TN: Gruaud, Gruaud, and more Gruaud

Last night 11 winelovers gathered at Michael's in midtown for a Gruaud-Larose vertical. We were supposed to be 12, but one guy on list was unexpectedly out of town. He was to bring the '85, and we were hoping a bottle of the '02 would arrive in time, it didn't make it either. But other than those 2 vintages we had most of the most promising vintages of the last 40 years.
First of all, let me say Michael's did an excellent job. Food was very good, service excellent, setting very nice. We mostly carried our own stems, but they supplemented for a few folks with decent glasses, and provided a couple of decanters.Not a private room, but a nice quite corner.
I figured with 20 wines to go, 8% ABV was about right for the starter. The 2000 D=F6nnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Sp=E4tlese was open for business (thanks David Bueker for advice as to which D=F6nnhoffs were closed down). Sprightly lime fruit, a little cherry on the finish, lovely and balanced. A-
On to the Gruauds, in order tasted: First flight- 1970, 1975, and 1978- when I first tasted, '70 was my favorite, but my end of flight I felt '78 was clear winner.
1970 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Started off with a nice nose, some very nice briary red fruit, but quickly faded into inconsequentialness in glass. Drink up, now. B
1975 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Couple hours in decanter (almost Port-like sediment) before return to bottle for trip to city. Not enough. Slightly lifted nose at first, then just tight and tannic. Hard wine that still needs lots of time. Debate at table whether fruit will last. I think there's some nice stuff waiting there, but I'm glad I'm not waiting- this was only bottle. B/B-
1978 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) A funk at first that led to questions of TCA. But it blew off, and what emerged was a nice wine featuring dark fruit with a leathery/cedary edge. A nice fully mature wine marred by a bit of a short finish. B/B+
Next we backed up for a 1966, after giving it a little (not enough) time for sediment to settle. 1966 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Kirschy fruit, very soft but rather appealing. Lots of secondary notes of cigarbox and dead leaves dancing around in back. Some tar to (in ways reminded me of a slightly-past-it Barolo) Probably on downside, but nice. B/B+
Somewhere in here an amuse of spicy shrimp shows up. Tasty, but horrible match with the Bordeaux- can someone pass me the D=F6nnhoff? Next flight up '81, '82, '83. Each gets a flight prize- '81 for overachieving, '82 for potential, '83 for now
1981 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Not decanted as I feared it might fade during trip in. Overshadowed by its flightmates, but a credible showing. Much lighter-bodied than other 2, but clean black fruit, some mushroom and leather. Mark says "classic claret" (not in sense of destined to be a classic, but as typical mature Bordeaux). Nice wine I'd be happy to have around dinner table with roast chicken. B+/B
1982 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) I think John said opened in afternoon, but not decanted. Backward, needs time. Massive concentrated dark fruit waiting to come out, a little time coaxed some tobacco and earth. B+ (A potential)
1983 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Blast of flowers on the nose, dark berry fruit with some spice and leather. Really very nice and drinking beautifully. B+/A-
My first course was quail, served over some cheesey gnocchi . Good, but overshadowed by sample of Mark's delicious sweetbreads. I'll make a trip back just for that appetizer. Next was the '86, served by itself
1986 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Much more forward than I expected. Could use some time, but not the tannic monster I feared. Really nice powerful Bordeaux. Someone (David?) says it's best showing he's seen of the '86. B+/A-
Next flight was my favorite of the night - '88, '89, & '90 1988 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Classy and classic: blackcurrants, leather, and leadpencil. Widely available for less than $50, this is a deal. A-/B+
1989 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Clear earth and cassis, with cedar on the nose and a long finish. I nurse for a while, liking more and more. A-
1990 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) There's a funny menthol note there (others call it eucalyptus), and the fruit has a bit of a roasted character to it. Fat wine. Others like more than I do. B
My main course was a nice dry-aged strip steak, and asparagus (that's what water is for) and very good arugula/garlic mashed potatoes. Good reports from those that had the duck and suckling pig, as well as those that had the enormous porterhouse. Next up, the most disappointing flight of the night- '94, '95, '96
1994 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Actually this wasn't a disappointment, but a rather pleasant surprise. More open and less tannic than I expected. A bit light, with cherry cough syrup fruit. But a pleasant enough wine from a year that can be actively unpleasant. B
1995 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Closed and shutdown. Raspberry fruit, hard tannins. Another 1995 that I'm beginning to wonder whether it'll ever live up to vintage hype. B-
1996 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Tight, lighter than I expected. Less concentrated and more closed than other '96 St. Juliens I've had recently. B/B-
If previous flight was most disappointing, the '97, '98, and '99 was simply my least favorite.
1997 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Thin, dilute, blah. B-/C+
1998 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Poor. No concentration, unripe tannins. I've recently been upgrading my mental image of '98 Left Bank, after some good showings on Leoville-Poyferre, L-Barton, etc. But this is a good counterargument. C+
1999 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Whew, shows very well in comparison to flightmates. Decent concentration, a mix opf red and black berry fruit,some earth and flowers. OK drink now wine. B
A cheese plate went around, an aged Gruyere my favorite. The final flight of Gruaud made the rounds: 2000 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Big, with lots of (thankfully ripe) tannins. More open than I expected, a big concentrated wine in need of time. B+/A-
2001 Ch. Gruaud-Larose (St. Julien) Floral/spicy nose, a bit less exciting on the palate. Medium-bodied, accessible, not for long term. B/+
2001 Lafaurie-Peyraugey. Wow. Lots of botrytis on nose, complex and compelling. Delicous Sauternes. Plenty of botrytis. Tropical fruit, apricots and orange peel over a big structure. Needs time, but very nice now. A-
We did a quick tally at end. Everyone got 3 votes- 3 points for favorite Gruaud, 2 for second, 1 for third. I went with '89, '88, & '83, though I could easily have gone for '86 or '82 as third. I was slightly out of step with group, as voting went: '86 19 points '82 12 '83 8 '88 6 '89 5 ''90 5 '00 2 '78 1 '81 1
Good night, good people. Certainly I felt the '80s Gruaud showed far better than the '90s. Strangely, I felt Gruaud did pretty well with some of the so-so 90s vintages like '94 & '99, yet flopped compared to other classed-growths with the '96 (and on '90, though not as badly). Cheers.
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency
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Wow, that is backward! Recent notes I have seen (Bill S. IIRC) had suggested that this was nearer to maturity than yours sounds like. Perhaps a cooler cellar is the explanation, but in any event I'm hanging on to my single bottle (thanks, Jean!) for a bit more time...
Hmmm.. I might end up opening this before the '82, the way things are shaping up.
Yes, that's been my impression, too, Dale. They just really haven't been on form since the '89 IMO.
Mark Lipton
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Mark Lipton

