There were actually six celebrations, arguably seven, when I turned fifty, it was one heckuva week. This evening in particular was also noteworthy. It was a dinner of only magnums, and 24 of New York City’s finest collectors, most of whom were already friends before (and certainly friends after), all came together to share many toasts throughout the night of their favorite tipples. By the end of the night, I was feeling fuzzy, slightly warm and definitely tipsy.
The Night Was Young
We started with a trio of Champagnes, the first being a perfect magnum of 1979 Krug Collection. There was great spritz to this long and effervescent Krug, which also had great sweetness of the apple cider variety. There was still the signature cream and butter with a tasty amount of toast on its lingering finish (97M).
A 1971 Dom Perignon took it up a notch, if that was even possible. This was another perfect magnum, perhaps blessed by the birth year glow. It was long and zippy with superb acidity. Bad Boy hailed it ‘a 101-point wine.’ He would know. ‘SUPER’ appeared in my notes on multiple occasions. This was white fruits, white ice and white sugar all combining for a sparkling white wine wonderland (98M).
We dialed it further back with an even older magnum of 1964 Salon. It was another white and wintry Champagne, but it also showed more minerality and white leather chaps. There was cream and sugar in this percolating bubbly, which had a long finish, but it fell a touch short of the sheer pleasure of the Dom P (97M).
The white flight was what dreams are made of. Thankfully, no one had to pinch me, although I was feeling quite punchy after one sip of a unicorn magnum of 2001 Domaine Leflaive Montrachet. Perfect seemed to be the word of the night; here it was again. Its nose was super smoky. This was a rich, creamy and honeyed Chardonnay, showing the botrytis of the 2001 vintage in long, seminal fashion. There was great richness here, but there were more Montrachets to follow (96M).
It is rare when a magnum of Ramonet Montrachet finishes “last” in a flight of wine, but it will soon become obvious why the 1999 Ramonet Montrachet did. There was great acidity and power here, as top ‘99s are prone to have, but it was a bit coy. Someone hailed the flight ‘as spectacular a flight of whites as you will see.’ There was a nice, sweet core on the waterfall and mint side in the middle, but it was still shy. It was also definitively long and lifting…to be continued (95+M).
The 1992 Ramonet Montrachet delivered out of magnum as always. This has always been the wine of the vintage in Burgundy, and even more so out of magnum! Its nose was on the sweet side of this tropical vintage, showing lots of rainwater. Its palate had great texture dripping with sticky honey. Its palate was absolutely gorgeous, sweet in all the right spots. There was a harvest full of corn here, and this regal white sat in my belly as it sparkled on its finish. Thank you, Bill (99M).
There was one more Ramonet magnum that followed, a 1986 Ramonet Montrachet magnum. This was another rich and dense white, the most buttery of them all with a citrusy kiss. Its tremendous finish unfolded like a good plot, and it was thick as a brick. It had the longest finish but it was a hair brawny compared to the effortless 1992. That would what we call nitpicking, and some were in the 1986 camp. Ambassadors are not always right (98M).
A duo of Dujacs was next, and the 1996 Dujac Clos de la Roche had the difficult position of following that extraordinary flight of whites. It answered the bell admirably. This was a classic 1996, screechy and with vibrant acidity. There was great musk here along with mint and leather, and a lot of backside in this large and stylish red (95+M).
The 1993 Dujac Clos de la Roche had great fruit for a 1993, with a wet kiss of game. It was purple and dusty with leather, cream and exotic spices. It had the whole spice cabinet, in fact. The Ambassador found it ‘way better than the 1996.’ He is always very opinionated lol (97M).
One Of A Kind
Another One Of A Kind
A trio of Rousseaus was next, and they were all extraordinary. The night was in full throttle mode, and I must confess that I didn’t take many notes for the spectacular magnum of 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze. I have written this wine up many times over the years, and it has always been one of the most extraordinary wines from this extraordinary vintage, the Burgundy vintage that Robert Parker trashed when he was still allowed to visit Burgundy, remember that lol. For this magnum, my most telling note was ‘finished it first.’ It’s a true story (98M).
