Part I, Feb. 4, 2009 -- Grand Cru Chablis, Meursault, Corton Charlemagne and various Sauzet and Coche-Dury wines (18 wines)

The format for the annual white burgundy vintage tasting and oxidation check was altered somewhat in 2009. We expanded the dinner to three nights and, for the first time, included some grand cru Chablis. The first night, held on February 4, 2009 at Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles, was devoted to grand cru Chablis, significant premier crus, Corton Charlemagne and a flight devoted to one producer -- in this case Sauzet. The nine attendees for Part I of this year's tasting were: Ron Movich, Michael Zadikian, Howard Horwitz, Brian Devine, Ed Ikuta, Terry Taketa, Josh Dusick, Dale Sharp, and me (Don Cornwell). We also had periodic visits by Jay Perrin (Campanile GM and Wine Director).

Jay and Chef Mark Peel of Campanile did a nice job of matching up the flights of food with the burgundies. One of the courses, the Crab Ravioli with Shrimp Bisque served with the Chablis was simply off the charts. Fabulous. The veal with the fourth course was a fan favorite as well. Jay Perrin and his colleagues superbly orchestrated the food and wine service for the evening. On to the wines.... and

Appetizer Course
Gougéres with jamón serrano, parmesan & arugula

1988 Veuve Cliquot Reserve RD Champagne
Light medium gold color; very fine mousse; aromas of brioche and citrus; full throttle, intense style of champagne that I really like, some citrus flavors, strong minerality and some richness or semi-sweet fruit in the finish that matches up nicely with the bright acidity and minerality. This champagne is a very consistent performer. 93

Flight One- Grand Cru Chablis (served single blind)
Crab Ravioli with Shrimp Bisque

#1-[2001 Raveneau Chablis Valmur]
Light yellow straw color; very obvious SO2 which initially swamped everything else; after considerable air, this exhibited some sweet apple/pear aromatics with a hint of white flowers; on the palate, this showed some modest sweet pear elements and some nice minerality and decent acidity, but the wine struck me as a bit thin/watery as I kept going back to it; good, but slightly disappointing. My least favorite of the flight. (No votes) 88

#2-[2001 Dauvissat Chablis Clos]
Light to medium yellow gold; most developed color of the flight; some SO2 quite apparent here too, but the absolute level was less than #1 and it blew off much quicker; some white flowers and sweet lemon-lime aromas; this wine has fairly intense minerality and an impression of small stones in your mouth; despite the color, this seems quite young on the palate and really needs more time. Seems clearly to be Clos, but Dauvissat or Raveneau? My favorite of this flight, and my fourth overall favorite of the night. Group Rank: Tied 7th (0/0/0/2/0) 94+

#3-[2001 Fevre Chablis Clos]
Very light yellow color with some greenish edge highlights; this had exotic asian pear aromas; the flavors were bright, asian pear flavors (slightly unusually for Chablis) with a hint of citrus, good acidity, but only modest minerality. My first impression was that it wasn’t classic Chablis. But as I went back to the wine over the course of the evening, it began showing some definite minerality in the finish and by the end of the evening the minerality in the finish was fairly intense. Although it didn’t start out that way (hence my split score), I thought this ended up being a fairly classically styled Chablis by the end of the night. I had this third in the flight. (No votes) 91/93

#4-[2001 Dauvissat Chablis Preuses]
Light to medium gold color; along with #2 much more advanced color than the others; fairly rich apple and asian pear aromas; some ripe, almost tropical fruit notes on the palate but still light in texture/weight; some modest minerality here; not really classic Chablis. I ranked this fourth in the flight. (No votes) 91 advanced

#5-[2001 Raveneau Chablis Clos]
Fairly light , brilliant yellow color with some light greenish tones; some sweet, exotic, asian pear and almost tropical fruit aromas; the wine is surprisingly youthful and somewhat tight on the palate, some meyer lemon and moderate minerality; the finish also exhibits the meyer lemon, but not as much of the minerality. This still has some upside. Clos. My second favorite wine of the flight. Group Rank: 6th (0/1/1/0/1) 93+

