A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 2/3/16        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Sign Romanee St Vivant

In late November I returned from Burgundy where with my friends I tasted many 2014 Burgundies from barrel and some 2013s from bottle. I will have a detailed article out soon, but for now I can say that I find the 2014 Burgundies to have a lot of charm and there should be many wonderful 2014s from which to choose. However, by the time they arrive late this year and next year they may be overlooked by the praise for the 2015 vintage (to read an early article on that vintage click here). For now the 2013s are in the market and it is a vintage that I really like for the depth, balance, fruit, and concentration. The few that I have tasted after bottling confirm my earlier assessment of the vintage which I called “The Great Surprise“ (to read that article click here). And the more I taste the 2013s, the more I like them. On the trip, my friends and I also had some wonderful food and drank a lot of great Burgundies with our lunches and dinners. This is something we always make sure to include as an integral part of our trip. After all, all work and no play is not the way to go! I hope to have a brief post script on some of our meals and notes on some of the wines we drank in my upcoming article.

Returning home, we had scheduled an Old Burgundians dinner (to read my first article from a few years ago featuring old Domaine de la Romanée Conti wines click here). The Old Burgundians is a five person group consisting of John and Debbie Brincko, Edward Lazarus, and my wife Laurie and me. The purpose is to get together several times a year to drink old Burgundies from our cellars. Our love of Burgundy goes back a long time. We began drinking old Burgundies in the 1970s and drank many Burgundies from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s in those years. I first went to Burgundy to taste 35 years ago and this year’s visit marked that anniversary. Since that first visit I have missed a few years due to illness or business. Ed was with me on my first visit and for many of the trips in the 1980s and 1990s, but has not been much since that time. John joined for many visits in the 80s and 90s and for most of the last 10 years has been every year. Geoffrey Troy was with me on the first visit as well and so was my wife Laurie. Laurie has not been back for many years, but Geoffrey has gone every year. So suffice to say that this group has been drinking, cellaring, and visiting Burgundy for a very long time. And, having the opportunity to drink old Burgundies is one of life’s great pleasures for all of us. For our Old Burgundians dinners we select wines that have been in our cellars for a very long time. Many have been there since the first release and others may have been in our cellars for 40 or more years. Remember, in drinking old wines, after the obvious which is the quality of the wine to begin with, provenance and storage is everything (to read an article on that click here).

This time the event was at the home of John and Debbie Brincko. John selected the main wine theme which was Leroy Red Burgundies from the 50s or 40s. He chose the 1955 Leroy Chambertin as a start and I contributed a 1955 Leroy Mazis Chambertin. Ed put in a 1949 Leroy Grands Echezeaux. We have all had these wines since the early Leroy releases in the 1980s. John and I provide Champagne and White Burgundy. This time John served a magnum of Henriot Brut Champagne “Cuvee 38“ and a mystery wine which turned out to be a magnum of 1977 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues Batard Montrachet and I provided a bottle of 1982 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet. The Champagne was accompanied by an assortment of appetizers including great smoked salmon and a wonderful dipping sauce that Debbie made. The White Burgundies were served with John’s world famous pasta with fresh shaved white truffles, and the Red Burgundies were matched with grilled Waygu beef followed by an assortment of cheese. Everything matched beautifully and the wines were very special. My notes on the wines follow:

Henriot Cuve 38 Réserve Perpétuelle Blanc de Blanc NV (magnum)
This is the first release of this Champagne. It is a blend of Henriot’s best parcels of Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Champagne from each vintage in the 1990 to 2007 period. It was bottled in 2009 and disgorged in April 2014. The dosage is very low within the range for Extra Brut. The idea is to create a “perpetual reserve” with new wine added and some wine bottled each year. There were 1000 magnums of this wine made. And the intention going forward is to make a new cuvée consisting of 1000 magnums each year . This is a great debut. The Champagne is stunningly brilliant and has amazing richness and finesse with a delicate creaminess. The expressive flavors are very faintly reminiscent of crème brûlée and citrus with a floral mineral tinge. The balance is impeccable and the finish is very long and persistent. Class and breed are the hallmarks of this Champagne – Extraordinary.

