We tasted the 2006 White Burgundies at Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica on Thursday, March 6, 2014.. This was our ninth consecutive year of doing these tastings. The 2006 white burgundies have been controversial since they were harvested – so controversial that the people who regularly attend these dinners have debated for over a year whether we should taste the 2006s at all. The consensus was that the vintage should be tasted, but not in our usual three night format which typically means 60 to 65 wines from the vintage. We settled on doing a single dinner and we tasted 28 wines listed below. To put it mildly, the wines far exceeded our collective expectations.

The dinner was held at Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica on Thursday March 6, 2014. Valentino, owned by Pierro Selvaggio, has been a fixture of the Los Angeles fine dining scene for decades. It is well known for its 100,009 bottle wine cellar which is a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner continuously since 1981 The restaurant has had quite a resurgence in popularity after Nico Chessa became the chef in 2010. The dinner arrangements were well planned by Giuseppe Mollica and the wine service (all 420 stems) was all personally handled by wine director Julian Zaragoza

Fourteen of us gathered at Valentino to taste the 2006s. This year a new record for the distance traveled to attend the dinner was established. David Wainwright, who runs Zachys’ Hong Kong operations, flew in from Hong Kong, breaking the old record held by Herwig Janssen of Belgium. Chet Kern tied the domestic travel record with a trip from New York to attend.

The wines and food courses are set forth below. We normally serve all of the wines single blind and reveal the order the wines at the end of each flight. This year, I had intended to hold the reveal until the very end, after everyone had voted on their top five wines. So I asked Julian to Label the stems so that we could track them by number. Unfortunately the stems were labeled with the names of the wines to be served. By the time we realized the mistake, it was too late to rectify.

My thanks to Andy Gavin for all of the great photographs he took at the dinner.

Appetizer Course

Arancinette Of Seafood, Oysters With Lemon Gelato, Diamonds Of Mushroom Polenta, Taleggio Flatbread And Black Truffles
external image ValentinoOystersMar2014_zps5f686791.jpg~original

2000 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvee Champagne (magnum)
Light gold color; citrus and pear aromas; really good acidity, bright citrus flavors, almost grapefruit and very long minerally mid-palate and finish. This one has a bright future in magnum. Very, very good and upside potential. 94+

Flight One – Batard and Bienvenues Batard Montrachet

Swordfish Carpaccio With Blue Stone Crab, Pantelleria’s Capers And Sicilian Blood Orange
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#1 2006 Colin-Morey Batard Montrachet
Light gold color; faint hit of SO2 that quickly blew off, followed by ripe pear; very nice balance here, cool lime and pear fruit with a slightly chalky texture and just enough acidity to make it a nice package. Another excellent Batard from Colin-Morey. Group Rank: 8th place, 9 points (0/1/1/1/0) 94

#2 2006 Henri Boillot Batard Montrachet
Medium plus gold color; there was some SO2 here and some citrus; a couple of people feel this is off or “borderline corked”; on the palate it is rich but elegant apple/pear fruit; not what I really expected for a 2006. The finish was nice. Later on, on my second pass, it didn’t seem that great in the context of the flight. Group Rank: Tied for 15th , 1 point (0/0/0/0/1) 92?

#3 2006 Mystery Wine No. 1 [2006 Rochioli Rachael’s Vineyard Chardonnay]
Light gold color; sweet slightly floral aromas; nice key lime/lemon flavors with excellent acidity and a nice long finish with just a hint of minerality. One of the better wines of this flight. Everyone thought this was white burgundy and there was a lot of speculation about it being Pernot Batard. Group Rank: Tied for 15th , 1 point (0/0/0/0/1) 93

#4 2006 Mystery Wine No. 2. [2006 Ramey Hyde Chardonnay]
Medium gold color; a number of us thought this was oddly flawed in the aromas, but not corked (Chet Kern thought it was TCA) – wood smoke and an almost chemical element. On the palate, it had some density and was fairly viscous in texture. The consensus of the group was that this was a potentially great Batard ruined by whatever went wrong. Group Rank: Tied for 18th, 0 pts DQ - off [N.B. I opened another bottle of this wine three months later and it was stellar. No odd aromas. It was highly structured and had a high degree of limestone-like minerality. This really would have fooled the group if served blind.]

