the wine through the end where it tasted like a mature white wine.  Good tension.  ****Now – 2045.

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From the Comet Vintage through the Victory Vintage: A casual fine wine dinner with Mannie Berk and Ricardo Freitas

October 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Last week started off strong as I attended A Blast from the Past: Madeira Extravaganza in DC which celebrated 20 years of collaboration between Mannie Berk (Rare Wine Co.) and Ricardo Freitas (Vinhos Barbeito).  The week ended in Philadelphia where I gave a talk about Henry Hill and Madeira.  It turns out that the week was steeped not only in old Madeira but also in old red wine.  There was a Madeira from the famous 1811 Comet Vintage and a red Burgundy from the 1945 Victory Vintage.

These important vintages were drunk with dinner at Ripple.  Present were Mannie, Ricardo, Darryl, Nancy, Tim, Lou, Kevin, and myself.  Many thanks to Marjorie Meek-Bradley for sending out plates of lovely food and Danny Fisher for taking care of us.

To be presented with any glass of wine from the Comet Vintage is a treat.  Even some fifty years after the harvest, John Timbs wrote in 1862, “Who has not heard of the comet wine of 1811?”  Just over a decade later Charles Hindley defined “comet wine” as one “of superior quality”.  He noted that this was perhaps “because the comets themselves exercise some chemical influence on them.”  Henry Vizetelly wrote about this vintage a few times, describing it as “famous” and “grand”.  I was, admittedly, infected with historic excitement.  Bemused why no one at the table was discussing comets, you can only imagine my great laugh when Mannie suggested all of the people who cared about Comet Wines had long since passed away.  Indeed, I bear no resemblance to the following satire illustrating the type of men who might have cared about it.

The sort of people who cared about the Comet Vintage. Anacreontick's in full Song. Gilroy, James. 1801. #1868,0808.6974. The British Museum.

The sort of people who cared about the Comet Vintage. Anacreontick’s in full Song. Gilroy, James. 1801. #1868,0808.6974. The British Museum.

Comets aside, the 1945 vintage was on everyone’s minds with the difficulties in the vineyards and of producing the wine.  But first we drank Champagne as everyone arrived.  There was discussion of flawed state of the Champagnes.  I did not mind too much, though I found the 1989 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut Collection too aggressive.  The 1990 Philipponnat, Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses had a rather short finish, the mousse was soft and it reminded me of an old wine.  I enjoyed it.   There was no disagreement about the sole white wine.  Simply put, the 2000 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses was electric!

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1989 Krug, Champagne Vintage Brut Collection
The yeasty, deep nose made way to good bubbles that burst from aggression in the mouth.  The wine was minerally with a little creamy spiced flavor.  The flavors themselves were mature.  *** Now – 2025.

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1990 Philipponnat, Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Disgorged February 2001.  Alcohol 13%.  I found a beautiful core of fruit then apple orchard hints.  The fruit is ripe and texture with smaller, gentler bubbles bringing it forward.  The flavors leaned towards that of a mature still wine mixed with baking spices.  No doubt good to drink but the shorter finish is obvious.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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2000 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent), Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  The yeasty, electric nose of yellow fruit prepared the palate for the young and lovely flavors in the mouth.  The wine showed more fruit both with air and with food.  There was a very focused, gentle weight, and an attractive hint of cream and note.  Note quite saline.  Certainly lovely.  **** Now – 2025.

A stunning old Burgundy

Though Clos de Lambrays is a centuries old estate my particular interest is that of the past century when the estate, under the Rodier family, went into decline after the First World War.  Fortunately, Albert Rodier had a wealthy mistress, Renee Cosson who acquired the estate in 1938.  The Appellation Controlee in Burgundy had just been established a few years earlier in 1936.  The vineyards of Clos de Tart, Clos de la Roche, Clos Saint-Denis, and even Bonnes Mares were  classified as the finest.  Despite Clos de Lambrays being surrounded by these Grand Cru vineyards, the Cosson’s never pursued this designation potentially due to taxes, according to Clive Coates.  It is commonly reported that as the old pre-phylloxera vines died off they were never replaced and the soils were not composted.  Chaptalization was never allowed and the wine spent a very long time on the skins.

