Bruce’s Birthday Bash 2010

Grissini

484 Sylvan Avenue

Englewood Cliffs

New Jersey 07632

201-568-3535

Once again, collector Bruce Fingeret staged what has become one of the most anticipated events on the New York wine calendar. This was the birthday party of all birthday parties equalled only by previous editions. The number of great wines we tasted was simply amazing. Dinner was prepared by Grissini, which has become very well known for their white truffle pizza. I must have eaten several myself! From start to finish, all of Grissini’s appetizers and pizzas were first-rate.

I was greeted with a glass of the 1973 Bollinger. Not a bad way to start. Now fully resolved, the 1973 caressed the palate with layers of fruit and a soft, sensual personality. The 1973 Dom Ruinart, from magnum, showed multiple dimensions of complexity, along with an inviting, creamy finish.

Then it was off to one of the most mind-boggling array of 1996 Champagnes I have ever seen. Imagine being able to liberally sample all of that vintage’s top wines at once. As I have recently tasted and reviewed many of the wines recently in my retrospective of the 1996 Champagnes, I won’t comment on each wine here, except to say that so many bottles seem to be growing with each passing year. The head of the class among the 1996s remains Krug’s Clos du Mesnil. I was equally impressed with all three Dom Pérignons and both Cristals. The three 1996 Blanc de NoirsKrug’s Clos d’Ambonnay, Bollinger’s Vielles Vignes Françaises and Billecart-Salmon’s Le Clos Saint-Hilaire were all extraordinary. Needless to say, it was an incredible privilege to taste the wines side by side. In particular, the Clos d’Ambonnay seems to be headed for the stratosphere, although it is a very unusual Blanc de Noirs in that it actually tastes like what Clos du Mesnil would taste like if it were made from red grapes, which is to say the style is decidedly focused and mineral-driven. If I had one of the three to drink today it would be the Vielles Vignes Françaises, which was simply out of this world.

A bevy of Dom Pérignons followed. The more I taste DP the more I am convinced that the most consistently reliable bottlings are impeccably well-stored original releases, rather than the far pricier Œnothèque series. The 1995 Dom Pérignon was subtle yet expressive, with an attractive smokiness on the finish. The 1982 Dom Pérignon, tasted from magnum, was decidedly richer in its powerful, honeyed fruit. A flight of 1969s was off the charts. The original release was surprisingly ripe and explosive, with phenomenal length and head-spinning balance. The Rosé was quite a bit more subtle and almost wine-like in its dried roses, slightly faded fruit and delicate finish. I loved it. The Œnothèque showed great depth, detail and all-around polish. This is one of the very finest vintages for Dom Pérignon, and all three bottles were on fire. The 1969 theme continued with a magnum of Henriot’s Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, which was in fine shape, if not quite inspiring. The 1969 Krug Collection, from magnum, was all oysters, seashells and minerality. It was a fabulous bottle. Both the 1969 Salon and Bollinger were too far along in their evolution to provide much in the way of pleasure. The 1961 Heidsieck Dry Monopole, from magnum, was deeply impressive for its pristine fruit and long, refined finish. Roederer’s 1990 Cristal showed great balance in the opulent style of the vintage, even if this bottle wasn’t representative of how profound the wine can be. Krug’s 1989 Vintage, tasted from magnum, was explosive, ripe and beautifully layered from start to finish.

Rhȏne lovers were out in full force on this night. Sadly, I only got to taste a handful of the wines being passed around. Still, these were four of the greatest wines I have ever tasted. Where to start? Beaucastel’s Hommage a Jacques Perrin is one of my very favorite wines. The 1989 was absolutely singing, with seemingly endless layers of silky-textured fruit. The 1971 La Mouline was wild, exotic and a bit all over the place, but still a wine that would not be denied, so forceful was its personality. The 1966 La Mouline was absolutely heroic, explosive and utterly head-spinning. It remains a legendary wine of epic proportions. The 1990 La Chapelle held its own in this grouping, and then some. The purity of the fruit and the wine’s finish were mind-bending.

Italian wines didn’t fare too well. A bottle of the 1985 Sassicaia was clearly a fake, and four bottles of Giacomo Conterno’s Monfortino1955, 1958, 1961 and 1982 – were all off their game. Bartolo Mascarello’s 1989 Barolo is classic Barolo and classic Bartolo in all of its glories and also small flaws. Still, 1989 is one of the all-time great vintages in Piedmont, and the wine enjoyed an especially strong showing on this night. Soldera’s 1993 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse was also exceptional. When Soldera’s wines are on they can stand toe to toe with anything.

The 1990 Romanée St. Vivant was the best of these three wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It showed great mid-palate intensity in the juicy, generous style of the year. The 1969 La Tâche was better in the bouquet than it was on the palate, where the overall impression was one of leanness. The 1957 La Tâche was the least interesting wine in this grouping, as the fruit was mostly dried out. Still, the classic, spiced La Tâche bouquet made up for that to some degree. Next to these wines, Leroy’s 1990 Chambertin was a bit of a shock to the palate. The big, burly style showed some slight elements of rusticity within the context of the norm here.

Two Dom Pérignons from the 1950s were the perfect bookend to this great evening. The 1955 was fat, forward and juicy. The 1952 remains one of the very finest wines I have ever had the privilege of tasting. The clarity, definition and minerality were simply breathtaking. With that, my night was done, as baby sitting duty beckoned.

Food:

Assorted appetizers

White truffle pizza

 Wine:

1973   Bollinger        92

1973   Dom Ruinart (magnum)      91

1996   Krug Clos du Mesnil  100

1996   Krug Clos d’Ambonnay        97+

1996   Krug Vintage  98

1996   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon     97

1996   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon Rosé        97

1996   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon Œnothèque        96

1996   Roederer Cristal        96

1996   Roederer Cristal Rosé          97

1996   Bollinger Vielles Vignes Françaises            98

1996   Billecart-Salmon Le Clos Saint-Hilaire        96

1996   Salon   97+

1996   Jacques Selosse Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs          96

1996   Henri Giraud Fût de Chêne  95

1996   Ruinart Dom Ruinart            94

1996   Philipponnat Clos des Goisses         94

1995   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon     94

1982   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon (magnum)          95

1969   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon     97

1969   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon Rosé       96

1969   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon Œnothèque (disgorged 2006) 97

1969   Henriot Cuvée des Enchanteleurs (magnum)       91

1969   Krug Collection (magnum)  96

1969   Salon   ?

1969   Bollinger       ?

1961   Heidseick Dry Monopole (magnum)          91

1990   Roederer Cristal        95

1989   Krug Vintage 96

1989   Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin    97

1971   Guigal Cȏte-Rȏtie La Mouline         96

1966   Guigal Cȏte-Rȏtie La Mouline          98

1990   Paul Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 96

1989   Bartolo Mascarello Barolo   96

1993   Soldera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse       95

1990   Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée St. Vivant          96

1969   Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche   90

1957   Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche  89

1990   Leroy Chambertin     93

1955   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon     95

1952   Moët & Chandon Dom Pérignon     97

[Photo and credit: Grissini, New Jersey]

-Antonio Galloni