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LEROY TASTING

Cary Feibleman • 1/25/15        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

The wines of Domaine Leroy are amongst the most collectible and long lived in Burgundy. Few estates can boast as broad a collection of wines covering the most important vineyards in the region, nor can they rival the vertical treasures held in the Domaine’s cellars.

Winemaking here has always been of the finest quality with remarkably low yields producing bottles of highly concentrated flavors and achieving complexity rarely found anywhere else in the region. Correspondingly, prices for the Domaine’s premier cru wines often exceed those of grand cru at other estates. Ultimately, the marketplace sustains or rejects this pricing structure and so far the appreciation of the wines’ quality and rarity have allowed the current owner and director, Lalou Bize-Leroy, to make wines in a style which she believes is Burgundy at its purest.

Domaine Leroy has been at the forefront of the biodynamic movement and while annually offering the current vintage’s releases, the Domaine frequently releases well aged selections from the cellars that give buyers an opportunity to acquire perfectly stored bottles from their cold cellars in their prime. Historically, Leroy was primarily a negociant buying wines and grapes and selling them under the Leroy name. Today Lalou Bize Leroy separates her wine empire into three parts. Those produced from her own holdings are labeled as either  Domaine Leroy or Domaine D’Auvenay. Those purchased from other growers labeled Maison Leroy, the name associated with the company going back before World War II when Lalou’s father, Henri, was primarily a negociant.

Recently a group of admirers of Domaine Leroy’s wines organized a tasting of Grand Cru vineyards selected from the most important vintages of the last 65 years. The tasting was held at the premier French restaurant in Los Angeles, Mélisse, owned by Michelin two star Chef Josiah Citrin. Mélisse is a restaurant well known by the cognoscenti in Los Angeles for consistency and cooking of the highest order. Chef Citrin is a modest man, does not seek celebrity and is never found on cable TV cooking shows, but year in and out produces food of outstanding quality served by a highly professional and well-trained staff. The wine service is directed by Brian Kalliel whose experience is unrivalled by any of the youthful sommeliers in the city.

Mélisse in Santa Monica has long been considered the top French restaurant in Los Angeles. While many young chefs in the city have entered culinary combat on cable TV cooking duels, Chef Josiah Citrin has been content to labor in his kitchens, perfect his craft, add elements of molecular cuisine where appropriate, but staying true to his roots. He trained with the greatest chefs in Los Angeles, Wolfgang Puck and Joachim Splichal, and spent years in kitchens in France. The last time Michelin deigned to visit Los Angeles, they awarded him two stars, a ranking exceeded by no other restaurant in Southern California. As the years have passed, Josiah has only gotten better. His sourcing of products is beyond reproach, his style has gotten purer and lighter, and the restaurant now is better than it has ever been. To complement the kitchen brigade that features Ken Takayama as Chef de Cuisine, Brian Kalliel runs an excellent wine program as head sommelier, and no one in the city does a better job of caring for and pouring great old wines at special wine dinners.

cary.wine2.melisse

To call Josiah a French Chef is perhaps unnecessarily restricting his broad world vision and grasp of ingredients. A quick look through the following menu that accompanied our Leroy tasting gives you a hint of what treats can be expected during an evening spent at this restaurant.

Appetizers
Wagyu Beef Tartare
Haokkaido Scallop and Surf Clam
Tromboncino Squash and Eggplant

Razor Clams, Celery and Black Australian Truffles

Cary.seafood.0317

Slow-cooked John Dory
Sunchokes and Matsutake Mushrooms

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Beef Cheek
Smoked Garbanzo, Carrot, Jus Daube

Wood Pigeon
Charred Celeriac, Haricot Verts, Sauce Civet

New York Steak
Porcini, Red Cabbage, Brown Butter Porcini Sauce

Cheese Assortment

Fig and Fourme d’ Ambert Tart

 Cary.bottles.0305

 