Dale, how long an ager would you say this is? There was some critic that said this was still backward (with a toughness right now), but maybe I ought to visit this within the next couple of years (have a couple of bottles, but none tasted yet). The 1983 GL was *very* nice about 8 years ago.
Mark S
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I also have some, and am not putting in the "must drink now" queue. :)
I don't think this will have any problem reaching 15, but 25 would be pushing it. My guess is it will shut down a little bit (probably not hard) soon, remain that way for six or eight, and drink at its peak from maybe 2012-2018. But that's just a seat of my pants guess.
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Boy, I'd really like to see a thoroughly thought out, well-reasoned, analytical estimation of it's ageability ;-) LMAO!
Cheers, Gary
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Pretty impressive vertical! I had a '62 Gruaud a little while ago. The levels are difficult to discern on the odd shaped bottles in the 60's, but it worked out to be about top-shoulder.
The wine was garnet in colour, just starting to go amber at the edges. A lovely earthy but fragrant smell, bit like sticking your nose in a box of shiitake mushrooms. I was a bit worried about the wine losing all fruit before we could drink it, so it was not decanted. I'm glad I did this, but the first glass or two were not as good as the later glasses - obviously needed time to breathe. Ironically by the time dinner was over the last glasses were nicest - about an hour in the open bottle.
The palate was succulent and typically St Julien in being a little 'sweet-centred' (the best I have heard it described) I have to say the fruit was fading from the '62 (definitely some astringency on the finish), but I got the impression it was a fragrant elegant wine in its younger days (anybody remember trying '62 back then?) would have been gorgeous back in 1985 (I was only six then) !!!
Now, who's got a bottle of '61 and an evening free? =)
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'Process C-22'

The 62's were somewhat under-rated early on since they came just after the outstanding 59 and 61 vintages. However many of the 62s were very good wines and held for a long time. I have not had the 62 Gruaud-Larose, but Michael Broadbent still rated it 4 out of 5 stars at his last reported tasting in 1995. I had the 61 Gruaud-Larose recently and gave a TN here. It still is in top form, is one of the better 61s, and likely will hold well several more years if it has been well stored. I have had both the 61 and 62 Ducru-Beaucaillou, but not recently. The 61 was better, but the 62 was not far behind. Many of the 62s will not last as long as the 61s. However there are likely several 62s still drinking well, although many might have been a bit better a few years ago.
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Cwdjrx _

Ron, I'm never REALLY surprsed at showings of older wines. The old "there are no great old wines, just great bottles" is very true. The vagaries of cork quality (I'm not talking TCA, just quality of seal), storage conditions, shipping*, etc make it hard to predict. This bottle had an excellent fill. The owner (in the business) is very good about storage, but bought this I think he said in 1980. So it was out there for a while. And for that matter some liked it better than me. There are threads with other participants' comments on a couple of sites.
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* let's remember that shipping in reefers is a fairly modern innovation. Before negociants tried to not ship in middle of summer, but if a boat ran into an "Indian summer", so be it. And very few collectors had active heating units- no big deal in England, but in Southern US....
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