January 19th, La Mission Haut Brion Vertical

Last Tuesday I attended a tasting that featured a vertical of La Mission Haut Brion. There was also another vertical of Gruaud Larose that I will cover in this post. In addition, there were five great Cabs and a dessert wine. First, we opened all the bottles of La Mission. We then opened the Cabs and proceeded to finish with the last vertical of Gruaud Larose. Of the six vintages of Gruaud Larose, we only managed to open the '83, '85 and '86. Leaving the '88, '89 and '90 for another day. As usual, there were simply more wines than we could ever hope to drink at a single tasting! My "Bud" Howard Stone coordinated this tasting, with eight experienced tasters. Howard has always had a "rep" for putting great tastings together and this was no exception! There were five vintages of La Mission including the '82, '85, '88, '89 and '90. We started with the '82 and concluded with the '90 La Mission. To my notes:

'82 LA MISSION HAUT BRION- low neck fill showing an overall medium ruby color. There was some controversy about the '82 from the get-go! The nose was not as exotic or perfumed as previous examples. Specifically, the anticipated and expected Graves-like components of smoke and dark fruit were absent in this wine. Rather, the aromatic impression was one dimensional suggesting soft currant fruit and background spice. In the mouth, the wine showed soft, round currant flavors and a medium to light texture. Add to that some slight acidity that was detectable in the mid palate and finish. There was also some debate about the wine being less than a perfect example or possibly in decline. It was certainly not indicative of previous examples!

'85 LA MISSION HAUT BRION- low neck fill showing a medium fullish color. The bouquet offered up light and delicate aromas of red and black fruit with background spice and medium toast. Add to that a earthy and game like quality. In the mouth, the wine showed a light to medium texture with ripe currant fruit, moderate toast and a short finish. Drink up!

'88 LA MISSION HAUT BRION- medium neck fill showing a dark ruby color. The bouquet on the '88 La Mission was excellent! Aromas of dark fruit, cocoa, licorice and spice were readily perceptible. On the palate, the wine was rather austere and showed a good bit of leanness with foreground tannins dominating the attack. There does however seem to be sufficient background fruit for the long haul? Hold for three years.

'89 LA MISSION HAUT BRION- low/medium neck fill showing deeply pigmented black and purple shades of color. An overwhelming, profound, full-blown bouquet of deeply scented aromas of cured tobacco, minerals, cocoa/toffee, licorice and super ripe, sweet black fruits were just sensational! In the mouth, the wine is full-bodied showing a stunning depth of fruit and layered complexity that was just extraordinary! Huge fruit, tobacco and a good dose of non-obtrusive tannins for the long haul. The wine can be consumed today with extended breathing. It should also drink and improve over the next thirty years!

'90 LA MISSION HAUT BRION- low/ medium neck fill showing a deep, dark ruby color. The '90 may have possessed the best nose in this vertical! While the nose of the '89 was deeply scented, the bouquet on the '90 La Mission was open and singing! The aromatic impression was just wonderful! Tar, minerals, cassis, black fruits and smoke roar from the glass! In the mouth, the wine is delicious! The palate impression mirrored the nose with exceptionally rich, super-ripe black fruits, tar, soft dry tannins, oak and a roasted/ smoky texture that was just outstanding! Drink it over the next fifteen years!

'83 GRUAUD LAROSE- low neck fill showing a medium ruby color with amber rim. A restrained nose of black fruit fragrances, tar, earth and spice was just first rate. In the mouth, the wine showed a good inner core of fruit with a medium texture and finish. Not as concentrated or consistent as previous bottles, but, good nonetheless. I should also add that this bottle was also much more evolved than previous examples.

'85 GRUAUD LAROSE- low neck fill showing a medium ruby color with an orange rim. The wine was slightly corked with a hint of bret on the nose and faint musty aromas masking a light to medium texture.

'86 GRUAUD LAROSE-medium fullish neck fill showing a deep, dark ruby color. The bouquet offers up fragrances of pepper and spice. Add to that, deep, dense, dark fruit fragrance, tar, and a slight gamey element that was just first rate! On the palate, the wine is super concentrated with plenty of grip and a mountain of tannins masking the huge reserves of highly extracted background fruit. It can be drunk today, but begs to be laid down.



Five Great Cabs

We opened these five last Tuesday night in the middle of two Bordeaux verticals (go figure). They were the '84 and '86 Groth Reserve Cabs, '87 Berringer Private Reserve, '94 Shafer Hillside Select and the '95 Opus 1. Talk about an evening of excess :) To my notes: 

'84 GROTH RESERVE- low neck fill showing a medium ruby color with a brick rim. The aromatic impression was simply stunning! A huge bouquet of licorice, sweet oak and cassis laden fruit roar from the glass! In the mouth, the wine is fully mature showing a satiny texture and mouth feel. It is so very lush with a certain fat sweetness to it's taste. Drink it over the next five years. 

'86 GROTH RESERVE- medium neck fill with a slightly darker color than the '84. In addition to possessing all the great elements of the '84, the '86 Groth Reserve shows two or three more! Specifically, the wine simply displays a better depth of fruit and a bigger more complete palate impression. Add to that an earthy, aromatic component that was not evident in the '84. Drink it over the next ten years! 

'87 BERRINGER RESERVE- another stunning wine not dissimilar in profile to a great Bordeaux! Medium neck fill showing a very dark ruby color. From the get go, I just loved the completeness of the wine! First of all, what's so special about the '87 Private Reserve is harmony and balance of flavors in the blend. It shows a medium to full-bodied texture with good grip and a good lashing of non-obtrusive tannins. It also finishes very well and should drink and improve over the ten to fifteen years. 

'94 SHAFER HILLSIDE SELECT- high neck fill showing a saturated opaque purple color. The deeply scented bouquet pales in comparison to the riveting palate impression. There is a initial rush of lush, silky fruit that is nearly intoxicating! So deceivingly forward right now with no perceptible foreground or background tannins. The wine is seamless with a purity of fruit and flavor that simply must be experienced to be believed! It also finishes very well and should drink and improve over the next 20 years! 

'95 OPUS 1- high neck fill showing a deep, dark ruby color. The Omni present nose of new oak was off putting for some. In the mouth, the flavors were somewhat masked by the dominant oak and medium coarse tannins. Give it five years.