Sunday, March 11, 2018


Gala Family Celebration dinner brings out classic birth year vintage wines

This week grandson Miles Thomas Fort came into the world. To celebrate, we hosted a gala family dinner (see below) and I pulled from the cellar several classic wines from daughter Erin's and son-in-law Johnny's birth years. Linda fixed sirloin steak, escalloped potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, dinner salad and an assortment of appetizers and desserts. The dinner brought together four generations of the McNees family.

Two of the wines we opened from Erin's birth year were featured at her and Johnny's wedding when we served them from large format Jeroboams or Imperials. Tonight we opened standard format 750ml bottles of each -  Château Grand Vin Latour and Château Leoville Las Cases from 1981.

To honor Johnny's birth year we opened a Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1980. With our daughter Erin taking on the Fort name, it was especially fitting that we selected for her 'signature wine', wines from Chateau Latour since the Chateau Grand Vin de Latour label features the Latour castle fortress, and their second wine is called 'Les Fort' Latour.

Interestingly, these two wines served today, Latour and Leoville Las Cases, while from different appellations, actually are neighbors, sited near each other there on the Left Bank in the Medoc. Family Fort shown above left.

Collecting birth year wines of our kids, kids-in-laws, and friends' kids is part of the great joy and fun of having a wine cellar. I talk and have written often about building out a collection to include 'every day' wines, 'once a week' and 'once a month' wines, and 'special occasion', 'once a year' or even 'once in a lifetime wines'. Tonight these were special occasion, few times in a lifetime wines. Of course, this can be taken to the next level by collecting such special wines in large format bottles. Indeed, it was my collection of large format birth year bottles that was the basis for my cellar being featured in the Collecting section of Wine Spectator Magazine back in June of 2001!

It helps, of course if your kids are born in 'collectable' worthy vintages. All not vintages are created equal and some are more age-worthy or collectable than others. Look far and wide enough and most any vintage ought to have suitable wines that year somewhere in the world!

The 1981 vintage of Bordeaux was rather modest, not considered a long lived age-worthy one. I thought we were pushing the edge of the envelope for the year holding them and serving them in our daughter's wedding year at 25 years. We're really pushing them here at 37 years. As to be expected, the super premium first growth Chateau Latour is proving to be more ageworthy than the Super Second growth premium Leoville Las Cases. Never-the-less, they were both worthy bottles for such a celebration dinner. As was the 38 year old 1980 vintage Dom Perignon!

Note also the price stickers still on both aged bottles reflecting their purchase prices back in the mid-eighties, a fraction of their eventual value. 

Château Grand Vin Latour Pauillac Bordeaux 1981

Rare among my cellar collection, this bottle had a Top Shoulder fill. Only a handful of bottles from my cellar over the years were so. The cork was totally saturated and spongy but will still intact. I wrestled with the cork using an 'ahso' two pronge cork puller and it eventually relented, albeit it pulled apart at the bottom quarter. I'm certain a traditional corkscrew would've pushed it into the bottle, or caused it to pretty much disintegrate. Opened and decanted for two hours prior to tasting.

The color was garnet colored with slight brownish and rust colored bricking. Medium bodied, still showing berry fruit, slightly astringent with modest aromatics and flavors of bell pepper and notes of cedar and leather on the moderate finish. Still nicely polished and holding together impressively given the lackluster '81 vintage, but time to drink as its clearly in the last chapter of its drinking window.

RM 89 points.

Château Léoville Las Cases St Julien Bordeaux 1981

Like the Chateau Latour above, this cork was also saturated and spongy. It was almost identical in condition and offered essentially the same removal experience. The fill level for this bottle was surprisingly good at mid-neck level.

Almost consistent with my last tasting post fourteen months ago, tonight this bottle showed a bit more astringency than when I wrote, "While the fruits may have started to subside somewhat, starting to give way to non-fruit tones, very aromatic and flavorful, classic elegant Bordeaux notes, dark ruby brick colored, medium full bodied, black berry fruits accented by truffle, spicy cedar, tobacco, cigar box, silky smooth, concentrated and superbly balanced, with long lingering nicely integrated tannins on the spicy aromatic finish."

I gave it 89 points last year, tonight I would give it an 87 due to further deterioration or perhaps bottle variation after 37 years.

Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1980

A visit to the temple of Champagne, Moët & Chandon was one of the highlights of our Champagne Wine Experience back in 2006It is a benchmark for classic super premium ageworthy sparkling wines in the world.

It was time to drink this aged bottle. It was probably ideal up until perhaps five years ago as this was past its prime but was still an experience and a joy. Consistent with some others' experience postings, perhaps in between those that were still holding on with effervescence and bubbles, and those that were clearly over the hill. This had little pop and fizz on opening, but was still a positive experience showing its age but revealing some modest fruits and nice balance of its heritage.  Interestingly complex, tea or toffee colored, this showed a bit of leather, nut, and slightly astringent citrus, apple and dark cherry fruits.

RM 87 points

Clan McNees and Fort