The Victory Bottle


There are not very many wines on my wine bucket list. In fact, there has really only ever been one. It was the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild “Victory Bottle.”

The victory bottle is famous for a couple of reasons.

First is that 1945 was a miracle vintage. After a string of awful vintages throughout World War II, 1945 produced the greatest wines of the century, and perhaps ever.

Second, Baron Rothschild commemorated the recovery of his winery with a unique label featuring a “V” for victory. This was the start of Chateau Mouton’s tradition of making each year’s label unique, and led to the long string of famous artist’s paintings that have graced the label since then.

Because of its fame, the Victory Bottle is perhaps the most faked bottle in all of the wine world, so it must be pursued with great caution. After many years, I was able to locate a bottle through a Hart Davis auction that carried an indisputable provenance, and I purchased it last fall. Since then I have been working to assemble a tasting of Mouton’s other greatest vintages to accompany it. Our group, The Wine Syndicate, met to sample them last night.


Often when experiencing anything that has been subject to so much hype and anticipation, the results are disappointing. I am happy to report this was not the case here. Not only did the great bottles exceed their reputations, the Victory Bottle was, indeed, the greatest of them all.

There was strong consensus among the group that the two top wines were the 1945 and 1959, and that the final five wines ( 1959, 1961, 1982, 1986 and 1945) were stellar masterpieces. The first two wines (1890 and 1937) were also astonishingly fresh for their age, and remained appealing for four hours in the glass.

It was a remarkable tasting, and one for which I will cherish the memory, now that my wine bucket list is empty!

My notes on the individual wines, and information about the provenance and history of the Victory Bottle follow:


1890 & 1937

With very old wines you never know what to expect. These were both magical. The cork for the 1890, a shipper’s wine, was extremely short, but did its job. The ’37 was true to other ’37 first growths I’ve had, an unheralded year.

1890 still lively, candle wax, iron, rose petals, 92 pts

1937 youthful, aromatic, bandaid, cinnamon, mint, candle wax, soy, spices, great acid, five spice, curry, 94 pts


1962, 1964 & 1966

Except for 1961, the 60’s and 70’s were a difficult time for Bordeaux

1962 candle wax, soap, lanolin to the max, off balance, injection molded plastic, flawed bottle

1964 simple, classic mouton, good fruit, little structure, 88 pts

1966 coffee, smoke, simple, 90 pts


1970 & 1975

These are the only very good vintages of the 70’s

1970 coffee, black fruits, 90 pts

1975 soft, red fruits, 89 pts


1959 & 1961

These are considered the greatest vintages of Mouton, after the ’45

1959 huge ripe fruit, young, dark, perfect tannin balance, mint, vanilla, Girl Scout cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, 99 pts

1961 barbecue, soy, fully resolved tannins, iron, 96 pts


1982 & 1986

Both are Robert Parker 100 point wines.

1982 poor cork, slight wet cardboard, mint, soft fruit, 93 pts

1986 tannic, road tar, great legs, very young, black cherry, stunningly better than the 1982, mint, wood, 98 pts


The Victory Bottle

1945 wow! almost overwhelming chocolate mint, dust, great tannic structure, cherry cola, eucalyptus bark, vanilla, unchanged in the glass for two hours, this wine will likely live another hundred years. 100 pts

Historic Information about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945

(Réserve du Château. Provenance: Purchased from Hart Davis 11/2014, Ex-Zachys 10/30/2004 lot 1205 from the cellar of Armin Diel, recently released from Mähler-Besse)

“Mouton 45” is a legend in the wine world  – there is nothing quite like it. Its renown is likely due to both its extraordinary nose  – famously redolent of eucalyptus –  and the symbolism of its date and label, the ‘V’ representing the hard-won triumph of good over the forces of darkness. To commemorate the Allied victory, Baron Philippe had the idea of embellishing the Mouton-Rothschild 1945 label with an artwork, on this occasion, a symbolic design intended to celebrate the return of peace. He commissioned this work from a  young unknown artist, Philippe Julian. M. Julian submitted several drafts for the label, and the final one is based on the ‘V for Victory’ made famous by Winston Churchill throughout the war. This marked the beginning of a series of specially designed labels for each vintage. For each year a different artist was commissioned, and the payment was always in wine.

Michael Broadbent, the renowned British expert, writes in his book “Vintage Wine”:

The first thing to notice is its extraordinary colour. I have on more than one occasion recognized the wine by this alone. And its bouquet is equally distinctive, in fact one of the most astonishing smells ever to emerge from grapes grown out of doors. The power and spiciness surges out of the glass like a sudden eruption of Mount Etna: cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger. Impossible to describe but inimitable, incomparable, and, because of this and its appearance, several times ‘guessed’ blind. There is simply no other wine like it. Its taste is a component of smell, its fragrance is reflected on the palate. Still lovely, still vivacious. Seemingly tireless – indeed another half-century anticipated.

The doyenne of British wine journalists, Jancis Robinson, describes it as follows:

Very, very dark in colour. Extraordinary concentration in this famous wine. The aromas are just slightly porty in their ripeness and concentration but then the wine (still) has so much vitality that it rises above it all to be wonderfully vital. Truly a miraculous wine that I had the pleasure of encountering at the great celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war at the British embassy in Paris. So rich and wonderfully persistent. What a treat!

And Robert Parker says:

A consistent 100-point wine (only because my point scale stops at that number), the 1945 Mouton-Rothschild is truly one of the immortal wines of the century. This wine is easily identifiable because of its remarkably exotic, over-ripe, sweet nose of black fruits, coffee, tobacco, mocha, and Asian spices. It is an extraordinarily dense, opulent, and rich wine, with layers of creamy fruit, behaving more like a 1947 Pomerol than a structured, powerful, and tannic 1945. The wine finishes with a 60+ second display of ripe fruit, extract, and sweet tannin. This remarkably youthful wine (only light amber at the edge) is mind boggling! Will it last another 50 years?

The fact that this was the first post-war harvest ought to have been enough to immortalize the vintage, but the freak weather conditions made it even more memorable. In the first few days of May, there was a sudden, heavy, and very late frost, which blackened four-fifths of the vineyard. The Merlot vines, which flowered earlier than the Cabernets, were the worst affected. Subsequent hot, dry weather soon restored the situation, but the eventual harvest was extremely small. The yield per hectare was the lowest it had been in 60 years (around 10h per ha). Not only were there few grapes to a bunch, but the berries were extremely small. The juice was greatly concentrated and the ratio between skin area and volume was extremely favorable for maximum extraction. So ripe were the grapes, that the musts sometimes attained 15% alcohol.

In 2006, K&L Wines sold a case of 1945 Mouton, including a trip to the Mähler-Besse cellar to pick out the bottles, for $150,000.


Burgundy and Bordeaux at Capa


Our friends Ron and Bev are the only couple we know where no matter what old wine I pull from my cellar, they can match it. So when they invited us to try Capa at the new Four Seasons Hotel at Disney World, we jumped at the chance, and pulled some fantastic old wines to take along. Having met Capa’s sommelier, Jill Davis, a few weeks ago at a private party on Hilstone’s dock, we knew we were in for a treat, and we weren’t disappointed.

Oddly, this is the most austere Four Seasons I’ve been to, all hard surfaces and glaring lights. It’s the sort of place where the artwork is mostly square canvasses of one solid color.

Unfortunately, this austerity continues into the restaurants, including the flagship Capa on the 17th floor. What could be a real gem of a restaurant is defeated by an environment that sacrifices warmth for trendiness.

Certainly Capa has a lot to offer in the way of food. During a marathon evening of wine tasting we tried more than half the menu, and liked most of what we had.

The Hamachi Crudo, served with Clementines and a crunchy Horseradish topping was everyone’s favorite, and we had two orders and wanted more.

The Charcuterie Board was the best I’ve had. It includes Jamon Serrano, Cantimpalo, Lomo and we added some Iberico. The Lomo was particularly good.

The olive asortment included Arbequina, Gordal and Empeltre on the night we were there. Some were pitted, some not, and being served slightly warmed really increased their flavor profile.
The Shrimp coated with Chili were very pungent, a bit overwhelming with ours wines.

Patatas Bravas Potatoes looked like tater tots, but were amazingly fluffy, with a delicious Paprika and Black Garlic coating—some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, and small enough to not feel guilty.

I’m not a big Pork Belly fan, but this version had been seared extra crispy, and I ate all of the generous portion.

The Octopus was chewy and lacked the crisp char needed to make it interesting.

Veal Cheeks had a gamey aroma that was quite unappealing.

The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, and served with a sunny side up egg for dipping.

For entrees we tried the 8 ounce Filet and the 12 ounce New York Strip. Both were prime. The filet, having been marinated, had an exotic succulence. The strip boasted a great smokey flavor from the grill and dry aging. Both were pretty pricey, but worth it.

The Bernaise Sauce was unusually thin (and a scanty portion) but proved to be a delicious dipping sauce for the strip, and its thinness actually made it a better accompaniment. It had lots of traditional Bernaise flavor.

The best side dish was the diced Carrot and Celery Root served with Pesto. The Swiss Chard and the Wild Mushrooms were both unremarkable. Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Brown Butter were good, but not as good as they sound.

We also had an assorted dessert platter with ice creams, cakes, and some really good churros.

Service was up to the Four Seasons standard, with everyone extremely helpful and friendly.

It’s worth the hunt for an unlocked door so you can view the Disney fireworks from the terrace outside, which is a welcome escape from the boxy dining room and open kitchen.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Capa for the great food and wine service, but it’s not a place I’d pick for a cozy or romantic evening. With different seating, surfaces and lighting I’d be there every week.


Notes on the Wines

Capa is lucky to have Jill Davis as Sommelier. She is perhaps Central Florida’s most knowledgable sommelier. The wine list is superb, and excellently priced. On this evening we brought our own wines, and Jill provided superb wine service and insightful comments on all of them.

Jacques Selosse Initial (Ron)
Very crisp, only slight oxidation, lemon pith, brioche, green , 96

2002 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux Domaine Roulot
Closed nose, ashes, caramel, chalk, lanolin, dull, jelly bellies, 88 pts

1961 Chambertin Pierre Damoy (Ron)
Good fruit although thin, light color, slightly cloudy, cork fell in, coffee, 89 pts

1961 J. Thorin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru (Steve)
Fuel oil, acidic, iron, 86 pts

1961 Château Ausone (Ron)
Pleasant perfume, spice box, 91 pts

1961 Château Angélus (Steve)
Mineral nose, nice body, good fruit, 90 pts

1959 Echezeaux Pierre Ponnelle (Ron)
Deep color, great fruit, drinking 20 years younger, caramel, rosewood, caramel, raisins, cherry, baking spices, 97 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Elegant, traditional, dried rose nose, soy, espresso creme brûlée, great acid, earth, iron, youthful, 97 pts

1966 Château Latour Grand Vin (Ron)
Classic Bordeaux, not a lot of fruit left, 93 pts

1971 Château Latour Grand Vin (Steve)
Deep dark color, peppers, tannic fruit, dust, amazing complexity, very fruity, 94 pts

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Bordeaux character, smoke, straw, ripe fruit, tobacco, a good bottle of this, although I’ve had even better, 94 pts


Dock Party at Hillstone’s


Every year Ron hosts a dock party at Hillstone’s. It’s a great venue if the weather cooperates. Last year we froze our tushes off, but this year it was perfect: mid 80s with a constant breeze off the lake.


In attendance were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Linda, Andres, Paula, Carsten and Jill, the sommelier from the new Four Seasons resort.

Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone's
Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone’s

Hillstone’s has gone to a bizarre policy of only serving appetizers on the dock, even to private parties, even though they are serving the full menu to people 50 feet away from the dock. Fortunately the manager who came up with this asinine idea was fired yesterday, so maybe next year’s event will be a bit more flexible.

As always, the smoked salmon was a highlight. I’d never had the grilled artichoke before, which was also good. And at the end of the evening we talked them out of some steaks. I loved the Hawaiian Rib Eye. The accompanying Kale salad was the best I’ve had anywhere, with a subtle vinaigrette mixed in, and a few bits of peanut.

