Another epic Bipin Desai dinner group event, ROPP, wine tasting featuring 17 world class wines all served blind starting with an Italian sparkling wine before flights of white Burgundy, old Madeira, red Burgundy, Syrah/ Petit Syrah and an 1890 Port

For the past few decades, there have been some one of a kind wine tastings/ dinners held in the Los Angeles area put on by an avid, well respected wine collector, Bipin Desai. Word has gotten around and many of us have heard about them and know some of the people who have attended them and in the group.

Additionally, and concurrently, there was a dinner group formed consisting of top wine collectors/ industry people who have met at varying times over the decades and currently once a month with one of the members being responsible for the wines and dinner. They call themselves the Royal Order of Purple Palate, ROPP. A good friend is one of those current members and his turn to host just came up this year.

Since there were a few members unable to attend, I was invited as a fill in and graciously, humbly accepted as I did last year.

The dinner was held in the private dining room of the iconic Hollywood restaurant of Marino Ristorante on Melrose. Mario and Sal, sons of the original owner, Ciro aka Mario, personally orchestrated and served the dinner assisted by some of their highly competent staff.

There were 17 total wines served blind, many of which our host either purchased from the source or the original distributor and stored for as long as 40 years in his classic, state of the art, underground wine cellar.

Upon arrival, the 10 of us were served what I thought was champagne from an obscured bottle:

2010 GUILIO FERRARI RISERVA del FONDATORE EXTRA BRUT SPARKLING WINE TRENTINO- served from a 750 ml bottle blind; the guesses as to which producer this came from were all French and included my guess, Piper Heidsieck Rare, Gosset and Ruinart; regardless, the color was light yellow toward gold, that deceived me into thinking this was a mellow and charming bubbly, but the nose had a huge blast of acid that was even bigger once tasted and only because my palate relaxed and acclimated a little was I able to discern much more; I got some serious hazelnut accented lemon/ orange extract with a little yellow apple in this rich and full bodied marvel along with a mildly stinging mouthfeel; it was interesting, mysterious and actually decent after the 3rd glass- kidding re the latter. I liked it.
This was aged on the lees for more than 10 years and disgorged in 2021.

Edited in 6/13/24 after being discovered on the back of Broadbent’s Madeira notes

Our first flight had 4 white wines and It was not announced until it was clear we also needed more help that this flight came from 2014, creatively selected geographically from the North to the South of Burgundy, as our host provided a few clues as he did throughout the evening. To me, it seemed all were from Burgundy, but some had flint and minerals and some did not and I began to question whether we had some new world Chardonnay in this flight as well, as the blind tasting doubt crept in.

First flight of 4 whites:

2014 JEAN PAUL & BENOIT DROIN VALMUR GRAND CRU CHABLIS- blind; light yellow color {as all 4 were}; it seemed just a bit warm, but the flavors were not all that enhanced; following mild aromas of flint and minerals, came a nice breath of citrus with lemon most evident and a touch of saline; once tasted, some nice yellow apple joined in; it was medium bodied and delivered softly to the back end where a hint of oyster shells showed up, perhaps in retrospect, from the Kimmeridgian soil that graces this region or did I just imagine it?

2014 JOSEPH DROUHIN CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE GRAND DRU- blind; light yellow color; initially, before blowing off, the nose was redolent of burnt matchstick that almost overwhelmed the underlying citrus and orchard fruit notes that translated into lemon and yellow apple in this lovely, balanced, soft, smooth and round beauty.

2014 FERNAND & LAURENT PILLOT VIDE BOURSE CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET 1er Cru- blind; light yellow color; the nose was somewhat muted, but the taste pleased immensely with grandmother’s best lemon meringue pie like profile and the soft chiffon like texture complimented it perfectly; this was so flavorful, simply a delicious wine that is very approachable now.

2014 JOSEPH DROUHIN MARQUIS de LAGUICHE MONTRACHET GRAND CRU- blind; light yellow color; the nose had some fairly intense buttered popcorn, flint, minerals and matchstick that provided accents to the honeyed yellow apple, lemon oil and white peach fruit; it was rich, full bodied and long and as such, was my fav of the flight.

Second flight of 4, each served with a perfectly paired, amazing, creative appetizer. {My appetizer pairings were different from the printed menu} As it became obvious and appreciated once tasted, this flight was all Madeira, never before poured for this group during the time my friend has been a member and presented from dryer to sweeter.

1860 COSART GORDON SERCIAL SOLERA MADEIRA- blind; it had a red copper, maple color that perfectly complimented the aromas and tastes that also included honeyed, sweetened and dried, red cherry and apricot with a nice sprinkling of mint that arrived late; the typical creamy, syrupy texture added to its allure and lengthened the finish leaving a pleasing palate coating residue.

