Celebrating my 50th birthday (again)

Tasted August 11, 2018 by jshufelt with 154 views

Introduction

While this gathering was nominally to celebrate my 50th birthday (a few weeks after the fact), that was just a convenient excuse for having a few people come from across the country to raid our cellar. Given a list of wines, Lena Goldin prepared and executed a lovely menu showcasing both the food and wines - she and her team did a remarkable job keeping our little gathering happy. Highlights for me included the warm egg yolk with champagne vinegar mousse, ricotta cappelletti with cured boar, Hudson duckling with saffron carrot puree, and a flambeed peach and lemon poppy seed cake dessert course.

Flight 1 (9 notes)

White - Sparkling
1998 Dom Pérignon Champagne P2 France, Champagne
97 points
Clear pale-medium gold in the glass. On the nose, toast, almond, and muted hints of citrus fruit; the nose is dominated by the yeasty, nutty elements. However, the fruit is there on the palate, somewhere halfway between apple and lemon, along with ample acid. The tension is exceptional - the initial sense is bone-dry with a strong acidic cut, but this somehow ends up feeling refreshing. Ends with a gentle, persistent, very long finish. One hell of a way to start the evening, and quite possibly the best champagne I've had to date.
3 people found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
1998 Billecart-Salmon Champagne Les Clos Saint-Hilaire France, Champagne
96 points
Clear medium amber-gold in the glass, with an apple-dominated nose. You could certainly argue that the aromatics are unreasonably tilted towards apples, and I'd get that, but here's the thing - I love apples. On the palate, another great showing, with balanced acidity, apple, hazelnuts, and the occasional hint of nutmeg, shifting and evolving with each sip. It's hard to find any fault here, but most of us agreed the 1998 Dom P2 was a step ahead tonight, which says more about the P2 than it does about this champagne.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2009 Château Pape Clément Blanc France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
91 points
Decanted for 1.5 hours before service. In the glass, clear medium gold with a slight shift to orange. On opening, there was a pronounced burst of barnyard and sulfur, more noticeable than our previous bottle a couple of months ago. That funk never quite completely blew off, and while others seemed to be fine with it, for me it got in the way of the grapefruit, floral, and melon notes that I remember from prior tastings. Still enjoyable, but if we had more, I'd be checking in on it more frequently.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2002 Gros Frère et Sœur Richebourg France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
93 points
As with prior bottles, all barnyard funk on opening, but a 1.5 hour decant was enough to whip it into shape. In the glass, clear, deep dark red. A nice mix of complex flavors on the palate; iron-driven minerality, slightly tangy cherries, hints of spice without sweetness, a bit of forest, a bit more funk. If you have this and haven't yet checked in on it, now might be the time, after a 1-2 hour decant. For several people, the WOTN.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2012 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
97 points
Goodness. In the glass, clear, with a pale yellow-cream color. The nose is exceptional, with apples, honey, clove, cinnamon, and smoke all swirling around and fighting for attention. And the palate follows through. The word that keeps coming to mind is "kaleidoscopic"; lemon, apple, anise, clove, peach, oak popping in and out. Again, I think Marcassin chards would be great ringers in flights of white Rhones - many of the flavors and aromatics here are much more reminiscent of a top-flight Viognier-driven blend than Cali chardonnay. The finish is long and balanced, with a lovely tension between the almost-creamy texture on the palate, and the assertive, crisp, lemon acidity. Quite possibly the best chardonnay I've had to date. Hey, this evening seems to be going pretty well!
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1968 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
91 points
The cork on this bottle was sound for the first quarter inch, but the second quarter inch was enough to make me happy I opted for the Durand. A little funk and some oxidative notes on opening, but those blew off after a few minutes. Having no experience with this wine, I decided to slow-ox for a few hours, decant for a couple more, and check in on it periodically. In the glass, amber/auburn at the rim, shading to a core of darker red at the center; definitely a wine with some years on it, but looked more like 20 years than 50. Aromatically intriguing, with cedar, damp moss, cognac, and iron/blood all in the mix. A first quick sip was ambiguous - the aged notes were present, but a lack of fruit and a slight tang on the back palate gave me concern. A couple of hours later, the tang receded, and after the decant, it was gone entirely. The palate was just as complex as the nose - easy to appreciate intellectually, but tougher to simply sit and enjoy? I'd guess this bottle was not performing at the level other tasters here have reported.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
1968 Bodegas Vega-Sicilia Ribera del Duero Único Spain, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero
87 points
Here, no question the Durand was going to be needed. Capsule removal revealed a moldy cork, but not a complete mold cap, which would have made me happier. As the cork came out, the first whiff was not reassuring - totally oxidized. A quick sip didn't help; my first impression was of over-the-hill sherry. A couple of hours later, I was surprised to find that the aromatics on this bottle were indistinguishable from the first, although the palate hadn't improved much - still tired, flat, and with a vinegary tang. Made the call not to serve this, and instead left it in the cellar overnight. We'll see if anything good happens overnight, but I can't say I'm optimistic...

24 hours later: to my surprise, this seems to have returned to life, if only partially. The tang is nearly gone, and some fruit is now emerging, if muted, and the cedar note is a bit more present, all of which makes this drinkable, if not great. At this point, it's an educational experience, so let's go for another day....

48 hours later: dead. So it goes.
2 people found this helpful Comments (3)
White - Sweet/Dessert
1990 Château d'Yquem France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
94 points
In the glass, saturated amber-orange; really quite lovely. On the nose, apricots, peaches, botrytis in force. On the palate, loads of botrytis, with more honeyed apricots and hints of tropical fruit, a syrupy texture, and a long mouth-filling finish with good persistence. For any other Sauternes, this would be a great showing, but for Yquem, a bit underwhelming and one-dimensional - the palate-shifting flavors and lightness that make Yquem what it is just weren't on display with this bottle.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2002 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein Germany, Nahe
98 points
The few notes I've seen here have piqued my curiosity for a long time. Is this wine really that good?

In the glass, saturated caramel orange, with emphasis on the orange. On the nose, an astonishingly concentrated and almost electric burst of peach, mango, and passionfruit; I'm not sure I've ever had a dessert wine with aromatics this pronounced, this aggressive. On the palate, deep dives into peach and mango, with red currants, honey, and a bit more passionfruit for good measure. Toffee, mandarin oranges, and caramel make appearances from time to time. Intensely concentrated, but not cloying in the least, with ample acidity supporting what, intellectually, must be a ridiculous level of residual sugar, with a very long, silky finish. If anything, this dessert wine is...refreshing?

Yes: it really is that good.
4 people found this helpful Comment

Closing

Some wines were astonishing, others, well, weren't. But as they say, no great wines, only great bottles. The real treat, as always, is getting a few fun people together to share great food, drink, and conversation - and sharing these crazy bottles!

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