Flight Two – Meursault (served single blind)
Turbot with oro blanco mignonette

#6-[2001 Jean Boillot Meursault Genevrieres]
Light yellow gold color; ripe peach and citrus aromas; very bright, mineral and citrus flavors and a tight, minerally finish. After about 40 minutes, this developed a faint karmelcorn aroma, which added a note of complexity to the aromas, but red-flagged this for me as a wine to monitor if you own it and hold it much longer. But the nice bright, mineral-laden finish remained throughout the evening. My second favorite wine of the flight. One taster had this tied for 5th. No other votes. [N.B. This is the domain-bottled version of Genevrieres under the Jean Boillot label. There is a separate Henri Boillot version and the Jean Boillot version is the better of the two by all accounts] 93 advanced

#7-[2001 Lafon Meursault Perrieres]
Medium gold and slightly dull; the least brilliant wine of the flight ; this had some ripe fruit aromas, toasty notes, and seemed slightly advanced aromatically; good acidity, moderate richness, and some minerality but the wine is a bit tired, although not overtly oxidized. Drink up. I was really amazed when this was revealed as the Lafon. This was my first occassion tasting this vintage of Lafon. However, my good friend Michael Zadikian felt strongly that this was not a truly representative bottle.I had this fourth in the flight. (0/0/0/1/0) 91? advanced

#8-[2001 Coche-Dury Meursault Caillerets]
Medium gold color; some modest SO2 here; some smoke, faint but distinct sweet oak, and ripe apple aromas –sure smells like Coche; relatively forward, fairly rich apple/pear flavors, which though not terribly complex are soft and ready to drink. The best feature was a nice, long minerally finish. (No votes) 92

#9-[2001 Roulot Meursault Perrieres]
Light yellow straw color; light white flower aromas and a hint of sweet oak; relatively fat, lemon oil, and very mineral-laden; sweet fruit and minerals in a very long finish. My clear favorite of this flight and my fifth wine overall. Group Rank: Tied 7th (0/0/0/1/2) 94

#10-[2001 Boillot Meursault Charmes]
Deep gold color; crème brulee and overtly toasted aromas; advanced, toasty, carmel apple flavors; not totally oxidized but not fun to drink either. We unanimously agreed this was oxidized. (No votes) 82-oxidized

Flight Three-Corton Charlemagne (served single blind)
Wild Mushroom Tart with tomme de savoie

#11-[2001 Faiveley Corton Charlemagne]
Medium full gold color; sweet green apple aromas; on the palate, the wine was a bit fat, had forward ripe peach fruit with semi-tropical, almost botrytis notes; the only apparent acid shows up in the finish with some minerality. Advanced color and a kind of over-the-top style here, so I’m guessing Faiveley. (No votes) 89-advanced

#12-[2001 Latour Corton Charlemagne]
Light yellow straw color; sweet pear and apple aromas; light, pear/apple flavors with very modest minerality in the finish. A pretty wine, but this struck me as a lightweight for Corton and lacking grand cru weight and density. Group Rank: Tied 7th (0/0/1/0/1) 91

#13-[2001 Boillot Corton Charlemagne]
Light yellow color; white flowers and it just oozes minerality in the aromas; pear/white peach flavors with a lot of minerality; distinct layering of fruit and a lattice-work of minerality. Incredibly long, sweet, mineral-laden finish. This just oozes class. Easy to identify as the Boillot. My favorite of the flight and second favorite wine of the night. Group Rank: 2nd (1/4/2/2/0) 95

#14-[2001 Girardin Corton Charlemagne]
Light yellow color; ultra ripe green apple and a strong oak marker on the aromas suggests Girardin. There is better concentration and structure here than the aromas would have lead me to believe. Green apple, moderate acidity, and some minerality; fairly long minerally finish. My second favorite wine of this flight though I don’t like the overt oak. (0/0/0/0/1) 92

Flight Four-Sauzet and Friend (served single blind)
Veal scallopini with polenta, apple, meyer lemon mostarda

#15-[2001 Sauzet Puligny Combettes]
Medium gold color; forward white flowers and D’anjou pear aromas; sweet pear flavors with good acidity and minerality; more youthful than the color suggested; the finish is very long and full of minerals. Quite nice. Seems obviously to be Puligny, and since the other one is clearly Coche, this must be the Combettes. My third of the flight. Group Rank: 5th (0/1/0/3/1.5) 93

