2008 "Mostly Montrachet" Dinner -- 2008 Vintage Assessment and Premox Check Dinner No. 3

On Tuesday March 8, 2016 ten of us gathered at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica California for the third and final night of my annual white burgundy vintage assessment and oxidation check dinners. This was the eleventh consecutive year we have held this dinner series and this year we tasted the 2008 vintage, as usual at 7.5 years after the vintage.

The final dinner is called the “Mostly Montrachet” dinner, which describes the wines included. Befitting the name, we tasted 11 different 2008 Montrachets and two wines from Coche-Dury (Corton Charlemagne and Meursault Perrieres).

The first installment of the 2008 vintage dinner, which covered 29 wines from Chablis, Meursault and Corton Charlemagne, was held at Valentino Restaurant on February 9, 2016. You’ll find the tasting results and my tasting notes here.http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=125072

The second night of the 2008 vintage dinners, which covered 25 grand crus from Bienvenues-Batard, Criots-Batard, Batard and Chevalier Montrachet, plus 3 ringers, was held on February 25, 2016 at Valentino Restaurant. You’ll find those tasting notes and results here: http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=125673

The private room at Melisse upon our arrival

This photo and the ones below were taken by Andrew Gavin, one of the attendees. Andy has several more photographs of the event on his own blog site, All Things Andy Gavin: http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/

Melisse is one of California’s Michelin Two Star restaurants and with good cause. For many of us it is the best restaurant in Southern California. It is definitely a “must try” restaurant for those of you who may be visiting Los Angeles. (But be forewarned, it’s not inexpensive.) Once again the food and the service were extraordinary. My thanks to Chef-owner Josiah Citrin and Chef de Cuisine Ken Takayama.

Appetizer Course
Wagyu Beef Tartare, Beef Bernaise, Black Truffle Cheese Tart

Left: Wagyu Beef Tartare__________________________________ Right: Beef Bernaise – the sauce is within the little puff pastry_

2002 Dom Perignon Champagne (two 750 ml)
Light gold color, aromas of light toast and melon; grapefruit citrus flavors with very nice long minerally finish 94

The Spring Pea Soup served as an Amuse before the first food course

Flight One

Stonington Maine Diver Scallop with Salsify, Polenta, Sauce Perigourdine

#1 [2008 Bouchard Montrachet]
Light gold color; key lime and pears aromas; very refreshing lemon and lime citrus flavors with really nice texture and “shape”; very good acidity; beautiful wine and very elegant long finish. My No. 4 wine of the night. Group Rank: Tied for 4th, 16 points (0/0/2/4/2) 95

#2 [2008 Remoissenet Montrachet]
Light gold color; initially a little reduction, which faded quickly into light pear and tropical fruit aromas; very nice pear fruit with good acidity; this had an unbelievably elegant finish. This wine faded just a little in the late going. My number six wine of the night. Group Rank: 7th place, 10 points (0/1/1/1/1) 94

#3 [2008 Louis Latour Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold color; aromas of pears and botrytis; fulsome, apricot and tropical fruit flavors (botrytis); very sweet finish, like a dessert wine. Heavy botrytis here and not my cup of tea. Group Rank: Tied for 9th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0) 88?

#4 [2008 Le Moine Montrachet]
Deep gold color; heavy, almost overwhelming apricot and some definite sherry aromas, although this is light in comparison with the apricot; on the palate its butterscotch, apricot and sherry. We all unanimously agreed that this wine is partially oxidized. It’s not terrible and you could actually drink it, but it is definitely partially oxidized. Group Rank: Tied for 9th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0) 86—partially oxidized

#5 [2008 Jadot Montrachet]
Just short of medium gold color; aromas of honey and light butterscotch and apple; the wine was lighter on the palate than the aromas would imply; mature medium bodied green apple fruit; definitely mature wine, almost borderline advanced, but not over the hill. Group Rank: Tied for 9th (last) 0 points (0/0/0/0/0) 93

Flight Two

Black Bass “En Ecailles” with Hope Ranch Black Mussels, Fava Beans, Shellfish Emulsion

#6 [2008 Sauzet Montrachet]
Light gold color; lemon-lime and white flowers aromas; light lemon-lime fruit which is very bright with acidity; there is a sense of some fat or buttery texture on the mid-palate that just sort of sneaks in there; ultimately a very viscous wine with a long finish. My number 3 wine of the night. Group Rank: Tied for 4th place. 16 points (0/0/3/3/1) 95

#7 [2008 Blain-Gagnard Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold color; aromas of pear, white flowers and light lime citrus; very viscous wine; flavors of light pears and citrus; good acidity, but the viscosity here kind of hides it. Not much of a finish aside from the viscosity. Group Rank: 8th place, 1 point (0/0/0/0/1) 93

