Next was the ’43 Riscal Rioja, dark and pure, fresh, balanced and seemingly young with a smoky, herbal quality. I wondered if cabernet sauvignon had been part of a blend with tempranillo, as was sometimes the case with older Riscals.
The ’43 Monfortino Barolo was wonderful, surprisingly pale, like a dark rosé, but, with time in the glass, it began to smell like dried roses and iron, beautifully balanced with lingering, high-toned flavors. The ’41 Vega Sicilia, a defining Ribera del Duero wine, was rich and full, with deep, delicious flavors of chocolate, espresso and smoke.
It had been a wonderful beginning. Now, between the risotto and the next course, filet mignon, began the small procession of red Bordeaux. Each bottle was a curious blue-green color, apparently the result of wartime restrictions on glassmaking that prohibited the use of certain elements that would have provided the more typical color of dark green.
First came the ’42 Lynch-Bages, an excellent Pauillac producer, pleasant and drinkable but lacking shape or definition. On its own, its survival might have seemed miraculous, but in the company of the other bottles it paled. Next was the ’42 Cheval Blanc, a St.-Émilion from one of the great producers of Bordeaux. It was rich, full and lively, with savory flavors of oregano and cumin.
Then the ’43 Gruaud-Larose, a St.-Julien, with peppery, gentle flavors and a hint of the pencilly graphite that is often found in wines of the Médoc. And finally, the Petrus in its pale blue bottle. It was rich, deep and fresh, with flavors that seemed on the precipice of evolving from chocolate to tobacco, a beautiful wine.
Even so, with so many fascinating bottles, it was hard to focus on one at the expense of the others. And with the history involved, the entire experience was transporting and a bit overwhelming.
One collector, James K. Finkel, spoke warmly of his father, who had landed at Normandy in the third wave on D-Day. Mr. Newlin recalled his grandparents, who were French and endured the occupation.