#16-[2001 Sauzet Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold color; quite brilliant; a little SO2 which dissipated quickly, then meyer lemon/lemon zest and asian pear aromas; some rich, ripe pear and citrus flavors with a striking level of minerality; complex and layered; extremely long, impressive sweet fruit and mineral finish. Has to be the Monty. My wine of the flight and wine of the night. Group Rank: 1st (7/0/0/0/1) 96

#17-[2001 Sauzet Batard Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; forward, lemon and white flower aromas; silky, lemon custard flavors with hidden power and depth; this is Batard in ballet slippers; powerful mineral-laden finish. Quite an impressive Batard. My second favorite wine of the flight and third favorite of the night. Group Rank: 3rd (1/2/2/0/1) 94

#18-[2001 Coche-Dury Puligny Ensigneres]
Brilliant medium gold color; aromas of smoke, light sweet oak, white flowers and apple pastry—the sexiest aromas of the night and obviously Coche; forward, moderately dense (well beyond its village origins), ripe apple fruit. But I didn’t like this as well as some of the other tasters. I found the finish was somewhat astringent and a bit “hard edged;” this seemed to fade a bit with a lot of time in the glass, and while I liked this wine, except for the charming aromas, it didn’t strike me as being close to one of the top five wines of the night. Group Rank: 4th(0/1/3/0/0) 92

And some bonus red burgs... courtesy of Michael Zadikian and Howard Horwitz

#19-2005 Dujac Clos de la Roche
Howard Horwitz kindly bought this wine from the Campanile list as a finishing wine. Pretty amazing stuff. Very deep violet red color; aromas of cherry, plum and strawberry and a little spice; amazing concentration of those same fruit flavors with a little earth, fabulous acidity and a little minerality; very long elegant finish. This is so good now that way too many of these are going to get consumed too early. 95+

#20-[2003 Vogue Musigny—served blind]
Michael Zadikian generously followed on with this bottle, which was served blind. Very deep violet color; aromas of ripe strawberry, blackfruit and soft earth tones—Chambolle; surprisingly forward, very ripe cherry and strawberry flavors with hints of cocoa/chocolate [sometimes a marker of overripeness, ala 1990]; hedonistic, long elegant finish with a very slight bit of alcohol heat. [N.B. This is an ultra-ripe but elegant style. But I can’t help but think its probably better to drink this on the early side given that ultra-ripeness level. I have too many bad memories of disappointing 1990’s that seemed so promising at the outset.] 93+

Dessert Course
Boca Negra, crème anglaise
2001 De Fargues (from 375 ml)
I decided to bring a 2001 Sauternes to match the vintage theme.Medium gold color; incredibly floral aromas; elegant botrytised peach and tropical fruit flavors; amazingly rich wine for one this young; very long, sweet botrytised/tropical fruit finish. 94

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked whites: 0/18
Oxidized whites: 1/18 (6%)
Advanced whties: 4/18 (22%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 5/18 (28%)

We had a very low oxidation rate but four wines showed combinations of advanced colors, aromatics and flavors. The fact that several of the wines showed detectable SO2 at 7.5 years of age suggests that the wines were more highly sulfured than usual due to the concerns about rot (both grey and noble) from the vintage. The fact that one Boillot (Meur Charmes) showed up oxidized and the other (Genevrieres) exhibited some late karmelcorn aroma elements surprised me, as the Boillots have generally excelled in 2001.

The top Chablis from the vintage seem good to excellent rather than truly classic. The Cortons had a wide degree of variance despite the universal agreement at the time the wines were released that Corton was the most successful commune. The Boillot Corton as usual excelled.

The Sauzets were brilliant, youthful and exciting wines. Much like the 2000 Sauzets, there wasn't a hint of premox and some SO2 was apparent. The Sauzet flight made for an excellent finish and holds out a lot of promise for the grand crus next Wednesday, particularly as 2001 is widely regarded as a grand cru vintage.

The one thing that really stood out for me was that almost every wine exhibited strong minerality. That's consistent with all of my prior tasting experiences with this vintage and obviously something that contributes considerable appeal for most of us.

