I was jet fresh for the 12th BASBN (Bring a Special Bottle Night) on March 8th, having literally just landed in Hong Kong a few hours before the corks were pulled.
We were very fortunate to have Christian Pillsbury in town as well, proprietor of Eden Rift in the Central Coast of California who took this great moment to showcase his newly released 2017s. As I am his UK and HK agent I haven’t given them scores but for the record we tasted his Estate Chardonnay and Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Pinot and Terraces Pinot. The whites were lean, with great tension and minerality and the Pinots succulent and juicy. A really very fine set of wines that got us in the mood for what was to come.
We only had one Champagne this year, but it was a goodie. A magnificent magnum of Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 1992. This had great energy, good minerality, lots of tension, freshness and lift. An excellent start. 18/20. If tasted blind we would have been a few years out!
Then we moved to the whites, first up a couple of wines from the Haut Brion stable. Both controversial as the Laville Haut Brion 1998, one bottle had sadly pre-moxed but the other was lovely, if a bit oily and dry on the finish. It was delicate but possessed beautiful acidity, minerality and a persistent finish. 17/20. This was followed by an Ch Haut Brion 2004. All three bottles were slightly different (much to delight of the person who brought it), the first was slightly oxidised, the second a bit flat with a hint a premox, but third bottle was the best of the three. It was rich, hedonistic, with lovely citrus notes and multi layered complexity. 17.5/20. Given I had sold this case to the generous donor I was delighted to hear they were his last three bottles.
We then moved to Burgundy and an absolutely gorgeous Corton Charlemagne Henri Boillot 2002. Still very young, with beautiful balance and a taught, mineral edge, followed by a limey lemony, white stone finish. Great wine. 18.5/20. One of the two bottles of Batard Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 2006 was oxidised but the good one was rich and ripe, with a lovely tropical, floral nose and a long lingering finish. 17.5/20. Unfortunately the next wine, a magnum of Batard Montrachet Domaine Leflaive 2007, was also oxidised a (bit of a theme this evening on the whites). Next we had a super young, very precise Chevalier Montrachet Vincent Girardin 2014 which was tight, with plenty of zip, and a long (but slightly metallic) finish. Just needs a bit more time. 16/20. Then we had the outlier, Que Bonito Cacareaba Rioja Blanco 2006. This is a barrel aged blend of Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia and Viura. It was almost Burgundian in style, with lovely ripeness and richness and impressive density. A first for me. 16/20. The WHITE WINE OF NIGHT vote went correctly to the Corton Charlemagne Henri Boillot 2002.
We then moved onto reds. As in previous years we kicked off with the older bottles. 1975 Nederberg Cabernet Sauvignon. Given this would not have been a very expensive bottle, made for fairly immediate consumption, it was holding up pretty well at 44 years of age! Tobacco leaf, slightly minty, with a bit of blue gum herbaceousness but a solid, savoury effort. 16/20. The Joseph Phelps Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1975 was totally oxidised but that was followed by a lovely Ch Cheval Blanc 1970. With lovely sweetness and cedary ripeness it was drinking beautifully, but has probably begun its downward path. 17/20. The oldest red wine of the evening was a magnum of Ch La Tour de Mons, Margaux 1945. This is just a humble Cru Bourgeois and it was showing its age, but it had lovely sweetness on the nose and the palate, with Autumnal notes and some bitterness, and a dry finish. But for what it is it impressed at almost 75 years old. Really interesting bottle. 17/20. The last wine of this flight was Ch La Mission Haut Brion 1975. This bottle was rich and long, yet fully mature. Lots of tobacco, smoke and spice here, it has got some muscle too, with a long harmonious finish. Lovely. 18/20.
The next flight was almost entirely First Growths. Ch Mouton Rothschild 1978 in magnum is a wine I know pretty well, and this is magnum was definitely fresher than previous 75cl showings, but it is a wine that is beginning to show its age. Tobacco, cedar, a bit green (my note had ‘cardboard’ in it) and a tad too elegant for me from such a great estate. 16/20. Nevertheless Ch Lafite Rothschild 1978, also from magnum, was a purer, richer, sexier, altogether a much improved version of the Mouton. Nicely ripe tannins too. 17.5/20. We were now motoring through the mags and next up a gorgeous Ch Margaux 1981. This was both sweeter and felt riper than the 1978 Pauillacs and it was terrific. It was the top scoring wine from this flight. 18/20. We then had the only non-First Growth for this flight, enter Ch Leoville Las Cases 1982 from magnum. This was, as it always it, quite tough and still backward. But although still quite closed it has impressive density, concentration and a multi-layered complexity, with long, fine polished tannins. There is bottle variation with this wine, but on this showing its got plenty of life ahead. 18/20. We finished the flight off with a couple of 75cl bottles of Mouton. The fabulous Ch Mouton Rothschild 1982 is a magnificent wine, and I am lucky to have had it twice in the last 6 months. For me the winner of this flight. 19/20. Ch Mouton Rothschild 1988 was a lovely surprise, as I don’t always love this vintage, but this was very impressive, with good sweetness, complexity and elegance. 17/20.
First wine of the next flight was none other than Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Cros Parantoux Domaine Henri Jayer 1995. Boom! This was everything that you wanted it to be; sweet and sexy, with balletic purity and a hint of spice. Lots of ripe red fruits, good structure and a very long finish. 19/20. Interestingly the only red Burgundy of the night. We then had another first for me, Cayuse Vineyards, God Only Knows, Walla Walla Valley, Grenache 2010. The wine comes from Washington State and is made by Christopher Baron. I was really impressed by this wine, a sensible late insert, to provide a bridge between the Jayer and our return to Bordeaux. Lots of wild cherries and raspberries, a healthy dollop of oak but quite Old World in style. I think we all really liked it. 17/20. Back in Bordeaux we next had the Ch Montrose 1989. At 30 years of age this wine really delivers. Still quite robust with plenty of life ahead this was a very impressive Montrose. Terrific wine. 19/20. Ch Margaux 2004 was a bit leafy by comparison, and certainly needs more time. 17/20. Last red wine of the night was my wine, Ch Leoville Las Cases 1996. I must confess I have brought this wine before and it certainly didn’t let me down. First Growth quality in this vintage. Powerful, but not overwhelmingly so, this is a very classy wine which will get better and better and drink for another 20+ years. Consistent notes! 19/20. The RED WINE OF THE NIGHT vote went overwhelmingly and rightly to the Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Cros Parantoux Domaine Henri Jayer 1995.
We then finished off with the sweet and fortified wines. We started with an utterly brilliant Massandra Collection Rose Muscat Gurzuf 1937. Completely amazing and just mind-blowingly youthful. Honey, butterscotch, apricots, the works. Amazing bottle. 19.5/20. Then a couple of Ports, Taylor 1970 is absolutely singing right now. 17.5/20. Warre 1977 is now heading into old age and is actually quite light in colour and flavour. Very pretty though. 17/20. The Oliveira Madeira 1977 was all baked spices and nutty and oxidative on the palate. 16.5/20. The Companhia Vinicola de Norte de Portugal Garrafeira Porto 1834 was impressive for its age but had got pretty spirity. 16.5/20. The last wine of the night a Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese Dr Loosen 2007 had good acidity which balanced out the sweetness nicely. 17/20.
One final vote for the wine of the night, and the winner was Massandra Collection Rose Muscat Gurzuf 1937. It was a quite sensational and deserving winner. Tough on the Jayer though.