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The Emperor’s incredible wine empire is featured in our February 10th Hong Kong Auction in ‘The Return of The Emperor’ (Lots 317-577) , nearly 300 selections (over 100 of DRC!) where every lot is a star! The Emperor has opened some great bottles for me over the years in Hong Kong. Here are a few of the best ones I have shared from The Emperor’s cellar!
The Emperor kept himself and his other guests busy with a magnum of 1996 Krug Clos du Mesnil, which was a big, rich, buttery beast, all the more so since it was out of magnum. It was razor sharp and mountainous in its character, long and strong. ‘The longer the better,’ The Emperor sagely advised, and it was easy to see why Clos du Mesnil is the Romanee-Conti of Champagne. This was a laser of Star Wars proportion (98+M).
The Emperor flew back from London just for our dinner together. I felt like a diplomat of significance, so I brought some significant wines accordingly. What I did not bring was the stunning bottle of 1976 Dom Perignon with which we started. One accurately noted, ‘crushed walnuts and quince peel.’ It was creamy and lush with nice apple juice flavors and a touch of burnt granulated sugar. It was tasty, round and fresh, still youthful but about as good as it will ever get (95).
The Emperor definitely started with a 1-2 punch, as the next wine was a 1996 DRC Montrachet. Damn. This was an extraordinary bottle of white wine, showing that signature botrytis along with that Versailles garden action. Rich, long and buttery, this was still young by DRC Monty standards, as most are more developed by age twenty. There was this stony, mahogany edge that melted into an oily finish. The wine kept getting richer, and it developed this sexy, smoky caramel quality (98).
We inched into the reds with a 1937 Haut Brion. While the 1930s is generally considered a lost decade when it comes to Bordeaux, this HB showed admirably. It had a complex nose with aromas of caramel, bookshelf, mocha and some forest. Its palate was creamy and lush, fresh yet mature. There were candle wax kisses to its palate and nice leather on its finish, along with a touch of signature gravel. Secondary flavors of celery soda and molasses rounded out this toasty Haut Brion (94).
The 1928 Leoville Las Cases was recorked by Whitwham’s, a British company I believe, back when recorking was a little less controversial. The LLC had a chocolaty and earthy nose, and some green crept out. Vanilla and cream joined the party, and the longer tannins of the legendary ’28 vintage really shined. There was still finesse to this glassy red, and while the length and finish were superior to the Haut Brion, the character was not (93).
We went back to HB with a 1959 Haut Brion, which had a great nose that possessed rich cedar and smokehouse aromas and loads of cassis. There were black, smoky fruits here, along with rich, buttery flavors with lots of tobacco and more cassis. Iron aromas emerged, along with band-aid and Worcestershire flavors in a tertiary way. There was solid acid to this rock star Haut Brion (97).
The next wine was also from 1959, and ‘the best bottle I ever had,’ per Dr. Feelgood. I think he meant the particular wine, but it could have been every bottle ever as this 1959 Lafite Rothschild was staggeringly good. This was classic in every sense of the word. The cedar, the wheat, the pencil...this was a rich and thick wine that was as good as Bordeaux gets. Sebastien found it ‘deep,’ and there was super sweet fruit with a dry edge. The Emperor found it ‘flawless’ (99).
Now the Emperor was just showing off, pulling out a spectacularly good bottle of 1982 Le Pin. I have an on-again, off-again love affair with Le Pin. Some vintages are everything I could ever want, yet others I find disappointing, bordering on uninteresting. This ’82 was an exciting bottle. ‘From strength to strength,’ was said, and this was a perfect bottle. It was rich, chocolaty, chunky and lush. Chocolate merged into chocolate bar in the mouth, with more raisin and nut flavors. I never had an ’82 Le Pin this good; it was delicious (97).
The Emperor pulled out a 1971 Roumier Musigny. That’s why he is the Emperor. Someone compared it to ‘God singing in the glass.’ It definitely had an incredible, wow nose. There was so much brightness here, along with amazing spice and red citrus fruits. A thick forest added complexity. There was just a hint of autumn in its flavors, along with a kiss of BBQ. There was beautiful freshness to this satiny, sexy wine. ‘Stones up’ (97).
The Emperor started rolling - now it was a 1985 DRC Romanee Conti. There was gorgeous fruit in the nose with sweet red honey, garden and cherry. Fresh, citrus flavors and a kiss of good dirt accompanied green cedar and tobacco. There was lots of earth expressing itself more and more in the mouth, with more tobacco coming out. Some preferred the ’85 best over time compared to the Roumier, but the Roumier thrilled more initially (97).
The 1968 Vega Sicilia Unico was a nice way to end the evening. Its unique, leathery and kinky aromas and flavors showed off that edgy Tempranillo edge, but it was still so young and purple. This was an absolutely delicious wine, classic Vega and perhaps its finest vintage ever (96+).
