Asian Court

Asian Court may well have the most authentic Chinese cuisine in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The service can be a bit hazardous, as few people at the restaurant speak much English, so getting orders straight and making yourself clear is a challenge. That said, the quality of the cooking from the Hong Kong-raised chef is top-notch. We had an assortment of dim sum, with my favorites the shrimp dumplings and pork dumplings. We then moved quickly onto two of their great dishes. The Peking duck is certainly the best in the Baltimore region, along with their Cantonese fried lobster with ginger. After that, we had their traditional dishes, the shredded pork with hot peppers and the salt and pepper shrimp. Those were followed by two of the old-line classics found on every Chinese restaurant menu in the country (but the quality here is terrific): Kung Pao Chicken and Double Cooked Pork.

With all of these dishes, we had an assortment of wines that ranged from delicate to powerhouse. As for the white wines, the brilliant showing of the Brewer-Clifton 1996 Chardonnay from Sweeney Canyon reinforced my early impression from this winery about how long-lived their wines could be. This wine, at 20 years of age, would certainly out-perform 95% of white Burgundies from that vintage. I brought a magnum of Chapoutier’s 1998 white Hermitage L’Orée, which is 100% old-vine Marsanne. It was showing some oxidation and seemed funky. It’s always difficult to know what state of drinking these white Hermitages are in, and this one seemed to be awkward, although it’s very concentrated. I was super-impressed with the 2013 Viognier from Cayuse Vineyards in Washington State, and Patz and Hall did themselves a lot of credit with their 2007 Chardonnay from Dutton Ranch. That wine, at age nine, was certainly showing quite well, with a Meursault-like nuttiness.

We then moved on to the red wine flight, starting with Bergstrom’s 2006 Pinot Noir Bergstrom Vineyard in Dundee. This was a beauty – complex and Burgundian, with notes of forest floor, fresh porcini mushrooms, plum and black raspberries. The Burgundian-like 2003 Clos des Papes from my cellar wasn’t hitting on as high a note as it often does, but was still a beautiful wine: fully mature, with loads of framboise, raspberry and kirsch, some roasted herbs and dusty, loamy soil scents in the background. It is full-bodied, lush and a decadent drinking experience.

A few efforts from California included a wine I had never had before, the Reprise 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Jennifer’s Block from Sonoma. I was impressed with this big, rich, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon and I need to find out more about this winery. The star of the Cabernets, however, was the Tor 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon, which was just spectacular. Black as a moonless night, with notes of creme de cassis, graphite, and blackberry fruit, this full-bodied, seamless, majestic wine hit on all cylinders and worked strikingly well with the assortment of spicy Asian dishes. Another wine that impressed me was the 2005 Alto Montayo from Spain, but it was the Smith Haut Lafitte 2005 Pessac-Léognan that flirted with perfection. What a great wine that is, and it seemed to be drinking surprisingly well from that great but relatively tannic vintage.

We finished with two Shiraz wines from Australia. The 2002 Duck Creek Spring Fat Heathcote Shiraz was flawed by way too much volatile acidity and I found it undrinkable. In total contrast was the Mollydooker 2006 Blue-Eyed Boy Shiraz. Mollydooker has taken a beating from bloggers, but it’s amazing how well their wines age and hold up. They are enormously concentrated and rich in their youth, but then develop a much more civilized and balanced personality with 8-10 years of cellaring. This wine at age ten  was still grapy, rich, full-bodied and showing terrific blackberry notes along with white flowers in a full-bodied, inky and luscious style. It was definitely a sexy, hedonistic fruit bomb, but what’s wrong with that?

All in all, a good time with some very good wine-drinking buddies of mine.

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