31 Wine line up
31 Wine line up

Everyone brought some great wines. My wine of the night was Ron’s 1959 Clos Vougeot, as evidenced by the number and breadth of my notes.


Champagne sabre-ing aftermath
Champagne sabre-ing aftermath

Most of the wines were served blind, and Ron identified my 1993 CDP right down to the producer. Impressive!

My notes:


Jacques Selosse la cote Faron – Ron
Toast honey citrus light oxidation 94

Billecarte Salmon Sous Bois – Andres
Citrus 90

2002 Dom Perignon – Keith
Lemon vanilla 90

2005 Roulot Meursault Les Meix Cheval – Ron
Mineral slate butter lemon smoke 97

2003 Clos du Pappilon Baumard – Andres
Minerality outboard motor exhaust 93


1988 Ch Haut Brion 375ml – Steve
Slate, drinking older 93

1988 Ch la Grange – Steve
Herbaceous, chewy, red fruit, youthful, coffee, chocolate 95

2006 Araujo Eisele – Keith
Vanilla, big fruit, baking spices, 99

1959 Clos Vougeot Etroius – Ron
Metal, spice, lichen, brine, dirty martini, cigar, dark cherry, tannins, olive, caramel, bacon 99

1961 Corton Hospices de Beaune – Steve
Brown sugar, leather, bit o honey candy 95

1964 Clos Vougeot Gros Freres & Souer- Steve
Spicy, barbecue pork, 94


1985 Phelps insignia – Ron
Pepper, Burgundian, 94

1985 Caymus special selection – Ron
Caramel, pine needles 92

1985 Heitz Martha’s – Ron
Good fruit, mint, Girl Scout cookies 93

2007 Pagliaro – Keith
Big tannins, 90

81 Heitz Martha’s – Keith
Odd, green 90

2007 Pipparello – Keith
Young vanilla 93

08 Pontet Canert – Andres
Green, raspberries, 91

08 Ducru Beaucaillou – Andres
Vanilla, 92


08 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon – Andres
Tight tannic, dehydrated strawberries, 90

96 Montrose – Gary
Tight, green, very young, 93

96 Cos d’Estornel – Gary
Slightly corked, green vegetal, tight, 91

93 CDP Henri Bonneau – Steve
Recommended by Ron, complex, layered, mint, meat, 97

2003 Soldera – Keith
Cherry, vanilla, stewed tomato 92

2004 Madonna Piana – Keith
Fruit, vanilla 90

2004 Poggio al Vento – Keith
Vanilla, 90


1998 Valandraud – Ron
Smoke, Cabernet 96

1998 Pavie – Ron
Tight, Bordeaux-like, Cherry, vanilla, I guessed 2003 Pavie, 92

1998 Ch. L’Evangile – Ron
Classic Bordeaux 94

Champagne Larnandier-Bernier -Andres
Toast, balanced, butter, yeast 93

1992 DRC Romanee Saint Vivant – Ron
Floral, feminine, strawberry 96


Ron’s Birthday Extravaganza


Ron puts together a fantastic collection of wines to celebrate his birthday, and this year was no exception.

IMG_6325  IMG_6334

We met in the private room at Eddie V’s. In attendance were:

  • Ron and Bev
  • Linda and Steve
  • Keith and Parlo
  • Andres and Paula
  • Dlynn Proctor, Grange
  • Andy McNamara, Master Somm


We began with two stellar Champagnes that could not have been more different, with the crisp acidity and oxidative notes of the Selosse contrasting the ripe peach skin and burnt orange sherbet of the Bollinger. This Bollinger VV Francaises is very rare. It comes from one of the last remaining parcels of pre-phylloxera wines, which is apparently also endangered.

IMG_6314  IMG_6326

The contrast between the three whites was just as apparent. Some attendees weren’t wild about the Haut Brion blanc, which seemed to lack varietal (or fruit) character, but six hours in the glass produced a continually evolving array of other complex notes.


Unfortunately, the 1959 Richebourg was a flawed bottle.


The Bordeaux flight was fun. My three wines were served blind, and 1959 Gruaud Larose was so complex that it was immediately assumed to be the 1961 Haut Brion. The Haut Brion should have been better, but it did improve over several hours. The Latour was surpassingly unyielding, and although it was some taster’s favorite, the Inglenook was slightly cork tainted as a result of the moldy cork falling into the bottle when opened. I did not think the Inglenook was a outclassed as Ron did.


1986 Mouton was again disappointing, and I’m going to sell the rest of mine, but the 2000 Pavie demonstrated why it is the greatest wine ever made at Pavie, despite the hype of the 2003 and 2005.


I did not care for either of the CDPs, which both seemed to have obvious production flaws. I can’t imagine that was the case with the 2007 Rayas, which should have been stellar, but I returned to it over several hours and never found anything about it to like.


I’ve only had Harlan once or twice, but poured blind it was clearly a California cult. I didn’t see the similarity to Pomerol guessed by some of the tasters. A stellar wine, worth the hype.


The Burgundies provided and elegant intermezzo. I’m unaccustomed to drinking Burgundies this young, and it’s still hard for me to see how they could ever turn into the magical old ones I’ve had, but they were very pleasant (and very expensive).


Hermitage was easy to identify blind, and if the 1989 is this good I’m looking forward to trying my 1990 some day.


The final three wines were all block busters, and although palate fatigue was starting to set in, they each had their own appeal. The Grange was surprisingly accessible for a brand new release (but I can’t imagine paying $900 for it).

By the time Linda and I slipped out it was after midnight, and there were still at least five bottles not yet opened. The group has stamina!


My tasting notes follow. Wines provided by Ron except where noted:

Jacques Selosse (Keith)
Very crisp, oxidative, 95 pts

Bollinger 1998
Pre phylloxera
Peach skin, orange pulp, burnt orange dreamcicle, oak ,95 pts

Chevalier Montrachet 2000
Classic vanilla lemon oak
Butter coconut balanced, 96 pts

1990 Haut Brion Blanc
Smoke, gun oil, no varietal aromas
Really balanced, fading fruit, white taffy candy, shoe polish, peat, clean caramel finish, nutty, 98 pts

1990 Chablis Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre premier Cru
Flowers, heavy, briny, seashell, salt water taffy, green apple, high acid, 95 pts

1959 Richebourg
Nail polish, oxidized, caramel (flawed bottle)

1959 Gruaud Larose (Steve)
Fresh fruit, curry, almost sweet, herbal, green 97pts

1959 Inglenook cask F-6 (Steve)
Very slightly corked, great color, slightly restrained fruit mint 93 pts

1961 Haut Brion (Steve)
Dusty gravel, very smokey, after a hour unbelievably strong charred wood 95pts

1959 Latour
Walnut, spices, fruit dies in the finish, 94pts

1986 Mouton (Keith)
Tight, short, Bret, 90pts

2000 Pavie (Keith)
Big sweet fruit, shell, peppery, very young, mints, 97pts

2007 Rayas CDP (Andres)
Geranium sorbate (flawed bottle?)

2005 Quartz CDP (Andres)
Sewage (flawed bottle?)

1994 Harlan
Vanilla, baking spices, cinnamon, anise, mint, 100 pts

2003 La Tache
Green, earthy, bright fruit, mint, floral, vanilla, balanced, structured, leather, light bodied, very fresh, elegant, totally ready 97 pts

1999 Rousseau Chambertin
Elegant nose, restrained, intense cherry, slightly tannic, seashells, elegant, 96 pts

1989 Hermitage Chave (Keith)
Meat, cooked vegetables, 95 pts

1989 Ch Gruaud Larose (Andrew)
Slightly corked, quite chewy, young, mint 91 pts

1975 La Mission Haut Brion
Parker 100, Chewy, balanced, very tannic, good structure and length, sawdust, mint, 96 pts

1970 Unico
Very young, high acid, long, dill, vanilla 96 pts

2010 Grange
Huge fruit, immense sawdust, syrup, huge tannins and length 98 pts


San Francisco and Central Coast 2014

Prior to spending Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, we met Dani in San Francisco for a few days of sightseeing, and then drove down the coast.

Our flight in gave us a spectacular view of the coast, the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and the city.

Things were running late, so it was a rush to make our dinner reservation at Kei on Nob Hill, which was good but not amazing.

The next day we walked down from our hotel atop Nob Hill through Chinatown.

We probably should have tried the sautéed goose intestines, as what we had wasn’t that great.

A line up of cable cars. We planned to take this line back up to the top of Nob Hill later, but the cable broke, so we had a steep climb and ended up walking eight miles!

Fisherman’s Wharf, with Alcatraz in the background.

Trying an In-N-Out burger for the first time. Life not changed.

The famous Buena Vista Cafe, semi-inventors of the Irish coffee.

At the top of the hill is the cable car museum, and also the machinery that moves all the cables. We watched them splicing the broken one, a complicated process.

Stopping at the venerable and tacky Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel for a Tiki drink. Dinner was at Jardinere, a cozy restaurant that was our favorite of the trip.

The next day we headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods.

Muir Woods.

Big Redwood.

Bear and friend.

Linda checks her wingspan.

Dinner at Gary Danko was excellent.

The next day we headed down the coast and had time for a few Paso Robles winery visits.

We stayed one night at the beautiful Dolphin Bay Resort in Pismo Beach, where we had the best room ever.

I definitely want to go back to this place. It’s an easy drive from Santa Ynez wineries.

It was a great trip, much too short for all we wanted to do. The next day we made a brief stop in Solvang and then headed to Los Angeles.


Home on the Grange


We gathered for a most interesting tasting at Eddie V’s. The event was organized by Ron. Because of the cost of the wines and the desire to limit the event to ten tasters, the group was comprised of somewhat different people than usual. Attending were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Andres, Paula (not tasting due to pregnancy), Linda, me, and several other wine professionals and enthusiasts new to our group.

Our special guest was DLynn Proctor, Wine Ambassador for Penfolds, the makers of Grange. From PR Newswire:

Proctor was named “Best New Sommelier in America” by Wine & Spirits Magazine in 2008.

Proctor is also one of the four featured subjects in the wine documentary ‘SOMM’, covering the three year journey through six countries of filming to becoming a coveted Master Sommelier.

Penfolds is one of the oldest, continuously operating wineries in Australia, founded in 1844, and Max Schubert’s creation of Penfolds Grange Shiraz in 1951 forever changed the face of the Australian wine industry.

DLynn was an encyclopedia of knowledge about ever aspect of Penfolds, Grange, and the wines, knowing off the top of his head weather, alcohol, acid, winemaker and anything else we could think to ask about every vintage.

I’ve had a few vintages of Grange in the past, but it was very interesting to taste 14, spanning 5 decades, side by side.

Prior to the event my perceptions that Grange takes many decades to mature, as I’d only once or twice had one I felt was ready to drink. But the tasting changed my view somewhat. I now feel that Grange, like the wineries in California and France (and I suppose most of the rest of the world) made some stylist changes in the 1980s that have affected how the wines taste and how they age. This is the reason my cellar is comprised mostly of wines from before 1980, and I will now go so far as to extend the same policy to Grange.

For me (and Linda) the Wine Of The Night was the 1968, which exhibited the characteristics we love in the (coincidentally) same vintage of BV Georges de la Tour Private Reserve. The groups Wine Of The Night was the 1976, which was more refined and Bordeaux like, and certainly another good choice.

While all of the wines (except one flawed bottle) were impressive, there was nothing about the more recent vintages that would incline me to pony up the $600+ cost of a bottle.

One other note of interest is that throughout the pre-tasting wines, the formal tasting and the dinner, there was not a single wine I scored below 90 points, which I don’t think has ever happened before.

Thanks very much to Ron for putting this together, as it was one of the most educational events we’ve done!