Clive Coates writes that the 1945, 1947, 1948, and 1949 are “some of the finest Burgundies I have ever drunk.”  Robert Parker echoed the sentiment stating “the 1945 Clos des Lambrays I drank would certainly quality as one of the greatest and most potent burgundies I ever tasted.”  He does continue that other bottles were never quite as good.  Michael Broadbent tasted three bottles in the 1980s.  From his “ecstatic notes” he wrote “reminiscent of Petrus ’47; incredibly sweet, sweeter than the port (1887 Sandeman)”.  Charles Walter Berry, writing in the 1930s, was ecstatic about the 1898 vintage remarking, “This was a WINE! Very, very fine.”

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The 1945 vintage in Burgundy saw a severe frost on May 1st which significantly reduced the potential crop size.  A cyclone hit in late June further reducing potential size to one-sixteenth of what was anticipated.  Thus the hot weather combined with a tiny number of grapes resulted in very concentrated wines.  Indeed, our bottle of 1945 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays lived up to the historic hype clearly reflecting the “traditional manner” of production as described by Alexis Lichine.  The wine smelled unique and in the mouth were old-school flavors that still contained fruit with a seamless, minerally, weighty  nature.  The wine drank great for about one hour after it started to fade by drying up.  There is no doubt in my mind that well stored examples will drink well for many years to come.

The label for the wine is quite attractive and was designed a friend of the Cosson family, the Alsacian Hansi.  If you examine the label, it previously stated “Cosson Seul Proprietaire de Clos des Lambrays”.  Subsequent to the printing of the label the words “Seul” and “Proprietaire de Clos des Lambrays” was over struck.  The word “Heretiers” was added above “Cosson”.  In the 1960s, Robert Cosson took over the operations from his mother Renee Cosson.  Alexis Lichine writes that he sold wine to shippers.  This makes sense because this bottle was shipped by Jean-Claude Boisset who formed his Negociant company in 1961.  Perhaps reflecting his new management status Robert Cosson felt “Heretiers Cosson” was only appropriate given that he was heir to the estate.  I have made a few enquiries and will update this post with anything I hear back.

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1945 Domaine des Lambrays, Clos des Lambrays
Shipped by Jean-Claude Boisset Wines USA..  Imported by Jean-Claude Boisset.  Alcohol 12.5%.  There is a unique, attractive nose with dark soil notes and a hint of band-aid.  In the mouth a significant amount of fruit still exists with a minerally, weighty nature.  The tannins are nearly resolved with the acidity bound in a seamless package.  There is great balance and plenty of concentration and power for future life.  With air the wine took on a sweaty, pungent nature with old-school flavors, and an attractive hint of saline and soil.  Clearly unique.  After one hour the flavors became drier but then my glass was emptied.  ****(*) Now – 2025+.

Mature Bordeaux

Three red Bordeaux comprised our red wine flight.  Kevin decanted the 1953 Chateau Latour, Pauillac whereas I simply opened the other two bottles.  The cork of the 1955 Chateau Margaux, Margaux was in good shape, only slightly soft, and came out in one piece with the help of my Durand.  The top of the cork was branded with two overlayed T’s.  I meant to check the body of the cork but forgot and left it on the table.  Though the cork of the 1961 Chateau Calon-Segur, St. Estèphe came out in one piece, it was coated on the top and indeed all the way along the sides with a dusty, moldy smelling layer.  Hence the low-shoulder fill.  The cork did not smell right and one whiff of the wine confirmed it was past drinking.  As Mannie noted, it was the darkest wine of the trio, which to him, indicated oxidation.

That left us two chateau-bottled wines both produced by traditional  methods.  Whereas the Chateau Latour represents a style of management and winemaking that had been in place for decades, the Chateau Margaux represents efforts to return the estate, vineyard, land, and chateau back to form.

Chateau Latour was owned by shareholders with the estate administered by a Societe Civile since the 19th century. Incredibly the Phylloxera arrived late.  The first vines only replanted onto American rootstock around 1901 with the entire vineyard completed in the 1920s.   The 1950s eventually saw a doubling of yields over the previous decade.  The fruit was destalked by hand then was fermented in oak vats.  Les Forts de Latour would not exist for another decade until the 68 shareholders sold off a majority of their stakes.  In wasn’t until this ownership changed in 1962 that the modern tools of mechanical destalking, stainless steel vats, and temperature control were introduced.  Even the vineyards were extensively expanded.

