Everyone wants to know, ‘how is Hong Kong?’ It has certainly been a tumultuous and strenuous second half to the year for one of the world’s greatest cities, and after a bit of recent and extended calm, things unfortunately escalated again on New Year’s Day. The hospitality business has definitely been hit hard, and the city regularly feels emptier than usual due to a spike downwards in tourism. When there are major protests in a certain area, local businesses are basically screwed. People do not go out on the weekends or holidays as much since most of the protests are on weekends or holidays, unless they are protesting, of course. Reports of recession have emerged, and everyone to whom I have spoken yearns for a return to normalcy.
But for its finest wine lovers, pleasure and business continue in fine fashion. People want to enjoy their passion, perhaps even more so given the circumstances. And two short but sweet meals on my two trips there this Fall would prove to be outstanding examples of this point.
A good doctor and a good businessman were good company on one weeknight in the city. We ended up with five wines but only two vintages, 1995 and 1991. It wasn’t planned like that, but we were in sync! We started with a 1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil, which had a big oaky nose, full of toasty coconut and bread soaked in oil. It was very buttery in the nose but very lemony on the palate, a bit tangy. There were earthy flavors in this tart bubbly (94).
The rare 1995 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet had a sweet nose with lots of caramel and caramel corn as well. There was musk to its decadent sweetness, and its nose was showing lots of skin. There was still a firm structure here. There was some hay, bits of straw and caramel in this delicious white. It was so delicious and creamy with a kiss of mom’s chicken soup flavors (96).
The 1991 H. Lignier Clos de la Roche had a wheaty nose. The wine was deep, tight and bready, perhaps a touch unusually so. There was long, firm acid and a big finish but the wine was a bit square. There were a lot of olive flavors in this big, beefy red. The wine was great, but I wanted more. It almost seemed musty, but it was really just super stony. Soy flavors emerged as its acid flexed even more (95).
The 1991 Domaine Leroy Richebourg was a deep, dark ocean that no sunlight could penetrate. It was so black with kisses of Ferrari tire. Rich, deep and long, it was remarked how 1991 is the first great vintage for Domaine Leroy. There were secondary nutty and grassy qualities; it was a regular squirrel party lol. There was a bit of a ceramic and rubber tire casing to its palate. The Riche was heavy, rich and meaty with a seductive perfume. ‘So perfumy’ came from the crowd as this wine continued to gain in the glass (97+).
We went back to the whites for the last wine of this glorious night and a rare 1991 Lafon Montrachet. It was very caramelly and creamy with lots of honey aromas. Gamy corn emerged to dominate the nose. The palate was buttery and kinky with a mature, gamy edge but excellent butterscotch flavors. This honeyed white gave me nice spider web feelings, whatever that meant lol. It was actually a proper dessert wine (94)!
Another most noteworthy meal of my Fall trips to Hong Kong also saw a Domaine Leflaive Montrachet opened. I love it when that happens. The 1996 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet had a fabulous nose with creamed corn and butter fresh off the farm aromas. There was sweet yellow fruit and a great icecap on its nose. There were underlying minerals and tension beneath its sensual olfactory stimulation. The palate was rich, creamy and round with such signature smoky sexiness. There were secondary butterscotch aromas and flavors in this divine wine (98).
A magnum of 1971 DRC Romanee Conti came next. That’s right. In fact, this magnum was purchased at our November Hong Kong auction the month prior. I love it when that happens, too. The magnum was in outstanding condition, and it had outstanding provenance, so I was feeling no pressure. After one sip, I was feeling no pain. Its nose was full of that autumnal rust and spice. There were tomato, rose, bouillon and menthol aromas filling my nose to capacity. The Winemaster found the 1971 ‘more elegant than 1978’ in general, and I was in love with its great, fully mature flavors. There were brick, rust and autumn flavors here. While its palate was elegant, its finish was thick. It got more minty and (good) herbal on its finish, with almost a kiss of Chartreuse-like complexity. What a wine (99M).
Next was another perfect condition bottle, a 1961 Chateau Haut Brion. It had toffee, caramel and peanut aromas with an egg cream kiss. It was rich and luscious on the palate with great, coffee and chocolate flavors alongside dark plum and cassis. This was a long and sexy wine; if flavors could be midnight, this wine was it. I wanted to take it back to my hotel room accordingly (98).
This spectacular lunch closed out with a 1990 J.L. Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin. I brought it. I mean, a ’71 RC magnum was opened, and I’m a gentleman! I have been drinking as much Chave as possible; it is generally a good habit lol. The Cathelin had an amazing nose with an insane blend of menthol, violet and bacon. It was so white smoky and so sexy with enough oil to get a racecar going. The palate was superb; this was another long and sexy wine that left my mouth open and wanting more. Its creamy, honeyed personality and elegant, endless finish had me in the promised land again. Just wow (99).
One Hong Kong friend said to me recently, ‘this, too, shall pass.’ In the meantime, Hong Kongers will keep passing the glass around the table and celebrate the life that they know and love. I am looking forward to returning tomorrow!
In Vino Veritas,