With my favorite tasting group, “7 Blind Men”, you never know what’s going to happen. Anyone can end up bringing almost anything, at any time! Throughout the year, members take turns hosting. Each host is responsible for bringing all the wines for the night. At the end of the year, it’s a little different.
For the end of the year tasting., each member brings two bottles of Bordeaux wine. We let the sommelier chose the order the wines will be poured in. The dinner was held at our new, favorite haunt, Valentino’s. Valentino’s has been open since 1973. While almost 40 years is a drop in the bucket for many cities, in Los Angeles, this is ancient history. Similar to most wine regions, Valentino’s has had its ups and downs over the years. But Piero Selvaggio has been working hard on reinventing himself. With the energy of a man half his age, coupled with warmth, grace and charm, you feel at home with Piero.
The night opened with Champagne and a corked bottle of Neillon Chassange Montrachet before we got down to business. Tonight’s business was to blind taste a nice lineup of Bordeaux wine.
83 Margaux is a baffling wine. At times, it’s an elegant, floral expression of Margaux and on other occasions, it shows increased rusticity and hard tannins. Sadly, this bottle displayed more of the later than the former characteristics. With an earthy, truffle, cassis and tobacco laden nose, the wine felt rustic and beefy on the palate, with an austere leaning in the cassis filled finish. 94 Pts
82 Leoville Poyferre is filled with smoky black fruit, cassis, truffle, cedar and cigar box aromatics. This rich, full bodied, elegant, round, powerful Bordeaux wine end with a long, cassis, blackberry, spice and orange rind finish. This sublime wine will only get better. While not cheap, this wine offers one of the best price to quality ratios for mature Bordeaux, especially for 82 Bordeaux. 97 Pts
1989 Pichon Baron is filled with ripe plums, cassis, Asian spice, licorice, earth, coffee, truffle and forest floor aromas. This full bodied, intense, concentrated wine is powerful. With round tannins and multiple layers of ripe, juicy cassis, this wine offers a text book Pauillac experience. While not in the lush style of the 90, this is wine Bordeaux lovers should have in their cellars. It’s still young and it’s only going to get better with age. 95 Pts
82 Leoville Las Cases needs coaxing to bring out the earthy, cassis, spice, truffle and forest floor aromatics. This full bodied, stern wine needs at least another decade to hit maturity. Masculine and brawny in style, this old school Bordeaux wine ends with sensations of cassis, cranberry and strawberry, 94 Pts
1982 Gruaud Larose should be the 61 in the making. This wine was great ten years ago and today, it’s better than ever! Powerful spice, truffle, cassis, floral, black cherry, tobacco and cassis aromas wake up your senses. On the palate, this dense, concentrated wine is fresh, round and mouth filling. The long finish ends with spicy, plummy cassis. Still young, this is a serious wine and a contender for the finest wine ever produced from Gruaud Larose. 98 Pts
86 Margaux is developing along the lines of many 86 Bordeaux, The lean, austere side of the vintage is being to upstage the elegant leanings of even Chateau Margaux. Complex aromatics start the off, but on the palate, the wine feels lean, masculine and austere. This stern style of Margaux is powerful. But the level of the hard tannins detracts from the tasting experience. Perhaps this will change course and become more pleasurable with time, the wine does not seem to be heading in that direction. 93 Pts
1961 Gruaud Larose can be a drop dread stunning St. Julien with voluptuous charm. Sadly, not on this occasion. Great aromatics were easy to find in the melange of truffle, earth, smoke, tobacco, cassis and hot bricks. With elegant textures and charm, thus bottle offered pleasure, But it did not offer the same level of concentration, freshness or opulent textures experienced in the best bottles. Once again, this bottle proved the old axiom remains true, after 20 years of age, there is no such thing as a great wine, only great bottles. 93 Pts
1970 Latour A’ Pomerol opens with complex aromatics of flowers, leaves, fresh herbs, plums, espresso, wood and blackberries. With soft, round, sensuous textures and a deep, rich, plum, black cherry and silk textured finish, this wine delivers a lot of Pomerol pleasure. Fully mature, this wine might not get better. Well stored bottles are worth seeking out. 94 Pts
1976 Château Gilette Crème de Tête opens with an orange, Christmas spice, nectarine, cinnamon, peach, honey and floral perfume. If that was all there was supposed to be the wine, that would have been fine. But wines need to offer pleasure on the palate too and this wine stopped short of that. Semi tart, lacking sweetness and freshness, while not great, this was average at best. Based on this bottle, the wine is slowly starting to dry out and drop its fruit. Perhaps it was the specific bottle. I’ll try to open another bottle of this Sauternes/Barsac in the moderate future. But I do not have high hopes as this bottle had great color and a fill in the neck. 86 Pts
This was a nice way to end the year. I’m looking forward to 2011.
We also had two 1986 first growth wines — and both disappointed. I am not a bit fan of 1986 in general, but I think these bottles were off.
We had two bottles of Leoville Poyferre – the better one was lovely (per Jeff’s note). The earlier one was not as great, but decent. I have found some bottle variation in this wine – with some being good, while others great. Not sure if it is due to storage differences or actual variation across the bottlings. This wine can really be stellar – as Jeff says a great value in mature Bordeaux.
Finally, I really liked the 1961 Gruaud Larose. I am a bit biased (it was my bottle), but I thought it was lovely and mature. Agree it wasn’t the finest bottle from this case, but I would have given it a couple more points.
Eric… What wines did you come to a different conclusion on? And don’t worry about agreeing with Leve, I agree with him too! Obviously, he has a good palate.
Actually agree with almost all your notes. What’s wrong with me?! Gruard ’82 continues to amaze…