The Ginestet family had completed purchasing shares of Chateau Margaux so that Pierre Ginestet became sole proprietor in 1940s.  Under the Ginestets the sprawling vineyards were reduced to just the best terroirs and there was a return to selecting the best vats of wine for the grand vin.  Like Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Margaux had mandated chateau-bottling in the 1920s but this was abandoned from 1930 through 1949 when shipping in wood was allowed.  The Ginestets were able to restore chateau bottling as well as the chateau itself.

There is no doubt in my mind, nor was there in my palate, that the flight of Bordeaux could match the 1945 Clos des Lambrays for aroma, depth, and length.  It was, harshly put, an obvious step down in quality.  I write that not to belittle the Bordeaux but to show the clarity with which the 1945 Clos des Lambrays stood out.  The 1953 Château Latour Grand Vin, Pauillac received decanting but to me it maintained a sort of grip on its flavor.  I kept expecting it to reveal more but it never did.  Still, it was enjoying and particularly fun because it offered a strong contrast to the Margaux.  If the Latour offered a more powerful, stand-up profile the 1955 Château Margaux, Margaux was all about fruit with a delicate, gentle nature.  On this night it was a wine to drink and be seduced by.

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1953 Château Latour Grand Vin, Pauillac
Shipped by A. Delor & Co.  Imported by International Vintage.  Alcohol 13%. Consigned from a private collection to Edward Roberts International.  The iron-like flavors maintained a focus that matched the core of red-black fruit hints and good acidity.  The flavors maintained their binding in the structure and I found them particularly interesting n the middle with notes of old, dry leather, iron, and old wood.  Will clearly last but will  not offer anything in addition.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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1955 Château Margaux, Margaux
Shipped by Smith & Hoey Ltd.  Unknown importer.  Mid-shoulder fill. There were lively, green hints in the mouth.  Some structure came out on the teeth but the seductive, sweet, old fruit match it well and built intensity towards the finish. It is a pretty wine that took on a touch of weight.  The delicate red fruit  **** Now.

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1961 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
Unknown shipper and importer.  Bottom shoulder fill.  Clearly tired on the nose but I gave it a go anyways.  The aromas of mushrooms made way to firm flavors with roast notes and an old mushroom note.  Dying.

Very old and figuratively young Madeira

I first tasted an 1811 Malvasia Candida wine earlier this year in New York City which you may read about in the post “[W]hen of the best kind, a most delicious wine.” An historic 19th century Malvasia Madeira tasting.  In all honesty, the bottle from NYC proved the worst experience of the evening.  This did not deter my excitement to try the wine again for there was a difference.  The previous experience came from a Burgundy shaped bottle sealed with red wax.  For this dinner the bottle bore the same label but the glass was Bordeaux shaped and the wax was a dark, military gray.

I had reasonably assumed, that when the 1811 was bottled the Burgundy bottles ran out so whatever else was on hand, Bordeaux bottles in this case, were then used.  Or vice versa.  That the wax was different implied two separate bottlings.   However, from the very first sniff I knew this was a different wine and in no way related.  In addition, it was way too young. Just the night before I drank the 1866 and 1837 Barbeito Bual with perfect provenance through Mannie from Ricardo.  This particular bottle of 1811 tasted even younger!  I will write a follow up post focusing in on this particular bottle in detail.  There were other Madeira’s that night as well.  It was getting late so my notes are short.  The 1901 D’Oliveiras, Malvasia, Madeira was less sweet and showed an attractive nutty profile.  The 1973 D’Oliveiras, Verdelho, Madeira was rich, racy, and pungent. All aspects that I really like.  This is a young wine to consume in the future.

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1811 Malvasia Candida, Madeira
Acquired from a private collection Acker Merrall & Condit auction May 21st, 2015, New York.  This was very sweet on the nose and with air, a prominent thyme note came out.  In the mouth this wine was sweet, concentrated, vibrant, with a hint of Big Red flavors and a bit of greenhouse.  There was sweet sugar and lots of thyme flavors.  Way too young to be an 1811 and of the wrong flavor profile.  Nevertheless, whatever was in the bottle, provided a tasty experience. Not Rated.