My Notes:

Grange Tasting at Eddie V’s 11/7/14

99 Pommery magnum (Keith) great toast and balance 96 pts

90 Krug (Ron) green apple, citrus zest 96 pts


Flight 1: 1980, 1982, 1986, 1989

1980 green vegetables, vanilla, mint, balanced, cream, 12.9%, cold vintage 93 pts

1982 mint, stemmy, plum, warm vintage, 6% Cabernet, very balanced and smooth finish, 96 pts

1986 overripe, plummy, American oak dill, old world mouth feel, bay leaf, 97 pts

1989 ripe, plum, high alcohol, Australian Shiraz, 9% Cabernet, savory beef broth, blueberry pie finish, 94 pts


Flight 2: 2001, 2004, 2006

2001 hot vintage, big fruit, big production, 14% alcohol, big black fruit finish, 97 pts

2004 simple, accessible, balanced, 93 pts

2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove (Steve, served blind as a ringer), vanilla, velvety fruit, long vanilla finish, lots of black fruits, 98 pts

2006 simple, mint, American oak dill, creme brûlée, sweet fruit, 98 pts


Flight 3: 1990, 1994, 1998

1990 iron, blood, 93 pts

1994 dusty, vanilla, cab franc, chocolate dust 95 pts

1998 smokey, mint, big black fruits, 98 pts


Flight 4: 1968, 1971, 1976, 1978

1968 earthy, mushroom, coffee, green herbs, iron, red berries, leather, mint, soy, balsamic, 100 pts

1971 very ripe, fruity, sweet, grandmother’s attic, flawed bottle

1976 tropical, very sweet palate, 95 pts

1978 coffee, figs newtons, chocolate covered caramels, sawdust, 96 pts


Wines Served with Dinner

2008 Ch. Talbot Calliou Blanc (Steve), vitamin C, spices, wax, 96 pts

1990 Raveneau Chablis Premiere Cru Montee de Tonnerre (Ron) wax, honey, violets, 96 pts

1964 Clos Vougeot Musigni Gros Frere & Fils (Steve) baking spices, pie crust, morels, chocolate covered currants, butter an cinnamon filled pastry dough, 96 pts

1988 DRC Richebourg (Ron) bacon fat, forest floor, mint, 94 pts

2005 Harland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Keith) vanilla, Rutherford Cabernet nose, huge, chewy, tannin for the ages, 98 pts

2011 Abbatucci (Andres) refined, dried flowers, butter, spices, 90 pts

2008 La Mission Haut Brion (Andres) very tight, closed, tannic, 90 pts

2000 Ch. La Tour Haut Brion (Alex) classic Bordeaux, pencil lead, 92 pts

2007 Masseto (Keith) big black fruits, tannic, mint, long, very young, 97 pts

1966 La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) really complex, cigar, road tar, black fruit 98 pts

2010 Hermitage La Pierelle Kermit Lynch (Andres) smoked meat, black fruit, really seems like the Grange, 97 pts




Really Old Burgundies


You know you’re drinking some great Burgundies when the DRC shows up and it’s not even in the top ranks of the night’s wines! That’s what happened last night at the Chef’s Table at the Edgewater. Ron, Bev, Linda and I took over the back room for the evening for an amazing tasting of old Burgundies (and a couple of Bordeaux). The lineup had originally not included any DRC, but we added a couple bottles at the last minute, and decided to skip the originally planned ’71 Bonnes Mares.

When opening an old, nearly labeless Burgundy from the 20s it’s always a crapshoot, but tonight we came up a winner, as the first red wine of the night proved to be the Wine Of The Night, and one of the greatest Burgundies I’ve ever had. In fact, this was a night when the oldest bottles were fresher than some of the younger ones (although nothing was really young, as the most recent red was from 1979).

The wines were accompanied by a sampling of the small plates from The Tasting Room. Amazing service was provided by Taren, who also introduced us to her cocktail making skills and gave us a sample of her housemade bitters.

My notes:

Veuve Clicquot (Chef’s Table)
Very balanced 90 pts

2008 Chateau “Y” (Steve)
Butter, honeycomb wax, hint of botrytis, 93 pts

1923 Henri de Behegre Clos Vougeot (Steve)
Bacon, smoke, sweet, blackened sugar, Creme brûlée, candied crab apple, balsamic dressed mushrooms, dark buttered brown sugar toast, toasted nuts, burnt marshmallow, started to fade after 90 minutes, then a comeback, curry, 100+ pts

1934 Francois Martenot ( Dr. Barolet) Chambole-Musigny (Ron)
Sour cherry, orange rind, bug spray, minerality, high acid, iron, smoke, orange bitters, cedar sawdust, forest floor, held up 2 hrs+, 100 pts

[My previous note on the above wine from last year at Peperoncino:
Very light, orange rind, rust, spiced meat, sweet, coffee, candy, tobacco, cigarette smoke, red licorice ropes, cherry, pine needles, great fruit, mint, refreshing acidity, 100 pts]

1949 Charles Vienot Corton-Bressandes (Steve)
Young fruit, anise, cherry licorice, fennel, earth, pine needles, noodles in soy sauce, devolved into sewage/cheese smells after 30 minutes, 88 pts

1949 de Sylou Grands-Echezeaux (Ron)
Young fruit, chocolate, vanilla, gravel, forest floor, pine needle, high acid, 96 pts

1979 DRC Echezeaux (Steve)
Carmel, bacon fat, seemed a bit simple compared to the previous wines, 94 pts

1972 DRC Grand Echezeaux (Ron)
Mushroom, very closed, this wine didn’t really show up for work, flawed bottle? 86 pts

1978 Haut Brion (Ron)
Gravel, bright fruit, solid tannins, chocolate milk duds, coffee, it’s interesting that this year, originally so tannic, is now drinking great, 93 pts

1979 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Steve)
Wax, tight tannic, cotton candy, silky, 91 pts



Bottles and Bottega


Last month Dani and her friends visited Bottles and Bottega to drink some wine and paint a picture. It looked like so much fun I suggested we go there on the evening I arrived in Evanston, and Dani eagerly agreed. A bottega, as we learned, is an artist’s studio where students learn by doing.

The long, narrow space is divided into a painting area where a dozen people can work simultaneously, a lounge, and a party space at the rear. The evening begins with a half hour to enjoy any wine or snack you’ve brought, and then you sit at one of the tables where a canvas, paints and brushes have been provided.


Everyone works on basically the same picture, but it’s amazing how much variation occurs because of individual styles. Some useful but light hearted instruction is provided throughout the evening, and there are plenty of breaks for more wine.

I hadn’t really worked with acrylic paints before, and really liked the way they dried in minutes, and one color could cover another; quite the opposite of oils, were your colors keep mixing on the canvas for days.


Dani and I were both pleased with the way our masterpieces turned out.

by Dani
by Dani


by Steve
by Steve


The Revenge of Burgundy



A few weeks ago we got together with Ron and Bev for dinner at The Vineyard, with the shocking result that the Bordeaux outshone the Burgundy. This almost never happens. So when Ron invited us to join Rhett from B-21 at their home for dinner, I was ready for a rematch.

Dinner, which Ron and Bev threw together on the spur of the moment, was amazing. We started with tuna tartare, smoked salmon, and Ron’s famous balls (sweet red peppers stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in bacon). These all went really well with the Jacques Selosse.

We segued to the patio for Stone Crabs with mustard sauce. What a great match to the Aubert and what a perfect evening for stone crabs on the patio!

This is where the Burgundy kicked in, and the first two were the wines to be all night… until the end, when Ron did beat them, with another Burgundy, as you’ll see.

In the dining room we had a phenomenal baked sea bass, radicchio salad with a delicious Chardonnay vinegar, and then prime steaks from the Meat House. We finished off with Bev’s famous tira misu. (I don’t think I’ve had tira misu since the last time I had Bev’s because it’s never as good anywhere else!) The idea was to mimic a dinner at Eddie V’s, but every course surpassed it.

As for the wines… order was restored to the universe. The old Burgundies were absolutely superb, and eclipsed all of the other wines. The Bordeaux paled in comparison, although the Unico certainly was a great wine.

As dinner wound down, I didn’t think anything would top the two 1964 Leroy wines, but then Ron dared me to name something and he’d see if he had it in his cellar.

For years my go to wines at Bern’s were the now-depleted Pierre Ponnell Burgundies 50s and 60s, in particular the 1957 Morey Saint Denis Clos de la Roche. 1957 was a pretty good year in Burgundy, but I always wanted to try the 1953. Sure enough, Ron had it! Well, not only was it stellar, it was the Wine of the Night, beating the Leroys. I scored it 100 points.

And now Ron has even more bragging rights about his cellar, because where else in the state (country, world?) could someone just pull that wine from their cellar?!

We finished out by the fire pit with some Armagnac. Everything had been so wonderful even Linda was amazed to discover it was 2am!



Jacques Selosse Lieux Dite La Cote Faron  (Ron)

Creamy, Toast, great balance, green apple, kiwi fruit. Smooth, 94 pts

1990 Bollinger, disgorged 2001  (Ron)

Crisp, green, austere, acidic, bitter walnut, 90 pts

2008 Aubert Loren (Ron)

Butterscotch, cinnamon, toast, butter, very balanced and elegant, 95 pts

1964 Leroy Pommard Les Grande Epinots (Steve)

Earth, soy, forest floor, Asian spices, super balanced, crushed pine needles, 97 pts

1964 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Ron)

Intense chocolate coated cherries with kirsch liqueur, really long, 99 pts

1966 Ch Mouton Rothschild (Steve)

Black cherries, bell peppers, pine, really awkward at first, then opened up, gardenias, vanilla, Creme brûlée, dust, then quickly faded, 88 pts

1995 Rayas (Ron)

Cherry pie with caramelized cinnamon crust, fig newton cookie dough, 94 pts

1982 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Steve)

Fading fruit, still goof tannic structure, dust, cocoa, cherry, 84 pts

1983 Ch Cheval Blanc (Ron)

Bordeaux gravelly nose, black pepper, 90 pts

1970 Unico

Very, very young, mint, vanilla, not at all Spanish tasting, 100% Tempranillo, American oak, dill, cinnamon, caramelized sugar, buttered icing, 96 pts.

1947 Aloxe-Corton Bouchard (Ron)

Cherry, tobacco, bright, fresh, balanced, vanilla, elegant, woody, sweet, earthy, cotton candy, charred wood, 99 pts

1953 Pierre Ponnelle Morey Saint Denis Clos de la Roche  (Ron)

Young, perfectly integrated, cherries, earth, balance, vanilla, wood, mint, vanilla, cocoa, spice, butterscotch, charred wood, amazing sweet fruit. I named a producer, vineyard and vintage that I wanted to taste and Ron produced exactly that wine, and it was the Wine of the Night. 100 pts

50 Year Armagnac

Pleasant, but lacking the depth, balance and complexity of Laberdolive Bas Armagnac. 90 pts

The Night Bordeaux Beat Burgundy


Long, long ago, when I first became interested in wine, there was a general perception that Bordeaux wines were better than Burgundy, particularly when they were aged. Over the decades that I’ve been tasting wines, I’ve come to the conclusion that’s almost always not the case. It’s true that some Burgundies lose their fruit over time, but 1 in 100 bottles of Burgundy that is aged for several decades turns into something magical that I’ve never encountered in a Bordeaux.

But last night things were different. For the first time in so long none of us could remember it last occurring, the Bordeauxs were clearly better than the Burgundies. We had selected terrific vintages for both categories. Our Bordeauxs were from the famous 1945 vintage, regarded as the best in the century. And our Burgundies were from 1949, an almost equally prestigious year. But the Bordeauxs clearly were hitting on all cylinders last night.

Because we knew it would be a late evening, Linda and I checked into the Ritz-Carlton. They unexpectedly upgraded us to a suite. I wish we had known in advance, as we could’ve checked in earlier and taken advantage of the gorgeous room and view. But Linda had a cold anyway, so we took it easy and joined our friends Ron and Bev at the Vineyard at 7pm.




The Vineyard does an interesting balancing act, not really a fancy restaurant, but not casual dining, either. We love the fact that the chef enjoys going off-menu to create whatever comes to mind, and that our server, James, really enjoys coming up with interesting food and wine pairings.


Dinner was the usual five hour plus extravaganza. Outstanding courses included the best ceviche I’ve ever had, accompanied by a brilliant fennel and mango salad, excellent fried green tomatoes (high praise from me, indeed), smoked salmon, parsnip ravioli, Caesar salad, all four fish from the menu, and a duo of filet mignon and rib eye. The chef basically knocked it out of the park. And then at the end of the meal we were presented with an embarrassingly low bill.


The sad thing is that this restaurant is closing next month, which was one of the reasons for our visit. It’s a shame, because they’re replacing it with something low brow, and it’s hardly necessary–the room was nearly full most of the night.


