Arv Rao organized a dinner of Bordeaux second labels at SipSak in Midtown east Sunday night. We had a nice group, though some emergencies led to some cancellations. I was happy it was a mix of geeks and non-geeks, so Betsy quite enjoyed herself. Service was pleasant if not super-efficient and food (vaguely Turkish) was pretty good- I especially appreciated the mezze (in particular the tarama), an appetizer of cubed liver with sumac, and the lamb shish kebab.
The wines (note: I double-decanted the Dame de Montrose and '00 Forts in afternoon, with the Forts getting couple hours in decanter; Pensees and Petit Cheval got similar treatment;'66 Forts, '95 Fiefs, '95 Carruades opened at table, Pavillon I'm unsure about)
1966 Les Forts de Latour
Oh dear. My slim hopes for a 40 year old second label faded as the cork slid into the bottle the second Marc touched it with the corkscrew. But wait- Marc says it smells pretty good. We use a knife to pour, and out comes a pretty damn lively wine. Exotic, spicy nose, with sweet dark fruit on the palate. Fully resolved tannins. Revisited much later the fruit was fading and the spice had turned to funk, but still quite drinkable. B+/B and a very pleasant surprise.
1995 Les Fiefs de Lagrange
Mature, medium bodied with soft black fruit and a little herbal note on the nose. Quite pleasant for its level. B
1995 Carruades de Lafite
Showing very young. Ripe dark fruit, fairly open, but not very evolved. Cedary oak notes are the only thing beyond fruit. Much better than a previous bottle. B/B+
1998 Pensees de Lafleur
Sweet ripe black plum and berry fruit. Big ripe tannins. Nice lush mouthfeel. Needs time. B+
2000 Le Petit Cheval
Clean delineated black fruit. Dense but at the same time silky. Crushed berries and a little lead pencil. Needs time, but very nice. A-/B+
(vintage?) Reserve de Leoville-Barton
I'd never even seen a bottle of the second of Leo-Barton, was looking forward to this, but TCA reared it's (really) ugly head.
2000 Les Forts de Latour
Sweet cassis and blackberry fruit, some earth and graphite, just a hint of herbs. Structured. B+/A-
2000 Dame de Montrose
More acidic than I expected from a 2000. Nice balance of dark fruit, tannins, and acidity.
I thought a little short on finish, at least compared to the Right Bankers and the Forts. B+
1995 Pavillon Rouge de Margaux
I had been unimpressed with a previous bottle of this, but this was quite nice. Floral nose with red berry fruit, abundant earth. B+/A-
There were 2 dessert seconds, I didn't really take any notes but preferred the 2001 Cypress de Climens to the 2001 Ch. de Cosse
Overall a pretty good showings for the seconds. But despite this evening, I'll still dispute those who say that second wines are generally a good buy. First of all, I felt this was not particularly representative of seconds in general- carefully selected by serious geeks, these were for the most part some of the most successful seconds of some top vintages. Secondly, even with the overall good showings of each of these, there are 5th growths or cru bourgeois from each of these vintages that I felt were better buys at the same price (or less). Still, an informative and fun night with a great group of folks.
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.