Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Smoking Jacket

As an attorney I know Kevin is keen on smoking guns, but last night at his and Marguerite's New Year's Eve extravaganza he was more dangerous in a smoking jacket. Some extraordinary wines flowed, mainly out of Kevin's infamous old bitch cellar,  and I'm glad I was there for the preliminaries.

I helped pop a cold magnum of Perrier-Jouet Blason de France NV. I'm guessing theses Champs, especially in mags, are no longer easy to find. Perrier-Jouet came up with the Blason cuvee in the 1980s and must have stopped producing them after the 1990s or so. A distinctive cuvee, about equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier. According to Kevin, this was a release from 10 to 15 years ago. It exhaled almost imperceptibly as I removed the cork, which worried me a bit, but the mag turned out to be fresher and crispier than I imagined. Its bubbles were a bit coarse, but the flavors were delicious and thirst-quenching. A very good Champagne.

Next Champ was a Krug Grand Cuvee that Kevin said was purchased back in 1998. There's Champagne and, of course, there's Krug, as the saying goes. I find Krug GC drinks best when given sufficient age as it really fills in. A newly released GC often tastes a bit hollow. But not this one, as its flavors were broad and powerful and delivered with that Krug elegance.

Part of the run-up to the party involved discussions of pulling out older vintages of Creme de Tete Sauternes from the obscure and venerable 18th century estate of Chateau Gilette. These Sauternes are aged at least 20 years in cement vats before they're bottled and deemed for release. We recently received the 1983 and 1989 Creme de Tete vintages at the store and did a tasting--both were marvelous, opulent and graceful. Not to be one-upped Kevin unleashed his bottle of 1953 Creme de Tete which was absolutely pristine. Having now tasted my third bottle of Creme de Tete within a week the unique--some might say idiosyncratic--style of this Sauternes is clear. Soft and pillowy textured, but not creamy. The flavors are as delicate and juicy as an Auslese's, with honeyed papaya fruit and apricot notes. Living in a hermetic cement vat for 20 years, instead of a porous wood barrel, the Sauternes showed no vanilla or heavy caramel flavors. Above all, for a wine pushing 60, it is astonishingly youthful and fresh. Its flavor purity, highlighted by botrytis is truly unusual. Brilliant and alarmingly easy to drink amidst the richness.

In contrast, the phenomenal 1975 Chateau d'Yquem has a mindblowing powerful concentration that I had to adjust down my intake to small sips from full gulps as it fills the mouth with massive flavors. A profound Yquem that, aside from being insanely rich, is vivid and radiant as a star.

And so off to the two pairs of reds for the night. The first was a mano-a-mano between 1975 Pauillac first growths--the Lafite-Rothschild and Latour. Matching them up clearly reveals their difference. The 1975 Lafite-Rothschild had a pronounced camphor-metallic smell that could be off-putting. But the palate showed just a touch of drying out, it's beauty unfaded and still fresh. Austere, intense, and elegant that altogether convey the aristocratic Lafite finesse.

In contrast, the 1975 Latour is muscular, full, and powerful--very Latour indeed. What makes me like this even more are its long, rich tannins that give texture to the fruit. It is drinking prime and Latour fans would love this.

The next pair of reds go back a few years to 1971. The 1971 Lafite-Rothschild is purer, fuller, and at peak condition, unlike the 1975. A complete Lafite in all its glorious power and finesse. My favorite Bordeaux of all.

The 1971 Trotanoy Pomerol might seem like the oddball in the trio of Pauillacs, but it fits in the group seamlessly, offering a progression towards increasing power, richness, and fleshiness. This is an amazing Trotanoy, I think the best that I've ever had.

On my exit after these preliminaries, Kevin saw me out at the gate. I took one last look at the smoking jacket and thought, what a tremendous evening. A triumph.

P.S. Many thanks to Kevin and Marguerite for hosting this memorable New Year's Eve get together.

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