Had a very eventful Bastille Day. Started off midday with a drive to the Izod Arena with my daughter and her friends. After sitting through three opening bands, the Jonas Brothers finally start their show. The show finally ends at 10:45 and all the girls had a great time and thank me a million times for getting them the tickets, making the dream day of their lives come true, etc etc. So I feel great about that, but after eight hours of dealing with 18,000 giddy/screaming girls, once I drop the kids off, I’m ready for a morphine drip.
However, instead of morphine, I opted for a very late dinnner at Marea with some light lumber. Already at the restaurant were several Ruinart folks including Frederic Panaiotis, Bruce the Returner, as well as a couple of others.
Since I got there so late, I may be missing a young(er) vintage or two of Ruinart that the Ruinart people kindly and generously supplied.
’90 Dom Ruinart - very fresh and vibrant with some smokiness on the nose. Pure yellow fruit on the nose and palate with a long but round finish. Had I been served this blind I might have guess DP due to its creamy round texture, but the quantity of fruit is there, the chardonnay does show through by its light femininity. I’ll admit that a few years ago I would have been surprised by how good this was, but after a number of times Dom Ruinart standing up to every other house in many different vintages I now expect greatness from their wines. Excellent plus
’79 Dom Ruinart - definitely has left the adolescent stage and is showing some maturity with a hint of oxidative notes and some nutty aromas and flavors to it. Good effervescence and acidity make this a complete champagne. Excellent.
’78 Dom Ruinart Rose - On a night when almost all of the wines showed extremely well, this was one of my least favorites of the evening. Nothing wrong with it, but it was a bit straightforward and probably just isn’t a great wine since the vintage isn’t one of the better ones from the 70’s. Very good plus.
’82 Dom Perignon Rose - very rich aromas of creamsicles with an abundance of red fruits including raspberries and strawberries. Vibrant mousse and acidity, but no rough edges or harshness to it, but instead had the DP creaminess to it that doesn’t always show though in their Roses. Looking forward to drinking this with some more age on it when it could possibly become staggering. For now Excellent plus.
’69 Dom Ruinart - our first fully mature champagne of the evening, but it still has a good amount of effervescence to it. Generally my least favorite generally declared champagne vintage of the '60’s this was an excellent example of the wine.
’64 Dom Ruinart - this was a bit controversial. I thought it was slightly corked, so did the person on my right. By others didn’t agree including Frederic. After I gave away my glass, I smelled Frederic’s glass and I didn’t get any corkiness to it, so now I wish I had kept my glass. Then, another guest at dinner, who also is one of NYC’s top sommeliers, who initially didn’t think it was corked, thought it was. Putting the potential issue of it being corked aside this was fully mature, probably on its downslope (I’ve had fresher and better bottles). Some mushrooms characteristics on the nose, but you could still get a sense that this was/can be a really fantastic champagne. I brought this and the '64 Veuve since it’s both Frederic’s and my birthyear and Bruce filled out the flight with the DP on top of bringing the reds and a few of the other champagnes as well. Judgement reserved on this particular bottle.
’64 Dom Perignon - excellent example of one of my favorite wines - not the best, but excellent and when it comes to '64 DP, an excellent example is a truly exceptional experience. Frederic commented on how there was such similarity between the three '64’s even though their composition is very different. The DP had plenty of yellow fruit to it, a touch of porcini mushroom and some hazelnuts. Still firm structure and vibrancy to it. Staggering minus
’64 Veuve Clicquot - not much fruit on the nose, with mushrooms and underbrush dominating. However, on the palate it is surprisingly fresh, with matue baked apple fruit showing as well as more effervescence then met the eye and a good line of acidity to it. Frederic told an interesting story about how all of the '64 Veuve Clicquot at the house (prior to being Chef de Cave at Ruinart, he held the same position at VC ) are shot due to the excessive permeability of the of the crown capsules that they had used back then. Coincidentally, I had dinner with Benoit Gouez who is the chef de Cave at Moet & Chandon, and he told me that going forward he and Moet have decided to store their wines at the house on cork due to what they believe to be the higher permeability of the capsules. The thought is that for the first year or two, the crown capsules give a beeter seal, but after that, the reverse occurs and for long term protection against oxygen, the cork is the way to go. Back to the '64 VC - it was Excellent minus.
’66 Piper Heidsick - decided to be opened at the last minute, this was incredibly fresh with adolescent effervescence and an even younger pale straw color to it. This was the last wine of the evening, so all I can say is that it was Excellent.
’80 DRC Richebourg - since arrived to dinner so late I got the very end of this bottle which contained a fair amount of sediment and it was still great. Most fragrant wine of the night with a nose of sugar coated black cherries and a palate that had more of the same with some earthy flavors to it as well. One of those wines that really coats your tongue so that you can taste it long after you have swallowed the wine. Staggering plus
’58 Conterno Monfortino - dark colored for a barolo of this age, it was a powerful mouthful of fruit and tar. Very aromatic nose with still some tannin to it. I wish I had drank this with the appropriate food, because as good as it was alone, it surely would have been better. Excellent
’74 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard - blind tasting is always easy when you know what the wine is ahead of time. One whiff of this and I said, of course this is '74 Martha’s. It screamed of eucalyptus with dense red fruits behind it. Very silky and while mature this surely has decades of life left to it.Staggering minus
Since I brought up the dinner on Monday with Benoit Gouez from Moet & Chandon I’d be remiss not to mention at least two of the highlights of the dinner.
’76 Moet & Chandon Mag disgorged in '02 - it seemed like it was disgorged even more recently than that. Very clean light fruit with a fair amount of minerals to it as well. Youthful exuberance to it, but it had rich flavors from resting on its lees for 26 years. Excellent minus
’59 Moet & Chandon Mag disgorged in '07 - very youthful this will most likely improve with a couple of more years of bottle age. Benoit explained that this vintage had almost no acidity and based on that nobody would think wines like this had the capability to age. Well, I’ve had enough '59 original disgorgements as well as recent disgorements like this to know that they aged very well. Excellent
Hopefully I’ll have many more Bastille days that were as eventful and as good as this year’s was.