As for the wines, my favorites were very surprising. My top rated wine of the night was actually the Comtes Champagne we bought from the restaurant’s list. It was fabulously creamy, and priced barely above retail. I also liked Ron’s Laville Haut Brion Blanc.

Turning to the reds, the Burgundies just didn’t show up for work. They weren’t flawed, just not exciting. I’d even had Ron’s wine before and left a stellar note on Cellar Tracker, but this bottle was not a kindred spirit.


Of the Bordeauxs, everything was pretty close and all the wines were true to their heritage. My notes follow.


2004 Comtes Champagne (from the list) $175

Cream, yeast, great balance, long toasty finish, 96 pts

2005 Laville Haut Brion
Caramel candy, wax, lanolin, butter, ash, floral, super balanced, long, 97 pts

1945 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien (Steve)
Low fill, Wax, sweet raspberry fruit, chewy, fresh, 96 pts

1945 Leoville Poyferre St. Julien (Ron)
Very dark, tart blackberry, wood, coffee, young, 93 pts

1949 L’Heritier-Guyot Clos Vougeot (Steve)
Ruby, really fresh, fennel, 91 pts

1949 Liger Belair Charmes Chambertin (Ron)
Slightly musty, citrus, 86 pts

1966 Château Mouton Rothschild Pauillac (Steve)
Young, bright, coffee, green peppers, lead pencil, classic Bordeaux, 92 pts

1966 Cheval Blanc (Ron)
Herbaceous, tight, anise, mint, chocolate, black cherry, 93 pts

1976 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Steve)
Red fruits, 91 pts

1978 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Ron)
Coffee, coffee, coffee, big fruit, vanilla, long, 95 pts

2001 Ch Suiduraut (Steve)
Great acidity and balance, great botrytis nose, raisins, long vanilla finish, figs, cream 94 pts




Great Old Wines at The Chef’s Table


We convened in the private room at The Chef’s Table at the Edgewater for a tasting. I have been trying for a couple of years to get Kevin Buckler of Adobe Road to schedule an extra day when he is in town so that I could introduce him to the magic of old wines. Kevin has an extensive cellar focusing on modern California wines, while Ron and I have cellars full of old French wines. So this was the day.

In attendance were Ron and Bev Siegel, Kevin and his friend Henry Wolfond, John and Debbie Henline, Martin Chaney, Linda and I.

We’d never done an event like this at The Chef’s Table, because they lacked the glasses. I solved that problem by giving them 62 Riedel Ouverture series, which worked well for both Burgundy and Bordeaux. Now we’ll have glasses there for future events.

The Chef’s Table staff, and especially our server Teran did a fabulous job. She is quite interested in wine and had researched the background on the wines, which was really neat.

Rather than our normal tasting followed by dinner, I had pre-matched the wines to food. Every course was great, and perfectly paced for our almost 5-hour dinner.

It was fun to introduce a couple of virgins to the complexity of old wines, and I think it’s safe to say they were stunned by the freshness and appeal, especially of the old Burgundies. As usual, serving the Burgundies first took the bloom off the Bordeauxs, but overall every bottle was in great shape and had something to offer.

The menu, followed by my wine notes:

  • Salmon Tartar
  • House Made Smoked Fish Dip
  • Pan Seared Scallops
  • Combination Cheese and Butcher Plate
  • Mushroom Torte
  • Eggroll / Crawfish Fritter
  • Heirloom Tomato Salad
  • Boudain Ball / Chicken Liver
  •  Beef Filet with passed sides: Chef’s Mac & Cheese, Duck Fat Fries
  •  Combination Dessert Plate



Jacques Selosse Substance (Steve)

Complex oxidative nose with secondary fruit flavors that develop after several minutes. This wine evolved for two hours in the glass. This Champagne is made with a Solera process, where older years are added in to new vintages. 95 pts

2008 Chateau “Y”(Steve)

Candle wax, lime, cotton candy, anise, butter. This was a bit of a disappointment as it never opened up as much as usual. 92 pts

2010 Aubert Chardonnay Reuling Vineyard (Steve)

No contest, this wine blew away the “Y”. Wood, spice, caramel, butter, good acid. A great match to the salmon. 94 pts

1953 Romanee Saint Vivant, Bouchard Aine & Fils (Ron)

Smoke, bacon fat, charred log, fresh cherries, fabulous. My (and most people’s, I think) Wine of the Night. 96 pts

1955 Louis Latour Romanée St. Vivant Les Quatre Journaux (Steve)

Iron, good fruit on the palate, earthy finish. 95 pts

1959 Corton, Charles Vienot (Ron)

extremely youthful, pine, dust, wood. 96 pts

1964 Maison Leroy Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru (Steve)

Refined, youthful, mint, dried roses. 94 pts

1997 Chambertin Domaine Armand Rousseau (Henry)

Delicate, refined, great potential, it was easy to see how this could turn into one of those great old Burgundies some day. 92+ pts

2001 Adobe Road Pinot Noir (Kevin)

A great Burgundian wine, the first released vintage from Adobe Road. Wow, I wish they still made their pinot in this style! The wine fit right into the Burgundy flight. 92 pts

1961 Château Montrose (Ron)

Great color, latex, smoke. 92 pts

1961 Château Lynch-Bages (Steve)

Great color, briny, spice box, red fruit, extraordinary balance. 92 pts

1966 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Ron)

Youthful, minerals, forest fire, sea brine, good acid, gravel. Not showing as well as several recent bottles of the same wine. 93 pts

1970 Château La Mission Haut-Brion (Steve)

Much headier than the ’66, young, red fruit, balanced. I hadn’t had this vintage of this wine before, nice one. 92 pts

1990 Ch. Cos d’Estournel (Henry)

Huge, structured, balanced, round, charred meat. This wine didn’t fit in this flight, but it will be great some day. 94 pts

1969 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (Steve)

This was supposed to be a 1968, but turned out to be a 1969. Fortunately the vintages are extremely similar, although this was not an exciting bottle. Waxy, youthful but with a slightly bitter finish. 89 pts

1971 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (John)

I think I’ve only had this vintage once before. Waxy, young, tight, green. This just wasn’t a Georges de la Tour night! 88 pts

1974 Simi Alexander Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Ron)

A very serviceable old California Cab with good fruit and balance, nothing remarkable. 91 pts

1975 Angelo Papagni Alicante Bouschet (Martin)

I think there was a lot of disagreement about this wine, but it has always blown me away, and continues to do so. Dark, unctuous, very fresh and young. Linda called it cough syrup, I thought melted chocolate. I wish I still had some of this! 95 pts

1985 Silverado Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon (John)

Wood, smooth, youthful, balanced. Holding up much better than other old Silverado I’ve had. Of course, this was a great year. 93 pts

1988 Stags Leap Napa Valley Petite Syrah (Martin)

Smoke, almost no petite syrah character. This is the wine we’d slip into a cab tasting to fool everyone, and it would win. I wish they still made it in this almost Bordeaux-like style. 93 pts

2004 Penfolds Grange (Steve)

Smoke, huge. I decanted this 3 hours before we poured, and it was almost ready to drink. This vintage is much more accessible than most Grange. 96 pts.

2008 B20 Sine Qua Non Syrah (Ron)

Blueberries, dense, still needs years. Like the Grange, this has 3 hours in a decanter, but still wasn’t ready. 97+ pts

1998 Adobe Road Cabernet Sauvignon (Unreleased) (Kevin)

What a treat to try this unreleased wine made from Silver Oak fruit and done in half French half American oak! dusty, balanced, smooth. 93 pts

Adobe Road Mystery Bottle (Kevin)

This unlabelled bottle was probably 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Another stellar effort. surprising sense of residual sugar, perhaps just a sign of how much fruit is still in it. 93 pts

2002 Adobe Road Zinfandel (Kevin)

Pasalaqua vineyard. Smoked meat, holding its fruit really well for an old Zin. 92 pts

2005 Adobe Road Zinfandel (Kevin)

Winner of the Sonoma Harvest Fair. This is a terrific wine. 94 pts

1968 D’Oliveiras Madeira Boal Reserva (Steve)

Too bad this came at the end of a long evening; it’s spectacular, and would have matched every dish we had. Sometime I’m going to take this to the Chef’s Table and nurse it all night. Burnt sugar, caramel, citrus on the palate, great acidity. 98 pts


Ron’s Birthday at Scratch



Ron Siegel celebrated his (ahem) 60th birthday at Scratch. It’s the new restaurant on Fairbanks in Winter Park, next to All Fired Up. The place is owned by three young restaurateurs who have done an amazing job of designing the space and creating an exciting environment for superb food.



This panorama captures almost the entire space, which is less than 20 feet wide.



They actually closed the restaurant for our party of 14. Our timing was great, because we arrived at 5pm, just before the thunderstorms, and left at 10pm, just after them. Some of the others were still there partying until well past midnight. Scratch is open until 2am.



Ron, Keith and I provided most of the wines. We didn’t try to match the food, we were just looking for great wines.


Every course was great, but my favorite was the rib eye, which was unlike any I’d had. It was served with bone marrow, which I’d never had like this. A bit of the bone marrow on each bite of rib eye was amazing. Easily the best beef I’ve ever tasted.

Also great was the coq au vin, which had an incredibly flavorful bone marrow reduction and amazing shallot puree.


Thanks to Ron for hosting this wonderful celebration, and for all the great wines. I’ve listed them below, although there were many more after we left, I’m sure.

1990 Pol Roget (for the millennium) (Ron)
Caramel, toast, lovely. 93 pts

1989 Jose Michelle (Ron)
Very crisp and dry, too dry for me. 90 pts

1992 Haut Brion Blanc (Ron)
Honey color, caramel, burnt orange, cinnamon, wax, sweet burnt marshmallow, lemon peel, I love this, and hadn’t had this vintage before. Keith felt it was oxidative, which is probably true, but one of the things I love about old HBB. Certainly unidentifiable as sauvignon blanc. 92 pts

2008 Corton Charlemagne Louis Latour (Keith)
Extremely floral, acacia, soft buttery finish, fairly simple, would hav egone well with the scallop, but didn’t match the ceviche. 90 pts

1961 Clos Vougeot Grivelet (Steve)
Tamarind, earthy, rich, medium garnet, orange peel, still good tannins, very appealing considering this was only a so-so year in Burgundy. 93 pts

1949 Clos Vougeot (Ron)
Mineral, sawdust, iron, blood, sweet finish, oranges, charred wood, this took a while to come around, but turned out to be great. 94 pts

1995 Corton Renauds (Keith)
Seashore, cherry, short, 88 pts

1970 DRC La Tache (Ron)
Good color, surprisingly tannic, vanilla, citrus, fairly simple, a good wine, but not a great quality to price ratio. 91 pts

1961 Ch Lynch Bages (Steve)
Very, very young, bright red cherries, vanilla, blockbuster, glad I have several more. 98 pts

1978 Ch Haut Brion (Ron)
Chalk, peppers, gravel, dust, slightly musty, I think this bottle was slightly off. 92 pts

1989 Ch Cheval Blanc (Keith)
Really balanced, vanilla, cherry, tannic, mint, black pepper, great aging potential, tobacco, I love Cheval, and this is the best (and youngest) one I’ve had in a while. 96 pts +

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Perfect bottle, gravel, sweet cherry, long mint, cinnamon, smoky wood, This wine, poorly rated by Parker, is almost always my wine of the night. 99 pts

1983 Ch Margaux (Ron)
Seashells, briny, tannic, talcum powder, chocolate coated cherries, wood, this is why I don’t collect Margaux any more. 92 pts

1994 Ch Pavie Macquin (Gary)
Nicely balanced, dust, chocolate, tannin, youthful, good food wine, good with beef. 90 pts

1982 Ch L’Evangile (Keith)
Tar, extremely chewy, long tannic cherry finish, mint, herbs, pine forest floor, mushrooms, this is one of Keith’s favorite wines, and I can see why. This is the best 1982 I’ve had. 99 pts

1968 Grange (Ron)
Burnt mesquite, wormwood, young, probably still not ready, tannic, long, did I mention tannic, powerhouse that make be at its peak in another 50 years. 95 pts

1970 Lynch Bages (magnum) (Ron)
Bright red fruits, succulent, tart finish, pleasant, but a shadow of the 1961, 92 pts

1993 Ch Pajzos Esszencia (Steve)
I opened this because we needed to leave and I wanted to taste it, so I left the bottle for everyone else. I hope they enjoyed it. A Robert Parker 100 pointer with a reason. Phenolic, citrus, syrupy consistency but amazing acidity to offset it, dried fruits, pear, apricot, smoke, apple, caramel, kumquat, greatest dessert wine I’ve ever had, including Yquem. 100  pts


Solaia at K Restaurant

Keith Edwards organized this great vertical tasting at K on Edgewater in College Park.