#8 [2008 Marc Colin Montrachet]
Deep gold color; heavy apricot and clearly oxidized sherry aromas and flavors; unlike #4, this one is totally undrinkable. Ugly. We unanimously agreed this one was oxidized. Group Rank:Tied for 9th (last) 0 points (0/0/0/0/0) DQ-oxidized

#9 [2008 Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet]
Botrytis aromas – advanced peach sherbet; very fat, sweet peach and apricot flavors — botrytis and this was advanced too, as we all agreed. Group Rank: Tied for 9th (last), 0 points (0/0/0/0/0) 87-Advanced

Flight Three

Dover Sole Filet with Potato Gnocchi, French Horn Mushrooms and White Wine-Brown Butter Jus

#10 [2008 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres]
Light gold color; pear and lemon aromas. Very bright lemony flavors with incredible minerality and very long minerals and citrus finish. Wow wine for sure. I think this is the Colin-Morey Monty (and John Brincko agrees). By a very close vote, my No. 2 wine of the night. Group Rank: 1st place, 34 points (2/5/0/2/0) 96

#11 [2008 Colin-Morey Montrachet]
Light gold color; aromas of white flowers with a hint of coconut (Coche?); very bright lemon drop candy flavor with a very nice minerally finish. My No. 5 wine of the night. My guess is Coche Corton. Group Rank: Tied for 2nd, 31 points (2/3/2/0/3) 94

#12 [2008 Ramonet Montrachet]
Light gold color; light floral aromas but definite sweet peach fruit (botrytis?); bright sweet peach flavors with a little bit of minerality, but a bit disjointed; very sweet peach/apricot botrytis finish. Could this really be Coche MP? By process of elimination it must be, but that doesn’t seem right. Group Rank: 6th. 11 points (2/0/0/0/1) 91? [N.B. I couldn’t really understand how two of my tasting colleagues thought this was the wine of the night, but they are both big dessert wine fans]

#13 [2008 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne]
Light gold color; citrus and white flowers aromas; intense, light and bright citrus and minerals flavors with very long minerally finish. This one seems obviously to be Ramonet. Extremely impressive. My No. 1 wine of the night by the narrowest of difference over #10. Group Rank: Tied for 2nd, 31 points (4/1/2/0/1) 96

The Third Flight of “Mostly Montrachets”

Dessert Course

Rustic Caramel Apple Tart with Heilala Vanilla Ice Cream

1994 Fritz Haag Braunberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese
Medium orange color; beautiful citrus, orange and apricot aromas; rich mix of orange-infused fruit and almost maple-butter character; impressive length too; this was easily the best dessert wine of the 2008 vintage assessment series. Restored my faith that I still liked dessert wines. 95.

Hard at work

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked - 0/13 0.0%
Other Defects – 0/13 0.0%
Advanced – 1/13 7.7%
Oxidized - 2/13 15.4%
Advanced or oxidized - 3/13 23.1%
Technically Defective in some manner 3/13 23.1%

Here’s a look at the 2008 vintage performance compared with the other vintages from 1996 through 2008. Overall, the 2008s were below the average figure, but the vintage does illustrate that the premox problem continues.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers go to:

Coche-Dury – To me the two Coche-Dury wines (Nos. 10 and 13) were the easily most impressive wines of the Mostly Montrachet dinner

Colin-Morey – Easily the most impressive overall producer in 2008. We had one corked wine and the other five wines were all in the top five of their respective dinners.

Sauzet - The Montrachet helped restore my faith in this label a little after some underwhelming performances in the 2007 and 2008 vintages.

Blain-Gagnard – Well, they at least deserve praise for producing a wine that wasn’t premoxed at 7.5 years. A pleasant surprise.

Jeers go to:

Le Moine – another oxidized bottle (like the 2005s)

Marc Colin - totally oxidized and coyote ugly wine

Drouhin – the very nice 2008 Corton Charlemagne and last year’s impressive 2007 Montrachet got my hopes up, but it was not to be

Ramonet – At the pricing that was asked by the Domaine on release for the 2008 Montrachet, a big jump over the 2007, this Montrachet was unforgiveable.

Ken Takayama, Chef de Cuisine

My perspective on the 2008 Vintage

Overall, I think the 2008 vintage is uneven. Among the Cote de Beaune wines, the botrytis and sur maturite conditions of the vintage most obviously appear in the very sweet aromas in most of the wines. Where the amount is limited, it adds an element of complexity – almost confectionery sweetness in some wines and some tropical fruit elements in others. But where the amount is excessive, the aromas and flavors push into the ripe peach, apricot and orange citrus range. As the notes over the three nights demonstrate, it was certainly possible to make great wines in 2008 if the producer was meticulous in the vineyard, sprayed the vines to avoid rot at the right times, harvested at the right time and limited or excluded the botrytised grapes. But for those who had a lot of botrytis, and who elected to include those grapes at the crusher, the resulting wines are hugely disappointing to people who expect classically styled white burgundy.