#5 2006 Ramonet Batard Montrachet
Medium gold color; soft floral and pear aromas; very viscous on the palate and medium weight, but really lacking any identifiable fruit or shape. This was a buttery, viscous wine that was all texture and then it completely disappeared. Quite disappointing for a Ramonet wine. Group Rank: Tied for 9th, 7 points (0/1/1/0/0) 89

#6 2006 Sauzet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet
Medium gold color; definitely has the honeysuckle aromas that mark BBM – which kind of surprised me for this vintage. On the palate this is quite rich and expansive for Bienvenues; a decent finish. A little too fat and rich for me for Bienvenues. Group Rank: Tied for 18th, 0 points 92

Flight Two: Corton Charlemagne

Speck Wrapped Monkfish With Pappa Al Pomodoro And Rock Shrimp
external image Monfish_zps5998788e.jpg~original

#7 2006 Bonneau Du Martray Corton Charlemagne
Light yellow color; very little aroma initially. On the palate it was light citrus cream with just okay acidity. On the second pass the fruit was much nicer, but there was not much of a finish. At the end of the night, when I made one more pass through all of the wines this was showing toasty, partially oxidized aromas and flavors. Group Rank: Tied for 15th , 1 point (0/0/0/0/1) 90? – Late Partial Oxidation

#8 2006 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne
Very light color; forward, light, tropical fruit aromas; on the palate this was nicely balanced, with tropical fruit and apple with okay acidity. Overall, this was a nice wine but not a great one and had me thinking California rather than French, even though we all knew what it was when it was served. Group Rank: Tied for 18th 0 points [b]93[/b]

#9 2006 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne
Very light gold color; light pineapple and lemon-lime aromas; medium bodied, some pineapple fruit and extreme elegance; this had a very long pineapple fruit finish. On my second pass, I liked this a point better than I did initially. I thought this was a very nice wine but was far from a great example of Coche Corton. I also couldn’t help having the feeling that the fact that this wine was not served blind affected people’s choice of the Top 5 wines. My number 6 wine overall. Group Rank: 1st, 44 points (8/0/1/0/1) 94

#10 2006 Colin-Morey Corton Charlemagne
Light gold color; sweet lemon-lime aromas; really well made wine – round fruit flavors, highly structured and layered, decent acidity and notable elegance. Even the finish seems layered. I thought this was the clearly the best wine of the Corton flight and it was my number five wine of the night overall. [b]Group Rank: Tied for 3rd, 19 points [/b](0/0/1/0/0) 93

#11 2006 Montille Corton Charlemagne
Light yellow color; very light floral aromas; white flowers, lighter flavors than the rest of the flight – not nearly as rich – tastes more like Puligny 1er than Corton. Nice minerally finish is perhaps this wine’s best feature. Group Rank: Tied for 18th 0 points 92

#12 2006 Mystery Wine No. 3 [2006 Ceritas Porter-Bass Chardonnay]
Relatively deep gold color; aromas of butterscotch and oak ; forward, rich, butterscotch/slightly toasty flavors. We unanimously agreed this is clearly advanced. Although not showing prototype oxidation, this wine is clearly gone. Group Rank: Tied for 18th, 0 points DQ-advanced

Flight Three: Meursault

Sardinian Mallureddus With Sea Urchin
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#13 2006 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres
Light gold color; very light lime aromas, not much there; on the palate, this was better with some key lime, modest minerality but considerable sweetness and richness for MP; fairly modest minerality on the finish. This doesn’t fit the profile for MP, or Coche, but it is a decent wine. Group Rank: 6th, 13 points (1/1/0/2/0) 93

#14 2006 Coche-Dury Meursault Rougeots
Between light and medium gold color; some melba toast and reduction-like aromas and lemon oil; lemon drop candy, good balance and nice acidity; but the longer this sat in the glass the more it deteriorated. By the end of the evening, when I made my final pass, this was definitely showing signs of partial oxidation – most unusual for Coche. Group Rank: Tied for 9th, 7 points (0/1/1/0/0) 93|88 Late Partial Oxidation

#15 2006 Colin-Morey Meursault Perrieres
Light gold color; floral and lemon-lime aromas; medium bodied lemon-lime fruit with very good minerality. I thought this had a very nice balance of fruit and minerality – yes, a bit more fruit than I’m used to seeing in most Meursaults, but quite good. Jerry Hey felt it was just too fruit driven for Meursault and was over the top. Group Rank: Tied for 11th, 4 pts (0/1/0/0/0) 93

#16 2006 Lafon Meursault Perrieres
Medium-full gold color; darkest of the French wines so far; overtly toasty, butterscotch aromas; rich butterscotch flavors quickly collapase and go flat on the finish. This is very advanced (we all agree) and about to go into full scale oxidation. Group Rank: Tied for 18th , 0 pts 88-very advamced