Attending were Keith and Parlo; Ron and Bev; Steve and Linda; Niccolo’ Maltinti, the Antinori US Brand Manager; Tobias Fiebrandt of Leitz Wine; and Marc and Kai Frontario.


We began with a 1966 Moet & Chandon I’ve had in my cellar for twenty years. As with most really old Champagnes, the effervescence was gone, but great acidity made the wine quite an interesting old chardonnay, with a caramel and fig finish. An amazing accompaniment to the deviled eggs. 90 points.

Keith’s Jacques Selosse Initiale proved a great palate awakener after that, with a toasty nose, crisp fruit flavors and a lichee finish. Served with raw oysters I didn’t try. 92 points.

We then took our seats for the vertical tasting. As always, Keith was super organized, with beautiful tasting booklets for everyone. The tasting began with some introductory comments by Niccolo’.

Solaia is:

  • 75% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 20% Sangiovese
  • 5% Cabernet Franc

We tasted the wines from youngest to oldest, in four flights. My notes:

Flight 4

1982        349.00  (Keith)
Easily the Soliaia of the night, by a wide margin. A dead ringer for Georges de la Tour. Mint, coffee, vanilla, wax, with a long, sweet coffee finish. 97

1985                     (Keith)
Slightly corked, thin. 87

1987        169.00  (Keith)
Intense peppers, tight, 88

1989        226.66  (Ron)
Dust, thin, short. 87

Flight 3

1990        226.66  (Ron)
Ripe unusual fruits, short. 88

1991        159.00  (Keith)
Mint, herbal, the favorite of this lackluster flight. 90

1993        189.00  (Keith)
Very ripe, with a short finish. 88

Flight 2

1994        189.00  (Keith)
Roasted nose, vanilla, mint, short. 87

1997        226.66  (Ron)
Tannic, thin, Wine Spectator Wine of the Year. 87

1998                     (Keith)
Tobacco, pleasant but somewhat dull. 89

1999        189.00  (Keith)
Ready to drink, sawdust, very smooth, opulent. The favorite of the flight. 93

Flight 1

2001        189.39  (Keith)
Still needs time. Dust, good tannic structure, tight. The favorite of the flight. 92

2002        159.00  (Keith)
Smoked peat nose, no structure, short. 88

2008                     (Niccolo’)
Chocolate mint, a hot weather wine, green pepper, cab franc, silky, sweet finish. 90

2009        214.39  (Keith)
Dust, charred meat, a bit gangly, acidic. 91


Overall thoughts: I was struck by the fact that the youngest wines were quite drinkable, which I wasn’t expecting, and that the oldest wines, even those completely ready for drinking, showed no signs of age. There were several stylistic shifts across the years, with the wines from the 2000s clearly better drinking, and the 1982 (one of the very first vintages) a completely different animal. Unfortunately that animal is what I’m looking for (as, apparently, was the rest of the group, since 9 out of 10 selected it as their favorite).

The value of the vertical was to show the consistency of the winemaking, which was high, and the product, which was moderate. Certainly as a group these wines could not be compared with French first or second growths, or the best cabernets from California. For Linda and I it reinforced why we don’t have Italian wines in our cellar, but of course for others the impression was different.

Dinner included a perhaps too subtle ceviche, a nice corn chowder, a lovely fish on a spectacularly flavorful bed of savory corn, an excellent duck dish on a risotto that even I (a risotto avoider) loved, and a superb wagu beef with truffle oil and mashed potatoes. This was far and away the best meal I’ve had at K. It ended with many passed desserts. Linda and I left after dessert, although more great wines came out, but she was tired, and the sugar had made it impossible to return to dry red wines.

Here are my notes on the wines that accompanied dinner:

1986 Gruaud Larose (Ron)
Restrained fruit, simple 88

1986 Lynch Bages (Steve)
Very similar to Gruaud, slightly less fruit, coffee 87

1969 Clos Vougeot Domaine Gros Freres (Steve)
Fruity, good acid, tobacco, bacon, mint, vanilla 94

1961 Chambolle Musigny Les Beaux Bruns Greveley (Ron)
Dried flowers, fat, Carmel, burnt log, forest floor 95

2005 Corton Clos du Roi Prince Florent de Merrode (Mark)
Now owned by DRC. Pleasant fruit, simple 90

1990 Gevrey Chambertin Nadeef (Keith)
Candy, mint, dried fruits 90

1993 Mersault-Perrieres Les Champeaux Ampeau (Ron)
Floral, good acid, fresh, drinking 20 years younger 94

1999 Rinaldo Barolo (Keith)
High acid, red berries 89

1991 Dominus (Keith)
This wine was presented blind as a first growth, but there was little doubt in my mind what it was. Green pepper, great tannin structure, coffee, graphite, spice, jalapeño, very young, talcum powder. Easily Wine of the Night! 99


Thanks to Keith for putting together a great event. These vertical tasting can be hard work, because they require lots of attention and careful discussion, but I find them the most educational of all wine events.


2011 Bordeaux

Last year we attended the 2010 Bordeaux tasting at the Rosen Shingle Creek, and it was a terrific event, so we were looking forward to this year’s version. Quite a few of our friends also attended, so there were 15 of us in all. That was actually a fairly large percentage of the total attendance of 150-200, which seemed to be down from last year, perhaps because ABC provided no way to buy the tickets online.

The event was held in one of the large conference spaces at the Rosen. We’d planned to have some sushi before hand, but a large sales convention had taken over nearly all the restaurants. We ended up at the bar of A Land Remembered for a tuna appetizer.

At the event we quickly learned why 2011 is not regarded as a great year in Bordeaux. The wines were mostly tannic but green, short, off balance, and thin. Certainly nothing like the 2009s and 2010s. Interestingly, though, the better producers managed to make significantly better wines than the lesser ones. While this isn’t surprising, the stratification was noteworthy, with almost no wines in the middle. Each wine seemed to be either completely unappealing or very good, with almost none falling in between.

It only took about an hour to try most of the promising wines, although we skipped a few whites and the Sauternes. As was the case last year, the obscure Château St. Pierre was probably the best buy.

The food last year was plentiful, but this year is seemed either more limited or simply delayed, and the attendees fell on it like hungry wolves. With long lines for the hot food we decided to leave and go to Calla Bella, the hotel’s Italian restaurant. We had a fairly uninspired meal there last year, but this year, sitting at the presentation bar that faces the kitchen we had excellent food and service. The Marguerita flatbread was authentically Italian, the Chilean sea bass was done with a deft touch, and the mushroom side was great.

If they do the event again next year I will definitely go, but I suspect similar results for the 2012 vintage.

Here are my notes on the wines:


Château d’Aiguilhe

Tight 88


Château Branaire Ducru

Tannic, some potential 89


Château Brane Cantenac

Really tannic 88


Brane Baron

Balanced 90


Château Camensac

Drinkable vanilla 88


Château Canon La Gaffelière

Green 89


Château Cantemerle

Very green 86


Château Cantenac Brown

Tannic 88


Château Carbonnieux

White: SB nose, astringent 85

Red: balanced 88


Château Chasse Spleen

Very rough 86


Château Clinet

Great structure 95



Smooth but short 89


Clos de L’Oratoire

Tight, thin 87



Short 86



Tannic 87


Château Gloria

Great coffee nose 91


Château Grand Puy Lacoste

Balanced 90


Lacoste Borie

Tannin mint 87


Château Haut Batailley

Very drinkable 92


Château Haut Bages Libéral

Green bitter 84


Château Lafon Rochet

Tannic green 85


Château LaPointe

Varietal balanced 94


De LaPointe

Merlot 89


La Tour Carnet

Good structure 90


Château Langoa Barton

Rough 85


Château Léoville Barton

Smooth 87


Château Léoville Poyferré

Mint, nice balance 95


Château Lynch Bages

Tannic 89


Echo de Lynch Bages

Drinkable 85


Clos Marsalette

Smooth 89


Phelan Segur

Awkward 87


Château Pichon Longueville Baron

Good structure 94


Château Suduiraut


Pape Clement

Great structure 95



Dense, chocolate, coffee, Pauillac 93


Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Coffee gravel smooth 95


Château St. Pierre

Beautiful coffee nose, great structure 94


Château Talbot

Great balance 95


Ancient Wines at The Vineyard

Close to a decade ago Ron purchased three old Burgundies from Premier Cru for next to nothing–$75 a bottle he recalls. Over the years we consumed the 1899 and 1893 bottles. I rated them both 100pts, and number them among the best wines I’ve ever had, fresh yet unbelievably complex.

But Ron had been saving the best for last. The four of us met at The Vineyard at The Ritz Carlton to experience his 1904 Richebourg and some other very old wines.

What a great night it was! We matched each pair of wines with food, and spent more than six hours appreciating these beauties, each of which was in fabulous condition, and very long-lived in the glass. If only we could find more of these treasures.


2002 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos (Ron)
Kiwi, pineapple, dry finish, soft, waxy, dusty, 95pts

2010 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos (Steve)
Seashells, minerals, brine, lime, 93pts

1999 Perrier Jouet (Vineyard wine list)
Caramel, toast, really balanced, 96pts


1904 Larronde & Freres Richebourg (Ron)
Great color and clarity, Caramel, still great fruit, last of Ron’s trilogy, leather, cinnamon, vanilla, spice box, mocha, butter, smoke, shouldering campfire, rhubarb, forest floor, juniper, burnt log, strawberry starbursts, possibly the greatest wine I’ve ever had, 100pts

1923 Henri de Behegre Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (Steve)
Great color, clarity and fill,  iron, cherry, bacon fat, candy apple, cedar, still fresh after more than an hour, 98pts


1904 Cos d’Estournel (Ron)
Cinnamon nose, light color but brilliant, Indian food, curry, bacon fat, fresh sawdust, dusty, reminiscent of 1937 Cheval Blanc, 93pts

1959 Château Cos d’Estournel (Steve)
This wine had a very unusual label, having been imported to London by the Army Navy Stores. I saved this bottle. Great color and clarity, vanilla, restrained fruit, wood smoke, 89pts

1968 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve (Steve)
Very youthful, fig newtons, grilled buttered sour dough bread, red fruit, dill from American oak, 96pts

1978 Chateau Montelena (Ron)
Very youthful, paint, great structure, soy balsamic, mint, greens, silicone, asparagus fern, mint, licorice, good n plenty, 94pts

We ended the evening with a lovely Armagnac, comped by our server, James. Linda and I had booked a room at the Ritz, which seemed like one of our more inspired ideas at 1am!


1990 and 2000 Bordeaux Tasting

Hart Davis organizes an annual Bordeaux retrospective, and this year’s event was particularly impressive. It was held in the private room above Spiaggia overlooking Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It’s a beautiful space, although Spiaggia itself is a fairly terrible restaurant.

Since 1990 and 2000 were both excellent years, I was really looking forward to this event. Dani and I spent about 90 minutes comparing the 40 wines on offer, opting to pour the two vintages from each chateau side by side, so we could compare them.