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1901 D’Oliveiras, Malvasia, Madeira
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 19%-21%.  There was a musky nose with nut flavors in the mouth, acidity on the sides of the tongue, and good liveness.  It had an oxidized note in the long finish.  **** Now – 2090.

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1973 D’Oliveiras, Verdelho, Madeira
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 19%-21%.  This was rich and racy with fine power and structure.  The pungent flavors mixed with orange peel before the powerful and dry finish.  The wine returns again with strength.  Young! **** Now – 2115.

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The Calon Segur Vertical 2010-1982

January 29, 2014 1 comment

Chateau-Calon-Segur. Image from Cocks and Feret, Bordeaux and Its Wines. 1883.

Just over one week ago I had the opportunity to taste 16 vintages of Château Calon-Ségur ranging from 2010 back to 1982.  The tasting was organized by Panos Kakaviatos who managed to convince general manager Laurent Dufau to present his wines at Ripple in Washington, DC.  The estate was recently acquired by Crédit Mutuel Arkéa and Jean-François Moueix.  They hired Laurent Dufau who informed us this was the first promotional tasting in the United States in 120 years.  I recommend you read Panos’ post Calon Segur 1982-2010: first ever promotional tasting in the US both for the background information and his perspective on the wines.  Three important facts to consider are that until 2002 the wine was bottled on two separate dates, once in the spring and once in the July to September time frame.  This fact alone introduces bottle variation.  Secondly, in 2006 Vincent Millet took over the winemaking for the estate.  Vintages prior to 2006 tend to have 50% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon but Mr. Millet increased the Cabernet Sauvignon proportion to 80%.  He also sourced the fruit from the main 55ha vineyard.

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We began the evening with glasses of Krug Champagne served by Maria Denton.  Krug might be a fixture at Panos’ Bordeaux tastings in Washington, DC and it is of good effect.  Everyone gets excited.  There were many familiar faces present including Phil Bernstein (MacArthur Beverages), Chris Bublitz, Maria and David Denton, John Gilman (View From the Cellar), Darryl Priest, Karen Taylor (France Magazine), and David White (Terroirist).   My assigned table included Kathy Morgan, Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours), and Christian Schiller (Schiller Wine).  You may find Christian’s post here A 16-Vintage Château Calon Ségur Vertical Tasting in Washington DC, with Wine Writer Panos Kakaviatos and Laurent Dufau, Managing Director, USA/Bordeaux. All of the wines we tasted were decanted as early as 3pm so they had plenty of air.  In adding my brief comments both the 2010 and 2009 vintages have strong long-term development ahead of them.  The 2008 was drinking quite well as was the 2005 vintage, the last prior to Vincent Millet.  The later had initial notes of maturity and was just downright fun to drink.  Reaching back further the 1989 was my favorite wine of the night.  A classic mature wine.  Unfortunately, my 1982 was full of sediment as was the rest of the table.  It was decent but muted and in no way compared to the 1989.  At the very end each person received a small pour from three different bottles of Sauternes.  I have come to love Sauternes very much so it was to my delight that I discovered these bottles were still a third full at the end.  The 1986 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey provided a lovely end to the evening.

Laurent Dufau and Panos Kakaviatos

Laurent Dufau and Panos Kakaviatos

2010 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This wine had a subtle herbaceous nose.  In the mouth were enjoyable yet firm and concentrated flavors.  There were notes of graphite and spices in the finish followed by a good aftertaste. ***(*)

2009 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This bore a darker nose of black cherry with some deep, meaty aromas.  The flavors were blacker with meat, a little hint of minerals, with some texture in the finish. ***(*)

2008 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
The nose was finely scented with some toast.  In the mouth were firm cherry and black fruit flavors which were lively in the mouth.  This wine was more open, drinking well, and had good acidity. ****

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2007 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
The nose was richer and aromatic with chocolate notes and vegetal hints.  In the mouth there were initial fruit flavors then a wall of structure.  Much different than the 2006, with more green herbaceous notes. **

2006 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This had a very tight nose of clean fruit.  In the mouth the tight fruit had both good structure and acidity.  There were red fruit flavors which morphed into black fruit.  The wine was elegant, perfumed, and had a good mouthfeel.  A good wine. ***

2005 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
The nose was a touch darker.  This was a fun wine with rustic flavors and chunky tannins.  Drinking really well with hints of maturity. *****

