Tasting Report: Bonhams Pre-Auction Event, September 25, 2008

Interesting tasting last night for Bonhams and Butterfield’s pre-auction tasting. But more than the wines was the curious issue of attendance: Considerably lower than even six months ago and perhaps an ominous sign of what may happen to the market for high-end wines in hard economic times. Still, there was wine to be tasted (in fact, more for the rest of us), and tasted it was…

The standout: France, especially Burgundy. My favorite wine of the night? A 2001 Hospices de Beaune from Corton, to which I awarded a rare A+ rating. I’ve toured the Hospices in the city of Beaune and was immediately taken back to wandering around in those dark caves, where you pour your own wine at little stations situated throughout the space. (Though it’s better described as community-bottled wine rather than artisanal, it’s still good stuff.) So many fond memories, and this textbook Burgundy didn’t fail to impress. The other Hospices bottles here were almost as good, each showing unique characteristics from the different villages.

Even white Burgundies were impressive, as both a 1989 Corton Charlemagne and 1990 Auxey Duresses tasted remarkably young and alive after nearly 20 years in bottle. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe them.

The Bordeaux table was all around a hit: 1975 Latour was surprisingly perfect. It’s not known as a great year, but this wine tasted fresh and vibrant, ready to drink immediately and wonderfully fruity. Two 1982 Bordeaux from that heralded year showed off classic flavors; compared to the equally-heralded 2000 Bordeaux (of which there were also two), it was amazing to see how, in less than 20 years, French winemaking styles have aligned much more closely with modern (and especially Californian) styles. That said, the older Bordeaux were far more interesting: Austere and delicate, rather than gut-punchingly powerful.

Some weird missteps were on hand, including a 1999 Barolo that smelled strongly of paint and was the talk of the event (and not in a good way). As well, Mondavi’s 1974 Cab was far past its prime. Most notable: A table full of Australian reds were all way too alcoholic and mostly ignored, most of them punching a whopping 16% and tasting almost as rich as the 1963 Port which was also stationed at the table.

Still, lots of memorable wines, many of which I’ll have to strongly consider bidding on on Saturday!

Full ratings follow.

1989 Bonneau du Martray, Corton Charlemagne, A
1990 Domaine d’Auvenay Leroy, Auxey Duresses Blanc, A
2002 Kistler, Chardonnay Dutton Ranch, A-
2002 Marcassin, Chardonnay Three Sisters, B+
1969 Doudet-Naudin, Charmes Chambertin, C
1971 B. Grivelet, Bonnes Mares, B+
1985 Clos Prieur C. Mortet, Gevrey Chambertin, A-
1985 L. Latour, Romanee St. Vivant Les Quatre Journeaux, A-
1991 Comte de Vogue, Musigny Vielles Vignes, B
1999 C. Remoissenet Hospices de Beaune, Beaune Cuvee Clos des Avaux, A
2001 C. Remoissenet Hospices de Beaune, Corton Cuvee Dr. Peste, A+
2002 C. Remoissenet Hospices de Beaune, Clos de la Roche Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron, A
1962 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac , B+
1964 Chateau La Garde, Graves, A-
1975 Chateau Latour, Pauillac, A
1982 Vieux Chateau Certan, Pomerol, A
1982 Chateau Certan de May, Pomerol, A-
1985 Chateau Leoville Las Cases, St. Julien, B+
2000 Chateau Haut Villet, Cuvee Pomone, St Emilion, A-
2000 Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion, Graves, B+
1988 Gaja, Barbaresco, B+
1999 Schiavenza, Barolo Riserva, C+
1966 P. Jaboulet, Chateauneuf du Pape La Grappe des Papes, A-
2004 Archery Summit Pinot Noir Renegade Ridge, A
1974 Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon, C-
1990 Silver Oak, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, A
1994 Dunn, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, B-
1996 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon Tre Colline Vineyard, A
2001 Pride Mountain, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, A-
2001 Greenock Creek, Shiraz Apricot Block, C+
2002 Kalleske, Shiraz Greenock, C+
1988 Mount Mary, Red Quintet, B-
2002 Two Hands, Shiraz Ares, B+
2001 Greenock Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, B+
1963 Graham’s, Vintage Port, A-

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