The Emperor has been a dear friend of mine, one whose kind heart and soul has translated into so many great times together. This is one of the greatest collections I know in Hong Kong, filled with many bottles such as the ones above. I hope you enjoy what is on offer this Friday night in our Hong Kong auction and can add a few bottles from The Emperor to your own collection!
|1979 Clos de la Roche||95|
|1980 Ponsot Clos de la Roche||97|
|1985 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV||94|
|1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche||98|
|1990 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV||94|
|1990 Dujac Clos de la Roche||95|
|1991 Ponsot Clos de la Roche VV||97|
|1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares VV||95|
There has been a lot of news about the exodus of people out of New York over the past couple years; heck, I made the move six years ago myself after 44 years in the city. However, I do come back often, and my favorite trip of the year is every summer, when I spend three weeks towards the end of July and early August in the Hamptons. My folks and other extended family live out there, not to mention a very illustrious list of fine and rare wine lovers. But after three weeks in the Hamptons and night after night after night out, not to mention a few days as well, it is always time again to “Escape from New York.” My last three nights there were a pretty good illustration of how it can become very dangerous, and the need for an effective escape plan!
Sunday lunches are usually of the lighter fare, but this was my last Sunday in the Hamptons, so I should have known better. A 2004 Bollinger VVF started us off with that biscuity, bready Blanc de Noirs goodness, with the freshness to go with its weight. I liked its citrus and kumquat fruit action, as well as its salty finish. It stayed fresh while getting gainfully gamey (95+).
A taste of 2008 Raveneau Chablis Les Clos from the night before was also salty, but it was so rich, meaty and ‘bracing.’ There was an ocean of sea breeze blowing in, settling in around a nice yellow core. This was a savory white wine that got richer in the glass despite it being kept overnight in the bottle. I often do that with many wines and find that just recorking and putting back in the fridge does just fine for evaluating over 2-3 days more, sometimes longer. This was a perfect example of that and as good as this wine gets (98).
We had to open at least one white for lunch, and a 2004 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres was a superlative choice. Wow wow wow. ‘Best Coche MP ever?’ I wrote. What a nose, it was smoky and full of gunflint and gunpowder. I also got salt here. Its acidity exploded amongst its flavors if white fruits and honeysuckle goodness. So much acid! Can’t recall a better experience with a Coche MP (98).
It was time to say goodbye to the two glorious whites and say hello to a 2002 Rousseau Chambertin. I must have been enjoying myself as I already can’t read everything I wrote oops. Wine number four is a bit early for that! The Rousseau had a great nose full of lots of earthy and tannin expression, showing off that t ‘n a and that va va voom. Its terroir was crackling in its nose, along with a full spice cabinet extraordinaire. Amazing red cherry tied the whole wine together, and leather snapped on its lengthy finish. There was strength and true grit here. The was the first official orbit of the Gastronaut, who was also enjoying the red, creamy, berry goodness of the Rousseau. Three in a row that hit (98)!
Everyone should aspire to have at least one bottle of Jayer every year, and out came a 1990 Henri Jayer Vosne Romanee Cros Parantoux. Yes, please. The voluptuousness of a Jayer wine cannot be understated. The producer that comes closest today is Comte Liger-Belair. There was so much deep purple fruit, with a hint of benevolent mushroom. Its palate was satin city, wealthy and decadent, luscious ad honeyed. Blue fruits came and joined the purple party, and this was so sweet and so fleshy, ‘so pleasing’ per our host. Why not 98 again – well, as good as it was, its finish was completely integrated, perhaps seamless to some, but I always like a little bite at the end. Our host was in the 98-point category, I would attribute his score to his initials, but HR has banned that combination (97).
One good Jayer deserves another, so our host dug deeper into his cellar and pulled out a 1991 G&H Jayer Echezeaux. The ’91 seduced us immediately, one even calling it ‘more exciting,’ although that might have been a bit premature. There was a great spiciness here, along with a saucy personality. There was excellent vim here and more acidity than the 1990. It was stylistically different but tough to say it wasn’t qualitatively equal, but it didn’t keep up over time in the glass. It was high-toned but got sappy compared to the 1990. It was sweeter, with more dried fig and raisin emerging, and the wood was more noticeable in the end. It was ‘grippy’ but didn’t improve, but it was still an extraordinary wine. It just couldn’t keep up with its counterpart (96).
There was one more wine on this magical afternoon, and it was a divine bottle of 1978 Guigal Cote Rotie La Mouline. There were Coches and Rousseaus and Jayers oh my, but this Guigal was wine of the day. There were all the signatures here – the bacon, the violet, the garrigue, the smoked meats, the menthol, the white pepper – if you ever had any aroma or flavor in a Guigal wine, it was here. There is something transcendental about the first twenty years of La Mouline, whose first vintage was 1966. Not that the younger ones are lesser, but over time those first two decades have hit some legendary high notes over and over again. The 1978 had a body wouldn’t quit, and there was no doubting this was one of the greatest Syrahs ever made (99).
It was time for an Uber. Lunch had run late, and we went straight to dinner. Jetski was hosting, and we were primed and ready. We were welcomed with an aged magnum of MV Krug, estimated to be from the 1980s. While all the “multi-vintage” Krugs, also known as Grande Cuvees, now come with ID numbers to identify the blend of vintages within, for anything significantly old, it is a guessing game. This was a treat, drinking beautifully and a classic, old Krug. This is arguably the best buy in the world of fine and rare Champagne, although now that there are official batches, the older ones are escalating in price now (95).