The 1995 Rousseau Chambertin magnum that followed was also quite good, make that really good. It admirably held a candle to the blindingly good 1993 Beze, and it was outstanding stuff. Fresh, creamy and with great red fruits, this mag showed the brightest sides of the 1995 vintage. Rousseau does that for every vintage now, doesn’t it? There was still a lot of stuffing to go with this beauty of a bird (96M).
The 1985 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze magnum, just wow. This wine wasn’t just rich, it was wealthy, at least three generation’s worth lol. The energy here was practically existential, and while it was the oldest and wisest of the flight, it still had this baby fat goodness that made me want to make strange sounds and noises with my lips. Its fruits were darker and blacker, and while it had great development, it was still very young. It was immediately crowned WOTN by many. Thank you Peter (99M).
The 1985 Rousseau Clos St. Jacques that followed was a bit disappointing, or perhaps just a bit outclassed by the Chambertins. It was a little musty but still a pretty wine. It danced in the glass and was quite elegant, but it just didn’t stack up to the three beauties and beasts that preceded it (94M).
This is likely the only time I will ever be able to say that I had 1971 DRC La Tache on three consecutive nights, and this time it was out of magnum, one that I had acquired from The Don RIP. This was the most expensive wine I had ever opened on my own; I figured a 50th birthday was as good an occasion as any to do so! A combination of anticipation and trepidation quickly led to jubilation once my nose was in the glass. ‘Perfection,’ was the first thing I wrote; there I went again! It was so musky and full of spice, with an arousing sensuality. Its sweet, red strawberry fruit played with roses and exotic spices. It was definitely time to dim the lights. There was so much minerality to go with incredible acidity and lift. Even though it was the third time this week, it was a once-in-a-lifetime wine, and the magnum stood heads and shoulders above not only the previous two bottles, but also every other magnum on the night. Thanks JK lol (99+M).
The 1970 DRC La Tache can also be exceptional out of magnum, but this one had no shot after the 1971. It should have been served first. Its nose was on the leaner iron, mesquite and band-aid side of things, and its palate was soft, tender and fleshy. Nice wine, but it was on to Bordeaux (94M).
An Haut Brion Night
Gentlemen Prefer Magnums
The first Bordeaux of our sinister six was a magnum of 1959 Haut Brion. It was silky and chocolaty, elegant and sensual, soft and creamy. However, this wine often hits the 98-99 point heights, and this magnum didn’t. It was still outstanding, but it is tough to get truly excited when you have multiple, superior reference points (96M).
The 1953 Haut Brion magnum that followed actually took it up a notch, which isn’t easy for a ’53 to do over a ’59 in general. It was also creamy but more honeyed. This was a rich, perfect 1953. ‘So good and so delicious’ kept appearing in my notes, as did recurring notes of chocolate and cream. If served blind, I might have guessed this to be the ’59. 1953 has always been a giving and pleasing vintage, comparable to 1985 per Bipin, someone drinking them for a lot longer than almost anyone reading this (97M)!
Unfortunately, La Mission Haut Brion took the fall for every other wine on this night. A magnum of 1953 was cooked, and a magnum of 1959 was corked. Ouch!!! But we were feeling no pain, and two Pomerols got us quickly back on track. This was the 1982 Lafleur I had been looking for my whole life! Many adore this wine, but frankly most experiences with it have been disappointing for me. I’m not going to get into the whole 1982 vintage thing, nor the ’82 Right versus Left Bank thing either, because this Lafleur changed the narrative. Another ‘perfect bottle’ made its way into my notes, along with so rich and so decadent. This was a purple, plummy extravaganza, dripping with fruit and exuding class (98M).
There was a magnum of 1970 Petrus, but I was starting to run out of gas. Classic, rich and decadent were all I had left (96M). There was an equally exceptional magnum of 1971 Cantina Mascarello Barolo Riserva, which awoke my senses with its unique Italian sensibilities, along with great citrus, rose and freshness (96M). There was also a mag of 1989 Giacosa Falleto Riserva, but I was officially illegible.
As spectacular as my 50th birthday week was, and the two dinners in particular that I wrote up, there was another birthday event that was even more spectacular, and it wasn’t mine. The Rev turned 60, as unbelievable as that is to those that know him, and his celebration was delayed due to the pandemic. He more than made up for the delay with one of the greatest wine dinners of my entire life…