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2003 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
There was a little perfume on the nose. In the mouth were black fruit flavors, watering acidity, and presence of structure.  This well done wine mixed minerals with structure in the finish.  It had good fruit, texture, and balance.  It was rather open.  ****

2002 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This was a thinner wine with a little more minerals.  The flavors leaned towards the red and it still had structure.  **

2001 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
There was a linear delivery of fruit with some tart red flavors and a touch of vegetal notes.  It bore hints of bottle age but presented a youthful aspect.  There were black minerals in the finish and red fruit which was both dense and cool.  A young wine.  ***

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2000 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
The nose was a bit earthy with spices.  In the mouth the wine was young and not showing too much.  It had powdery notes of rocks and structure in the mouth.  Clearly meant for the long-haul.  ***(*)

1999 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
There was a good, tight nose.  The flavors were concentrated with prominent acidity and a slightly ripe finish.  This was a good, fresh wine with some baking spices and a little earth.  It was drying in the finish. ***

1998 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This revealed a little volatile sharpness on the nose.  In the mouth this wine came together with air.  It showed complexity with a tough, robust finish.  There were attractive black fruit and floral elements.  ****

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1996 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This wine was fresh yet firm with some leanness wrapped around the structure.  There was black and red fruit and some spice.  Very nice. ****

1995 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This was more linear in delivery with acidity and more mellow blue fruit flavors.  The flavors had some weight and there was a little toast to the structure. ***

1989 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This bore a lovely, earthy finely scented nose with mature aromas.  In the mouth was good fruit, concentration, drying structure, and a little roast.  My wine of the night.  It had a balance between maturity and liveliness which made it a treat to drink.  ****

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1982 Château Calon-Ségur, St. Estèphe
This glass full of sediment was poured from a bottle with a perfect label.  There were darker fruit notes, ripeness was there, some roast, a good wine but ultimately lacked that extra dimension. ***

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1986 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes
This had the lightest color the three Sauternes.  There were apricot and floral notes.  The residual sugar and acidity were balanced with some crispness to the wine.  The apricot flavors became sharper towards the finish.  Drinking well now.  ****.

1989 Chateau Rieussec, Sauternes
This had a piercing nose followed by sharpness in the mouth.  This bottle was not showing well. NR.

2001 Raymond-Lafon, Sauternes
This had a slightly candied aroma followed by sweeter flavors and more obvious residual sugar with less acidity.  The flavors leaned towards marmelade.  ***

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The Savory 1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur

Chateau Phélan Ségur  was founded in the 19th century by Monsieur Bernard Phélan incorporating some land owned by Marquis Ségur.  Bernard Phélan begin assembling property in the early 19th century and by the middle of the century he had the largest wine estate in St-Estèphe.  William Franck lists production in 1845 as 200-250 tonneaux compared to Chateau Meyney at 150-200 tonneaux.  In 1850 Charles Cocks tabulates Ségur et Garamey (Phélan) as the largest producing estate in St Estèphe with 220 tonneaux.  This is followed by Meyney (Luetkins) at 160 tonneaux, Calon (Lestapis) at 140 tonneaux, Le Bosq (De Camiran) 130 tonneaux, and Cos-Destournel (Destournel) at 120 tonneaux.  Bernard’s son Frank built the chateau which is located in the northern portion of  St Estèphe just south of the town of St Estèphe near the Gironde River.  Having no heirs the estate was sold to the Delon family in 1883.  In the October 13, 1884 issue of the Ridley & Co.’s Monthly Wine & Spirit Trade Circular the 1883 vintage of Phélan Ségur was sold at £8 10s compared to Chateau Lynch-Bages at £9, and Chateau Palmer at £13 in the United Kingdom.  In Bordeaux the 1882 vintage sold for 950 Fr per tonneau, the 1893 at 575 Fr per tonneau, and the 1899 at 600 Fr per tonneau.  This may be compared to Chateau Kirwan at 1,800 Fr, 1,800 Fr, and 1,025 Fr per tonneau.

