The highlight and linchpin of our evening at George and John in Yaffo was a blind flight of three Saint Emilions from the classic 2000 vintage. That I still think of 2000 as a new vintage is a sign of the longevity of Bordeaux as well as my own.
Chateau la Couspaude, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe, 2000
The nose is complex and charming, iron and black fruit and herbal/vegetal/leathery notes. The palate needs time to open and for the fruit and tannins to balance. I don't know enough about the history of Couspaude, but 2000 seems to be such an effortless sublimation of technique to expression of terroir and old world modesty that it has my attention now.
Chateau Troplong-Mondot, Saint Emilion Grand Cru Classe, 2000
The nose is very sexy from the pour, with a spicy tang, like fruit seared in alcohol. The palate is broad and powerful, fat fruit speared by tannins. It received high Robert Parker scores back in the days when Parker scores reflected taking his preferences to the extremes of the style without exceeding its boundaries.
Chateau Figeac, Saint Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe, 2000
If you love Bordeaux then this perfect balance of fruit and tannins - this evocative, complex nose of fruit and iron and earth, hints of beef stew and fresh coffee - this will break your heart and wallet and make your forswear all other wines. At least for one night.
There were other wines, before and after. The Larmandier-Bernier, Longitude, a non vintage cuvee sourced from the Larmandier family's holdings in Grand and Premier Cru villages along the Cotes de Blancs, was, as always, a wine of both playful delight and serious depth, the palate long with fresh fruit and chalk. Domaine Robert Chevillon, Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru, Les Perrières, 2005 was dead by majority verdict, simply flat and disappointing according to the rest. Anthill Farms, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, 2017 was a deceptively simply wine made by someone who obviously gets Pinot. It's a fruity, direct wine, with nuances of wild herbs.
The other two wines deserve as much attention as the Bordeaux flight.
The really good wines gain nuances as they age without loss of freshness. Chapoutier is one of the great ones in the Rhone. Even though the house is a Hermitage specialist, the firm makes great wines elsewhere as well. Let's put it this way, I'd rather drink a Chapoutier Côte Rotie then a Hermitage from their Côte Rotie counterpart, Guigal. Anyway, this is is nuanced, complex and elegant, tannic and fresh at the same time, with classic notes of pepper and bacon. Exactly what you want and expect from a mature Côte Rotie.
Ygay, Rioja Grand Reserva, 2004
I have to say I find a sort of stylistic affinity between Ygay and the Figeac (as a side note, both labels remind me of French caberet posters and Toulouse-Lautrec). I'm kind of on a break with Rioja recently. Recently, the good ones have been far between and most of the Riojas I've been drinking have a a hole in mid-palate which is sort of bolstered by grainy tannins. I get this here as well, although Ygay is no ordinary Rioja house and things will improve with age, I hope. But I'm living in 2020, when it pales besides the Figeac. The nose, though, is a knockout by any standard, sexy black fruit and a leafy, savory bite like sautéed wild herbs.