I took a fair number of notes, but most were in agreement with professionally published tasting notes, so I will omit them. Here are my numeric rankings, with the 1990 followed by the 2000 in each case. Bold faced entries are particularly good buys:

Château Calon-Ségur 95, 93

Château Cheval Blanc 97+, 97

Château Clinet 90, 88

Château La Conseillante 95, 94

Château Cos d’Estournel 90, 95

Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 90, 89

Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 90, 92

Château Gruaud Larose 88, 97

Château Haut-Brion 98, 100

Château Lafite Rothschild 98, 99

Château Latour 97, 98

Château Léoville-Las-Cases 99, 95

Château Léoville Poyferré 90, 89

Château Lynch-Bages 95, 94

Château Margaux 92, 98

Château La Mission Haut-Brion 96, 98+

Château Montrose 96, 94

Château Mouton Rothschild 97, 100

Château Palmer 94, 96

Château Pichon-Longueville, Baron 92, 99

Château Pichon-Longueville, Lalande 94, 99


After the tasting we joined our friends Ron and Bev for a dreadful dinner at Spiaggia. But we brought some of our own wines, which redeemed the meal:

59 Charmes-Chambertin Pierre Ponnelle (Steve)
Really youthful, mint, cherries, lemon curd,  vanilla, orange, cedar, coffee, drinks like a wine from the 80s, 94 pts

59 Clos St Denis Pierre Ponnelle (Ron)
Old burgundy nose, mushrooms, caramel, sweet, mouth filling, 94 pts

1966 Haut Brion (Steve)
Soy sauce, chewy, wood, older Bordeaux nose, yet still lots of fruit, 94 pts

1966 La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Cherries, not quite as complex as the Haut Brion, very youthful, 94 pts


Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse

With Kevin Buckler, principle of Adobe Road Winery and The Racer’s Group

Dani and I went to an Adobe Road Wine Dinner here, rather than experience the normal dining room offerings. We were going to meet in the bar, but on a Wednesday night after work it was a madhouse, so we hung out in Starbucks until it was time for the dinner.

Boy did the chef knock it out of the park. I’ve been to hundreds of wine dinners and this had to be near the top.

We started on the mezzanine of the Intercontinental Hotel with a superb 2009 Chardonnay. Great wine, possibly the best of the night, but unfortunately the winery is out of it. This was accompanied by a passed appetizer of bruschetta, which was a twist on the usual, with buratta cheese, proscuitto and a thin slice of pickled peach. Delicious.

Dinner was in a room off the mezzanine perfectly sized for twenty people. I got the sense it was far from the kitchen, because it took several servers quite a while to deliver each course.

The first course was Duck with cherries and dijon mustard, a perfect accompaniment to the 2009 Pinot Noir. The wine is good, but may have a trace of sorbate, and after a slightly earthy nose it quickly fades into a just okay California pinot noir.

The second course of hickory smoked lamb chops with mint, watermelon and tomatoes might have been my favorite. It was served with a 2009 Syrah that offered a smoky, meaty nose, but seemed a bit shut down. Apparently the night before it had been even more so; I think it just needs a rest after shipping.

Third course was Wagyu Ribeye with roasted baby potatoes and a black carrot. It was perfect with a chewy 2010 Knight’s Valley Cabernet.

Dessert wasn’t my favorite, although Dani liked the brown butter cardamom cake with roasted plums and whipped cream and black pepper. The plums seemed a bit tart to accompany the 2008 Zinfandel which was jammy but nothing remarkable.

Then Kevin pulled out the Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon. Wow! I could sip this all night. After an hour it was just starting to open up and do some amazing things. Brandy soaked cherries coated in dark chocolate, with a bit of pound cake at the end. It was dessert in a glass, yet not a drop of residual sugar! The wine must be close to 15% alcohol. Worth every cent of $95 retail. Give me this and the Chardonnay, and lock me in a room.

Kevin Buckler and Bob Dickinson were welcoming as always, and promised to come do a private event next time they are in Orlando (January?) We also met some other interesting people including Thaddeus Buggs, author of

I was very impressed with the “banquet” food at Michael Jordan’s. I’m not sure which course was the best, but I would happily return here for any of these entrees. Service was prompt and friendly, and the private room was perfect for a group of twenty. Most seemed to be racing enthusiasts at this gathering, as opposed to the Orlando events where it seems the guests are mainly wine enthusiasts.

I will definitely go back to check out the regular menu, because there is some serious talent in the kitchen.


Lima, Peru


For this year’s trip Linda and I set our goal to visit the last continent on our list, South America. (We’re not expecting to get to number seven, Antarctica, any time soon.) It seems ironic that the only inhabited continent we haven’t been to is the closest to our home.

Our friend, Pamela, from Australia, flew to Orlando to join us for a week before the trip, and then we all headed south. Well, actually we headed north, to Atlanta, and then south. Lima Peru is due south, oddly enough. It doesn’t seem like the east coast of the US should line up with the west coast of South America, but it does, hence no time change (except they don’t need to observe daylight savings time in a country so close to the equator).

The flight was surprisingly quick, just six hours to go about 3000 miles. That was a good thing, because the “flat” beds on this A330 were anything but. In all fairness, I think mine was broken, because it kept recoiling from the flat position, but the design doesn’t even attempt to level the bed, so you keep sliding off the bottom. Delta has won an award for some of the top beds in the industry, but I bet it wasn’t on this plane, which was inferior to the two other Delta designs I’ve seen, which we had on flights to Sydney and Istanbul.

We arrived in Lima and cleared immigration and customs before midnight. Since Pamela hadn’t booked her room through the cruise line, I’d called to arrange her transfer, and he dutifully appeared. I’d also called the cruise line to confirm ours, and they assured me the hotel was handling it. Nope. So we hired a taxi for the trip to the JW Marriott in Miraflores Lima.

Lima is criss-crossed by four lane roads, but they don’t seem to form a useful grid, so the half hour ride involved much jogging through back alleys to get from one road to another. Finally we followed the beach for a few miles, then climbed the steep palisade to Miraflores.

The Marriott is a very nice hotel. It’s a high rise located at the top of the bluffs, overlooking the bay upon which Lima is situated. During our Sunday in Lima the weather was a bit socked in with low clouds, but we could still see from one end of the bay to the other.

Pamela and I met for breakfast and then she retired to her room to rest up for a day while Linda and I went out to explore the multi-level mall that clings to the cliff face in front of the hotel. We had lunch there at an outdoor cafe appropriately named Cafe Cafe. Linda had a mixed ceviche dish she proclaimed the best ever. It must have been good, because she even scarfed down the octopus.


In the afternoon I took a three-hour nap (ahh, vacations) and then for dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by Diego, an Alcorn McBride intern whose mother is from Peru.

Taxis in lima are interesting. There are no meters, and the fare is subject to negotiation. The trip to the restaurant cost 10 Nuevo Sole ($4) and the trip back cost twice that. The restaurant is actually about two blocks from the hotel, but it is several hundred feet below, on the other side of a busy highway.


La Rosa Nautica is located on a jetty, so waves constantly break below as you walk out to the place past some cute tourist shops. Inside the spaces are quaintly decorated with flowers, mirrors and lacy white woodwork reminiscent of the Carnation Pavilion at Disneyland. We were seated in a round room with a 270 degree view. There are many dining areas in the restaurant, but ours seemed to be reserved for American tourists, which was very practical, as all the servers spoke English.

We had their tasting menu, which was three courses of three items each. Everything was beautifully presented, and quite tasty, and the price of $65 per person seemed very reasonable. To accompany dinner we had an Argentine Chardonnay that was quite dry, and a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon with an interesting charred wood nose.



After a good night’s sleep, we transferred to our ship midday on Monday. The process at the hotel was inscrutably disorganized, with no one knowing when or where the transfer would be, no luggage tags to direct bags to the cabin, and no boarding documents. But somehow we ended up on a shuttle with our luggage, and got to the ship, where boarding and check in were quick and efficient. And despite all expectations to the contrary, our luggage showed up at our cabin, even with no cabin ID tags.

We are on the Oceania Marina, a ship about twice as large (1200 passengers) as our previous Oceania ship, the Insignia. This suite isn’t quite as nice as the one on the Insignia, or as spacious as the one on Celebrity last year, but the ship has much more to offer in terms of restaurants and public spaces. We certainly got a good deal on our suite, which was priced at under $650 a day for two including insurance, far below the usual half off rate, and even includes a $400 cabin credit. That plus the new unlimited Internet offering discounted to $20 a day make this a very economical luxury cruise.


We went to the main dining room, where the host invited us upstairs to the Polo Grill, one of the specialty restaurants (which tend not to be busy on embarkation day) for a nice dinner.

The ship overnighted in the Port of Lima (which is very noisy–thank goodness for earplugs) and then on Tuesday Linda headed out for a visit to two museums. Since they were right back where we came from in Miraflores, I decided to opt out of this tour and have a restful day on the ship. Linda enjoyed the trip, and reported much pottery, including this one that reminded her of our cat Tucker sleeping on her (although I think this guy is being eaten by the cat).






A dinner at Dellagio’s Peperoncino with Ron, Bev, Andres, Paula and Linda, noted here because of the inclusion of a 100 point 1934 Burgundy from Ron.

Peperoncino serves authentic regional Italian cuisine in a fairly boisterous atmosphere. Because the place is long and narrow, it tends to get noisy. This was especially true, last night, when a large party showed up without a reservation and spent an hour pressed up against our table waiting for seats.

The food is good, although I prefer Ciao Italia over by SeaWorld. Service was certainly attentive, and the glassware is pretty good although limited.

Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Prestige (Ron)
Vanilla, crisp, clean finish, 90 pts

2005 Puligny-Montrachet Clos de la Mouches Henri Boillot (Ron)
Waxy, soft, long buttery mouthfeel, lemon taffy finish, 95 pts

2007 Pulignt-Montrachet Les Enseignieres Henri Prudhon (Andres)
A bit closed, slightly buttery, 88 pts

1970 Ch. Mouton Rothschild (Steve)
Garnet, cedar, forest floor, smoke, cigar box, mint, sweet, Ron guessed it, 92 pts

1970 Louis Martini CS (Steve)
Petrol, glycerin, plastic, prunes, mint, amarone, Ron guessed it, 83 pts

1970 Corton Remoissenet Diamond Jubilee (Steve)
Bright cherry, soy, leather, earth, sweet, long, great structure, cashew oil, vanilla, mint, coffee, caramel, 95 pts

2004 Conterno Barolo (Ron)
Tannic, chewy, young, tar, mint, vanilla, forest floor, 95 pts

1934 Chambolle Musigny Dr Barolet (Ron)
Very light, orange rind, rust, spiced meat, sweet, coffee, candy, tobacco, cigarette smoke, red licorice ropes, cherry, pine needles, great fruit, pine needles, mint, refreshing acidity, 100 pts

1978 Lynch Bages (Ron)
Corked. Amazing, though, how this vintage, once thought to be too tannic to ever drink, is now softening into pleasant fruitiness.

1997 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino Reserve Madonna Piano
Chocolate, burnt coffee, smooth on the palate, smoked meat, vanilla, 93 pts

2004 Malleolus de Sanchomartin Emilio More (Andrew)
Vanilla, meat, chocolate coated cherries, sawdust, 94 pts

Vino Chinato Louis Dressner (Ron)
Amaro like with Nebbiolo base. Cinammon, bitters, 90 pts


France Conquers Italy

Not since the days of Napoleon has it been so clear who ruled Europe.

Keith Edwards organized an extraordinarily informative tasting designed to compare ten Italian merlots with ten Bordeaux wines consisting of at least 75% merlot. In attendance were Keith, Parlo, Ron, Bev, Andres, Paula, Russell, Linda and I.

What a great location K Restaurant was! The appetizers before the event were also the best we’ve had, and included deviled eggs, crab hors d’ouvres, and some great cheeses.


Blind Tasting

Wines were served double blind through a complex mechanism that guaranteed each flight would have one Italian and one French wine. Keith provided a wonderful tasting booklet for our notes.