In the 20th century the estate was run by Roger Delon and his son Guy.  Roger was the uncle of Michel Delon at Leoville-Lascases.  After the death of Roger Delon in 1984 the estate was put up for sale by Guy in 1986.  Xavier Gardinier, who was then head of Champagne Lanson, put in an offer within three days.  The first years of ownership were wrought with problems.  Customers complained about the 1983 vintage which turned out to be tainted by an insecticide.  This vintage was recalled in 1987 but the 1984 and 1985  vintages were tainted as well thus never released.  The Gardinier’s set about improving the estate.   They introduced the second wine Frank Ségur in 1986.  Yields were lowered by green-harvesting and a sorting table was introduced in 1987.  Though a new cuvier had been installed in 1977 the winery was rebuilt in 1988.  For the 1990 vintage the fruit was sourced from three parcels: eight hectares located near the chateau, a majority from some 40 hectares near Chateau Montrose, and 25 hectares near Chateau Calon-Ségur.  This puts the parcels on small gravelly hills with subsoils of clay.  The average age of the vines was just over 20 years with the maximum age just over 60.  In my mind this was a lovely example of a maturing Bordeaux which I wish my basement was full of.  The efforts of the Gardinier family clearly paid off with this vintage.  It actually took over three hours to open up, at which point it smelled and drank beautifully.  I suspect this will reach peak drinking over the next several years.  There were no signs of bad storage nor defects.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur, Saint-Estèphe –
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc.  It was aged 13-15 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a light to medium garnet with bricking towards the edge.  The light to medium strength nose was of red fruit and a little bit of dark, coffee roast.  In the mouth there was minerally red fruit supported by acidity at first.  The flavors then became blacker and dry with determined fruit.  It was a touch salty, not quite hard in aspect, maturing with riper, black acidity and spice.  There were sweet spices in the aftertaste and some earth and wood smoke as well.  With air this wine became savory, put on a little weight, and had drier flavors.  The structure is still there with cinnamon spiced tannins coming out.  ***(*) Now-2023+.

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Tasting a Mixture of Wines with Lou

Last week Lou and I got together for an impromptu tasting.  I had just picked up the 1999 Kruger-Rumpf from MacArthur Beverages so I brought that along with the only other bottle I had from this estate.  Lou had already opened the Albert Mann so he decided to decant the Lilian Ladouys followed by the Caronne Ste Gemme.  Of the two Kruger-Rumpfs I was absolutely surprised by the youthful character of the 1999!  It has the energetic acidity I so much love in a German Riesling, the impeccable quality of a library release, and a great price.  The 2005 was markedly different with riper fruit and more obvious residual sugar.  I agree with Lou in that I doubt it will reach the heights of the 1999 but it should certainly develop with some age.  For me the Albert Mann was polarizing.  While it was absolutely amazing to smell an ocean in my wine glass, the aromas were quite strong.  In the mouth it had a lovely mouthfeel and the stuffing for a long life.  I suspect others will enjoy this wine more than I did.  The two Bordeaux were in a similar state of maturity with rather similar flavors.    The Lilian Ladouys bore redder and cooler fruit whereas the Caronne Ste Gemme had riper and darker fruit.  While both are approachable, the fruit was still primary so I would continue to cellar them.

1999 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Munsterer Pittersberg, Nahe – $32
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik.  This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from a 5.5 hectare vineyard on soils of Devonian slate. This was a light yellow color, a touch lighter than the 2005.  The nose was more aromatic than the 2005 with matchstick, dried herbs, and white fruit.  In the mouth the flavors of white fruit and orange citrus notes was delivered with textured acidity on the tongue.  The fruit remained fresh and bright throughout with good acidity and a lively personality.  The fruit became tarter in the finish with dried herbs in the aftertaste.  This young wine is drinkable now though will live a long time.  *** Now-2025.

2005 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Riesling Spatlese, Munsterer Daudenpflanzer, Nahe – $19 (at the time)
A Terry Theise Selection imported by Michael Skurnik.  This wine is 100% Riesling sourced from a 1.7 hectare vineyard on soils of decomposed quartzite with loess.  The color was light yellow and slightly darker than the 1999.  The nose bore riper fruit, petrol, and heavier aromas.  In the mouth there was more residual sugar beneath the weightier flavors.  The initial fruit faded, leaving a long dark aftertaste of fruity-tooty flavors.  On the second night the flavors were front-loaded with good interwoven flavor and texture before things tightened up with a short aftertaste.  I would cellar this for development.  **(*) 2017-2022.