I was encouraged about the 2008 vintage based on the night one wines. The wines from Chablis and Corton Charlemagne were much more impressive as a group than their 2007 counterparts. The 2008 Meursault wines, which overall were not quite as good as their extremely impressive 2007 counterparts, were nonetheless very good to excellent overall. Some of the 2008 Meursaults were quite backward and will actually benefit from a few more years of age. In the context of the excellent performance of the best Chablis, Meursault and Corton Charlemagne, the few wines from those communes that were obviously flawed with heavy botrytis on night one didn’t seem so bothersome in context.

But as we moved to the hyphenated-Montrachet grand crus on night two, and their greater natural ripeness, it became clearer that a lot of the most expensive white burgundy real estate had some serious botrytis infestation in 2008 – but you would never have known that from reading the reviews of the individual wines that were published on release. Steve Tanzer did warn about botrytis problems in his vintage comments and there were some notes about “exotic” or atypical aromas and a few warnings about rot problems. But nobody red-flagged botrtytis in the reviews of the individual wines.

The wines from Criots and Bienvenues were generally on the slightly sweet side, but very good. But the Batard flight was downright ugly. It was easily the least impressive flight of Batard we’ve ever had. (Even the 2005s were clearly better). The two flights of Chevalier Montrachet had very mixed performance as well. The first flight of Chevalier, in which I put the wines traditionally made in a riper, more Batard-like style, were just as disappointing as the Batards. The last flight of Chevalier, despite including two disappointing ringers (one seriously advanced), and another oxidized Leflaive Chevalier, saved the day. We ended Night Two with four consecutive extraordinary Chevaliers.

The “Mostly Montrachet” night is frequently variable with some spectacular wines mixed in with some very expensive failures. So it was with the 2008s. At least four of the 13 wines were very obviously suffering from a huge amount of botrytis. I thought only 8 of the 13 wines were of an acceptable quality level. The Ramonet Montrachet, which was one of my “unacceptable quality” wines, was probably the most disappointing Montrachet I have ever encountered from Ramonet – because the decision to include the botrytised grapes and to release the obviously botrytis affected wine must have been a conscious one made by Noel Ramonet. Given the huge price asked for this wine even on release, I felt cheated. Luckily, the high pricing deterred me from buying more than one bottle of the 2008. On the other hand, the two Coche-Dury wines were exceptional as were the Colin-Morey, Sauzet and Bouchard.

From my perspective, the most successful communes in 2008 were Chablis, Corton Charlemagne, and the Meursault 1ers. For Ramonet, Colin-Morey, Jean-Marc Pillot and Bouchard (regular Chevalier), you can add Chevalier Montrachet as well.

Next year we will be tasting the 2009 whites. I fear a repeat of the problems we encountered with the 2005 vintage, which was the worst premox year to date, but we won’t know until we taste them. We will probably hold a much smaller event for the 2009 vintage. Next year will be the first year to test the effects of the new DIAM closures, which Fevre, Bouchard, Montille and others adopted starting with that vintage.

Thanks for the great notes and for your effort putting together these events.

Many thanks Don. And that is why Coche-Dury are indeed one of the greatest makers on the planet.

Food looks terrific.

Best Regards
Jeremy

So you like Coche ? Great notes as usual , Don . Thanks

Great work once again thanks Don.

Was looking for the '08 Boillot to see if your bottle was problematic also?

Funny about the '08 Ramonet Monty, I’ve had it twice, both times it didn’t look up to it’s usual standard. Not sure if this is the case with their other '08’s, or just the Monty.

Another oxidized Le Moine white, what a huge surprise… rolleyes

Question reg. the Ramonet-M:

is this the usual Ramonet Montrachet label always to be found in the US?
In France/Europe it´s always different - like this:

Thanks Don. This is a terrific service.

Thanks, Don, as always. I have been impressed by the performance of Bouchard at a number of your dinners (and in my own tastings of their whites). Seems to outperform a lot of more expensive and more heralded producers.

Yup,

That green Ramonet label is the US only label.

champagne.gif Outstanding. Bravo!

The picture with the wine glasses is obscene, In a good way. Except if you are the dishwasher that night.

Bravo Don, many thanks for these magisterial expositions.