Part II- Feb 11, 2009: 17 grand crus from Bienvenues-Batard, Batard and Chevalier Montrachet

The second night of the annual vintage tasting and oxidation check was held on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at Campanile and was devoted to the grand crus from Batard Montrachet, Bienvenues Batard Montrachet and Chevalier Montrachet. The eleven attendees for Part II of this year's tasting were: Ron Movich, Michael Zadikian, Joel Deutsch, Peter Funsten, Ed Ikuta, Terry Taketa, Josh Dusick, Jay Boberg, Dale Sharp, and me (Don Cornwell).

Executive Chef Mark Peel of Campanile visited us throughout the evening (and actually served much of the wine along with Sommelier Taylor Parsons), while sous chef Erica Lins performed the magic in the kitchen. Every course of the food was fabulous. Our most memorable meal at Campanile in a long time.

Appetizer Course
Roesti, gravalax, dill creme fraiche

1990 Alain Robert Les Mesnil Tradition Reserve
Very light yellow gold color; aromas of citrus, a little melba toast and minerality that shows up in the aromas; brilliant lemon and mineral flavors with an incredible amount of minerality for Champagne (Les Mesnil); this has both power and yet extreme subtlety in the extremely long, minerally finish. This is my favorite producer of Champagne and infuriatingly difficult to find. 95

Flight One- Bienvenues Batard Montrachet (served single blind)
Ravioli Gigante with mushroom duxelle

#1-[2001 Carillon Bienvenues Batard]
Light yellow straw color; some SO2 here, which took a bit of time to clear; some honeysuckle and white flowers aromas; a sweet, brilliant wine – some white nectarine flavors with very good acidity and lots of appeal and a lot of minerality interleaved with some white nectarine fruit in the finish. Based on identifying characteristics in Nos. 2 and 3, this almost has to be Carillon (and we were all pretty much in agreement here). To me, the best wine of the first flight and my fourth favorite wine of the night overall. Though I seem to have liked this better than some of the guys, I think this suffered in comparison from being the first of 18 wines. Group Rank: 9th (0/0/1/1/0) 95

#2-[2001 Henri Boillot Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold color, clearly darker than #1 or #3; very sweet honeysuckle aromas with a hint of oak toast; fairly sweet fruit, more fat than #1; this is more like Batard on the palate with some Bienvenues aromas; several of us noticed that this wine seemed to tighten up and disappear for a bit, only to open up again – odd; the oak toast marker suggests Boillot to me (and to others). My least favorite of this flight. (No votes). At its best 92

#3-[2001 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet]
Between light and medium gold; the first aroma element was faint spearmint (from Ramonet’s fining agent), so it was immediately obvious this was Ramonet; there were also the traditional honeysuckle aromas, which started out relatively forward but seemed to fade out/lighten over time. On the palate, this was a very rich, concentrated style of Bienvenues that to me did not have a strong Bienvenues signature, which is ordinarily lighter and more ethereal than Batard. This wine, like #2, seemed more like a Batard with in weight and fat with some Bienvenues aromatics. All of that said, it was an excellent wine. Long, fat, minerally finish. My second favorite of the flight. Group Rank:Tied for 10th (0/0/0/1/1) 94

Flight Two – Batard Montrachet (served single blind)
Seared scallops with pancetta and potato puree

#4-[2001 Boillot Batard Montrachet]
Fairly deep, mature gold color – clearly the darkest wine of this flight; aromas of sweet asian pear and a faint sweet oak note; some ripe, fat, apple pastry flavors; some apple pastry and a little hazelnut and modest minerality in the finish. I liked this a lot better after an hour of air than I did initially. My fifth in the flight. [NB This bottle seemed mature and I will drink my remaining bottles sooner rather than later] Group Rank: Tied for 10th (0/0/1/0/0) 93-advanced

#5-[2001 Pernot Batard Montrachet]
Medium gold color; third darkest of the flight. This also had some oak toast, white flowers and pears aromas (Boillot again?); medium weight, pear pastry and citrus; good structure and some minerality in the mid-palate; long elegant pear fruit finish with a little minerality. My fourth in the flight. [NB We were all pleasantly surprised when this was revealed as the Pernot]. Group Rank: Tied for 12th (0/0/0/1/0) 93