CHAMPAGNES
Krug 1988
Krug 2000
Dom Perignon 1988

WHITE BURGUNDY
Coche Dury Meursault Rougeots 1999
Coche Dury Meursualt Rougeots 2002
Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 1994
Leroy Corton Charlemagne 1999

RED BURGUNDY
Leroy Clos Vougeot 1978
Leroy Chambertin 1980
Leroy Bonnes Mares 1980
Leroy Musigny 1949
Leroy Richebourg 1962
Leroy Mazis-Chambertin 1985
Leroy Mazis-Chambertin Hospice de Beaune Cuvée Madeleine Collignon 1985
Domine Faivelely Mazis-Chambertin 1985

DESSERT
Ch. Rieussec 1945
Ch. Doisy-Daëne L’Extravagant 1997
Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 1997

NOTES

1988 Krug
Usually a favorite as the wine had a 20 year slumber before it started to soften and is now approaching a stage of attractive drinkablility. This particular bottle was marred by slight corkiness that didn’t totally obscure its fruit and toastiness, but was disappointing. This is now recognized as a great vintage Krug and would usually be rated Extraordinary.

2000 Krug
A millennial bottling fitting its place in history. Full bodied with great complexity as one would expect from the dozens of individual villages and vineyards from which the Krug family traditionally sources its blends. There is lovely toastiness in the nose with crisp acidity, forward fruit and beginning approachability; something not noted in the first years of release of other recent heralded vintages such as 1990 and 1996 — Outstanding Plus.

1988 Dom Perignon
A wonderful opportunity to compare the marquee tête de cuvée bottlings from two of the world’s most famous Champagne producers. This bottling was in many ways the opposite of its Krug counterpart. Where the latter was tight and acidic, this was round and fruity. Where the Krug was backward and a bit reticent, this bottle was in its prime revealing all its flavor elements and featured a bit of round sweetness not noted in the other two Champagnes. Enjoy this now — Highly Recommended.

1999 Coche Dury Meursault Rougeots
Golden in the glass and quite mature appearing. Quite advanced with round fruit and complex mineral essence with a slight hint of key lime in the finish. Very distinctive Coche signature in all elements — Highly Recommended Plus.

2002 Coche Dury Meursault Rougeots
Much lighter in color and backward in development. Great acid-fruit balance, elements of honeysuckle and citrus, complex and tight with long finish. Coche through and through. Years to go — Outstanding Plus.

1994 Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne
Advanced golden color. Now quite forward and in its peak years of drinkability, gentle and delicate with good balance, a bit simpler than the preceding wines now with a pleasant finish, but lacking the mouth filling flavors present in finer years. This is a low profile vintage for whites and reds whose wines were always modest, but this bottle is well preserved and a credit to what the winemaker can do in a so-so year — Highly Recommended.

1999 Leroy Corton Charlemagne
Heavy petrol nose, like the 1990 Leroy Corton Charlemagne. Very prominent smoke and herbal elements. Good acidity and mouth filling flavors. A very distinct, fleshy Corton Charlemagne style quite the opposite of in vogue minimalist wine making — Highly Recommended.

1978 Leroy Clos Vougeot
From one of the best sites on the Clos Vougeot hillside, a very large wine with concentrated fruit, very complex and full bodied with great balance and a long finish — Outstanding Plus.

1980 Leroy Bonnes Mares
Lovely perfume on the nose with mouth filling fruit, full bodied and a long finish. The merits of the respective vintages ’78 vs. ’80, concentrated fruit vs. fruity flare was on display in these two wines – Outstanding.

1980 Leroy Chambertin
Great anticipation preceded the opening of this wine, alas, it was of dubious provenance and identity. The cork was softer than all the others and unbranded with the Leroy logo. Much darker in color and suffused with barnyard “aromas.” It was concluded this was a fake.

1949 Leroy Musigny
Anticipation in this case rewarded. This was a spectacular wine of great concentration and breed with enormous kaleidoscopic bouquet and mouth filling flavors with quite an extraordinary finish that went on and on. This 65 year old will ultimately give Betty White a run for her money – Extraordinary Plus, bordering on Perfection.

