Friday, February 09, 2007

Sotheby's Pre Sale Tasting Report; Part 1

BrooklynLady graciously gave me clearance to attend the Sotheby's tasting last night, so I donned my best fleece jacket and outer shell (it's freezing here in the city now - winter finally) and went to meet Deetrane at the famous auction house on 71st Street and York Avenue.

The event was a bit more subdued this time, maybe the weather kept all but the most serious wine lovers and tradespeople away. I was the only person in this crowd (including Deetrane) who had never before tasted a Cheval Blanc, for example. No one was rushing to taste wines. People instead were focusing on the regions or wines that they were interested in, and lingering.

I, on the other hand, made sure to taste everything, and then to go back for seconds on wines that intrigued me. It was not possible to keep thoughtful notes on all of the wines, but I scribbled down some impressions, and I also picked favorites in each flight which I will share. I'll begin with the red Burgundies, because the white table was jammed when I walked in so these were the first wines I tasted. I was impressed by two of these wines, and not so moved by the other two. Here are the wines, with the few notes I wrote during the tasting:

1999 Bouchard Pere et Fils Clos Vougeot Grand Cru - Bright red color, oaky, tangy sour cherries.

1999 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1er Cru - Deep purple, reserved nose of blackberries and underbrush, indistinct palate.

1994 Bouchard Pere et Fils La Romanee Grand Cru - Rose red with orange rust. Highly perfumed, lots of flowers. Very deep and fresh flavors, surprisingly, since the color is light and the wine looks old. Orange peel, spices, pure sappy blackfruit, and pine on the palate. Well balanced, great acidity. Unquestionably my favorite wine of this flight.

1990 Billard-Gonnet Pommard 1er Cru - Light red color, some rust. Pine and earthy smells, youthful flowers also. Reserved palate, somewhat indistinct.

Now the Bordeaux wines. I was more impressed by these wines than I was by the lineup of Bordeaux at the previous Sotheby's tasting, but I still have to say that I just don't get it with expensive and fine Bordeaux wines. So rarely do they excite me, make me feel passionate about their aromas and flavors. That said, most of the wines in this flight are adored by the community on Cellar Tracker, so you really shouldn't listen to me if you're a Bordeaux fan. I mean after all, with the exception of Gruaud Larose and Grand Puy Lacoste, I had never before tasted these producers. I'm a Bordeaux neophyte. These are my impressions:

1983 Chateau Cheval Blanc - Transparent rusty brick color. Interesting nose of orange peel, medicine, and pine. I have never encountered this aroma profile before, and it was perplexing to be honest. I didn't like the palate at first, but when I came back later I enjoyed it more. Velvety texture, brambles, perfumed wood (is this what people smell when they say sandalwood?), and raisins on the palate. This wine was more intellectually appealing to me than it was delicious.

1986 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron - Spicy pine nose, velvet texture, lovely red fruit, some tar, dark cassis flavors. Impressive. My 2nd favorite wine of the flight.

1986 Chateau Gruaud Larose - Cedar on the nose, and oddly, spring water. Chewy texture, simple plummy palate.

1990 Chateau Latour a Pomerol - Dark color, dark fruit nose. Nice balance, but somewhat simple palate of dark fruits.

1990 Chateau Haut Bages Liberal - Eucalyptus and some tar on the nose, lots of cassis and cedar on the palate, with good acidity and balance, spicy. If I had to plunk down my money for one of these Bordeaux wines, at a projected auction price of about $50 a bottle, this would be the one.

1995 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste - Blue fruit nose, Welch's grape juice smell. Tannic, young, and simple right now. Just doesn't excite me.

1995 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou - Cassis and black fruit nose, sweet plums and dark fruits on the palate. Not exciting.

There was only one Rhone wine poured at this event, but it was a fascinating wine. I have never tasting anything like it:

1990 Guigal Hermitage - Nose of road tar - lots of road tar! After plenty of swirling, some rosemary too. Gamy palate, meaty, some minerality. Not special to me at first, but when I returned to the wine later and spent some time with it, I discovered orange peel and rose petals underneath the gamy flavors, and found myself longing to eat a meal with this wine.

Just goes to show that tasting this many wines this quickly is not going to reveal any kind of "truth" about them. I need to be more selective at these Southeby's tastings. Hard though, when there are so many famous wines that I wouldn't otherwise get to taste. Part 2 tomorrow.


Joe said...

Hi BrooklynGuy, sounds like a great experience. Post this in advance next time and I might just fly down for it! I have had a great experience with the Baron, so I am not surprised. Guigal makes a fantastic CdP as well. Awesome, glad to hear the BrooklynLady gave you the free pass...

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Joe - I did post this in advance, before we had the baby I wrote about this. it's only one hour, and they keep to the one hour format. might not be worth flying down for, but then again, it might be...

Joe said...

sorry, I see that now...I can always find business in NYC!