Brian's 40th

Park Palace, Grand Park Hotel
Tasted Sunday, November 10, 2013 by Paul S with 180 views


This was a lunch to remember. What a way to celebrate Brian's 40th. 4 hours, 14 blind wines, tons of great food - no surprise we were all knocked out cold when we got back. There were some real gems on the day, with the birthday boy toting out some of his birth year wines, but the pick of the lot for me were clearly the 1973 Drouhin-Laroze Latricieres Chambertin and the 1989 Zind-Humbrecht SGN. A great way to celebrate one of the best guys we know!

Flight 1 - CHAMPAGNE (2 Notes)

  • 1999 Pol Roger Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 93 Points

    France, Champagne

    Looking through my previous notes, it seems that the 1999 Winston Churchill is on a trajectory towards a major shut-down. While still a lovely Champagne, this one was more reserved and one-dimensional on the night than any of the other three bottles we have had in recent times. It still had a lovely nose, with quite perfumy notes of flowers, red apples, some mineral notes, and a little biscuity accent. Beautiful stuff. The palate had that soft, gently creamy mousse that I remembered from previous bottles, along with fresh, well-integrated acidity that came together to make a very approachable package. However, the sheer power and depth of previous bottles seems to have receded somewhat, leaving behind a rather more subtly elegant package, with bright flavours of lemons and kumquats on a sweet apple base. Really nice, but it seemed light, almost delicate compared with past experiences. It ended with a lovely fresh finish, very friendly again, with a tiny lick of mineral and a dollop of fresh cream. I am not sure if it is bottle variation, but if we give this the benefit of the doubt, it may well be that the wine is reaching a rather more subdued stage in its development. Very good, but I would leave this aside for a couple of years to see where it is going.

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  • 2002 Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Millésimé 93 Points

    France, Champagne

    This was lovely on the night, standing toe-to-toe against a very solid 1999 Pol Roger Winston Churchill. The Jacquesson had a beautifully fragrant, almost intense nose, with all sorts of interesting aromas, from fresh lemons to preserved limes and figs skin shading into riper scents of prune and dried apricots, with a nice drift of floral notes floating along behind. The palate was very powerful, with rich, fleshy flavours of lemons and limes, and more of those stone fruited prune and apricot notes first picked up on the nose. This was really quite voluptuous, making the Winston Churchill seemed comparatively sparer and less giving, especially on the attack and midpalate. However, past all that flesh, there was also a lovely spine of acidity and fine mousse that ran through the Jacquesson, giving it a very firm, focused feel all the way into a big finish, where little biscuity notes lingered over a lemony flavours and a nice bed of stony mineral. Like so many 2002s, this was a very full, generously giving early-drinker. Even then, with its superb balance and large-scale flavours, it will still need a few more years to come together completely. Very nice indeed.

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Flight 2 - WHITE BURG FLIGHT 1 (2 Notes)

  • 1995 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru

    We had two bottles of this side-by-side – the first was a classic Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlie. Not the greatest wine they have produced by any stretch of the imagination, but nevertheless a very correct, complete wine that was impressive in its own right. The other was a bit weaker, less convincing. I will only relate my notes for the stronger showing. Here, the nose showed typical notes of white chocolate and vanilla, some honeyed tones, and then red apples, pears and floral accents with a savoury underlayer of earth and mineral. Quite lovely. The palate started out rich and buttery, with sweet cream and ripe red apple flavours layering the attack and midpalate. However, there was also lots of lemony acidity that enlivened the wine, keeping it fresh and focused. Past the midpalate, more chalky, minerally notes came to the fore, before a nice finish, with pinpricks of exotic spice and a twist of savoury lime peel stretched away into the distance. A nice wine, and probably quite at peak too – I do not see this improving all that much more.

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  • 1973 Bouchard Aîné et Fils Puligny-Montrachet 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet

    Amazingly alive and enjoyable for a 40-year-old village – this was a real surprise. I thought it had a wonderful nose, with citrusy scents of pomelo and grapefruit and yuzu sparkling amidst an underlying core of apple and lightly floral honey aromas. Amazing. I really liked the palate too. It did not quite have the depth or complexity of some of the younger whites on the table, but it had a delicious freshness and liveliness to it, with a lovely sense of delineation in its fresh flavours of lemons and green apples lined with oyster shell minerality through its long finish. This did not taste a day over 10 years old. Lovely stuff.