#17 2006 Roulot Meursault Charmes
Medium gold color; rich, almost lychee fruit aromas; a richer style of Meursault, a bit fat, seemingly mature. Group Rank: Tied for 11th, 4 pts (0/1/0/0/0) 92

#18 2006 Roulot Meursault Perrieres
Medium gold color; lemon-lime aromas; some lemon drop candy/other citrus and minerals on the palate; this doesn’t have the same level of minerality that usually appears in the best examples from Roulot, but it is an excellent wine and it manages to convey the markers of Meursault on the palate when a lot of wines in this flight struggled to do that. A nice wine, but again I had the feeling some people’s rankings were influenced by seeing the labels. Group Rank: 5th, 17 points (2/0/1/2/0) 93

Flight Four: Chablis

Lobster and Shrimp Rissotto
external image LobsterandShrimpRisotto_zpse2d574ff.jpg~original

#19 2006 Dauvissat-Camus Chablis Les Clos
Light gold color; light lemon-lime aromas but with slightly odd brackish elements. A couple of people questioned whether this might be an off bottle? Kirk Calhoun thought the wine was advanced. There were some light lemon-lime character and some minerality. Hard to assess this wine. Something doesn’t seem quite right. Group Rank: Tied for 18th , 0 pts 91? (for good bottles?)

#20 2006 Fevre Chablis Les Clos
Light yellow color; light lychee fruit and white flowers aromas; bright lemony flavors, some intensity on the mid-palate, good acidity, some minerality. Overall, good balance of elements. I thought this was the best Fevre Chablis I’ve had since the 2000 vintage. Group Rank: Tied for 18th, 0 points 94

#21 2006 Raveneau Chablis Clos
Light yellow color; aromas of lemon grass; light lime and gooseberry flavors, elegant, yet intensely minerally. The finish sort of explodes into a big WOW finish. Impossible not to be impressed by this wine. My third favorite of the night. [b]Group Rank: Tied for 3rd, 19 points[/b](0/1/4/1/1) 95

#22 2006 Raveneau Chablis Montee De Tonnerre
Light yellow color; lemon drop candy aromas; lemony flavors with absolutely amazing minerality and a very long finish. This clearly performs at the grand cru level again in this vintage. Group Rank: 7th, 12 points (0/0/2/1/4) 94

#23 2006 Raveneau Chablis Valmur
Light gold color; intense lemon aromas; there is a somewhat more mature lemon curd character here; again this wine has fabulous minerality and nice long finish. Quite good, but I prefer the MDT to the Valmur this time. Tied for 18th , 0 points 93

Flight Five -Chevalier Montrachet

Roasted Veal Au Jus with Petite Vegetables
external image RoastedVeal_zpscbe29d8f.jpg~original

#24 2006 Henri Boillot Chevalier Montrachet
Fairly deep gold color; aromas of very ripe apricots – clearly advanced; very advanced apricot/butterscotch flavors. We all agreed that this is clearly advanced. Tied for 18th , 0 points DQ-advanced

#25 2006 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet
Very light yellow, almost clear color; aromas of lime and lemon blossom; structured lemon-lime flavors with a high degree of minerality and very good acidity. This wine almost seems like it’s from a different vintage, but it came out of my cellar, so I know it’s not. Very long minerally finish. I liked this better than most people did apparently. My number four wine of the night. Group Rank: 14th, 2 points (0/0/0/1/0) 94|95

#26 2006 Jean-Marc Pillot Chevalier Montrachet
Light yellow color; aromas of lemon oil and fainter lime; there is some fresh lime and abundant minerality on the palate; really great acidity here. I liked the incredibly minerally finish on this wine. My number two wine of the night. Again I liked this wine better than the group did. Group Rank: Tied for 11th, 4 points (0/1/0/0/0) 95

#27 2006 Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet
Fairly deep gold color; very peachy aromas; overly sweet cloying botrytised chardonnay flavors evoking my worst memories of what the worst 2006s tasted like in the first year or so after release. I can say once again that I have not remotely liked a single bottle of the Leflaive 2006s – the worst vintage from Leflaive I’ve ever encountered. Again there is consensus that this wine is advanced. Tied for 18th , 0 points DQ-advanced plus awful

#28 2006 Ramonet Chevalier Montrachet
Light yellow color; lemon-lime and minerals aromas; there is more richness and depth on the mid-palate here than there was in the other Chevaliers; the concentration is really amazing – sweet lemon crème and minerals; there is some definite layering; very long minerally finish. Easily my favorite wine of the night. Group Rank: 2nd, 31 points (2/4/0/2/1) 96

