Charity Dinner for the Hemophilia Association of New York

A marvelous BYOB event put on by Zachys Wine Auctions to benefit the Hemophilia Association of New York, everyone was encouraged to bring their finest wines, which they generously served to as many people as possible. As usual, the food was remarkable and the service impeccable (not an easy task when 160 people are being served at the same time). My favorite dish on this occasion was Daniel Boulud's Pancetta wrapped Yellowfin Tuna.

As for the wines, the problem of TCA or badly corked bottles reared its ugly head too frequently. Even the 1961 Paul Jaboulet-Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle was affected, although one could still taste its sweetness of fruit as well as its enormous volume. Other corked bottles included the 1982 Lafleur and a magnum of 1982 Gruaud Larose (the finest Gruaud Larose ever produced). It was also a night where a number of famous Burgundies fell on their faces. Those wines included the DRC's 1952 Romanée-Conti and their legendary 1945 Romanée-Conti, both of which revealed high acidity and little flavor depth or texture. I'm sure some Burgundian apologists would call them "transparent" and "reflective of terroir," but quality is quality, and neither of these bottles were interesting to drink. At the opposite extreme were two essentially perfect wines. A magnum of 1950 L'Evangile boasted a dense ruby/purple color along with a glorious perfume of black plum and blackberry liqueur intermixed with licorice, smoke, and truffles. It exhibited a huge but elegant personality as well as wonderful sweetness and precision. The same can be said for the pristine magnum of 1947 Vieux Château Certan. A gloriously sweet nose of cedar, spice box, black cherries, and currants is followed by a wine with huge body, but wonderful precision and freshness. It is an unbelievable treat to taste ancient wines in such extraordinary condition.

Another offering that blew my mind was the still youthful 1990 Soldera Brunello di Montalcino. Along with several mature vintages of Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco and Barolo, it may be the greatest Italian wine I have ever tasted. The finest red Burgundy of the evening was a beautiful magnum of 1989 DRC La Tâche, which offered notes of flowers, sweet black currants, cherries, and plums. Another superb Bordeaux was the magnum of 1953 Château Margaux. This fully mature effort was graciously offered to my table by the publisher/owner of The Wine Spectator, Marvin Shanken. In beautiful condition, this bottle offered the extraordinary ethereal perfume of an exceptional Margaux. The finest bottle I have ever tasted of the 1985 Château Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape was oozing with concentration. A guest offered me some 1990 Rayas, but since I drink that wine frequently, I was unwilling to dump any of the other wines at my table.

Other cuvées that performed well included the 1978 Paul Jaboulet-Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle, which, while not as perfect as some bottles, was a beautiful wine, the 1990 Domaine Ponsot Chambertin, the fully mature, beautiful 1972 Comte de Vogüé Musigny Vieilles-Vignes, and the best bottle I have ever had of the 1959 Ausone. Sadly, while the 1921 Cheval Blanc smelled terrific, it fell apart in the mouth. This can be a superb wine, but bottles can vary. I was a little disappointed with the 1985 Ramonet Montrachet. Although it was unquestionably outstanding, it can be pure perfection. (Four days after this tasting I had a nearly perfect magnum of it.) The same could be said for the slightly maderized bottle of 1982 Lafleur and the badly maderized bottle of 1961 Ducru Beaucaillou. The 1997 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles would have been a superb wine if it had not had so much added acidity. At the same time, the hollow 1988 DRC La Tâche from magnum was undrinkable, unless you are a masochist. In keeping with many wines of that vintage, it was so high in acid it nearly melted the enamel off my teeth.

As stated above, the purpose of this extraordinary evening was to benefit the Hemophilia Association of New York, and the event raised over a half million dollars.

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