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Flight 3 - WHITE BURG FLIGHT 2 (2 Notes)

  • 2002 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Meursault Les Tessons 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault

    I had quite forgotten having had this before. As with the last bottle, I found this to be a beautifully poised lieu-dit village that showed off all the strengths of the 2002 vintage in Meursault. The nose was a lovely balance of younger white fruit and apple aromas with more developed tones of white chocolate, honey and white peppercorn spice, all underlined with a minerally twang of chalk and gunflint. I really liked it on the palate too – it was at once buttery and full, but also very fresh, with green apple flavours and lemony tones that gave it a more citrus character than the nose suggested. Good finish too, with another streak of chalky mineral. No one would confuse this with a Grand Cru or even a good 1er Cru – it just did not have the depth for that. This was delicious though, with an impeccable balance that made it just lovely to drink. A lovely village drinking nicely now, and I do think it will continue to develop nicely over the next few years as well.

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  • 1990 Domaine de la Bongran (Thevenet) Mâcon-Villages Cuvée tradition Quintaine 92 Points

    France, Burgundy, Mâconnais, Mâcon-Villages

    A really unusual wine. It is the second time the group has had a Domaine de la Bongran Mâcon blind over the past few months, and yet nobody was able to guess what on earth it was. Again, it nosed more like a Loire, say Vouvray, than a Burgundy, with lanolin scents drifting through sweet notes of ripe apples, mangoes and orange blossoms, with drippings of honey and some sweet coconut accents behind. Very pretty, but more tropical and exotic than even the very ripest Macons I have had. Same thing on the palate too, with its sweet apple flesh on the attack fanning out into generously fleshy flavours of mandarin oranges, orange peel and a honeyed, mango-like accent on the midpalate. What kept this really interesting though was the lovely spine of mineral and acidity that kept it ever so balanced and alive, never once slipping into fat or over-ripe territory. Very idiosyncratic, but really quite a lovely wine and drinking quite at peak - this was much better than a bottle I had 3 years back. It was a brilliant pairing with hairy-crab roe noodles too (anything drier really would not have worked so well).

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Flight 4 - LONE BORDEAUX (1 Note)

  • 1982 Château Canon 94 Points

    France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru

    Amidst all the great bottles of Burgundy on the day, it was a Bordeaux that was one of my favourite reds (just bested by a stupendously good 1973 Drouhin-Laroze Latricieres-Chambertin). This was just singing on the night, with an indrecible bouquet of tobacco and spice, violet flowers, then cassis and plums and dark cherries, all tumbling out of the glass in a beautiful mélange when first poured. Wow. The palate was at absolutely peak, with soft, melting, silky tannins caressing the mouth as the wine unfolded in sweet waves of cassis and plums. This was so gracefully balanced, showing both the ripeness and purity of the vintage at the same time, before fanning out into fragrant flavours of spice and dried flowers on the midpalate, and then gliding on into a long, lingering, tobacco-infused finish. Completely resolved and perfectly integrated, this was every bit the quintessential mature St Emilion. Beautiful stuff.

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Flight 5 - 1973 GEVREY GRAND CRUS (2 Notes)

  • 1973 Domaine Louis Trapet Chambertin 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru

    Like an aging boxer (think George Foreman in 1994), this was fast tiring, but still packed a real punch. I particularly liked the nose, with its masculine layers of earthy sous bois and bloody meat wound up with dark cherries and spice – a brooding, challenging, yet very attractive bouquet. The palate carried on where that left of. It was very resolved – soft, velvety and nicely rounded-off – yet there was still a sense of mature, old-school masculinity, with weighty bass notes of earth underlying developed flavours of cooked berries and sour cherries, and a twist of orange peel somewhere in there. This was still a very complete wine - while neither the freshest nor most chiseled of Chambertins, it still maintained quite an impeccable sense of balance; certainly good enough to make it a great pairing with beef in black pepper sauce. Charming finish too, if leaving just a bit to be desired in terms of length, drifting off with a little kiss of spice on the back-palate. This may have been better a few years back, but it was still a very satisfying glass of wine. Time to drink up though.

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  • 1973 Domaine Drouhin-Laroze Latricières-Chambertin 95 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Latricières-Chambertin Grand Cru

    An amazing wine – it should not have been this good on paper, but it easily overshadowed a very good bottle of 1973 Trapet Chambertin that was served together as a pair. There was just an incredible nose on this, with classic Latircieres notes of earth and meat and iron weaving their way through fragrant scents of dark cherries, strawberries and flowers. Wow. The palate was delicious too – fresh and lively, it was more youthful than a 1973 had any right to be, with pure flavours of red cherries and berries wreathed with more floral notes on the attack – really quite pretty. It was really past that and into the midpalate that one really got an appreciation for how complete a wine this was though, with an undergirding of fine tannins lending ita sense of structure, along with complex little hints of earth and meat, and then higher toned shades of floral and spice notes on the nicely full finish. Absolutely beautiful stuff, and drinking just wonderfully now, this was one of the wines of the day along with the 1989 Zind-Humbrecht SGN that ended the meal.

