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When Burgundy Delivers

(March 4, 2000) None of us mere mortals one can afford to stuff our cellars with the best Grand Cru Burgs anymore. But if you get enough wine-geeks together, you can stage a minor miracle -- an entire evening of heaven.

     So that's what we did last night. Each brought one or two treasures, and together, they rang my chimes like a 17-bell carillon. It was very expensive, but not what you'd call ridiculous. 

     It was, in fact, worth it, and I guess that's about the highest praise you can deliver in times of galloping wineflation. Sigh.

     We opened:

     WHITES:

**1990 Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne. The good news is that this wine has knit together nicely. The Latour new oak treatment that partially masked the mineral flavors has now become just another nice note in this creamy, yummy wine. There's a lovely core of pure Chardonnay fruit here that makes this wine just stunning...but the sobering news is that it fades after an hour or two. It's not going to get any better than this. Drink up.

**1992 Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne. Very similar to the 1990, but the oak is more prominent and there may be a touch less primary fruit. On the other hand, this wine seems to hold up better in the glass. So pick 'em.

**+1989 Bonneau de Martray Corton Charlemagne. This is CC for the purist. Very little oak is apparent. The stony flavors sing out loud. Some truffle flavors show too, which made this wine a perfect match to our fois gras.

***1991 Ramonet Chassagne Montratchet "Les Ruchottes". Snuck in and pulled the rug out from under the Corton-Charlemagnes. On top of it's game. Replete with aromas of mushrooms, stones and hazelnuts. Lots of power on the finish. Maybe we just caught it at the right time, but this gets my vote for WHITE OF THE EVENING.

*+1995 Fernand & Laurent Pillot Chassagne Montrachet "Vide Bourse." Kind of austere in comparison with the others. Focused, steely flavors remind me of Puligny-Montrachet.

REDS:

**+1978 Drouhin-Laroze Chambertin "Clos de Beze." What a roller coaster. Gorgeous aromas of cinnamon-orange-spice, tea and raspberry tempt you unmercifully. Take a sip and smile. Then take another and what’s this -- it’s fading. Fifteen minutes later, up it comes again! Yeah, that’s Burgundy for ya.

*+1990 Drouhin Chambertin. Lovely wine and all that. But I have to say I’m surprised at the elegance of this Chambertin. Drouhin strives for grace, I know. Still, I would have enjoyed a little more oomph in a wine that’s usually known for its untidy power.

**+1985 Mongeard-Mugneret Clos Vougeot. Lots of mediocre Clos de Vougeot is lurking on store shelves, waiting to dash your Burgundy dreams. But this one makes up for a few disappointments. Straight-down-the-middle classic Burgundy in great shape. Heavenly nose, gracious palate experience, plenty of substance on the finish. Bravo.

*** +Domaine de la Romanee Conti Echezeaux. Some of us take a perverse pleasure in watching a DRC fall on its face. We can’t afford it and we hope it’s overrated. But this one ain’t. In fact, it’s killer stuff. In fact, it wins WINE OF THE EVENING without any argument. Still a babe, but so concentrated, the fruit rolls right over the tannin and sexy oak. Vanished in a heartbeat. I drained the last few drops from the bottle and all but chewed the sediment.

*-1988 Dujac Clos de La Roche The good news is that all the ‘88s tonight are showing quite well. This is the dullest and it’s not bad. Fades after an hour. A couple of us note that Dujac may tend to do better at a younger age. Certainly this is the case with...

***1995 Dujac Clos de la Roche. Hmm. I guess I do like ‘em young. This is gorgeous! Sure there’s oak, but it’s way overbalanced by the raspberries and minerals. You may want to age this for a few more years, but you can’t go wrong pulling a cork right now.

***1996 Dujac Clos de la Roche. This one’s got even more stuffing. More tannin too, however. Cellar for at least a few more years, then get ready for a great evening.

*+1988 Dujac Bonnes Mares. A step up from Dujac’s ‘88 Clos de la Roche, this one stays lively for as long as I hold it. However, it gets blown away by...

***1988 Roumier Bonnes Mares "Vielles Vignes." I think I heard one say that the old vines got pulled up shortly after this vintage. Too bad, because this wine easily wins top honors among the ‘88s tonight. In many wines from the vintage, the tannins will always be a tad too high, but here the fruit triumphs unquestionably.

*1989 Roumier Bonnes Mares. Must say I don’t like this one nearly as much. A milder wine, with a big snort of earthy, gamy stuff that tempers my enjoyment of the fruit.

**1991 Roumier Bonnes Mares. Back to form. This one is in very good shape, but I’d counsel drinking it now. Notes of tea are creeping in, and it doesn’t have the body of either the ‘88 VV or the ‘95.

**+1995 Roumier Bonnes Mares. Yowsah! Maybe the most Californian wine we’re tasting tonight, this baby is dark, supple, juicy and velvety -- but not oaky. Do not deny yourself the pleasure if you’re holding a couple.

     So. Does this story have a moral? If so, I’m afraid it’s an expensive one. Basically, we found that Burgundies in the nose-bleed pricing tier really can be not only heavenly, but consistently heavenly. DRC really does taste good. And so on.

     I’d just better hope that my friends keep letting me drink theirs.

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