32nd Wedding Anniversary at Charleston Restaurant, Baltimore

To celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary, my wife and I went to our favorite spot for great dining in Baltimore, Chef Cindy Wolf's Charleston restaurant. Once again, when flavor counts, you can't go wrong with Châteauneuf du Pape. It never seems to disappoint, never goes through a dumb stage, and the finest estates produce unquestionably great wine. The Chardonnays were all top notch, but the incredible 1996 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard was a young, brooding, monster offering with awesome minerality reminiscent of a Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet ... just more powerful. The surprise was the 1996 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay. It is still spectacular, although I would not hold it any longer. The Marcassin still has 10-15 years of aging potential.

The two perfect Châteauneuf du Papes (which are always this spectacular) were the 1990 Rayas in magnum and 1990 Marcoux Vieilles Vignes. Both are the greatest examples of these cuvées I have ever tasted. They are still youthful wines, although totally different in styles. The more Burgundian-like Rayas is lighter, but extraordinarily intense. The Marcoux exhibits cassis liqueur characteristics intermixed with tapenade, licorice, earth, and truffle notes. The more I taste the Pégaü wines, the more convinced I am that their Cuvée Réservée (released two years after the vintage) is always a better wine than their more expensive Cuvée Laurence, which spends more time in foudre and small barrels. The 1990 Pégaü Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Laurence is nowhere near the quality of the 1990 Cuvée Réservée, probably because it lost some of its freshness during the long wood aging. However, don't get me wrong, it is an excellent wine. Another spectacular showing for the 1990 Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf du Pape, this is the finest effort they have produced to date, although I suspect the 1998, and possibly the 2000, will equal it in 8-10 years.

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