As an aside, the solera system is quite rare when it comes to Madeira. Soleras use a procedure that works like this: 1/10th of the contents of one cask are removed and replaced with the same amount of younger wine. Repeat this ten times, and the entire contents of the cask are new. The solera is then closed, and the resulting blend is bottled. In the case of this outstanding 1860 Bual aka Malvasia Fina, from the oldest Madeira shipper, Cossart Gordon {established in 1745}, only a portion of the wine actually comes from the year 1860, as this year indicates the beginning of the solera.

1839 OSCAR’S ACCIAIOLY MADEIRA VERDELHO SPECIAL RESERVE- blind; it had a red copper, maple color and serious and intense aromas of nutty, caramel laced red cherry which also made up the majority of the taste profile; it seemed to be perfectly sweetened, not too much or too little and seemingly was the perfect Madeira that one could sip forever.

1907 BLANDY’S MADEIRA BUAL- blind; mahogany color; the nose was super inviting offering a bowl full of maple syrup covered berries that once tasted had an interesting, unexpected wild component; the syrupy texture added some impressive weight to the mouthfeel and it finished with a massive, sticky attack on the palate. Although this was nicely paired with smoked scamorza toast, Aunt Jemima’s pancakes would have sufficed.

1895 D’OLIVEIRA MALVASIA RESERVA MADEIRA- blind; dark mahogany color; the nose suggested this was super concentrated and it may have been understated as this delightfully intense sweetie with layered depth gave generous amounts of coffee, nutty, caramel and tar laden dried figs and blackberry all the way to the back end where it just hung on for a long finish.

After this flight, I would have been OK if this was the last wine, sort of.

See Michael Broadbent’s Madeira notes included here:

Third flight of 3 reds; a flight most of us really struggled with just to get the varietal AND it was even served in a glass that could pass for a Burgundy stem:

2003 DOMINIQUE LAURENT CLOS-VOUGEOT VIEILLES VIGNES GRAND CRU- blind; the color was a somewhat youthful dark red purple, but the nose suggested it was more mature with dried cranberry cherry fruit accented with a bud of clove; on the palate, there was a wild character in the fruit and along with the dried cranberry, I’m not even close to Burgundy unless one calls Southern Rhone close.
This had an alcohol content of 14.2% abv and was not acidified. 80% of the wine comes from the prime, well repsected Grand Maupertuis section of the vineyard.

2005 DOMINIQUE LAURENT CLOS-VOUGEOT VIEILLES VIGNES GRAND CRU- blind; as with the 2003, a large component of this wine comes from the Maupertui section of the vineyard; the color was also a somewhat youthful dark red purple, but the nose and taste was more Pinot Noir than anything else, but I could not get past the 2003 and its super atypical notes and stayed in S. Rhone; it had pleasing spicy red raspberry and red cherry fruit while being delivered in a soft and smooth textured medium, finishing up after an impressive crescendoed climb; its hallmark was its nice balance, if not that it was in fact a red Burgundy.

2006 DOMINIQUE LAURENT CLOS-VOUGEOT VIEILLES VIGNES GRAND CRU- blind; the color emulated that of the 2003 and 2005 with its youthful, dark red purple hue; a most distinct accent of nutmeg embellished the fruit forward aromas that included blackberry and black raspberry, but once tasted, it got musty and dusty past mid palate and I’m still searching for the varietal and place.

Fourth flight of 4 seriously dark reds:

1997 CHATEAU de la NEGLY CLOS des TRUFFIERE ‘HOMAGE au MAX’ COTEAUX du LANGUEDOC- blind; 100% Syrah fermented in 100% new oak for 17 months; Clos de Truffiers (which could be loosely translated as “field of the truffle hunters”) is a second label made by the family domaine called Chateau de la Negly; it had an intense dark red purple color; the nose had a metallic component that did not dissipate, but some nice minerality served to soften it; the taste profile was replete with black currant, blackberry and blueberry and I’m thinking Bordeaux- Ha; perhaps the wild fruit notes should have steered me away from Bordeaux, nonetheless, I loved this wine and called it fabulous.

1982 PENFOLDS GRANGE BIN 95 SHIRAZ SOUTH AUSTRALIA- blind; 94% Shiraz, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in new American oak hogsheads for 18 months; 13.5% abv; following its intense dark red purple color came aromas of mint, eucalyptus and pepper accented ripe blackberry and black cherry, all of which continued on to the back end; it was full bodied with some weight, had some power but more finesse and charm and as such, was a wonderful experience that seemed to grow and expand over time; loved this one too. In retrospect, I could have made a case for this being an Unico.

1971 RIDGE VINEYARDS YORK CREEK VINEYARD PETIT SIRAH NAPA- blind; no way do I get PS in this, but, as always, it seemed reasonable after it was revealed; this one has shed its dark, inky, super serious tannic cloak in favor of a being a touch more mellow although the dark fruit had a wild and woolly component to it and it still had lots of body, depth and complexity while maintaining an amazing balance; I found it even more amazing that it was over 50 years old and still sporting an amazing fruit profile that was sourced from Spring Mountain prior to it being established as an AVA.