#6-[2001 Leflaive Batard Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color, the second lightest of the flight; some obvious SO2 here; after it dissipated some it revealed white flowers and pear aromas; on the palate, this had very subtle pear and citrus flavors with minerals seemingly in layers between the fruit elements; intensely minerally, powerful, very long finish. Seems to be Leflaive. My second and third favorite wines of this flight flip-flopped a bit over time. Ultimately, and by a narrow margin, this was my third wine of the flight. Group Rank: 2d (4/0/2/2/1) 94

#7-[2001 Sauzet Batard Montrachet]
Light to medium gold, third lightest of the flight; sweet white flowers and little pear in the aromas; rich lemon custard flavors and fabulous acidity; despite the dense lemon custard flavors, this wine was tight and bound by its great acidity; a really long very minerally finish with just enough fruit. Over time I found myself liking this wine the second best in the flight. Group Rank: 6th (0/2/0/1/1) 94+

#8-[2001 Ramonet Batard Montrachet]
Light yellow color with greenish edges; the lightest color of the flight. Reasonably prominent SO2 here, and there is also spearmint. There is some lemon-lime lurking underneath. On the palate, this is a really beautiful wine -- pear fruit with obvious power and incredible mid-palate density and a ton of minerals; extremely long pear and minerals finish. Obviously Ramonet and even better than the wonderful 2000. For me, easily the best wine of the flight despite its backward aromas and my third favorite wine of the night. Group Rank: 3rd (1/2/3/0/0) 95

#9-[2001 Fontaine-Gagnard Batard Montrachet]
Mature gold color; very mature, somewhat advanced aromas – ripe pear pastry and a degree of toast; ripe, fat and slightly flabby apple and pear pastry flavors; not much detectable minerality here; some mature honeyed notes in the finish. This was clearly advanced and the conventional wisdom in the table talk that preceded the unveiling was that it must be Pernot. My last wine in this flight and except for the oxidized wine, my least favorite of the night. (No votes) 89-advanced

Flight Three-Chevalier Montrachet—Part I (served single blind)
Poached Seabass with vanilla bean fondue with wild mushrooms, roast potatoes

#10-[2001 Boillot Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; asian pear aromas with a hint of SO2; fairly sweet pear flavors with much less density than the prior flight; some of this obviously reflects the change from Batard to Chevalier, but this seems to be on the lighter density side for Chevalier. Modest citrus and mineral finish. My least favorite Chevalier of this flight. Group Rank: Tied for 12th (0/0/0/0/2) 91

#11-[2001 Colin-Deleger Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color; the aromas were tight—some faint white flowers; fairly light texture/weight again, but this wine had some subtle pear and citrus flavors with sneaky minerality; quite nice in a somewhat lighter style of Chevalier; pretty pear and mineral finish. My second favorite of the four Chevaliers in this flight. Group Rank: 7th (1/0/1/1/0) 92

#12-[2001 Domaine de Chevalier (Bordeaux Blanc)]
Light yellow straw color; slightly off, chemical, petrol smell, similar to the fusel oil smell in some Rieslings and hints of iodine; very odd, somewhat grassy, semi-bitter flavors; very, very off for Chevalier Montrachet. After much consternation at the table trying to figure out what went wrong here, Ron Movich revealed that this was the “mystery Chevalier” -- from Domaine de Chevalier in Bordeaux. Regardless of origin, I did not care for this wine at all. (No votes) 85

# 13-[2001 Georges Deleger Chevalier Montrachet]
Light to medium gold color; some light SO2 here again; later white flowers and distinct white nectarine aromas—must be Georges Deleger; medium density white nectarine and minerals flavors; this clearly lacks the great density of the 1996 and 1999 vintages from this producer; a very long sweet, minerally finish. My favorite of this flight, but this flight clearly didn’t match up to the Batards. Group Rank: 8th (0/0/2/0/0) 93

# 14-[2001 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet La Cabotte]
Light to medium yellow gold color; citrus and pear aromas with a hint of oak toast—Boillot?; medium weight pear and minerals flavors; pretty but not really exciting; fairly long mineral and effect finish. My third favorite of this flight. (0/0/0/0/1) 92

Flight Four-Chevalier Montrachet-Part II (served single blind)
Chicken and Prawn Pot Pie with lobster butter

