This past week saw Wolfgang and I in Hong Kong together for a very special dinner celebrating his auction and cellar. It was a most extraordinary testament to a most extraordinary cellar. Amidst all the financial turmoil of the week, the dinner at Robuchon transported us to a place far, far away, about as close to wine heaven as one could hope. Every bottle, shipped from Europe to America and then to Hong Kong, was in ideal condition and showing phenomenally. It really does not get any better, and for this we had Wolfgang and his four decades of collecting to thank.
We started with a couple of bottles of 1988 Krug Clos du Mesnil. I didn’t have much time to take notes, as I was meeting and greeting everyone as they arrived. I kept insisting how wine is one of the better investments out there, especially now ”“ it won’t become worthless overnight, and at least you can always drink it! The Krug had a fresh, baked bread nose with aromas of anise and a twist of lemon. It was intense and full of spice. It was also rich and meaty in the mouth, with hints of wood flavors and great citrus tang. I don’t think I have ever rated a Clos du Mesnil, Champagne’s vineyard equivalent of Romanee Conti, less than 95 points, and I wasn’t about to start now (95)!
A trio of whites was next, beginning with a sexy 2000 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. Clean and fresh, it had that distinctive Coche nut/kernel kink along with baked, buttered corn aromas. There was also a touch of milk in its long, aromatic profile. It tasted great too, rich and round with superb acidity and lots of butter and mineral flavors. There was great toast and a rocky definition to its finish. Everyone admired its ‘minerality,’ although it lost a step over time rather than gaining, curiously enough (95).
We time-traveled back to a 1982 Lafon Meursault Perrieres. Obviously, the Lafon was much more mature but still fresh, displaying more of a yeasty, mature, buttered biscuit of a nose. Touches of wood, game and lit match were also present. It was rich, long, buttery and woodsy on the palate, mature but still solid and possessing nice grip on the finish, and a thickness not present in the Coche. Secondary aromas of marzipan, forest, seashell and almost scallop (no scallop served, by the way) joined secondary flavors of forest and wood (great ones, I might add). The Lafon held well, and while the Coche lost a point for me, the Lafon added one (94).
A magnum of 1986 Domaine de la Romanee Conti was our third and final white. It was an interesting contrast, the two Perrieres versus Montrachet, almost a handicap match that would make Vince McMahon proud. In the end, the big, bad Montrachet showed why it was still the king of the hill. It kept gaining and gaining and gaining, lasting well into the evening. Its nose was very exotic at first, showing off that ’86 botrytis, along with this saucy Asian sweet plum sex appeal. There is ‘huge potential still,’ admired one of our guests. Yeast, cobwebs and hints of tropical orange were also there. The palate was round and rich, also incredibly tropical with exotic honey, guava and orange marmelade flavors. Its acidity was holding on quite well, which many ‘86s cannot still say, and while it seemed to be plateau-ing, it also seemed to be capable of being there for a while, a sentiment that would get stronger as the night went on. There was great texture in this rich, long, round, gentle giant. A tomato dish really brought out its acidity more, along with exotic tea-like flavors and cement, the type of cement in a brand new, mint apartment building. Two hours later, it was still going strong (96M).
It was time for some reds, and we got right to the point with a 1947 Trotanoy. ‘Wow,’ started my notes. ‘Classic,’ was next. Aromas of rich, ripe plums, chocolate, raisins, citrus and mahogany were stratospheric in their presence. There was also a balancing pungent, rocky minerality after all these years. The palate was so round and lush it reminded me of what it must be like for a child to have ice cream for the first time. It was so chocolaty, so raisiny in that mature yet still healthy way. Its finish was chalky and stony, displaying superb acidity and a great minerality. There was almost a hint of apricot in this exotic red. Sweet and tender yet sturdy and strong, there was no doubt that this was hallowed ground, both 1947 and Trotanoy itself, which seems to be the forgotten great Pomerol (97).
The 1964 Petrus held its own against the Trotanoy. It was darker, thicker and firmer, nutty and even sturdier, possessing aromas of caramel, thick cassis, plum and more black fruits with a pinch of cocoa. The palate was fantastic, rich, thick ”“ did I mention fantastic ”“ I wrote it twice; it was that good. ‘Unstoppably good,’ I continued, as I could not stop drinking each of these two Pomerols. Stony, edgy, long, fine, earthy, hearty, rugged yet smooth ”“ that about summed it up. Old wine, people, that is what it is all about (96).