2008 Albert Mann, Pinot Gris, Rosenberg, Alsace –
This had been open for two days.  The aromatic nose smelled like the sea with its briny, kept notes.  In the mouth there was surprisingly good texture and focus with only hints of briny flavors to the yellow fruit.  This was lovely in the mouth with an oily character.  On the next night the nose became overpowering with seaside aromas. Unique.  ** Now-2025.

2006 Chateau Lilian Ladouys, Saint-Estephe, Cru Bourgeois Superieur – $16
This wine is an approximate blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc sourced from ninety plots of vines averaging 40 years of age. The wine is aged 16-18 months in one-third new oak barrels. The color was a touch garnet. There was a fresh nose of red berries and menthol with a generally fruity nature. In the mouth there was cool structure, acidity, and very fine tannins. ** 2015-2019.

2006 Chateau Caronne Ste. Gemme, Haute-Medoc, Cru Bourgeois –
This wine is an approximate blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot sourced from an average of 25-year-old vines.  The wine is aged for 12 months in 20% new barriques.  The color leaned towards ruby.  There was denser, riper, dark red fruit.  The wine was a little spicy with good structure and acidity.  The flavors became blacker in the finish with a hint of minerality and drying but a bit chewy, tannins.  ** 2015-2022.

Mostly Bordeaux Tasting at Lou’s

September 26, 2009 1 comment

Earlier in the winter a group of us gathered at Lou’s house to taste some of his Bordeaux. Lou couldn’t find his 1982 Ch. Potensac so he substituted the 1984 Pesquera instead. That turned out to be a lovely treat. All of the wines were decanted about 1-1.5 hours prior to the tasting. The four Pomerols were served as the first flight with the remaining four in the second flight. The 1982 Branaire and the 1984 Pesquera were my favorite of the evening.

Flight #1 – 1982 Pomerol

1982 Ch. Rouget, Pomerol
This wine contains 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc that spent 24-30 months in barrel. This showed a light, stink nose of some hay and green notes. This bottle had the most dried out fruit out of all of the wines served. It still contained a core of tannins.

1982 Ch. L’Enclos, Pomerol
This wine contains 80% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec that spent 20 months in barrels and vats. A nose of dark fruit followed by dark fruit and minerals in the mouth. Holding together better than the Rouget.

1982 Ch. La Croix, Pomerol
This wine contains 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 20-24 months in barrel. The strongest nose of the first flight. Green but not menthol aromas. In the mouth there were berries, green fruit, that put on weight with air. A medium-strength aftertaste and a bit more acidity. To me the best of the first flight.

1982 Ch. De Sales, Pomerol
This wine contains 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 18-22 months in barrel. The lightest color of the first flight. An advanced browning color. Some cheesey funk on the nose. Somewhat sulphuric in the mouth, with hints of youthfulness but faded fast.

Flight #2 – The rest!

1982 Ch. Branaire (Duluc-Ducru), St. Julien
This wine contains 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot that spent 18-24 months in barrel. A light youthful nose of dark sugar, cinnamon, and leather aromas. In the mouth flavors of red fruit, black currant were delivered with good body and good tannins in the aftertaste. Easily the best of the 1982s.

1988 Ch. Meyney, St. Estephe
This wine contains 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot that spent 16 months in barrel. A light, young, tight nose. Rather tannic, greener, higher-pitched fruit than the 1986. The nose opened with air. The wine seemed to oscillate throughout the evening and at times was quite good. This was somewhat beguiling because the wine couldn’t decide to be present itself as young and shutdown or opening up to middle-age. I’d cellar this one longer to find out.

1986 Ch. Meyney, St. Estephe
This wine contains 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot that spent 16 months in barrel. A softer nose than the 1988 that left impression of dark berries and lemon. This was still fairly tannic and showed redder fruit in the aftertaste.

1984 Pesquera, Ribera del Duero
A unique, strong nose of red berries and cedar. With air ripe, red fruit come out to complete this well-balanced wine. A lovely treat, this drinks well now but will easily last. On the second night it was still going strong.

For dessert
2001 Rappahanock, Vidal Blanc, Virginia
A light color of amber. A nose of tart, bright, apricots. More apricots in the mouth. They were sweet and almost too cloying.