After 8 days of dining in Vegas, we would make a pit stop in Edmonton to visit our closest group of friends, and celebrate Richard’s 60th birthday. We first met Richard in 2004 through our mutual friends at DeVine Wines. Since that time, we have celebrated many special occasions with Richard and tasted more amazing wines than I can remember. Before our big wedding celebration in Walla Walla, Washington, Camille and I were legally married in Richard’s living room, which should give you a sense of how much he means to us.
As it was his 60th birthday, Richard had invited over 14 of his closest friends, and was pulling out all the stops with regards to wine. Knowing Richard, I’m sure he must have taken months deciding on the perfect line-up of wines, and it did not disappoint.
The night would begin with a trio of Champagnes, a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvee, followed by bottles of the 1990 Dom Perignon Oenotheque and 1986 Krug Clos de Mesnil. That’s what I call starting with a bang!
Krug is one of the most polarizing Champagne houses, and while many love it, others don’t understand the hype. I am in the former category. Krug is typically a full bodied Champagne with a weighty mouth feel and is often driven by meat and smoke flavours rather than fruit.
Though no formal notes were written on the Krug Grande Cuvee (served from magnum), this bottle was a youthful example of the wine, likely due to the large format bottle. Full mouthfeel, great salinity and mineral flavours, with slight apple and smoke. Not as meaty as some bottles, this tasted fresh and young.
The Dom Perignon Oenotheque is distinct from the regular Dom Perignon bottling, in that it has an extended aging period, typically 15-20 years, before release. This was the second bottle of 1990 Oenotheque I’ve tried, and tasted identical to the last bottle tasted 2 years ago. There is tremendous aging potential here, and this bottle won’t likely peak for 10 or more years. On both occasions, the most striking contrast between the regular Dom bottling and the Oenotheque is the more powerful toast and brioche flavours of the Oenotheque.
This 1990 had a medium straw color and fine mousse. Heavily toasted with notes of brioche, granny smith apple and citrus. Marzipan and toasted oak on the palate, along with bracing acidity and tremendous length (45-60 second finish). Though this wine is far too young at this time, it is delicious and the quality is undeniable. 96 points, non-blind.
The 1986 Krug Clos de Mesnil is the luxury Cuvee Blanc de Blanc produced by Krug in exceptional vintages. Deep gold color, with nuts, celery and a distinct Fuji apple note on the nose. Though the nose was lovely, the palate was slightly oxidized with sherry notes and loss of fruit on the attack. Great acidity and the massive Krug mouth feel were still present and held the wine together. There was also a bitter almond oil note on the finish.
Considering the legendary status of this Champagne, I don’t think this bottle was a great representation of what Clos de Mesnil can be, so will reserve judgement at this time.
Next up was a pair of German Rieslings from Joh. Jos. Christoffel Jr. The 1975 Urziger Wurzgarten Auslese*** was served alongside 1976 Erdener Treppchen Auslese**. 1975 and 1976 were two excellent vintages in Germany, with 1976 being the more touted of the two. It produced the fatter, richer wines, while 1975 produced leaner, more balanced wines. In hindsight, many critics consider ’75 to be the superior vintage.
The 1975 Urziger Wurzgarten was medium gold with a nose of kerosene, flowers and peach. Flavours of white flowers, peach, light weight for an Auslese and good acidity. Lighter than the 1976 served alongside it, the finish was a bit shorter than expected. 91 points, non-blind.
The 1976 Erdener Treppchen had a much deeper gold color and a more honeyed nose with a distinct diesel smell. The palate was reminiscent of a chenin blanc with honeyed flavours of tree sap, petrol and stone fruit. Though it could use more acidity, this wine had great length which brought it a few points above the 1975, on this night. 93 points, non-blind.
These paired great with Mary’s salad of lettuce, mandarin orange, candied almonds, celery and green onion.
Next came a 2006 Remoissenet Le Montrachet. Though extremely young for a Montrachet, the quality of this Chardonnay is unquestionable. Light straw color with a nose of hazelnut, minerals, lemon, cream and the requisite heavy oak of a Montrachet this young. The palate had similar flavours and although the oak and hazelnut is massive, this wine is very classy and has a long, long finish. While heavily oaked Chardonnay is one of my least favorite types of wine, this was technically amazing, and very enjoyable to drink. 95 points, non-blind.
Moving onto the red wines, our first pair was a 1981 Vega Sicilia Unico and 1988 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg. Both wines of great pedigree, the Unico was the clear standout here and one of the wines of the night. Served with Jason and Jen’s shrimp and crab crostini, a great pairing.
The 1981 Unico has a pure garnet color with no signs of bricking. Beautiful nose of mint, eucalyptus, cherry, cassis, anise, Chinese sausage and black olive. Palate of fresh cherry, cassis, pine, hoisin, black olive and anise. A tremendous wine and another example of Unico’s greatness. 95 points, non-blind.
The 1988 Richebourg unfortunately was the disappointment of the night. Medium garnet with bricking at rim. A nose of wet earth, forest floor, cherry, plum, hints of tar and soy sauce. On the palate, flavors of violets, plum and earth but sharp, astringent acidity on the finish detract from the wine overall. As with the 1988 DRC Echezeaux, I think the 88s are ready to drink, and are unlikely to benefit from further cellaring. 89 points, non-blind.