1964 PAUL JABOULET AINE HERMITAGE LA CHAPELLE- blind; 100% Syrah; this had a dark red purple color with a little brown hue suggesting some age and the dried black raspberry and blackberry fruit seemed to confirm it; initially, it was grapey, mindful of an Amarone, but that phase dissipated and it took on a new persona leaving lovely slightly sweet red and dark fruit behind that was medium bodied and expressed with more grace than power, in fact, the last pass exuded elegance.


Fifth flight of a dessert wine:

1890 OFFLEY’S VINTAGE PORT- blind; coming from a world renown Port collector who puts on epic once in a lifetime Port tastings annually, this was the fitting climax to a marvelous evening; I had no idea as to how old it was, but trusted it was over 100 as I aspire to be; it was simply amazing initially giving lovely honeyed and tar covered blueberry fruit that eventually gave way to blackberry and black currant; it had an oily, wondrous texture that added a tactile pleasing sensation to complete the sensorial treasures that capped it all for us on this evening.

Here’s a link for some history of this Port house at least back to 1737, my birth year:

What an event! For me, it’s the consummate wine experience to taste fabulous wines blind with fabulous like minded, passionate people while dining in an amazing restaurant and feasting on the delights of the table.

To taste these wines blind was another reminder of how difficult it is to recognize varietals, vintages, place and styles.

I called the sparkling wine champagne, got white Burgundy in the 1st flight, Madeira in the 2nd and little thereafter. I do not remember ever missing a Pinot Noir, in this case 3.

A couple of folks did really well, but for the most part, most of us struggled and appropriately ended our evening with a large slice of humble pie. Yum!

I am very grateful for having been included.




Thanks for the write up . . .

hmm. I used to go to Bipin’s tastings and now wonder why I fell off the list—didn’t know he was still running them. He sold a ton of wine a few years ago and I heard his health was declining sadly enough.

great to revisit. This and the 81 were sold at Wine Ex for years, always on the shelf at $46.95. I drank cases of both, obviously way too young, but amazing even then.

There are 2 groups, one in his hometown Riverside and this one in LA. If I am correct, he also did one of a kind tastings at various venues in LA that others outside of his group were also invited to.

Here’s al link to the other one that I also sent to this year:

With enough guest appearances you’ll turn in to a regular - fun tasting and dinner!

When I read that you had the Madeira’s before the flight of red wines I was wondering how that might influence. Could be completely wrong but feels like it might play a role in the struggle.

Thanks for sharing your impression about the wines :wine_glass: always happy to see nice wines coming your way

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It was that time it was your turn to host and you served flights of Fixin, Rully and Marsannay.


I thought about that too at the time and tried to clear my palate and was pretty sure it was not affected. Two of the 3 seemed to be something other than Pinot Noir and when we received the clue that they were all from the same region and producer, I deferred to So. Rhone.

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I should have figured Blake! Another good reason to drink more bubbly stuff :grin::clinking_glasses: I have a bottle around waiting (was thinking of you) for a reasonable moment to be opened.

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Glad you got a great mature bottle. I had a case of the 1974, and every ten years or so open would a bottle. It took thirty years for the wine to show any charm and another ten to shed the massive mantle of tannin. But once it did, it was glorious.


Outstanding notes as always, Blake. What an event - seems Bipin has a real knack for making these both pleasurable and educational.

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Nice work Blake.

Grange at around 40 years of age is just about right.

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Totally agree Jeremy. The rich, bold, youngish color was amazing in itself.

Wow…what an epic tasting…2014 was such a great vintage for White Burgs, I had a handful of beautiful wines over the years, but I wish I had the chance to have tasted more of them…

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My name is Kunal and I am a winemaker and farmer.

I really enjoyed reading about this incredible tasting! Two wines that stood out to me were the 2010 Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Extra Brut and the 1971 Ridge York Creek Vineyard Petit Sirah.

The 2010 Giulio Ferrari is a spectacular example of Trentino’s sparkling wines - its extended lees aging until 2021 has truly enhanced its complexity.

The 1971 Ridge York Creek Vineyard Petit Sirah is a fascinating wine, showcasing how beautifully a well-crafted wine can age. Its transition from bold tannins to a balanced, nuanced profile with wild dark fruit is remarkable.


Kunal, thanks for your remarks to this thread and for your personal introduction.

I’m delighted you enjoyed reading about this tasting as I surely enjoyed participating in it and then reliving it through writing up the notes.


I just discovered a printout of a review of the 2010 Giulio Ferrari sparkling wine and edited in to the notes, but here it is for easier access:

Nice. Thanks for adding it in Mikael.

My text fell out, but thought it was very interesting to see that chef de caves from a Champagne house decided to head on to Ferrari, and curious to see/hear about the developments in the wines.