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Nectar of the Gods

Posted: Nov 5, 2007 12:10pm ET

It was one of the most magnificent tastings of my life. Yesterday I had the amazing fortune to taste 15 vintages of the legendary sweet wine producer Chateau d'Yquem in Beverly Hills with a couple dozen wine collectors and wine merchants, at Wolfgang Puck's Spago restaurant.

I did not make it to church yesterday, but I felt very close to God. I was blessed with tasting no less than four 100-point wines and a number of others that were very, very close.

In the last flight of the four-flight tasting, I rated three out of five wines 100 points, including the 1945, 1921 and 1899. I was sitting next to Pierre Lurton, the president of Yquem, and we were both speechless. "These are eternal wines," said Lurton shaking his head. "They will live forever."

Check out my video to see the colors of the 1899 and 1921. I also tasted the 1899 on video. Awesome! Truly awesome.

I have some super-cool videos for later this week, from the Yquem tasting as well as a Cheval Blanc tasting from last Friday and Saturday. The two legendary Bordeaux wines estate have the same owner, Bernard Arnault (and friends). Arnault is the CEO of Moët-Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the luxury goods conglomerate. Wine collector Bipin Desai organized the tastings.

Here are my tasting notes on the four 100-point Yquems:

2001: This is still spellbinding every time I taste it. It is it so balanced yet so intense. It is super dense and very, very sweet yet so light on its feet. It dances around your palate yet delivers masses of everything. Honey, pineapple, dried apricots, sugar-coated lemons, lime ... fab. Full, very sweet and very, very long. Last for minutes on your palate. It¹s amazing now. But this will improve for decades ahead. Best after 2015.

1945: Wonderful color of amber with hints of orange. Intense aromas of dried mango, orange peel and apricot with hints of caramel. Full bodied, very dense and sweet yet racy and super long. This is so lively and beautiful. Goes on and on and on. Truly amazing. Timeless.

1921: This is a legend, and it lives up to its reputation. Orange amber with a green-edged color. Smells almost like tawny port with orange peel, brown sugar, toffee and sugary lemons. This is full and very, very dense. Very sweet too. With lots of botrytis spice and marmalade. So long and powerful. Amazing. What concentration!

1899: I have had a number of 1899s and this is the best, clearly. So clean and fresh on the nose with mango, lime, caramel, brown sugar and candied orange peel. Full-bodied, very sweet, super refined with amazingly crisp, lively and long. Turns to toffee and dried apricots with an orange undertone. Goes on and on. Such youth and such complexity. Perfect balance. Am I too generous? No!

I stood up to say a few words to the group after everyone had spent time tasting and drinking the last three wines, as well as 1937 and 1949 ­ which were also outstanding. And I said how Yquem is unique in the world. There is nothing even close in the rest of the world. In other places, you can find amazing pure Merlots to compete with Pétrus, or Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends to compare to Latour or Margaux, or Chardonnays to match up to the best grand cru Burgundies, but Yquem is Yquem. And it has amazing pedigree. What a Sunday!

Nick Larsen
Richmond, B.C. —  November 5, 2007 5:34pm ET
James, I'm green with envy. Just out of curiousity, at what temperature were the Yquems served?
Jeffrey Alle Cassetta
Ada, MI —  November 5, 2007 6:00pm ET
James, Your videos are really cool! Like they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. The color on the d'Yquem's are amazing, especially the '1899...it actually appears lighter than the '21...thanks for the treat!Ciao,Jeff Cassetta
James Suckling
 —  November 5, 2007 7:17pm ET
Nick. I did not check but they were cold like dry whites are served. I would say between 62-64 F.
Steve Calbi
South Barringnton, IL —  November 5, 2007 7:49pm ET
James, How do those old Yquems turn reddish? Great videos! Keep 'em coming!!
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  November 6, 2007 1:37am ET
I had the good fortune of going to the trade tasting the following day at The Regency Club where Pierre spoke at length about Cheval Blanc and d'Yquem. No 1899 - but I thoroughly enjoyed the '97!! We also tasted '02, '03, and '05 Ygrec. As to the vintages of Cheval Blanc, the '95 was my favorite of the tasting ('95, '99, '01, '03, and '04 as well as '01 Petit Cheval). The d'Yquem which we tasted after overshadowed the reds and no one seemed to want to talk about anything but d'Yquem.

Pierre said that the chef at Spago did an outstanding job with his menu. It is with regret that I do not work in the high-profile restaurants that do such events at this time. Just the smell alone in the room would have been something to behold.
Eric Tetrault
Calgary —  November 7, 2007 12:49pm ET
Hey James, I am happy to hear how well the wines showed. I am very excited for our Yquem tasting at the Post Hotel in February. Talk soon, Brian Gunsten
Dr J Rosenblatt
Montreal, Canada —  May 7, 2009 2:23pm ET
James:Wasn't sure how else to reach you - didn't want to jump into another blog discussion that wasn't related. Hope you still get this one. There is no rating online for Chateau d'Yquem 1996. I have the opportunity to buy some at a reasonable price. What is your thought on this wine? In general, I really enjoy Yquem and other Sauternes.Thanks in advance for helping out here.Jerry
James Suckling
 —  May 7, 2009 2:33pm ET
I don't have an official note but I remember drinking it about a year ago and it's a racy, clean and refined style of Yquem. It's along the lines of the 1988. Don't look for the big voluptuous style of 1990 or 1989 or 1983.
Dr J Rosenblatt
Montreal, Canada —  May 8, 2009 4:26pm ET
James, thanks so much for the answer. As always, you guys are the best ! Probably worth the chance, as I love Yquem and these are at a decent price.

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