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  • 2002 Faiveley Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru La Combe d'Orveau 93 Points

    France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru

    Excellent. This was old school Faiveley, clearly built to last, but boy it had a real sense of purity and class. This had such a pretty nose that no one hesitated calling it a Chambolle when blinded, with sweet maraschino scents wed to the darker fruit of the 2002 vintage (blueberries I thought), then perfumy wafts of flowery violets and vanilla and, at the base of the bouquet, a telltale sign of whole-cluster fermentation, with slightly green flecks of bramble and spice adding to a lovely melange of scents. A really, really pretty nose. The palate was not quite as expressive or complex at this stage of its development, but it was very good indeed, with a lovely purity to its sappy cherry and blueberry tones with a fine sense of structure lent to it by firm, but finely-cut tannins and plenty of bright acidity. There was a lovely floral character to this too, with a little perfume drifting through the entire length of the wine, from the attack right into its very fresh, youthful finish where a few more of those pleasantly green bramble and spice notes peeked out. Rally nice stuff. This is drinking rather enjoyably now given the sheer quality of the fruit on it, but it really does need years, perhaps a decade or more, to really hit its peak.

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Flight 7 - A PAIR FROM PIEDMONT (2 Notes)

  • 1961 Fontanafredda Barolo 89 Points

    Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

    Much weaker than the great bottle we had almost two years back now. This was drinkable, but definitely on the funkier side. The nose could charitably described as “earthy” or “barnyard”, or more accurately labeled as just plain stinky, with a muddy undergrowth and old soy sauce twang almost overwhelming its dried berry aromas. Thankfully, the palate was rather better, with a surprisingly rich attack of dark berries, chocolate and dried flower notes that leaned out slightly into sour plum and prune notes on the midpalate, and then a meatier, earthier, altogether savoury finish that somehow reminded me a little of pork crackling. If one can get past the nose, this was definitely still very much alive, with decent and a good touch of orangey acidity and fine tannins still giving enough structure to make it a good pairing with a stir-fried beef dish. Still though, it was clearly weakening – this bottle would have been better a decade or so ago.

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  • 1992 Pio Cesare Dolcetto d'Alba 91 Points

    Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Dolcetto d'Alba

    This was quite charming – much better indeed than a tired old bottle of 1961 Fontanafredda Barolo that was served alongside. There was a very engaging nose on this wine, with classic Piedmontese accents of ash and roses, smoked meat and tea leaves, alongside dark cherries and blackberries. Pretty nice. The palate was really fresh and lively, with an elegant shape to it. Here, fine tannins and fresh acidity shaded yummy flavours of dark cherries and blackberries patted down with a little toss of earth and some smoky, spicy accents leading into a more savoury, meaty finish. Very satisfying. Neither the deepest nor the most complex of wines, especially at its age, but this was very enjoyable indeed. In a good place for drinking I would say.

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Flight 8 - SWEET ENDINGS (2 Notes)

  • 1989 Zind-Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Sélection de Grains Nobles 96 Points

    France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru

    Absolutely brilliant – just about the wine of the day for most of the table, beating out the wonderful 1973 Latricieres Chambertin that came a few flights back. The nose on this was magnificent – dripping with honey and caramel, figs and red apples, dried flowers and orange blossoms – wow. It was even better in the mouth though. Richly textured, with a thick, mouth-caressing creaminess, yet impeccably balanced and effortlessly complex, this unfolded in melting layers honey and malt and salted caramel, then those figs and red apples picked up on the nose, touches of kumquats and orange marmalade and pineapple jam, all seasoned with a dash spice and a burst of orange blossoms just before the wine settled into a super-long finish infused with a lovely bit of minerality. Crazy complexity, tremendous depth, yet this was all poised and elegant. A wine to gush over – it was the perfect end to a great meal. While drinking wonderfully now, indeed even better than the last bottle I had, this is definitely built to last for decades yet.

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  • 1990 Dr. Bürklin-Wolf Wachenheimer Mandelgarten Riesling Eiswein 92 Points

    Germany, Pfalz

    At 23 years old, this was probably at least 23 years too young! Clearly a good wine, but so monolithic, especially when compared to the brilliant bottle of 1989 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris SGN that was served alongside. This started out with a rather pretty nose of apples and sweet limes, flower and orange peel, lined with some mineral scents. The palate was extremely rich and powerful, still very sweet too, with thick layers of apples and lemons and orange peel showing a very primary edge to them. Still though, there was a ring of purity here that one only finds in German expressions of the sweetest wines, as well as a nicely mineral finish that hinted at where the wine may be going. From a 375ml, this was way too young. I can only imagine how long a full bottle of this will last.

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