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  • 2001 Château Rieussec

    Big Gambles (Home): After having gambled with the first two wines of the day, I decided to open something that I knew (as much as one can) would be in excellent shape.
    This bottle had settled into the deep yellow phase of its development and I let it warm up from the refrigerator before serving it.
    One of my companions was trying to describe the first scent out of the glass, and when I got my first whiff, I said "If you want to know what Botrytis smells like, that's it." The pleasant combination of spiciness and mustiness was leaping out of the glass.
    Once it had warmed up in the glass, the wine became lemony honey that worked so well with a Maytag Blue and a Stilton I had picked to counter the wine's almost overwhelming sweetness.
    My original note had only one word: Infanticide. This wine had many years, even decades ahead of it. Amazing pleasure now, but it was years away from the brownish caramely maturity that fine Sauternes can achieve.

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  • 1975 Château Léoville Barton

    Big Gambles (Home): This oddball bottle had been following me around for years. 1975 in Bordeaux was a challenging year in that it produced very hard wines--impenetrably tannic in their youth.
    The bottle had been properly stored for the many years it was held, but still showed ullage to just under high shoulder level. Since the color appeared sound through the neck and punt, I'd just held it for "someday".
    When "someday" arrived, I pulled the saturated cork about 2 hours before consumption and decanted it off the heavy sediment. The wine was a ruddy red going into the decanter and the aroma veered between slight VA and nothing at all--a pretty typical birth (or death) ritual for an older wine.
    It settled down to notes of stewed fruits and, finally, the leathery notes I love so much in mature Bordeaux.
    The bottom line is that the wine was either past its prime by a few years, or more likely, that it never had a prime at all considering what must have been overwhelming tannins throughout its life. Whichever the case, it was still good to find life in a 40+ year old wine.

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  • 1983 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet

    Big Gambles (Home): Many moons ago, I had bartered to get this bottle from a retailer.
    An occasion to open it had never come up, and it was likely the bottle had gone completely over. It was definitely over the hill, but not so far as to be in the tearfully-pour-it-down-the-sink category.
    The nose showed a little VA, which blew off leaving a sherry-like aroma. Color was old gold. There was no harshness on the palate, but also not a lot to taste. Where the wine showed its breed was on the back end. The remnants of the wine's minerality were obvious. This was a beautiful lady about 5 years past her prime.

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