Paul:

I usually have a Boillot Montrachet and bring one, but I didn’t own any 2008 and no one else had one. We had no premox symptoms with the rest of the 2008 Boillots, so yes it would have been interesting to see if the Monty was okay. I take it you’ve had a premoxed 2008 Boillot Monty or two?

On the Ramonets, the Chevalier was the No. 1 ranked wine on night two and Bienvenues finished tied for third. The Batard was a chemically off bottle. It wasn’t oxidized or advanced, but just way off. Joel Deutsch pulled out another purchased-on-release bottle later and reported that the wine was pristine and excellent. I suspect that the problem was just the botrytis – which I know can be problematic in Montrachet.

The 2008 vintage was my final one for the Le Moine whites, so that might be the last one we taste for a while.

Gerhard:

The US label has traditionally been different than the European label for Ramonet. It all goes back to the importer. For several decades the Ramonet wines were imported to the US by Chateau and Estates, which used to owned by Joseph Seagram & Sons, but was acquired by Diageo about ten years ago. The story I first heard more than 25 years ago was Abdallah (Ab) Simon, the Chairman of Chateau & Estates, did not like the appearance of the European labels and capsules, and the fact that there was no vintage printed on the main label. So, with Ramonet’s permission, they designed their own label and capsules for the US market. Thus, the US imported version of Ramonet has been imported with the green labels and matching capsules that you see in the photograph of the Montrachet. Below are the US versions of the Chevalier label (the No. 1 wine on night two) and the Batard label (which was unfortunately chemically “off” in a very strange way on night two.) The Bienvenues we had on night two was the European-labeled wine.

I know that about a decade ago collectors in the US would debate whether the wines with the European labels were different (usually better was the claim) than the US labels. I have to say that I found instances where the wines with the European labels were in fact better and, in at least a couple of instances, where the wines with the US labels were better. But Ramonet and Diageo have been insistent for some time that the wines are absolutely identical except for the labels.

Diageo is no longer the US importer for the Ramonet brand starting with the 2013 vintage. I believe that there is now more than one US importer, but Terlato Wines, who now imports Ramonet, is apparently using the same label used in Europe.

a super evening though some of the wines disappointed–food great though I could have used bigger portions or a risotto course! Ramonet disappointed. Great service in a very nice room. Great pictures by Andy and, as always, run with precision by Don.

Some post-tasting re-tastes of Night One and Night Two Wines:

• After the very odd and off bottle of 2008 Ramonet Batard we experienced at the night two dinner on February 25, Joel Deutsch opened one of his own acquired on release bottles. He said that the wine was pristine and exceptional. So it looks like the Ramonet Bienvenues, Batard and Chevalier are all exceptional in 2008. (I just wish I could say the same for the Montrachet.)

• Last weekend I opened the backup bottle of the 2008 Ramey “Hyde Vineyard” that was the ringer in the Batard flight on night two. This bottle was beautiful and it stayed that way over the course of almost three hours. Had we opened this bottle on February 25, it would likely have been the best wine in the Batard flight for two years in a row.

• I also opened the backup bottle of the 2008 Mikulski Meursault Perrieres, which was quite advanced on night one. The second bottle was fully oxidized and undrinkable. (So far that’s four bottles – two 2005 and two 2008 – all of which were imported direct from the Domaine, with three oxidized and one very advanced.)

Yes,

The '08 Ramonet Montrachet was quite fat and lacking in line for their usual style, so that sounds about right…though I had a FANTASTIC bottle of '10 Vergers today.

Always loved the Chevalier, but we rarely see it here now.

Last 3 bottle of Boillot Montrachet I had, 2 were oxidized (1 completely undrinkable) and the other very advanced.

Glad you have no more Le Moines left also, no one I know has any left either. Pretty much every bottle of their whites was either oxidized and undrinkable, despite the winemakers continued arrogance and ignorance of his own faults.

Thanks, Don - for this insight

I´m definitely no Mikulski-fan … but one in our monthly tasting round is … so we get to taste Mikulski now and then … the last times I couldn´t help, but despite the quite prominent acidity the 2012 Charmes and Genevriaires seemed to have some slight oxidation to them … I don´t say that´s premox, rather a question of elevation … but the wines to me seem somehow predestined for oxidation …
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A great read.

Thanks!

Jo

Great notes and pics thanks, Don.
From Remington Normans “The Great Domaines of Burgundy” 3rd edition, 2010:
“If there is a domaine in Chassagne that can challenge Puligny’s Domaine Leflaive for overall consistency and excellence of their white wines, it is Domaine Ramonet”

The last three vintages we’ve tried (2006 - 2008) have made two things very apparent. First, Leflaive has had three very poor vintages in a row and is no longer one of the elite “virtually no premox” producers. Second, Colin-Morey has emerged as the most dependable white burgundy producer in Burgundy.