The next flight was a pair of Barolos, including one from Richard’s birth vintage, as well as my favorite red wine, the 1997 Gaja Sperss. These were served alongside Dean’s excellent porcini mushroom and penne casserole, a perfect match, especially for the 1952 Cappellano.
The 1952 Cappellano Barolo has a pure light garnet-terracotta color. Initially this smelled a bit reductive on the nose, as with most Barolos of this age. After 15 minutes of air, it developed a beautiful nose of earth and roses, with a touch of briny oyster and some barnyard. The palate was supple and soft, with cherry fruit, earth and mushroom flavors, and the wine still maintains a balanced level of acidity. The palate is not nearly as funky as the nose. This wine was damn impressive, considering the 1952 vintage is a good, but not spectacular, vintage in Piedmont. Amazing when paired with mushrooms. 93 points, non-blind.
The 1997 Gaja Sperss is ruby to the rim, with no signs of age. It could stand a 6-12 hour decant if your opening one any time in the next 10 years. Beautiful nose of anise, tar, eucalyptus and bright cherry. Tea notes evolved over an hour in the glass. On the palate, this remains massive with huge acidity and tannin that will enable it to live for decades. Great balance and power, this is not really ready to go, but the quality is ridiculous. 96 points, non-blind.
Next came a pair of legendary Bordeaux blends that we would enjoy alone before the final course of the evening.
1985 Sassicaia pitted against 1995 Petrus is a ridiculous match up, but on this night, it seemed almost reasonable.
The 1985 Sassicaia is probably the most hyped vintage of Sassicaia ever produced, and in my experience, has been variable bottle to bottle. When good, it is mind-blowing, but other times it is a huge disappointment. Fortunately, this bottle was the best I’ve ever tasted. A pure ruby-garnet color to the rim, classic cassis, green pepper and day old white rice scents on the nose (This is how I identify these damn Supertuscans blind – green pepper and white rice). Also notes of earth and wet forest floor. The palate of this wine had amazingly youthful intensity and power, like a Sassicaia from the late 90s. Great cassis and earth flavors, this bottle was very fresh and wonderful. 96 points, non-blind.
Alongside the Sassicaia would be the 1995 Petrus, my first experience tasting this ultimate of cult wines. Although Bordeaux is far from my favorite wine region, this was a spectacular bottle. Ruby-garnet to the rim, nose of cherry, herbs, menthol and chocolate. A velvety, seamless palate, with cassis, cherry, chocolate and herb flavours. The most impressive part of this wine was the structure. As a right bank Bordeaux, I did not expect it to have the powerful, balanced acid and tannin that it possessed. Perfect balance, this wine will age wonderfully. 97 points, non-blind. My red wine of the night. (Though not overall WOTN)
Next came a duo of new world wines, the 1996 Opus One and 1994 Penfolds Grange. Opus One is considered by many (including myself) to be an overrated and overhyped wine, but from 1994-1996, the Mondavi-Rothschild conglomerate made some awesome wines. Grange is the exact opposite, a wine of superior quality that cannot be hyped enough. I love Grange, and have yet to taste a bottle that was anything but excellent. 1994 is not the most touted of Grange vintages, but I have been thoroughly impressed on both occasions Richard has graciously served it.
These wines were served with Richard’s stuffed moose roast served with potatoes and vegetables.
The 1996 Opus One is ruby-garnet to the rim, with a great nose of cassis, spice box, tobacco and earthy forest floor. Consistent with previous bottles, this had a bit of brett on the nose, which for me does not detract from the wine (though it may for others). There was also a jalapeno pepper note that some may find a bit overly herbaceous/green. Again, I enjoyed it. The palate tastes of cassis, tobacco, wet leaves and brett. Good acidity and medium plus finish. 94 points, non-blind
The 1994 Grange was also ruby-garnet to the rim, with candied wildberry and boysenberry jam notes. Hint of eucalyptus, but overall driven by candied wild fruits. The palate was similar, and though this didn’t have the length of the great Granges, it was nonetheless fantastic. 95 points, non-blind.
Finally, a 1988 Chateau D’Yquem was served for dessert after an excellent chocolate cake. Unfortunately, we had tasted a huge amount of wine by this time, which detracted from the fact that this was the wine of the night. The 1988 version of D’Yquem is absolutely singing right now, and in a much better place than the more hyped 1989 and 1990. Huge apricot, peach and tropical fruit notes, not as much botrytis and crème brulee as some, which I like. Perfect balance, acidity and sweetness, this D’Yquem is close to perfect. 98 points, non-blind. I am nearly certain this would be 100 points if served closer to the beginning of the meal.
All told, we enjoyed 15 amazing bottles of wine, and none of them were corked. We were so stuffed by the end of the night that we were unable to try the 1952 Dalva White Colheita Port and 1952 Leacock Verdelho Madeira, both of which I would have loved to try. The Madeira should hold for about 10 years, so please save me an ounce, Richard.
More importantly, it was great to see all of our friends again, who we have missed so much since moving away from Edmonton in 2010, but continue to visit regularly. Maybe I should get a job there so I can move back.