1962 Leroy Richebourg
Powerfully aromatic bouquet with huge spicy flavors in the mouth that reveal great complexity as they continue to evolve and reveal themselves. Very rich and balanced with a long lingering finish lasting several minutes – Extraordinary Plus, bordering on Perfection.

1985 Leroy Mazis-Chambertin
Wonderfully fragrant nose with intense aromatic essence. Huge and complex in the mouth with elaborate spice chest treasures revealing themselves one after another and lingering with a very long finish – Extraordinary Plus, bordering on Perfection.

1985 Leroy Mazis-Chambertin Hospice de Beaune Cuvée Madeleine Collignon
The companion wine to the preceding one in the Leroy cellar. Always a fun comparison. Initially this was the tighter of the two and possibly the larger wine in their first decade of release. Tonight this wine was sweet and full of complex perfume with lovely complexity and a fine lingering finish. These two Mazis had not been cellared together – Extraordinary.

1985 Faiveley Mazis-Chambertin
A serendipitous addition to this tasting, another Mazis from the same vintage and from a famed house. Sweet floral elements with hints of rose on the nose, quite concentrated in the mouth with complex flavors and a long, lingering finish. A bit more forward than the Leroy wines, but a very impressive effort – Outstanding Plus.

The Leroy Red Burgundies tasted this evening were stunning wines showing great concentration and complexity with remarkable staying power. It is interesting to note that these were all examples made by the winemaker who preceded Andre Porcheret, whom Lalou hired away from the Hospice de Beaune and before she started farming biodynamically. As good as these are, she believes the wines that followed them and the ones in the future will eclipse these. Alors!

1945 Chateau Rieussec
This wine displayed the color of dark caramel. It had a profound nose full of vanilla and was huge in the mouth, tasting like the world’s richest crème brulée. Each drop seemed to saturate the mouth with flavors. It had a very long, lingering finish – Perfection.

1997 Chateau Doisy-Daëne L’Extravagant
This is a huge, full bodied Sauternes with mouth filling flavors. It features great complexity with a very long finish. It is appropriately named and quite a challenger to the best bottling from the Sauternes chateaux – Extraordinary.

1997 Domaine Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance
This was a fortunate treat to have these two great late harvest wines from the same vintage to compare side by side. The Vouvray wines have gone in and out of favor over the years. This house was recently sold to new owners and quite a bit of the wine has found its way into the marketplace. At one time these wines, particularly the late harvest Vouvrays were prized like Sauternes and were thought to be ageless. It is not uncommon for older stocks from the 1920s to still show many features of youthful fruit and acidity and this very acidic backbone which is characteristic of the wine allows it to accompany many elements in a traditional multi-course meal, everything from richly sauced main courses to cheeses and desserts. This particularly bottle was notably acidic and backward with bright concentrated fruit and a tightly wound intensity suggesting a many decades long future – Outstanding Plus.

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No comments so far for “LEROY TASTING”

  1. Nice article, but there is no such thing as ‘Maison d’Auvenay’. Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay both work with domaine-owned vineyards; the Leroy négoce operation with purchased fruit is Maison Leroy.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by William Kelley | January 26, 2015, 5:10 am
  2. Thank you for the correction.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by cary feibleman | January 26, 2015, 6:29 am
  3. Well, I’m reminded of the Temple dweller, Simeon, who, according to Luke, when he took Messiah into his arms, the prophesy that he would not die before he had seen Israel’s savior was fulfilled.

    In the world of oenophilia you and your compatriots are good to go after such an experience. It doesn’t get any better than this. Fortunately, I’ve had a few of these wines. Otherwise I would have no idea the level of winemaking you are recounting. That said, your notes are perfect, because unless one has some experience with finest wine,there really is no way to transform words, no matter how many or how deep in the thesaurus one goes, into mouth feel. You have said as much in earlier articles.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by Frank L Parker | January 26, 2015, 7:28 am
  4. I enjoyed reading your notes, Carey. What a tasting! However, expanding on William Kelley’s comment above, the introductory material is a bit confusing: it starts off talking about *Domaine* Leroy, the domaine’s winemaking, etc., but the only domaine wine in the entire tasting is the 1999 Corton-Charlemagne.

