The generosity and collegiality of wine lovers remains one of the tiny miracles of wine for me. I am constantly impressed by the willingness to share their treasures that bonds so many lovers of wine together. Some people seem to get a particular joy from providing others the opportunity to try wines that they would not normally be able to enjoy.
In my experience, one should always have a policy of providing friends with the chance to share their best bottles with someone who appreciates them. It’s an important service, and one that I’m proud to perform.
I happen to be lucky enough that my pursuit of such opportunities doesn’t really require any sucking up or bootlicking on my part (not that I’d have a problem with that, mind you). I have a couple of friends who all-too-readily manufacture events whose themes are a loosely veiled version o “Let’s get together and drink some of my good shit.” Yes, I’m very lucky that way.
The last such gathering that my friends Jack and Joanne held was an excuse to drink a bunch of wines that were waaaay off the beaten track.
A couple of weeks ago, Jack pulled a few more bottles out of the cellar, and with the help of a few of us who brought a bottle or two of our own, we put together an eclectic tasting of old wines that was a lot of fun.
It would take me a long while to get around to writing reviews of each of these wines individually, as much as they might all deserve it, so I’m going to pull a rare one here on Vinography and just post a bunch of tasting notes.
I hope you enjoy these notes even a fraction as much as I did the wines that inspired them.
1966 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Perignon, Champagne
A pure amber color in the glass, so pretty I wish I had taken a photo, this wine smelled of marzipan and brown sugar. As it was poured, it clearly still had some fizz, but by the time it hit my tongue they were just a faint trace of effervescence — like the prickles of goose bumps. On the palate, the wine was smooth and regal, with flavors of brown sugar, lemon, and a bit of nut skin on the finish that rolled long down the throat. This was a Dame Judy Dench of wines — remarkable in its poise — and while past its prime, clearly still vibrant and individualistic. Perhaps not as spectacular as I would have liked, but fascinating nonetheless. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1961 Remoissenet Père et Fils “Tête de Cuvée” Charmes-Chambertin, Burgundy
Light blood-red in the glass, this wine had a nose of roasted figs, raisins, and marinated olives. In the mouth it offered flavors of raisins, figs, dried currants, and tart cherries, gathered carefully in a fine silk scarf of texture. I expected this wine to be more complete and resonant than it was, and I suspect that this may have been an underperforming bottle. Score: around 9.
1966 Pierre Bouree Fils Charmes-Chambertin, Burgundy
Medium blood-red in color, this wine has a phenomenal nose of exotic vanilla beans, red miso paste, and wood smoke that I could have inhaled all evening. In the mouth it was simply gorgeous. Supple, smooth, and sexy with flavors of caramel, redcurrant, flowers, and then a light pine-herbal note on the finish that rippled and grew into a solid meatiness of satisfaction. I actually wrote ‘pork belly’ as a descriptor for this wine, so sumptuous and savory was the long aftertaste. Score: around 9.5.
1969 Felix Clerget “Les Rugiens Tête de Cuvée” Premier Cru Pommard, Burgundy
This wine was light ruby in color and all but sang to me from four feet away. There are some wines that make life hard, because after you have them, you don’t want to put anything else in your mouth for a while. This wine, with its nose of tart plum, redcurrant and pine forest certainly did its best to convince me to sell all the wine I own and only buy properly aged Burgundy. And then when I put it in my mouth, it made me want to sell my car and my stereo…and only buy properly aged Burgundy. Ethereal yet precise, the meaty, plummy flavors of this wine were skeined with a fine latticework of mint and chocolate crystalline flavor that didn’t really ever finish nuzzling my neck and whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Sigh. Score: between 9.5 and 10.
1976 Pierre Gelin “Les Hervelets” Pemier Cru, Fixin (Cote d’Or), Burgundy
Medium ruby in the glass with very little sign of fading at the rim from age, this wine has a funky nose of old socks and prunes. In the mouth it belies the funk on the nose a bit, but doesn’t manage to shake a sense of mustiness (though it was not corked) mixed with leather, raspberry, and tart redcurrant. Very interesting, if not unusual in quality, but not in a way that elevated it beyond queer. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
1976 Caymus Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Light ruby-red in the glass (looking surprisingly youthful) this wine has a nose of leather and tart woodiness mixed with what can only be described as a mustard scent. In the mouth it was remarkably…..good! Raspberry, leather, and redcurrant flavors were beautifully integrated and delicate. These flavors base-jumped off the palate into a long free-fall of a finish that left me wondering what kind of Pinot Noir Napa could grow if it were only 10 degrees cooler. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1976 Paul Jaboulet AÃ®né ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage, Rhone Valley
Medium ruby in color, this wine has a pleasant nose of plum, cassis, and <unreadable>. It sits on the tongue with a soft weightiness, like a cat sleeping on your lap. Its primary flavors are of cherry, leather, cassis, and a low rumbling earthiness that we might call a purr, just to extend the metaphor into the finish. Score: around 9.
1983 Henri Gouges “Clos des Porrets-St.-Georges” Premier Cru, Nuits-St.-Georges, Burgundy
Medium blood-red in the glass, this wine smells of roasted figs, dates, and fresh earth crumbled in a triumphant fist of flavors. In the mouth light herbs, cherries, and chocolate assail the tongue, like an army of negligee-clad concubines pursuing a drunken monarch through the halls of a marble palace. It ain’t so sophisticated, but hot damn, can I have some more of that? Score: between 9 and 9.5.
1979 David Bruce Petite Sirah, San Louis Obispo County
A slightly muddy, dark garnet color in the glass, this wine smells of fine coffee grounds in the bottom of a recently emptied cup and a bit of eucalyptus. On the palate it is a stewed prune and roasted fig soup that fascinates in with its dark caramelized quality, but doesn’t end up truly satisfying, despite a long, resonant finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.
1979 Sebastiani Petite Sirah, Sonoma County
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of figs and fresh prunes. In the mouth it fades quickly after hitting the palate, but not before offering some flavors of cherry compote and hints of black licorice. Academically interesting for its age, but not something I wanted to drink a whole lot of. Score: around 8.5.
1966 Schloss Rheinhartschausen “Erbacher Brühl” Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau, Germany
Pure, shining, yellow, yellow, yellow gold in the glass, this wine was an enigma of tropical flavors that shifted across a whole spectrum as it gobbled up air for two hours. I finally settled on it smelling like the flavors of jackfruit (rather than the smell, of course), but then I was left to try and peg what it actually tasted like, apart from crystalline, ringing, sunlight. Beautiful acids proved the wine could last another twenty years, and supported more tropical flavors of mango, jackfruit, and papaya, with just the tiniest hint of citrus zest dusted over the top. Lovely finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.