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Food & Dining // Vino Sense
Roberto Viernes

A Hedonistic Evening To Remember

The bar has been set very high already this year on my hedonism scale. I was fortunate enough to attend a friend’s birthday party, which was held at Vintage Cave. The meal was one of the best I have had in Hawaii, and that is no overstatement. In fact, this early on in the year I also will say that it is the best meal I’ve had all year. And the lineup of the wine would be a highlight for any year.

We began with a trio of Krug Champagnes. Krug Rose was first. This bottle must have had a few extra years on the cork because it seemed more complex and creamier than a bottle I tasted in December. It was still very youthful, no doubt, it showed plenty of citrus fruit framed by touches of red fruit, ginger and lemon-grass notes. It was extremely long lasting on the finish. Strong minerality in the wine leaves no doubt about its Krug house roots.

An enthralling bottle of 1979 Krug was next. This was a very special year for Champagne and my favorite vintage of the ’70s. This bottle was thrilling. It has everything anyone would want in a mature Krug: brioche, sweet cream, nutmeg, lobster bisque, sugar cane, toffee, roasted chestnuts and cured citrus – and that was just the nose. On the palate, it was every bit as good, with a balance of richness and acidity that exemplifies the finest Champagnes. I kept a thimbleful in my glass to savor for the entire night. And even at the end of the night, it was still regal and compelling.

For the record, it was my wine of the night.

Then came the very youthful and powerful 1998. At 25 years of age, this wine still shows little signs of maturity. It has tons of primary fruit and is blessed with strong acidity, and it will develop for another 20 years and longer. It has awesome potential and will no doubt go down as one of the greatest and longest-lived vintages of Krug.

We then had a duo of amazing mature and still spry sweet wines. First was the 1949 Huet Vouvray “Le Haut Lieu.” The longevity of Chenin Blanc is little known outside wine geekdom, but this was a shining example. At 64 years of age, this wine still looked as clear as a 3-year-old Chardonnay. It was all honey, chalky limestone, beeswax, lilies and acacia in the nose. It was medium- to light-bodied, with a laser beam of acidity in its core. Although labeled as a moelleux, meaning “sweet,” its apparent sweetness was as not as strong as I anticipated – it was just sweet, but not dessert sweet.

As delicious as that was, the next wine towered over it in both complexity and amplitude, an absolutely stunning bottle of 1967 Chateau d’Yquem. I do not like to use the word perfection, but this wine – this bottle on this night – is one that approaches the word. It was flawless. The nose was kaleidoscopic, with crazy aromas of creme brûlée, toffee, glace apricots, poached pears, dried figs, medjool dates, pineapple marmalade, vanilla cream, orange water, chamomile tea and more. The texture was pure velvet with dessert sweetness, but not overly cloying. I would say it was perfectly balanced – simply spectacular.

One last thing: This bottle was not on the decline either, as the wine held its greatness for the entire evening.

Montrachet is the world’s greatest white wine vineyard, and we were treated to four examples. Unfortunately, one was corked, otherwise we would have had five. The first in the lineup was the best, the 2001 Domaine Ramonet – flinty and mineral matched with beautiful fruit. What really is impressive about this wine is that there is nothing out of place. It has a real sense of harmony and strong sense of place. The finish was really long and generous. This is a very feminine and classy wine, and one that will last another 10 years with ease.

It was followed by a worthy 2003 from the same producer. The year 2003 was a very warm, even hot vintage in Burgundy, but this wine did not have that in its DNA. It was still nicely balanced, but without all the polish and surprisingly fruity extract as the 2001. It also does not hit the heights of the 2001 either, but still very fine juice.

Then we had a magnum of 2005 Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche, which was decanted two hours before service and was still tight and reticent. It was suggestive of ripe, white orchard fruits and floral accents. There is a good touch of vanillin in judicious quantity as well. The palate is where it really shows its class: minerals, plenty of fruit, great freshness and another wine with a long-lasting aftertaste. It was creamier than its predecessors, and because it was from magnum, it will surely need another dozen years or more to show its true worth.

Lastly we enjoyed a 2006 Louis Jadot. This version leaned strongly toward the yellow fruit spectrum, with a good dollop of creamy oak. Not quite full-bodied, but it did not have the same acidity as any of the others, which made it feel bigger and wide on the palate. Very tasty, but perhaps something to drink over the midterm rather than a long haul.

With our white wine thirst slated, we moved onto a trio of La Tache: 1986, 1992 and 2006. The 1986 was very earthy – in fact, sorry to say, but it was almost dirty. It was definitely affected by Brettanomyces and had a strong tomato stem quality, with tart, red fruit and a bit thin on the palate. It did not show well.

The 1992 was my favorite of the three this night. It had a very pretty and spicy nose, cardamom tea and sandalwood together with some light-red fruits. It has that very sexy Vosne texture in the mouth with a pleasant core of fruit. This is not going to get any better, so I would drink up. But it is a very satisfying and mature La Tache.

The 2006 was as if from another dimension. Despite having been double-decanted at 8 a.m. the same day, it still was quiet on the nose. Good, but not glowing fruit with ample spices. It was much more explosive on the palate, with lots of luscious red berries, well integrated oak and very high concentration. If I had any in my cellar, I would not touch it for another 10 years, with the prospect of it being spectacular at some point in the future of its undoubtedly long life ahead.

We ended the night on a note just as high as we started, with a pair of Quinta do Noval Portos. The first was 1985 Nacional. As one might imagine, it was still primary with oodles of ripe berry fruit laced with sweet baking spices. It was definitely sweet, but again a perfectly balanced wine. Its texture also was very seductive-feeling, almost like that 1967 Yquem; plump but not fatty. It will last another 25 years without blinking and is still on the rise.

Our second was a bottle of 1931 (non-Nacional) shipped by Loeb. This was the best bottle of Port that I can remember in the past 10 years. The color was a faded brick to the rim with medium minus concentration. The aromas were out of this world: candied apples, apple Jolly Ranchers, caramel, sweet espresso, fruitcake, the crust of a berry pie and green tea. On the palate, it was not as full or velvety as the 1985, but it was more silky and the tannin has completely softened away. I think it is totally at its apogee.

Even writing these words I feel like I have come short in describing the experience of these world-class wines. It was an unforgettable evening. I hope this is just a sign for things to come in the new year. Merci beau-coup, mes amis!

rviernes@southernwine.com

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