    In subsequent paragraphs, it appears that there’s an effort to distinguish between domaine wines and those from her négociant operation (“Maison” Leroy), but I think it could have been made clearer; ideally, for example (and this is strictly my opinion, of course), all the red wines should have been denoted as *Maison* Leroy rather than simply as Leroy in the interests of disambiguation. I notice, too, that the reds are said to have been “made by her former winemaker.” If this refers to André Porcheret, I don’t think that would be correct, as it’s my understanding (without having any reference works handy) that he came on board only in 1988 upon the establishment of Domaine Leroy. In fact, these reds would have been made by a number of different winemakers, since Maison Leroy wines were often bought in barrel from the individual growers who did the vinification in their own cellars, with Leroy handling only the élevage and bottling (I think Maison Leroy also sometimes buys grapes, and other times juice as well, but as far as I know, there are no clues on the label that might disclose which wines came to become Leroy bottlings via which method).

    Finally, I’m pretty sure that it’s not accurate to state that “Bonnes Mares and Chevalier Montrachet are purchased and vinified by the house.” Mme. Bize-Leroy’s Domaine d’Auvenay owns tiny parcels in each of these two vineyards (her Chevalier having been acquired in 1992 and Bonnes-Mares the following year) and those wines are released under the d’Auvenay label, so there’s no need for her to purchase fruit or juice. Obviously, of course, any pre-1993 Bonnes Mares associated with the Leroy name will be négociant wine under the Maison Leroy label.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by David Russell | January 27, 2015, 2:52 am
  5. I would like to thank long time friend David Russell for his insightful comments. To summarize, prior to 1988, all wines released by Lalou Bize Leroy and her father, Henri, bore the negociant label, Maison Leroy. In 1988 the firm added the extensive Noellat holdings in Vosne-Romanée and have made several key acquisitions since including Remy and Jean Chartron held vineyards. Today in addition to the negociant label, there are two others — Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay. The two Domaine labels signify Leroy owned vineyards.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by cary feibleman | January 29, 2015, 12:26 pm
  6. Many thanks to Frank Parker for the kind words.
    One doesn’t often get a chance to drink such great wine. Events like these only occur because of the generosity of fellow collectors who have bought the bottles, usually long ago and have decided to drink, rather than trade or auction them. The critical discussion around the table is always fascinating because of the sharing of experiences of the attendees.
    Any theme will do and the same can be said for the wines and food. The people make it special.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by cary feibleman | January 29, 2015, 4:04 pm
  7. Thanks for the nod. I know the difference between the true wine lovers and drinkers and the ones who hope to make a buck and maybe drink some of their wine for “free”. I have never been any good at that, and prefer just to find out if I have made any good choices. I have to say that early on I got lucky restricting my buying to what are now crazily priced Bordeaux. I was kept away from Burgundy by lack of funds and some early disappointments, BUT, at some point, I happened upon a 1964 Hospices de Beaune, Cuvee Dr. Peste, ??? vineyard, but I was hooked. Still am. You gents are fortunate indeed to know and share with each other. I still wonder what that wine tasted like that Jesus turned from water at the wedding in Capernaum. Probably pretty close to the ’49 Musigny or the ’62 Richebourg. In any case it appears the wedding host was blown away…

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by Frank Parker | February 3, 2015, 10:24 pm
  8. Reader Frank Parker brings up the unfortunate topic of wine price escalation. The two entities in the economy that have experienced the greatest inflation in our lifetimes are college tuition and the price of grand cru French wines.

