Ran Shapira's birthday parties are the best shows in town, as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure the local oligarchs party harder, but I'm not invited to their do's.
This year he teamed up with David Wollenberg and we all headed to Raphael with a stash of booze.
Now, I will admit, publicly and otherwise, that Raphael is not my favorite institute. The food is tasty enough but not special enough to lure me in consistently and I don't care much for the atmosphere - which seems to cater to sugar daddies and their pickups, with a few choice spots of upper-class twits and their families. Plus, on this occasion we had a fascinating interlocution with the sommelier about corkage fees, which I'm sure he will remember for some time.
Despite an unduly extravagant amount of corked and otherwise faulty wines, we managed to get some productive drinking done, thanks to smart planning and backup wines.
So, thank you guys, for helping write another chapter in the 2GrandCru History Of The World.
Jacques Prieur, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1999
The nose starts out very demure and shy but hits the stratosphere after a few minutes, showing discrete white fruit, nuts and lots of minerals. There are signs of oak on the palate but that's very well covered up by the sheer crunch of its power: this is an impressive, mouth-filling wine. While at times I almost strain to keep up with it, the effort is one fairly well spent.
Jacques Prieur is imported by WineRoute; I'm not sure about the price of this specific wine.
Olivier Leflaive, Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru, 1996
Uri Gilboa opened the wine a few hours before dinner, found it oxidized and went home for backups. Upon a re-tasting on arrival, the wine was showing signs of recovery so we decided to decant it, which seemed to improve things, up to a point. There were still notes of oxidization on the nose but the palate was very much alive and more elegant than the Chevalier (which had the better overall showing). However, despite a very lovely saline finish, in time it developed a tired-out feel. Probably another victim of (small-scale) 96 premox.
Olivier Leflaive is imported by WineRoute, not sure about the price of this specific wine.
Lucien Le Moine, Clos De La Roche Grand Cru, 1999
From the start, the nose has the spicy-minerally "tingle" I find typical of red Burgundies with a few years of bottle age. A few minutes later, the aromatics gain bright red fruit that are almost on the verge of being liquorish and then, with further airing, an even greater complexity emerges. The palate is long and powerful, as a Grand Cru should be, but still primary. Right now, this wine is more Pinot than Bourgogne.
Rene Engel, Grands Echezaux Grand Cru, 1996
The first truly exciting wine of the night. This is Old World now, with complex aromatics and gorgeous barnyard stink. The palate is at the onset of mature delicacy, yet with a firm structure and an acidic bite on the finish. Marginally less powerful than the Clos De La Roche, it is just as long and way more interesting. Its drinkability is debatable (and was, in fact, debated round the table) but I found its already delicious and memorable.
Rene Engel is imported by Tomer Gal but I bought this specific wine in the US for 130 USD.
Dosio, Barolo Riserva, 1990
I can never describe the aromatics of a great mature Barolo. I always get this ethereal, pungent kick that conjures up the image of an old carpet, for some reason. I know it's just me, I've never read anyone else discussing Barolos in such terms, but there it is. I love it, I just don't know how to write about it. The palate is always an easier topic for me, and this one has sweet fruit with a terrific, savory finish of smoked meat.
Sandrone, Barolo, Cannubi Boschis, 1997
This is very similar to the Dosio. The nose has a similar character but the palate is closed. Returning to it after a break, I find a spicy kick before it mellows out and shows a little nuttiness. Overall, still not ready.
All in all, the Barolo flight was the one I least enjoyed, even though it was a more consistent one that the Montrachet.
Chapoutier, Hermitage Le Pavillon 1995
Chateau Margaux, Margaux Premier Cru, 1998
Okay, Margaux at last! My very first! The nose is pure c-l-a-r-e-t with tobacco leaves, simply a classic distillation of everything Bordeaux. Elegantly and perfumed, nuanced and luscious to drink, with a subtly saline finish.
Delas, Hermitage, Les Bessards, 1997
Pepper, sour cherries and coffee on the nose, with a powerful finish that hints at olive tapende and terrific acidity. As different from the Margaux as the Old World idiom will allow, but no less thrilling.
Drinking them side by side, it feels as though the Bessards could beat the Margaux to a bloody pulp, but beneath the pretty, almost feminine exterior of the Margaux is one tough teamster. This is like Leonard outpointing Hagler, but just remember how close that was and that some think Hagler won. In other words, the Bessards punchs harder but the Margaux is slicker and smarter.
Chateau Coutet, Barsac Premier Cru, 2001
Obvious botrytis funk and marmalade. Liquid candy as Bordeaux stickies should be, but longer than most I've drunk of this genre yet. Longer and more intense than the 2003 anyways.
Another WineRoute import, although this half-bottle bottle was purchased in the US five years ago for 35 USD.