#15-[2001 Niellon Chevalier Montrachet]
Fairly deep gold color; aromas of cereal grains and sherry –classic premox; Ron Movich said “cornflakes and acetone”; strong cereal and sherry tones on the palate as well. Unanimous agreement that this wine was partially (but pretty strongly) oxidized. Almost impossible to drink. {NB This wine was also very flawed at our five year anniversary tasting, though no one was quiet sure if it was oxidation or heat damage then. This wine was from a different source and acquired on release.] (No votes) DQ-oxidized

#16-[2001 Sauzet Chevalier Montrachet]
Light gold color; some SO2 here, and this is a bit strong/stinky, but it faded in time, ultimately revealing white flowers and pear aromas; on the palate, this was a wonderfully elegant wine—intense minerality and lemon custard flavors and bright acidity. A very long meyer lemon and intense minerals finish. Extremely impressive. My third favorite of this flight and my fifth wine of the night overall. Group Rank: 4th (0/3/1/2/2) 95

#17-[2001 Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet]
Light yellow gold color with greenish edges; some light SO2 here again; white flowers and pears aromas ; wonderful, elegant white peach/pear flavors with brilliant acidity; the finish is amazing – subtle pear/white peach fruit, a lattice-work of minerals and almost indescribable elegance. Wonderful stuff and some upside left. Sure seems like Leflaive. My second favorite of this flight and second favorite wine of the night. Group Rank: 5th (1/2/0/0/3) 95+

#18-[2001 Ramonet Chevalier Montrachet]
Very light yellow-green color; hints of spearmint again along with pear and white flowers—obviously Ramonet; bright, citrusy flavors with real intensity and power, but yet clearly Chevalier; layer upon layer of minerality mixed in with the brilliant acidity and citrus; the mineral-laden finish seems to go on forever. Wow! This wine has clear upside potential and is obviously the best Ramonet Chevy made to date. My rating might even be conservative. My wine of the night. Group Rank: 1st (4/2/0/2/1) 96+

Dessert Course
Vanilla Flan, sugar cookie, berries

2003 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Berenauslese
Dale Sharp brought this as a bonus dessert wine. Very light yellow-green color; incredibly elegant and forward pear and tropical fruit aromas—botrytis, but on the lighter, whiter side of the fruit realm—really fun; the flavors were amazingly concentrated sweet reisling fruit with a lot of minerality, brilliant acidity and a touch of botrytis character; this was extraordinarily impressive wine (as Donnhoff always seems to be) 95

2001 Chateau Suduiraut
Medium to full gold color; very strong botrytised peach aromas; very rich, sweet botrytised peach/tropical fruit flavors and seemed in retrospect much heavier in weight/texture to me than the 2001 De Fargues from night one; suffered in comparison next to the Donnhoff. 92

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked whites: 0/18
Oxidized whites: 1/17 (6%)
Advanced whites: 2/17 (12%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 3/17 (17%)

Once again we had only one wine that was oxidized and we had two wines that were advanced but not demonstrating any of the objective markers of oxidation. There were several wines, as reflected in the notes above, that had SO2 in the aromas at age 7.5. It seems pretty clear that the 2001's got a higher dose of SO2 than did the wines from 1995-2000 and the net result is the lowest premox rate to date.

I don't think that this tasting marks an end to the premox concerns however. Instead, I believe, based on comments made by the producers to Allen Meadows and Steven Tanzer at the time of the vintage, that many producers increased their SO2 usage above the levels that had been used for the 1995-2000 vintages. In both 2000 and 2001 there were concerns about rot and the health of the skins and in retrospect its obvious that the winemakers didn't want to take the risk that they had taken in prior years by lowering their use of SO2. The benefits are now obvious and the low incidence of oxidation combined with the number of wines with apparent SO2 in the aromas is probably the most direct proof I've seen yet to confirm that the principal cause of the premox crisis was lowered usage of S02. But it seems that 2001, and to a lesser extent 2000 (which had 10-15% premox incidence) were aberrations from the recent norm.

2002 was another year of "ultra-clean" fruit and a lot of winemakers are known to have used lower SO2 in that vintage as they did in 1996 and 1999. I'm already finding a surprising number of advanced and in some cases partially oxidized wines among the 2002 premier crus that I've been recently tasting from producers with past incidence of premox. On the other hand, the producers with virtually no incidence in past vintages so far have no issues in 2002 either.