A trio of Bordeaux was our next flight, beginning with a magnum of 1986 Le Pin. Even though the Le Pin had been open and decanted for two hours, it was still tight; there is ’86 for you. Its nose seeped deep, deep purple fruit, sweet plum and cassis, as well as garden and sexy Pomerol cream. Its flavors were chocolaty and super stony, the whip of those 1986 tannins showing strongly, and its acidity remarkable. This was a big wine with big flavors and a nice edge, so chocolaty that ‘yum’ was appropriate, and green beans joined the party, in a good way. 1986 is one of those years where some Pomerols hit it on the head too, probably only tobe recognized many years down the road like 1952 (95M).
A 1982 Latour was a nice reference point, and about as good a bottle of it as I have ever had. Could I have expected anything less from Wolf? Classic aromas of walnut, cedar and spice slowly oozed out of the glass. Its length was noticeable right away aromatically. It was much nuttier than the Le Pin, both in the nose and in the mouth, where caramel, mineral and walnut flavors danced. The wine was very long and very fine, possessing that hallmark ’82 elegance and class yet still brooding like a Latour. It was stylish and so elegant, elegant like a hammer kissing a nail softly. Coffee flavors rounded out this special bottle (97).
Our last Bordeaux on this night was a 1975 Lafleur. Surprisingly ripe, the ’75 was much more open than I last remembered it. This bottle had the signature, kinky kirsch and black cherry jam aroma of mature Lafleur, extremely ripe and juicy in its fruit. The palate was thick and sturdy, spiny and possessing the best t ‘n a profile so far. If other wines were big, this wine was a monster. Thick and ripe, with additional flavors of black olives and earthy rust, the ’75 Lafleur was gamy, juicy and kinky, everything it was supposed to be. This evening was turning into a textbook night (97+).
Ahhhhh, Burgundy. The 1985 Ponsot Clos de la Roche V.V. just shattered every memory that I have had of this wine and immediately catapulted itself into the best ever category. It was ‘so aromatic, so pungent, so gamy”¦’ So? Incredibly ripe, there were sweet redcurrant and cranberry fruit aromas, along with great spice. On the palate, it was ‘so rich, so hearty, so acidic”¦’ So? Acidic as in great acidity, not heartburn, although the Ponsot did make my heart race! There was a rich, cranberry goodness to the flavor profile with a kinky raspberry twist. Monstrous and offthe charts, this was a ‘wow’ wine, and probably the best bottle of Ponsot ever made (98+).
As good as the 1979 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux was, the Ponsot made it difficult to notice. The Jayer had this herbal edge like pellet-ized grain. It was rich, sweet, round and gamy with cherry and vitamin flavors, but I think it would have showed much better had it been served first. Oops (93).
The last flight of Burgundy was a fitting closer, beginning with a stellar 1966 Richebourg. Aromas of vitamins, spice, spine, roses and cherry spilled out of the glass like beautiful body parts out of a designer dress. The palate was rich and hearty, full of acid, instantly achieving check plus plus plus status. Flavors of vitamin, citrus, rose, light leather and carob made it lip-smackingly good, along with touches of forest floor and animal cage. I was seduced by the Richebourg and left begging for more (96).
A magnum of 1966 Romanee Conti was next. Yes, magnum. There was more animal in the nose than in the Richebourg. The RC was darker and beefier yet reticent with hints of bouillon. It was an intense ‘stonewall’ of a wine, very gamy and hearty on the palate with flavors of rose, rich meat and minerals. It stayed hearty and improved, displaying more thickness and the directions to iodine city. While the Richebourg may have had more finesse and caresse, the RC made its point loud and clear (97M).
While that would have been a fitting ending, there were still two wines to go. The 1949 Leroy Richebourg was gamy and pungent, with even more animal and black fruits. It had a Lafite-like cedary edge as well. Long and rich, there were nutty flavors and nice citric spice on its earthy finish. It was the big yet square, make that squarer (94).
The 1983 De Fargues was an afterthought, but still excellent. Cotton candy city, rich, sweet, smooth, practically as good as Yquem”¦that’s about all I had left in me (93).
What a night. What a cellar. The economy will be just fine sooner or later, but there will be no cellar of Wolfgang Grunewald again.
In Vino Veritas,