A 1981 Roederer Cristal was interesting as you don’t see this vintage too often, and perhaps with good reason lol. It was a touch mature and a bit of celery soda to its usual buttery bomb self, but it didn’t quite have the usual definition (93).
It was a Coche kind of day, and out came the 1999 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres. It was musky, nutty and smoky, standing out right away. This was a rich and decadent wine, apropos for the vintage, quite buttery on the palate with more signature white smoke flavors. This was a thick and masculine white wine, flexing the strength of 1999 while still maintaining that Cochy sexiness. I was oscillating between 97 and 98 points so settled on (97+).
The 2008 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres that followed was spicy but also milky. This was another butterball of a Coche; the 2008 has long been adored by Coche connoisseurs as a hedonistic vintage for them, and it was a good pairing with the 1999. The ’08 was so honeyed, Winedaddy noted ‘flamboyant and open for business!’ It was quite creamy and ostentatious, and buttery appeared over and over in my notes (96).
A pair of 1991 Red Burgs changed our course, starting with a 1991 Hubert Lignier Clos de la Roche. There was a lot going on in its nose as it unfolded and found itself in the glass. It was milky and yeasty at first, morphing into nutty with a jasmine spice. Its palate was clean and fresh, opening up into a beefy, bouillon edge with an earthy finish. The earth took over a bit on its finish, overpowering its delicate mintiness (94).
The 1991 Rene Engel Grands Echezeaux also had a touch of milkiness, is this an emerging vintage trait, I wondered. This was much meatier than the Lignier, with a hint of spit on the grill, so to speak. Its finish was long and smooth, quite sensual despite its beefy richness (96).
A trio of two Rousseau vintages came out next, as we put to test the 1990 vs 1993 debate again. The 1993 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze was ferocious; ‘totally nuts’ per one. It had the royal garden trumpeting out of its nose amongst its manicured landscaping, along with a gravy-like goodness that had me licking my lips. Its palate was spicy and earthy, smoky and beefy, but beefy in a bloody way with lots of iron and rust. This was a ‘benchmark’ Rousseau, ‘dynamic’ per the Gastronaut and another exemplary bottle of this legendary wine (99).
The 1990 Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze was much more lush with its red fruits and tomato goodness. This was a breadbasket of a wine, including the buttered croissants. Winedaddy noted ‘a touch of vegetal’ and another some ‘mushrooms,’ and while not up to challenge the 1993, the 1990 Beze remained an outstanding Rousseau that’s starting to mature (96).
It is always fun to compare the “regular” Chambertin vs. the Beze, as either one can come out on top any given Sunday. I still don’t understand why the Beze trades 10-15% less; consider it a better buy in general, but yes the label isn’t as pretty lol. The 1990 Rousseau Chambertin also had that maturing vibe, with a bit more jam than the Beze, along with more game. This was a saucy glass of red, with more spine, leather and (good) rubber. There was more intensity here on its finish. Chalk up one for the “regular” (97).
There were three wines to go, so I chugged down a glass of water and slapped myself a couple times to get ready for this grand finale. That’s right, it was still Sunday. Out came a 1990 DRC La Tache. I have had my share of legendary bottles of this wine, but there is also a batch of this that is on the “dirty birdie” side, and this was one of those. It was more on that chocolaty, tootsie pop side of things. While still a deep, dark and brooding wine that was rich and dense, the chocolate tootsie pop was the dominant trait. Blood and menthol fought their way out on the finish, but I wanted this wine to hit the heights that the next wine did (95).
The 1991 DRC La Tache delivered quite the show, leaving the confused 1990 in the rear-view mirror. All kinds of spice hit all kinds of treble notes in this vimful and ‘double stuffed’ wine. This was bitey and spiny in a great way, nibbling on my senses surely and with confidence. It was strong, long and ‘ding dong,’ yes, it was that time of the night, I suppose I was trying to rhyme and signify that the ’91 was hitting all the right notes, or a welcome guest, work with me people! This was a zippy and clearly better bottle next to the 1990, and even though it had a bit of chocolate to go with its rosy red and berry black fruits, it was very complementary and subtle. A truly great wine (98).
The 1990 LT sent off a signal that there was trouble in Gotham, but the Batman came to the rescue for DRC and the 1990 vintage with a spectacular bottle of 1990 DRC Romanee Conti! Now this was the alpha 1990 DRC that I remembered, but never quite like this. It is not often I get to taste “RC RC,” and this bottle delivered everything I could possibly ask for. It was deeper and darker than anything day or night. It had this leathery intensity in its nose, a nose that unfurled in spectacular fashion. Its finish was also long and intense, such a strong finish, practically endless! This was clearly a special wine, a mouthful like no other in Burgundy. It was a black hole of greatness, leaving me mesmerized with its rich and honeyed palate. There was a bunch of illegible notes at the end, but one note clearly stood out: ‘ENERGY!!!’ (99).
This was the first of three days in a row, well actually four, but in the interest of getting something published, let’s end it right here and TBC. It was a heck of a Sunday.