77 Batard

1977 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet (magnum)
For years I have been telling people about how great some 1977 White Burgundies can be. Early on one English wine critic called the wines “undrinkable”. This was a gross exaggeration, but the vintage was not highly regarded.  Yet over the years, I have had dozens of great bottles of 1977 White Burgundies. So much for conventional wisdom! (I should add that this is our son’s birth year). Two of the best are 1977 Joseph Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet which is absolutely stunning and 1977 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues Batard Montrachet which is also excellent. Now I can add 1977 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet to the list.
Light golden in color this 1977 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet has a gorgeous perfume of roasted hazelnuts with faint hints of honey and caramel with floral citrus tinges. The wine is rich and full with lush flavors slowing a honeyed quality. Beautifully balanced the wine is lush and rounded and still has a nice faint tinge of crispness. This is unique and very special – Outstanding Plus.

82 Chevalier

1982 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet
The 1982 White Burgundies have long been some of my all-time favorite White Burgundies. They have been drinking well from the very beginning and have aged magnificently. This 1982 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet has been one of the best. This was my last bottle and oh what a wine it is! It is always a sweet sorrow to drink your last bottle of any great wine, but the memories will go on and on. Light golden yellow in color the wine exhibits a stunningly complex perfume with suggestions of honey and floral citrus with very faint underlying suggestions of almond and spice. It is very elegant and has impeccable balance with a faint underlying citrus. Honeyed and lush, the wine is rounded and has intensity and depth with a long, lingering finish. Absolutely at a peak, but showing no signs of fatigue, this is a simply amazing old White Burgundy – Extraordinary.

55 Chambertin

1955 Leroy Chambertin
When the shipments of old Leroy wines started coming to the West Coast over 30 years ago my friends and I were amazed by their quality. This 1955 Chambertin was one of the very best. Those wines from the earliest days have remained stellar wines today and this 1955 Chambertin is stunning. The color is light ruby with some amber and an amber rim. The perfume is really special with almost indescribable nuances of flowers, forest, and tinges of spice. Silky and lush with great intensity, the wine is magical in the sense that there is no sense of heaviness yet the flavors and persistence go on and on. This is a very special Burgundy – Extraordinary Plus.

55 Mazis

1955 Leroy Mazis Chambertin
This too has always been one of the greatest of the old Leroy wines. It has a real WOW factor and great intensity with lots of richness. The color is a lovely ruby with faint amber tinges and a faint amber edge. Still showing tremendous fruit with complexity and lushness, the balance is impeccable and the finish is very long. This is a wine of power without excess and a great definition of Burgundy – Extraordinary Plus.

 49 Grands Echezeaux

1949 Leroy Grands Echezeaux
A few years ago we had this wine at another Old Burgundians event and this wine is very consistent with that bottle. It is a wine of great elegance and finesse. Being a negociant bottling there is no way of knowing the source of the grapes or wine. However, I think it is fair to say (although I will admit that the power of suggestion may play a role here) that the wine does have some resemblance to a Domaine de la Romanée Conti. No matter, this is a gorgeous Burgundy. It has a nice ruby color with a hint of amber and an amber tinge. There is a lot of perfume that is suggestive of dried rose petals with a foresty spice nuance. Very silky and elegant with lovely balance and a lingering finish , this a Burgundy of great charm and elegance – Extraordinary.

So that’s it – another Old Burgundians event with great wines of impeccable provenance matched with great food. It is Ed’s turn to select a theme for the next one and he has chosen old La Tache. As of now, it looks like we will have 1991, 1990, and 1978. I can hardly wait. This is what buying and cellaring old wine is all about – the occasion to drink old wines with great food accompanied by great friends. And, if it is old Burgundy, so much the better!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson




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