It’s remarkably been over 40 years of my being involved with wines. My, my, how time has just sped by, AND so quickly. I recently received an email invitation from one of my longest time wine friends, John Brincko, to have lunch, catch up, taste some wines & talk story. I was elated.
I first met John, while I was the Wine Cellarmaster at the Kahala Hilton in the late 1970’s, perhaps the early 1980’s. (sorry, my memory can not pinpoint a more precise, accurate time). He would come to stay at the hotel once a year, & over the years, I relished hearing his stories of & his vast insight into the wine world. He definitely played on a different level, being then one of the most prominent wine collectors in the country, & way before it was fashionable. John was therefore on a first name basis with France’s elite wine echelon, including Aubert de Villaine, Jean Francois Coche, Madam Leroy-Bize & Remy Krug, just to name a few.
For me, he also was one of those important teachers I was fortunate to run across.
I distinctly remember one instance in particular. I was thrilled to acquire another “artisan” white Burgundy–the 1976 Robert Ampeau Meursault Charmes for the hotel’s winelist. (Up till this point, the majority of white Burgundy offerings in Hawaii were from larger houses such as Bouchard, Drouhin, Louis Latour & Louis Jadot.) I was therefore thrilled & quite proud to recommend this Ampeau Meursault to John when he next came to dine.
5 minutes after I had served the wine to him, John asked to see me again, at which time, he let me know that this wine was “heat stressed”. I immediately thought, ‘but we take pride in having a temperature controlled cellar & floor units, how can this be?”
He then asked “how about the shipping from France to Hawaii“?
In addition, over the years, John was kind enough to share many fine bottles of esteemed wines, many of which I could not fathom of acquiring, much less tasting, to further my wine knowledge. Yes, John Brincko definitely got me out of my comfort box & to imagine the possibilities.
So, on this wonderfully sunny, breezy Sunday, we met for lunch with local wine collector, Gene Wong. We spoke of many things–some from the past, some about the wine scene today & some just about the pure enjoyment of some favorite wines. What a great afternoon! Thank you to you both.
1996 Philipponat “Clos des Goisses”–a truly iconic bottling–65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay from the Premier Cru village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ & its oldest vines & steepest parcels. I was immediately quite taken how complex & grand the nose was right out of the gates. It, in fact, smelled of aged CRU white Burgundy–mesmerizing, powerful, very sophisticated & full of grandeur. The palate was much tighter, firm, surprisingly fresh, youthful & uplifting with a fine bead & a very long, long finish. This certainly was a standout! I haven’t had a Champagne this good in a very long time! WOW!
2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru “Clavoillons”–I must say upfront, I don’t sample this domaine’s wines as often as I did before. When asked, though, I told the pair, I have found this domaine’s whites rather up & down in quality for some time, which is why I don’t buy them too often anymore, especially given their prices. AND, I have found them to be often over oaked (to the point where the oak overshadows the minerality & pedigree). I bought this wine, without tasting it, based upon a recommendation & because it was 2008. I have generally liked the transparency many of the 2008’s I have tasted. The nose & color was far more advanced than I would have imagined. And, while, it did open up after an hour or so, I found it to be too oaky for my tastes, as I felt it curtained the wine’s underlying minerality & pedigree. Furthermore, I found the palate less interesting & rather dull than the nose. Still, I was thankful to have tried it.
2010 Jean Marie Pillot Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru (MAGNUM)–I haven’t had the Pillot wines in quite a while & was really looking forward to trying the 2010, especially out of magnum. The first thing I immediately noticed was how fresh & alive this wine seemed right out of the gates. In addition, it was resoundingly Grand Cru–full of complexity, intricacy & pedigree. I also loved how elegant, well balanced & transparent this wine is. And, it seemed, every time I dived back in, over the 3 1/2 hours, the more it had to say. I tried the wine again later in the night & it had really opened up in all its glory. Thank you John for sharing.
1999 Domaine Maume Mazis Chambertin Grand Cru–I have always had a soft spot for Maume red Burgundies. It’s not that they are the grandest of Burgundy, but I liked how personal, masculine, idiosyncratic they can be. The 1999, for me, was gorgeous. I loved its earthy, forest floor, musk/pheromone scented nose & its wonderful Grand Cru character. On the palate, it had ripe, gorgeous fruit, wonderful structure & balance in a rustic, masculine old style. I would say, it’s definitely not for everyone, but I loved it. It really offers a very different, personal perspective on what Grand Cru Burgundy can be.
1991 Comte de Georges Vogüé Musigny–with first whiff, one could immediately tell this was Grand Cru Burgundy in all its glory. Oh my goodness! (It initially had some ‘funk” to the nose, but that blew off soon there after.) It didn’t mask the incredible, underlying, supreme nobility & pedigree this wine profoundly showcased. This is a standout aristocrat. Although I have been fortunate to taste various vintages of Vogüé Musigny over the years, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed more often than not, especially considering the upper tier price point. I can easily say, though, this 1991 was the finest bottle I have had from this venerable, iconic estate. It was having Grand Cru red Burgundy in all its glory & a truly unforgettable experience. Thank you John for sharing!