The flights turned out to be:

Flight 1

1998 L’Evangile 250 (Andres) 92 pts

1998 Le Macchiole’s Messorio (Bolgheri, Tuscany) $238 (Keith) 91 pts

Flight 2

2006 Bellevue Mondotte $70 (Russell) 88 pts

2004 Petrolo Galatrona (Arezzo, Tuscany) $264 (Keith) 93 pts

Flight 3

1996 Tua Rita Redigaffi (Suvereto, Tuscany) $259 (Keith) 84 pts

1998 Valandraud $160 (Ron) 92 pts

Flight 4

2000 Clos L’Eglise $140 (Ron) 92 pts

1995 Castello di Ama L’Apparita (Chianti Classico, Tuscany) $254 (Keith) 88 pts

Flight 5

1994 Chateau Angelus $170 (Ron) 92 pts

2004 San Giusto a Rentennano La Ricolma (Chianti Classico, Tuscany) $115 (Keith) 83 pts

Flight 6

1997 Lamaione (keith) 92 pts

1957 Petrus $462 (Steve) 96 pts

Flight 7

1993 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Masseto (Bolgheri, Tuscany) $234 (Keith) 94 pts

1996 La Mondotte $185 (Russell) 93 pts

Flight 8

2006 Petra’s Quercegobbe Merlot (Suvereto, Tuscany) $54 (Keith) 91 pts

1998 Chateau Pavie $200 (Ron) 92 pts

Flight 9/10 (combined because otherwise the last flight would be obvious)

1997 Gravner Rujno $179 (Keith) 86 pts

1995 Clinet (Keith) (Badly Corked)

1996 Clos Fourtet (Andres) 84 pts

2001 Miani Colli Orientali $250 (Ron) 83 pts


Observations on the Blind Tasting

  • With only one exception, the French wine was better than the Italian wine.
  • In almost every case it was obvious which country the wine came from.
  • The Italian wines were, with the exception of the Masseto, quite disappointing.
  • The last four wines were close to undrinkable.
  • The Petrus obviously didn’t belong in a blind tasting with these, but it was excellent. I was very worried because it was an off vintage, and had been open two hours before we got to it, but in fact it held up for five hours. I guess there’s a reason Petrus is so expensive.
  • The other wine that stood out was the 2000 Clos L’Eglise, which has an extraordinary candy shop nose. It turned out this wine was 30% Cabernet Franc, so it was disqualified as a merlot, but it was definitely the best contemporary wine.
  • Except for the Petrus, and perhaps the Clos L’Eglise, the good wines were all too young to drink.
  • It’s easy to generalize and say French wines are better than Italian (which may well be the case) but it’s important to remember this was a merlot tasting, and Pomerol merlots are among the best French wines, while one wonders if they should be growing merlot in Italy at all.



After the formal tasting, we segued into dinner, which was excellent. Shrimp on spicy grits, heirloom tomatoes, duck confit with goat cheese and a crispy crusted fish over corn were the standouts.

The wines poured during dinner were, in general, much better than the tasting wines. My notes:

95 Klaus Riesling Schloss Schonborn (Keith)

An incredible match with shrimp on spicy grits, not too sweet, 94 pts


2001 Ch Chevalier Blanc (Keith) 

Nutty, lucious, waxy, 94 pts


1982 Savigny Les Beaune Lavieres Robert Ampeau (Steve) 

Refined, thin, dried flowers, rust, 90 pts


2009 Gavi di Gavi il Monterotondo Il Gabbiano white (Andres)

Balanced, good food wine, 88 pts


1968 Vina Valoria Rioja (Steve)

Dill, balanced, youthful, cherry, Burgundian, Andres loved this, chocolate coated dill pickles, just kept getting better in the glass, 95 pts


62 Chambolle Musigny J Henri Remy (Ron)

Rust, Cherries, meat, charred cedar plank, animal fat, herbs, 98 pts


1990 Hermitage La Chapelle Jaboulet (Keith)

Vanilla, sweet, balanced, chocolate covered cherries, animal fat, 100 point Parker wine, 96 pts


1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)

Tobacco, gravel, the sea, gun metal, sweet, always Paula’s favorite wine, 99 pts


That was all the fun Linda could take, so we said our goodbyes and left the group to ponder dessert and, no doubt, more wine!


Blind Pairs at Luma


Ron organized this interesting tasting in the downstairs room at Luma. Attendees were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Andres, Paula, Linda, Dani, Jacques, and Alison.

As usual at Luma, the downstairs room was fabulous, and the food was variable. Standouts were the cauliflower torte, sashimi, and the main course of steak and fish.

Wine glasses are the limitation at Luma, and we weren’t anxious to dump some of the more stellar wines, so couples began consolidating. Soon the table was covered in glassware and we were hard pressed for glasses to reuse.


Thanks everyone, for bringing some fantastic wines. The popularity contest at the end of the evening mentioned a few favorites: 95 Rayas, 75 Haut Brion, 91 Tondonia, 04 Grange, 97 Yquem.



Jacques Selosse Initiale (Ron)
Only slight Ocidation, fairly Complex (very cold)

2003 Georg Breuer Berg Schlossberg (Andres)
Dry Riesling
Minerals, Petroleum, Viscous, Dry

2006 Silex par Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly (Keith)
Sauvignon Blanc
Tropical, custard

2004 Cheval Blanc (Keith)
Good structure, fully resolved tannins

2003 Ann Gross Richbourg (Ron)
Elegant, perfume, mature, vanilla, cinnamon

95 Rayas Chateauneauf du Pape (Ron)
Fresh cherries, potting soil, black pepper

75 Haut Brion (Steve)
Dust, peat, ash, mint, smoke

75 Heitz Martha’s (Steve)
Chewy, redwood, mint, dill, eucalyptus

93 Clos de Vougeot Thomas Moillard (Andres)
Big cherry nose, sour cherry mouth

96 Clos de Vougeot Thomas Moillard (Andres)
Horse, med sweet cherries, vanilla, mint

2007 Salanques Priorat (Jacques)
Fruit, cherry cough drop, caraway

2001 Vina Ardanza Rioja (Jacques)
Pork chop, dill

NV Billecart Salmon Rose (Jacques)
Iberico ham, dried roses

91 Dominus (Steve)
Dust, Black pepper, big structure

91 Tondonia Rioja (Steve)
Chicken broth, blood sausage, dill

2004 Grange (Keith)
Mint, fruit, herbal, gummy candies

2004 La Landonne Cote-Rotie Guigal (Keith)
Burnt buttered toast, meats

1997 Bienvenues Batard Montrachet Le Flave (Ron)
Candied apricot, slightly, unctuous, slightly oxidized

1988 Bonnes Mares, Olivier Le Flave Negotiant (Andres)
Light, classic burgundy, dried sour cherries, sour

90 Ch Montrose (Ron)
Vanilla, butter, tannic, 100 pt Parker

90 Ch Beausejour (Ron)
Roast meat, 100 pt Parker

2001 L’Ermita Priorat (Keith)
Cherry cough drops, garnache

2006 la ca nova Barbaresco bric mentina (Jacques)

1986 Hermitage cuvée Marquise de la Tourette (Andres)
Caramel, oxidized
88 pts

1985 Hermitage cuvée Marquise de la Tourette (Andres)
Warm red jello, caramel, vanilla bean, meat

57 Ruchottes-Chambertin J Thorin (Ron)
Old thin delicate oxidized Burgundy

2011 Pichler-Krutzler Gruner Veltliner (Jacques)
Saline, minerals, floral, celeriac, iodine, medicinal, nutty, hops

89 Angelus (Ron)
Dusty, fruit

70 Vega Sicilia Unico (Ron)
Light, fruity, Bordeaux like

2002 Clos Vougeot Castagnier (Jacques)
A bit funky, dried fruit roll

1998 Clos de la Roche Castagnier (Jacques)
Barnyard, plastic

2005 Christoffel Jr. Ursiger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese (Andres)
Petroleum, peaches

97 Yquem (Ron)
Baked apple pie, very balanced, long cinnamon pastry finish


Wine Lunch on Hillstone’s Dock


Ron arranged this lovely Saturday afternoon event for a fairly large group. The weather was cool and blustery, but plastic panels kept out most of the wind, and it was a delightful  venue, with great service by Laura and delicious food by Hillstone (formerly Houston’s)

In attendance were Ron, Bev, Linda, Keith, Parlo, Andres, Gary, Trish, Carsten (Luma), John (Augustan Wines), Richard, and Noel

NV Shramsberg Rose (Hillstone)
Strawberries, good balance, 88

NV Bouzy Camille Saves (John)
Yeast, toast, 90

93 Haut Brion (Linda)
Chalk, candle wax, lanolin, lemon, honey, vanilla bean, 96

07 Sancerre cuvée les deserts Philippe Auchere (Keith)
Lemon, ash, 90

34 Volnay Champans Boisseaux-Estivant (Steve)
Rust, copper, cinnamon, blood orange peel, a bit thin, sandalwood, smoked meat, red apple peel, 93

1958 Barolo Antichi Vignetti Propri (Keith)
Sea air, iodine, miss, wet pennies, sweet finish, 93

1990 Echezeaux grand cru virile-Vignes Mongeard Muneret (Ron)
Classic mature burg, tons of fruit, cherries, smoke, wood, roses, 95

71 Volnay Nicolas Potel (Ron)
Light in color, pinot nose, smoke, wood, lemon curd, Key lime pie, mint, 94

59 Ch Grand Puy Ducasse Puillac (Steve)
Youthful, fruity, classic Bordeaux, iron, wood, glad I have 3 bottles left, 93

67 Ch L’Evangile Pomerol (Keith)
Fresh, fruity, sandalwood, candle wax, coffee liqueur, cotton candy, bubble gum, astonishingly good for a 1967, 93

83 Ch Lynch Bages (Ron)
Big, tannic, chewy, cherry, tobacco, cedar, pencil lead,  similar to La Mission Hair Brion, but perhaps a bit awkward, 92

83 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
Fruity, good for ten more years, baking spice, cherries, iron, wax, 93

82 Ch Trotanoy Pomerol (Ron)
Youthful, iron, vanilla, mint, 96

2007 Pierre Usseglio Cuvée de mon Aieul CDP (Ron)
Chocolate, raspberry, sweet fruit finish, cherry, vanilla, cinnamon, 97

2009 Delas Les Bessardes Hermitage (Ron)
Meat, smoke, bacon, vanilla, must less sweet finish than the CDP 99

(Both of these last two Rhones were Robert Parker 100 pointers)


Stellar Old Wines at Luma

Ron organized a great event in the downstairs room at Luma. Although the food wasn’t quite as good as our spectacular dinner there last month, the wines were stellar, spanning the great years, from 1947 (all time best Burgundy year) to 2000 (a DRC Ron pulled out at the last minute).

In attendance were Ron, Bev, Linda, Barbara (from Pepperoncino), Keith, Parlo, Andres, Paula, and Russell. Thanks for the great wines, everyone!

The Wines

1996 Roederer Cristal (Ron)
Vanilla, yeast
97 pts

NV Jacques Selosse (Ron)
Good acid
95 pts

75 Ch Palmer (Russell)
Medium body, underlying fruit, clay, wood finish, caramel, mint
90 pts

93 Haut Brion Blanc (Ron)
Semolina nose, perfect balance, fatty, lichee nut, white pepper, wax, limestone, pineapple, tropical, lush, buttery
99 pts

04 Corton Charlemagne Bouchard (Keith)
Lemon grass, key lime peel, ash, dusty, white asparagus, high acid, sea shell
90 pts

1947 Casa de Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon
Recorked 1982 at Sebastiani Vineyards from the personal cellar of August Sebastiani
Good fruit and acid, youthful, bacon, wood, youthful
93 pts

71 -Nuits St Georges Arguillieres Remoissenet (Keith)
Mushrooms, fruit, balance
93 pts

64 Chambolle Musigny Remoissenet (Keith)
A bit of corkiness increased with air
88 pts

71 Corton Remoissenet (Steve)
Toasted marshmallows, great fruit, great structure
95 pts

47 Chambertin Clos de Beze Remoissenet (Ron)
Gun oil, spice, very young, earthy, smoke, horse stable
99 pts

47 Romanee Saint Vivant Drapier (Steve)
Cinammon, raspberry, cream, great balance
98 pts

61 Bonne Mares Hudeolet (Ron)
Earthy, good fruit, wood
97 pts

66 Ch Loeoville Poyfere (Keith)
Dust, youthful, mint, a bit short
88 pts

66 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Not typical LMHB, gun oil, peat, mushroom
86 pts

66 Ch Canon La Gaffeliere (Keith)
Candy nose, sweet caramel. pastry, cream, young fruit, tannin, died quickly
89 pts

62 Ch Haut Brion (Steve)
Classic Graves, elegant
92 pts

71 Ch Haut Brion (Steve)
Butter, Classic Graves, tight, coffee, smoke
93 pts

90 Ch Haut Brion (Ron)
Very young, cucumber, peppercorn
94 pts

94 Petrus (Andres)
Mouth filling, balanced, red fruits, wood
92 pts

82 Lynch Bages (Russell)
Coffee, chewy, big fruit, young, mint, chocolate, tannic
94 pts

89 Lynch Bages (Keith)
Chewy, mint, tannic monster, chocolate, chlorine, needs many years
92 pts

2001 Ch Climens (Ron)
A bit dull, peppery, petrol, considering this is a 100 pt wine, rather surprising
90 pts

2001 Ch Riussec (Ron)
Botrytis, acidic, slightly off balance
91 pts

2000 Echezeaux DRC (Ron)
Smoke, leather, cherries, tobacco, raw blood sausage, iron, needs many years
92 -> 96? pts



Porto isn’t far from Vigo—just 84 kilometers—but it’s a different country and different wine-making. Our shore excursion took us to the Douro Valley, two hours away, where port comes from. Although port is named after Porto, the city has nothing to do with its production.