There was a lot of divergence among us in picking our top five wines for the second night. We all agreed that the most uniformly impressive commune of the two nights was Batard Montrachet. We had five of the top six Batard producers and the wines showed extremely well. The minerality that showed up in all of the night one wines was very prominent in the grand crus too, and it made for probably my favorite vintage of Batard since 1996. A lot of the diversity in voting likely reflects people's relative preferences for Chevalier vs. Batard too.

While the average Chevalier Montrachet of 2001 don't have quite the density of the 1996 and 1999 vintages, they are still excellent wines (with virtually no premox) and the Ramonet, Leflaive and Sauzet are thrilling wines. If you own 2001 grand crus, be happy.

Part III--Montrachet and Very Rare Wines from 2001 (8 bottles)
The final night of the annual vintage tasting and oxidation check was held on March 10, 2009. The final night consisted of Montrachet and some selected super-expensive wines. The eight attendees for Part III of this year's tasting were: John Brincko, Brian Devine, Peter Funsten, Wes Jennison, Ron Movich, Brian O’Toole, Michael Zadikian and me (Don Cornwell.

The dinner was held at Melisse Restaurant in Santa Monica, our local Michelin Two Star, and as usual, chef Josiah Citrin excelled. We were going crazy over the appetizers and it only got better. Bravo Josiah.

Appetizers and Champagne
Roasted Bone Marrow on Ciabatta
Serrano Wrapped Confit Cara Cara Orange
Wagyu Tartare Potato Crisp

1989 Alain Robert Le Mesnil Tradition Reserve Champagne Magnum (courtesy of John Brincko)
Medium gold color with very fine mousse; rich orange citrus aromas, light toast and distinctly mineral scents in the aromas; very intense, concentrated, “meaty” style of champagne with rich citrus, biscuit and minerally flavors; very long minerally finish. Probably the best 89 Champagne I’ve had. 93

Flight One- Montrachets (served single blind)
Fricasse of Potato Gnocchi with Broccolini and Eringi Mushrooms, Shaved Twice Cooked Foie Gras, Jus de Roti

#1-[2001 Blain-Gagnard Montrahcet]
Fairly deep gold color with clear brown tones—scary out of the box; some honeyed, fat aromas with a prominent sherry and cereal grains top note—clearly partially oxidized; this was a little better on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe—some honeyed richness and obvious maturity but not offensive; the finish was actually quite long. We all agreed that this wine was clearly partially oxidized. John Brincko, who brought this bottle, said that this was the last of six bottles and that the first five were great. (No votes) Group Rank-8th 87-Partially Oxidized

#2-[2001 Henri Boillot Montrachet]
Very light yellow gold color; some SO2 here along with some oak and citrus; bright citrus fruit which is very minerally and has very good acidity; very youthful; very long minerally finish. This wine has some upside and some distance to go. My favorite wine of this flight and my third overall favorite of the night. (0/1/2/2/1) Group Rank: Tied for 3rd 94+

#3-[2001 Fontaine-Gagnard Montrachet]
Medium gold color; rich green apple and apple pie aromas; rich apple pie flavors too; long very sweet expansive finish. Very much a Batard style wine. Not my favorite style, but very impressive for what it was. (0/1/2/2/0) My fourth wine overall. Group Rank: 6th (one point behind being tied for 3rd) 94

Flight Two – Corton and Meursault Perrieres (served single blind)
Maine Diver Scallops with Srugula, Endives, Fumet d' Oursin

#4-[2001 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne]
Light to medium gold color; soft oak and a little SO2 over some minerals, thyme and a distinct creosote note (thankfully light); some fat here, reminiscent of Batard, but we know there are none included; baked apple with obvious richness; the best feature was a very long elegant and minerally finish. [N.B. Only Michael Zadikian identified this as Coche Corton, none of the rest of us thought it was Coche. Lacks the usual Coche indicia] I ranked this third in the flight, and fifth overall, though it was a fine wine. (0/0/4/0/3) Group Rank: Tied for 3rd 94