Dessert Course

Berry Macedonia With 70 Year Old Balsamico And Fior Di Latte
external image BerryMacedonia_zps554f8988.jpg~original

1998 Dönnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Eiswein
Wow. This was clearly the best wine of the night. Golden color; aromas of botrytis, tropical fruit, and tea; amazing depth and breadth of flavors, a whole mélange of fruits and buttery textures; great richness with amazing acidity. A finish that lasts well over a minute. (Our thanks to Alan Weinberg, who volunteered this fabulous finish for the event.) 97
external image DonnhoffEiswein_zpsbffccb83.jpg~original

Postscript statistics and comments:

Corked: 0 or 1 of 28: 0% to 4% (includes 3 California ringers)
Oxidized: 0/25 white burgundies (initial group consensus) or 2/25 (my late run back through all wines) 0% to 8%
Advanced: 3/25 white burgundies (12%)
Total Oxidized +advanced white burgundies: 5/25 (20%)

On an overall basis, the 2006s exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially mine. I had tasted about 45 different 2006 whites in a series of tastings in the first 18 months after the wines were released and I had been very displeased with the vintage. I thought the wines were excessively sweet, tropical and much too low in acidity. Some of the wines, like the Leflaive Chevalier, were positively cloying and just undrinkable. I had bought a lot of 2006s on pre-release based on very positive reviews by Messrs. Tanzer and Meadows and I felt that they had completely whiffed on their reviews. I ended up selling at auction much of what I had bought.

But four to five years later, there’s been a metamorphosis. The excessive sweetness seems to have dissipated, the overwhelming pineapple and tropical fruit aromas have subsided or disappeared, and more acidity is apparent – in some cases, such as the Chevalier Montrachets, much more. However, with all of that said, some of the wines definitely demonstrate a level of sucrosity much like the 2005s do. However, unlike the 2005s, which had the highest percentage of advanced wines we’ve ever encountered, the 2006s had somewhat below average incidence for oxidized and advanced wines. Whereas last year I warned people to drink up their remaining 2005s (except for Coche and Ramonet Chevalier) as soon as possible, this year it was clear that there is no immediate rush to consume the top-level 2006s. Some of the 2006s, particularly the wines from Chevalier Montrachet and the Raveneau Chablis, will probably continue to improve with another two to three years of aging.

While it is harder to generalize from tasting about half as many wines as normal, the normal terroir characteristics that differentiate the villages were more apparent at 7.5 years than they were on release. Batard and Bienvenues have clearly suffered a bit from lower than normal acidity and high ripeness levels – but Colin-Morey who picked quite early has done extremely well. The Corton Charlemagnes were definitely sweeter than normal and did not exhibit as much minerality as usual. The Meursaults, while they had adequate acidity, were all fruitier than normal but had more apparent minerality than the Cortons. The Chablis, based on our small sample with three Raveneau wines, were the closest to classic form. Be happy if you have 2006 Raveneau in your cellar. The Chevalier flight definitely had the most apparent acidity and they were by far the leanest wines – the closest to the prototype among the Cote de Beaune wines. I liked the Chevaliers as a group more than many of the others did, but Chevalier is by far my favorite burgundy appellation.

Cumulative Cheers and Jeers

Cheers go to:

Colin-Morey– for the second year in a row, his wines clearly impressed everyone in a difficult vintage. I can’t wait to see how the 2007 Colin-Morey wines will perform in next year’s tasting.

Raveneau – clearly the best overall performance among the producers included in this tasting.

external image 2006Raveneauwines_zps0fc3216f.jpg~original

Jeers go to

Bonneau du Martray – oxidation, oxidation, oxidation. What once was my favorite white burgundy domaine is now, along with Jadot and Fontaine-Gagnard, one of the trio of poster-children for premox. Unfortunately, a domaine to now be avoided like the plague. Still we taste one every year because it's always been such a benchmark.

Lafon -- same problem on a lesser scale

Leflaive – when Leflaive Chevalier is without doubt the worst wine in the tasting, you know you’re in trouble. Unfortunately, this is not my first bottle of truly awful 2006 Leflaive Chevalier. The domaine should be embarrassed for having released this wine.

Note: Since we held only one white burgundy dinner this year, I also hosted a dinner on February 27, 2014 to assess the equally controversial 2004 red burgundy vintage at age 10. I have posted notes on the Wine Berserkers website. http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=98671 Don’t miss them – those wines were also a huge surprise for all of us.