It was a rainy morning, but our luck held, and we didn’t get wet at either stop, and by afternoon the sun had come out.

Unfortunately our tour guide was a nice guy, but the world’s most boring tour guide. His name was Ricardo(ze). Along the way to Douro we stopped at Amarante, where there is an old church (I know, what a surprise, right). Linda lit a tacky LED electronic candle and said a prayer for a better guide, but it didn’t work.

So we spent a dull hour near the church, with a break for shopping but only a hardware store and convenience store nearby. Then on the way back to the bus we walked through the shopping street we should have been at all along, but with no time left to stop.

Another hour brought us to the Casa Amarela winery, a small property that has been in the same family since the 1880s, but which has been making wine only since 1994. We toured their cellar, with large old oak casks and a couple of stainless steel fermenters, and the crushing room, where they stomp the grapes in large granite enclosures.

Then we sampled their white port with some tapas that included their own olives and olive oil, which were terrific. (Unfortunately the olives weren’t for sale, but the olive oil was.) I don’t think I’d had white port before, and it was fairly pleasant. It was followed by a pleasant lunch accompanied by their serviceable red wine and a ruby port.

The drive back to the ship took almost two hours, but the view was much better than the footed in morning because we took the express way over the tops of the mountains, across many impressive valleys so panned by high arching bridges.

In the evening we had our own private sail away party on the balcony, with Martin, a table full of canapés left in our cabin by our butler, and a bottle of yesterday’s four euro Albarino. Audrey was tired from her walk around Porto, so dinner was just the four of us in the dining room. Afterwards Linda and I went up to Reflections for a 40s themed show and dance party with the entertainers.

The following day was the first of two sea days. We attended a wonderful Riedel comparative tasting that contrasted the difference between four wine glasses by having us transfer the same wines between various glasses. We went in skeptical, and came out true believers.

After two relaxing days at sea it will be time to head home from a very pleasant two and a half weeks of travel.


Vigo is one of the southern most cities in Northern Spain, located only 20 miles from Portugal. It is Europe’s main hub for shipping fish, and the 10 mile long harbor is filled with platforms used to raise mussels, oysters and scallops. It’s a pretty port, and you can step right off the ship into the bustling down tom, which is surrounded by hills dotted with spanish style homes.

The ship didn’t dock until noon, which gave us time for a workout and some breakfast/lunch before our shore excursion.

This excellent excursion took us up the coast to the next estuary, Pontevedra, where we visited the old city of Combarro. A few twisty stone streets have been toured into tourist shops. Each intersection features a fountain and a “cruceiros,” a religious monument intended to ward off evil spirits. Ironic, since the shops were selling halloween merchandise. We had some tapas and white wine at a seaside cafe before continuing up the coast to Cambados.

In Cambados we visited a small winery and guest house where we enjoyed a tour of the 5 acre property, which has vines, birds and some fruit trees. Then we had a delightful meal of tapas and wine in the courtyard. The mussels were the best I’ve ever tasted, and they just kept bringing out plate after plate of them. Also delicious were mild cooked and salted peppers, similar to the flavor of chile relleno, a great match for the generously poured—and repoured–Albarino. Their red was pretty much undrinkable—-a fact the owner essentially admitted—-but they also made some interesting flavored grappas. I bought a bottle of Albarino and a bottle of herbal grappa. Total cost: 11 Euros.

The group seemed pretty trashed on the way back to the ship. Amateurs.

For dinner the group of five of us met in the dining room for a taste off between Martin’s 2006 Dominus and our 2008 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Meal.


After a workout Friday morning we spent a restful day on the ship. originally we had a dinner scheduled in a Michelin-starred chef’s kitchen, but it was cancelled, and since it was rainy we decided to spend the day on the ship, relaxing. We had dinner with Audrey, Emilio and Martin. Martin went to Rioja, and said it was a good trip. We shared a few wines, including a 2006 Lynch Bages, which had a classic Bordeaux nose, but was acidic and off balance. Maybe the rest of the bottle will be better in a couple of days.

Saturday we had a shore excursion into Bilbao, about 10 miles upriver from the port. It sprinkled throughout the day, but not enough to disrupt the excursion, and since it rains 40% of the year in Bilbao, I suppose it’s to be expected.

We began our tour on a mountain overlooking the city, for a panoramic view. Bilbao has undergone an amazing transformation in the last twenty years, from an industrial iron works into a garden-like model city. The centerpiece of the city is the Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry. It was paid for locally, Guggenheim simply gave permission for use of the name. It proved to be a successful spark to the city’s renaissance. We drove past, but didn’t stop.

Our destination was the old part of the city, now a trendy shopping and dining district. Following a walking tour we stopped at three different tapas bars for a glass of wine and a pintxos (the “x” is pronounced “ch”). Traditionally pintxos was served on a stick, but these were all toast with either, ham, salmon or brie, plus marinated vegetables, fruits and so on. Each was excellent, and frankly better than anything on the ship.

We were back on board for an early 3pm sailing and formal night number two, which we celebrated with the tasting menu in Ocean Liners. This time we tried the prix fixe menu, which is one of the few good deals on the ship, at $89 for food and matching wines, considering the wines include a Puligny Montrachet and a Smith Haut Lafite Blanc. The service was excellent, and they were very flexible about letting us swap around courses from the regular menu, and changing the tasting pairings. In fact, we skipped dessert, and they comped us two glasses of Perrier Jouet instead, which were worth about half the cost of dinner. We’ve noticed that while the food even in this restaurant is just so-so, they are really good at salads. I had a quail salad with seared and caramelized goat cheese on arugula with a mustard dressing that was certainly the best thing I’ve tasted on board. It was great with a (gasp) Zinfandel from Chiarella Family Vineyard (the 2009 Giana).

Afterwards we attended a very good review of songs from around the world, presented by the ship’s company.


I’ve been struck on this “wine themed cruise” by how little the other passengers know about wine: basically that it has alcohol in it and isn’t beer. Today’s excursion to Margaux included a few passengers who seemed to know their reds from their whites, but not much more. It’s peculiar.

Our first stop was at Chateau Giscours, a third growth that is huge compared to other area wineries, with over 600 acres, much of it not actually classified Margaux, but rather simply Haut-Medoc. The 2004 Le Haut-Medoc de Giscours was an unclassified wine from a poor year, but the 2006 Chateau Giscours was certainly serviceable. More important than the wine, though, was our luck in arriving on the last day of the harvest. Things were in full swing, and we got to watch the hand sorting operation, and crusher stemmer. There is also apparently an automatic optical sorter that rejects individual berries ohm the way to the fermenters.

Then we went to Chateau Kirwan, a send growth, that was quite generous with their wine and the various finger foods served of lunch. The 1999 Kirwan is pleasant, and the generic white “Signatures en Boardeaux” was quite nice with the food. Their second tier wine, 2006 Charmes de Kirwan was to me undrinkable, but they made up for it with the soaring (and sadly unavailable for purchase) 1978 Chateau Kirwan, which offered rich old cabernet scents of anise, sagebrush, mint, flowers and coffee. 96 points.

Following lunch we toured the winery, which had already completed the harvest and was preparing the tanks and barrels for the next step in the process. Two things I found odd: that they make the final mix before oak aging, and that the force the malolactic fermentation simultaneous to alcohol fermentation rather than letting it proceed naturally. To me, these “efficiencies” can be tasted in their modern wines.

There were a lot of sleepy passengers, unaccustomed to wine tastings, on the bus back to the ship!


Reflecting pool

The last time I was in Bordeaux, I stepped off the ship onto the main street along the waterfront. This time our ship is larger, and we are docked two hours away, in Le Verdon. This obviously makes every shore excursion four hours longer, so we had limited time in the city today. But it was enough time for a walking tour and then lunch on our own.

Bordeaux has certainly been fixed up since Dani and I were here a half dozen years ago. The buildings are cleaned, some streets are converted to pedestrian walkways, and there is a revitalized waterfront and lovely reflecting pool where warehouses once stood.

Linda selected—somewhat at random—Le Cajou Caffee, a bisto that wowed us with the starters, a foie gras terrine and chèvre salad. The main courses were less exciting, but it was still a good lunch. A 2000 Chateau Bouscaut Pessac-Leognan was the perfect age.


Back on the ship by 5pm, we had dinner in the Tuscany restaurant. Basically food the caliber of an Olive Garden. Located in a fairly austere space on the top deck, it certainly wasn’t worth the $45 per person cover charge, almost twice what it costs to eat at the specialty Italian restaurant on Royal Caribbean, which provides a far more elaborate meal.

We tried a 2008 Sito Moresco Barbaresco by Gaja, which was dusty and a bit hot; and a Far Niente Chardonnay, which had very big California style fruitiness and seemed slightly sweet. We’ll save both for tomorrow.

Livarot and Calvados

Linda’s birthday! Morning workout in the gym and then buffet lunch. Salad bar is okay, nothing spectacular.

Our tour today is all about fermented apples and cheese. First stop is the Graindorge Fromagerie, which by coincidence is an Alcorn McBride installation. The delightful visitor’s tour does a great job of promoting the brand and explaining the cheese making process, through engaging videos, a theatre, and windows into the factory. At the end of the tour we were served four generous slices of chess and some local cider. My favorite was the Livarot, followed by the Neufchatel, Pont l’Eveque and Camembert.

Second stop was the Chateau du Breuil, a beautiful estate where they make Calvados, a brandy distilled from apples. The guide her was quite informative, and we learned about the fermentation and distillation process, which involves double distillation, discarding the first and last alcohol and keeping only the heart. Then the brandy is aged in oak barrels, typically from 8 to 20 years. Each year, about 2% of the alcohol is lost (the “angel’s share”) but since it starts out at 144 proof, it still requires dilution with water prior to bottling. A tasting followed, where most agreed that the “Pommeau de Normandie,” which has 60% cider added back in, was more drinkable than the 15 year old straight Calvados.

Our guide for this tour was extremely informative. A fan of World War I history, he collects sets of letters exchanged between the front and those who stayed on the farms; he also collects historic labels from cheeses, including labels created for cruise lines and even one for soldiers at the front.

Upon returning to the ship we found a mountain of food and only an hour until dinner, so we provided catering service to Audrey and Emilio’s cabin!

Our dinner was at Ocean Liner’s, the cover charge French restaurant on deck 3. The room is lovely, and the food and service are a level above the main dining room, although still not at the level of restaurant that the decor evokes. A wine new to us, Nickel & Nickel Chardonnay, proved to be the highlight. The owner is the same as Far Niente, but the wine is more like Aubert. A 2007 Chambolle-Musigny by Drouhin was disappointing, and we save most of it to see if it would improve with a little air.

The entertainment on this ship is really the highlight. In the main theatre we enjoyed the terrific ships orchestra backing Mark Donoghue, who played classic rock on violin, harmonica, piano and electric guitar (not all at once). I particularly enjoyed his rendition of The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and also his medley of 1960s TV Western theme songs.

We set sail during the show, so Linda was able to get in a little casino time on the way out, and fought the machine to a draw.

We caught a bit of Perry Grant, whose show was very similar to the previous night’s. The night life was still going strong when we retired at 12:30.