The tasting included both a vertical tasting (a baker's dozen Chateau Palmer Margaux from 1921 through 1989) and a horizontal tasting (featuring more than a dozen 1966 Bordeaux, including the Palmer). A couple of other fine wines came out of the cellar later on, including a handful of well-aged Ports. I took notes on the Palmer vertical first, going pretty much from oldest to youngest, then switched to the '66 horizontal, which I tasted in random sequence.
I find it hard to taste very analytically in a joyous party setting with wines tasted in massive numbers and un-blind, so I pretty much let intuition take over and jot notes casually and without much serious thought. I don't think my responses differ dramatically from the consensus, although I've noticed a couple of points where my palate was seemingly marching to a different drummer, most notably the '66 Leoville-Poyferré, which many found obnoxiously tannic but I thought was at peak and drinking beautifully. Go figure ...
Without further ado, here are my notes:
1928 Chateau Palmer Margaux - Remarkably clear and dark, attractive bronze edge. Delightful nose, floral and sweet leathery notes. Full fruit, amazingly youthful for an almost 70-year-old wine; excellent balance.
1921 Ch. Palmer Margaux - amber-bronze, much more antique to the eye than the '28. Herbal, slightly medicinal, witch-hazel; sweet fruit, a little nutlike, but still quite sturdy. A second bottle was holding up better, with more red in the amber color, and a lovely book-leather aroma; tart-sweet, still good fruit.
1957 Ch. Palmer Margaux (375 ml) - Not part of the vertical but pulled out of our host's cellar later. Brilliant ruby, wonderful old-Bordeaux aroma, leathery and floral; ripe, sweet fruit, cigar-box and spice. A delight.
1961 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Clear, dark ruby, clear edge. Earthy, leathery aroma, some berrylike bramble fruit. Tart, deep berries on the palate, wonderful.
1966 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Rather light ruby shading to copper. Earthy, forest-floor aromas; tart-sour, light "barnyard," complex. A second bottle seemed to be holding up better, more open and with the organic notes more restrained.
1970 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Bright garnet, clear edge, looks like a younger wine. Deep, brooding fruit on the nose and palate, tart, big fruit, big tannin; beautiful balance, remarkably youthful. Drinking very well, but can still use more time.
1975 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Dark ruby, slight haze. Black-fruit and licorice, fruit somewhat overshadowed by a tart acidic structure. Still seems to need time.
1978 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Very dark garnet. Appealing cassis and leathery scent; full, forward fruit, tannins resolving. Ready soon.
1979 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Very dark garnet. Rich blackcurrant and herbal notes, tarragon, mint, very nice. Full flavor, ripe and fresh, drinking very well.
1983 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Bright ruby in color. I found it a bit closed and tannic, black fruit and licorice; good elements, wonderful potential, but not showing its best now.
1985 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Very dark ruby, opaque. Good blackcurrant nose, more forward than the '83. Some leather, faint barnyard. Full fruit, ample tannin, still needs time.
1988 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Clear ruby. Delightful, aromatic, spice and sandalwood, Soft and ripe, almost conveys an impression of sweetness. Very accessible, delicious.
1989 Ch. Palmer Margaux - Opaque garnet, almost black. Tight nose, massive fruit, tightly wound up with tannins, oddly reminiscent of a top-rank California Cabernet (perhaps characteristic of the hot-summer '89s). Needs years of cellaring to come into its own, but the potential is fabulous.
1966 Chateau Leoville-Barton St.-Julien - Brilliant ruby, rather light in color. Earthy, pleasant, sweet old-Bdx flavors.
1966 Ch. Lynch-Bages Pauillac - Dark garnet. Licorice, clear fruit. Tart, simple fruit. I didn't think it was showing well, but so many people raved about it that I kept going back and also tried from another bottle; the second was more open, tobacco-leaf and sweet fruit flavors, but it still wasn't my favorite.
1966 Leoville du Marquis de las Cases St.-Julien - Dark garnet. Leathery, full fruit, tart acid. Youthful.
1966 Ch. Pichon Lalande Pauillac - Clear, dark brick color. Lovely old-Bdx nose, earthy, floral. Sweet perfumed notes, tart fruit.
1966 La Mission Haut-Brion Graves - Light ruby, slight haze. Cedar, "lead-pencil" and herbal notes, a bit funky, good fruit. One of my wife's favorites of the day.
1966 Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou St.-Julien - Clear garnet. Floral, herbal, aromatic linden. Fresh, juicy fruit, youthful and accessible. A delight.
1966 Ch. Leoville-Poyferré St.-Julien - Clear ruby. Leather, "toast," nice old-Bdx notes. Juicy, almost jammy, complex, good balance, tannins resolving. One of my favorites, although most of the group disagreed with me on this and found it more tannic than I did. My teflon palate at work?
1966 Ch. La Tour Haut-Brion Graves - Brilliant ruby. Blackcurrant and caramel aromas; mineral, linden, sweet fruit, tannins. Interesting, still seems young.
1966 Ch. Chasse-Spleen - Clear, very dark garnet. Tight black-fruit aromas, with an odd note like butterscotch and a whiff of barnyard. A bit awkward now, will live for a long time.
1966 Ch. Branaire (Duluc-Ducru) St.-Julien - Clear garnet. Pleasant cassis, floral, violets. Sweet fruit, mature, balanced.
1966 Ch. Cantemerle Haut-Medoc - Dark ruby, almost opaque. Ripe cassis aroma, candied, stewed-veggie. I half-jokingly likened it to a Central Coast California Pinot Noir.
1966 Ch. Brane-Cantenac Margaux - Light garnet, old-Bdx and linden scent; full fruit, soft, good sweet fruit. Accessible.
1966 Ch. St. Georges St.-Georges-St.-Emilion - Brown, prunes, Sherrylike. Dead on arrival; never intended to be cellared for three decades.
Along with the '57 Ch. Palmer Margaux listed above, our host also pulled out for later inspection:
1976 Ch. Haut-Brion Graves - Dark garnet, classic "mineral" Haut-Brion nose. Lovely, at peak.
I enjoy a drop of Port, but I'm far from an aficionado; tasting these glorious items after reaching satiety made it difficult to evaluate them competently, particularly in a room full of cigar smoke, even though I'm sure they were most excellent cigars. With those caveats:
1927 Graham Port - Brilliant ruby. Stone fruits, complex, drying out with age but showing marvelous complexity and balance. A classic.
1945 Graham Port - Dark ruby, perfumed, herbal, complex; sweet, explosive flavor with full acidic "grip" and a pleasant hint of bitterness behind the luscious fruit.
1963 Fonseca Port - Clear cherry red. Heady floral notes, a whiff of anise. Full, solid, still young.
1966 Graham Port - Clear light ruby. Odd but pleasant "damp laundry" notes behind ripe stone fruit. Powerful and sweet, sugar well balanced by a lemon-tart grip; drinking very nicely.