A Charity Dinner at Restaurant Daniel, NY

  • Robert M. Parker, Jr.

  • 01 Aug 2001 | Events

The menu at this charity dinner included sardines with oven-baked onions in olive oil, pine nuts, and anchovy juice, sea scallops in a corn clam chowder with root vegetables and prosciutto, roasted monkfish with cured lard and braised cabbage, rabbit stew à la Provençal, ravioli of rabbit livers and foie gras, pork with roasted garlic, summer squash gratin and crispy flowers, stuffed squab with fresh figs and foie gras, chipped beef fries and spinach, Côte de Boeuf and stuffed marrow bone of golden nugget potatoes, yellow wax beans, and dessert. Of course, the food was spectacular, but several courses were mind-blowing, including the sardines with oven-baked onions, the rabbit stew à la Provençal, the pork with roasted garlic, and the stuffed squab with fresh figs and foie gras. I could go on about the other courses, which were merely memorable as opposed to sublime. Daniel Boulud rules!

With respect to the wines, we started at the bar with a mini-blind tasting of 1997 California Cabernets. I picked three of them blind, which was good as we did not know what was being served. However, there is no question that the 1997 Harlan, a modern day California version of the 1947 Cheval Blanc blended with the 1947 Mouton Rothschild and 1947 La Mission-Haut-Brion, is an amazing wine. It is akin to a dry vintage port. Showing well, the 1997 Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon is from a winery that makes very fine wines, but does not get as much press as it deserves. The 1997 Colgin was slightly off, and may have had a touch of cork on it. It clearly was a bit funky and not totally clean. A spectacular bottle of 1997 Dalla Valle Mayaseemed to need a decade of aging, but it is loaded with potential. The most French-like and elegant of these 1997 Cabernets was the Araujo Eisele Vineyard, a beautifully-knit wine that had Médoc written all over it.

We began dinner with a magnum of 1982 Dom Pérignon. It always amazes me how well these wines hold up, even though I tend to drink all of mine during their first decade of life. We moved on to one of the great white Hermitages from Chave, the 1997 in magnum. This atypically spectacular white Hermitage is extremely honeyed and rich. That was followed by a mini-vertical of Niellon's Chevalier-Montrachet. The 1996 is for acid lovers. Even though I bought this wine, I wonder if the acid is ever going to become fully integrated. Although there is fabulous potential, I am not sure it has the kind of balance I like. I have much more confidence in the 1995, a wine with extraordinary richness, good acidity, and flawless balance. The 1994 white Burgundies are aging quickly. Niellon's fully mature Chevalier-Montrachet is sumptuous, with plenty of botrytis. The 1992 is still very good, but it did not perform as well as I had hoped. The 1990 was corked.

That was followed by a spectacularly opulent, fleshy, forward magnum of 1997 Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillon. 1997 was a difficult vintage in the southern Rhône, but in the north, it can be a stunning, underrated year. The wines are low in acidity and forward, but the finest examples are super-concentrated and lush. The young, majestic 1989 Paul Jaboulet-Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle is just beginning to open. The 1989 and 1990 are a fabulous duo, but the 1989 has been much more closed than the 1990. It is now coming on strong, and has a good 20-25 years of life left. A potentially 100-point wine, the 1990 Chave Hermitage was badly corked and undrinkable at this tasting. Ouch!

All the guests went ga-ga over the magnums of 1990 Pégaü Châteauneuf du Pape and 1989 Chapoutier Châteauneuf du Pape Barbe Rac. Both are extraordinary expressions of old vine Grenache. They are both young, vigorous, complex efforts with gorgeous smoky, earthy noses filled with red and black fruits as well as notes of lavender and licorice. It is amazing how people go ballistic over how great Châteauneuf du Pape is, but too few actually go out and buy the wines. Maybe that's good for those of us who can't get enough of them. In any event, these wines are drinking spectacularly well, and are just beginning to enter prime time drinking mode.

The gears then shifted to the 1982 Bordeaux. Not surprisingly, there were two 100-point performances by the nearly mature 1982 Latour, and the promising, backward 1982 Mouton-Rothschild. The 1982 Cheval Blanc consistently scores between the upper nineties and one-hundred, and the 1982 Haut-Brion is always outstanding, but never one of the superstars in this particular vintage. The pristine, fully mature, double magnum of 1959 Lafite Rothschild was out of this world. It was matched with the 1989 Pétrus, which was great, but not one of the most memorable bottles I have had of that vintage.

Just before the cheese course, we moved back to a white wine, with a youthful, high strung, surprisingly acidic 1983 Domaine Ramonet Montrachet. Its obvious the acidity in this wine is not natural, given the vintage conditions, but it was young, vibrant, and almost too pristine to be the real thing. It tasted like a Montrachet, but the acid levels were frightfully high, and the wine was extraordinarily tart. A gorgeous bottle of 1928 Yquem was still vibrant, complex, and honeyed. That was followed by an old, teetering on the brink, but still delicious 1896 Dow vintage port. I expect many of my British colleagues would wax much more eloquently over this wine, which, although near the end of its life, was interesting.

All in all, this was a great night of wine and food, even with three corked bottles.

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