#5-[2001 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres]
Light to medium gold color; strong toasted oak note with distinct lemon oil aromas and some hints of creosote here too; much better on the palate than the aromas suggested – brilliant lemon custard and crushed seashells minerality; great acidity and structure; exceptionally long minerally finish. Overall, this was a bit of an odd duck, but an extremely good wine. My favorite wine of the flight and wine of the night. Group Rank: 1st (5/1/0/1/0) 95

#6-[2001 Leroy Corton Charlemagne]
Light to medium gold color; sweet oak and tropical fruit aromas; rich honeyed white nectarine/pear flavors; minerally peacock’s tail. Most of us, me included, thought this was the Coche Corton. My second favorite of the flight and second favorite of the night by a narrow margin. (2/4/0/1/1) Group Rank: 2d 95

Flight Three-Montrachet (served single blind)
Skate Wing with Lobster Crushed Potatoes, Sweet Spring Peas, Black Trumpett Mushrooms, Brown Butter Jus

#7-[2001 Lafon Montrachet]
Full developed gold color with fairly notable browning; very toasty, advanced, off yeasty notes and some sherry tones; better flavors than the aromas suggested, crème caramel flavors and some minerality and leesy character. To me, there was no question that this bottle was partially oxidized. Michael Zadikian thought this was suffering a spoilage yeast rather than premox; everyone acknowledged there was a definite problem here, but we were somewhat divided about whether it was premox, spoilage yeast or both. [N.B. This bottle was an immense disappointment compared to the bottle I had at a Lafon Montrachet vertical two years ago at which time the 2001 was my favorite wine and I rated it 96]. (0/0/0/0/1) Group Rank: 7th 89? [Partially oxidized in my view]

#8-[2001 Ramonet Montrachet –White Euro label]
Medium yellow gold color; fairly rich apple and toasty aromas; seems advanced.; very pleasant on the palate, rich, fat applely flavors with some minerality; very pleasant but disappointing knowing it likely had to be the Ramonet. A couple of people liked this a lot better than I did . [N.B. This was obviously a flawed or advanced bottle. I’ve had the wine twice previously and it was clearly the wine of the vintage each time.] (1/1/0/2/2) Group Rank: Tied for 3rd 93 advanced

Dessert Course
Poached and Glazed Pear
Caramel Mousse, Crisp Lemon Wafer

2001 D’Yquem (courtesy of Ron Movich)
Very light yellow gold color; incredibly concentrated botrytised fruit and fresh pencil shavings aromas; very rich and incredibly viscous botrytised tropical fruit flavors; very long, beguiling finish. Best Yquem in recent memory. 95

Postscript statistics and comments [white burgundies only]:

Corked: 0/8
Oxidized: 2/8 (25%)
Advanced: 1/8 (12%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 3/8 (37%)

Cumulative statistics for the three nights:

Corked: 0/43 (0%)
Oxidized: 4/43 (9%)
Advanced: 7/43 (16%)
Total Oxidized + Advanced: 11/43 (26%)

This time we had two bottles of partially oxidized wines out of eight bottles – a considerably higher rate than the first two evenings, but an overall oxidation rate for the three nights of 9% is by far the best results over the span from 1996 through 2001. In addition, I thought that the Ramonet Montrachet, which has always been my wine of the vintage of 2001, was clearly advanced. So after two nights of exceptional performance from a premox perspective, night three was relatively disappointing for me.

All of us who had been at both the night two and night three events thought that the Montrachets as a group were far less impressive than the Batards and the Chevaliers. Ironically, the 2001 Sauzet Montrachet that we had on night one would almost certainly have been the wine of the night had it been served with the above wines in night three.

After tasting 43 of the top wines from the vintage, my take is that 2001 has turned out to be an excellent vintage. While I like the top wines from the 1996 and 1999 vintages better (if not suffering from premox), the top 2001’s come pretty close in quality to the 1999’s. Two notable exceptions to this are Ramonet and Sauzet. For Ramonet, 2001 is clearly their best vintage since the mid-80’s. With Sauzet the same may be true although the 2000’s were pretty spectacular in their own right. But the big problem in comparing the 1999’s with 2001’s is the huge difference in premox rates. You’re facing at least 25% chance of oxidation among the top 1999’s vs. 7 to 9% for the 2001’s. As always, there are a handful of wines like Leflaive, Coche and Leroy for whom premox is not a relevant concern.