    We still work for a living, but in our lifetimes we have seen the prices of the top Bordeaux go from $20-30 per bottle to a peak of $1,000+ with the 2010 vintage. In the 1980’s we bought 1966 DRC Echezeaux for $60 per bottle and the highly rated classic vintages of 1978 and 1985 came out for under $1500 for a mixed case of 12 bottles that included a bottle of Romaneé Conti. The generation that preceded us bought 1959 Lafite Rothschild and Latour for $6 per bottle, and Americans visiting Paris in the late 70’s could find 1945 Ch. Mouton Rothschild at Latour d’ Argent for around $200 per bottle on the list of a famed three star restaurant.

    Alas, those days are ancient history now. The top Bordeaux Chateau owners, frequently corporations now because of the ill advised tax changes put into place by the Mitterand Socialist government that resulted in multi-generational family ownership divesting their holdings because they could not afford the inheritance taxes, have gotten rich, but they have also seen their products become trading commodities rather than consumables. They have also convinced themselves that their product really is worth $500-!,000 per bottle, regardless of the quality of the vintage. Actual production costs are still thought to be in the two digit range.

    The unintended downside of this is that Bordeaux has largely disappeared from wine lists across America and the only ones you find on lists are small producers you have never heard of who are not even found in the grand classification of First through Fifth Growths.

    Furthermore, the only people working at wine stores who have any idea of what Bordeaux tastes like are the grey haired fellows, the ones old enough to “remember when!” Outside of Manhattan and a few key stores around the country, no one is buying or selling top Bordeaux anymore. Young wine store employees never taste them except at rare trade tastings A few years ago the formerly dominant wine importer, Chateaux and Estates, took the unprecedented position of not even buying top Bordeaux anymore,because the price had become so high they were worried about the financial risk of committing in advance to futures purchases that they might never be able to sell.

    The same comments can be made about top Burgundy which has experienced an even higher escalation in price because of smaller quantities and the desire to own and taste that truly great bottle that becomes a profound life memory.

    An interesting observation about Bordeaux versus Burgundy is that with modern winemaking skills and strict selections, it is the rare Bordeaux vintage that is bad and undrinkable. To be certain there are lighter ones, but most Bordeaux bottles deliver some semblance of the basic flavor elements of cabernet and merlot that one seeks in the bottle. In the very highest rated vintages there is intense concentration of flavors and complexity, although we would argue that international consultants have changed the product to one that is overly ripe and jammy with a concomitant alcohol level that is a staggering 25% higher than was traditional. We are doubtful these bottles will gracefully age, but future historians will be the judges.

    What makes us seek out Burgundy is that there is no other wine that when it is perfect can please on so many different level–complex bouquets, kaleidoscopic flavors and profound finishes that linger on and stimulate the tastebuds for minutes.These bottles stop you in your tracks and time seems to stand still. Alas, the experiences are rare and the exasperating thing about collecting Burgundy is that many bottles seriously underachieve what the vintage and precious soil seem capable of producing. Great winemakers are at a loss for why Bonne Mares, Musigny or Clos de la Roche are disappointing one year and great the next. There are many obvious factors dealing with climate that influence the harvest and an equal or greater number that ultimately factor in the winemaking once the grapes are crushed. But judging by the quizzical looks on the faces of those who produce the wine, there are a lot of things that they can’t control and perhaps are not even aware of what the problem is or was–take pre-mox for example. And there is no more sorry bottle of wine than a thin, acidic and reedy bottle of Burgundy. Bad vintage are to be avoided!

    So at the end of the day, let’s celebrate the great bottles, share them with friends and enjoy life.

    Cheers.

    Cary Feibleman

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by cary feibleman | February 4, 2015, 7:40 am
  9. Great post Cary. Exactly what was on my mind, but my wife cautions me about my professorial pretensions, especially at someone else’s party. Beautifully said, and compactor complete.

    The only solace I have is to reiterate that the low end priced wines are almost never bad, and daily drinking has actually improved in the time period we’re discussing.

    However, for some of us with Gray or no hair, it does not make up for being largely shut out of the finest wine experiences except in the cases where we had enough disposable income to invest / two or more decades ago, and now need friends who can really appreciate what’s being shared.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Posted by Frank L Parker | February 4, 2015, 7:52 pm

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