Café Citronelle, Washington, DC
The brilliant, creative genius of Michel Richard pulled out all the stops in a marvelous meal with only one glitch ... the Belon Oyster and Jellyfish in Aspic. There is something about jellyfish that I can't handle. Even though the Belon tasted great, I hated the combination. Other than that it was one fabulous course after another, with the remarkable foie gras brûlée and caramelized pork served with lentils two of the greatest dishes I have had in the last year.
As for the wines, the flight of white Rhônes included a couple of clunkers ... an oxidized (the second consecutive bottle for me) of 1995 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Roussanne Vieilles Vignes Blanc and the 1992 Chapoutier Hermitage Cuvée l'Orée. The 1994 Beaucastel Roussanne Vieilles Vignes was excellent, but not nearly as superb as it was 5 years ago. The star was the fabulous 1997 Chave Hermitage Blanc, followed closely by the 1999 and 1995.
The flight of red Hermitage included a great 1991 Chave that was pure elegance and finesse. It is a true wine of terroir. The 1990 Chave, consistently a 96-100 point wine, is the finest Chave produced over the last 25 years. The 1990 Cuvée Cathelin is a bigger wine with more new oak. It's gorgeous, but more closed, tannic, and in need of additional bottle age, whereas the regular bottling has reached its peak of maturity. The monumental 1990 Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle is reminiscent of dry vintage port. It is an extraordinary effort that has not been duplicated since. Still an infant, it has a good 25 years of life remaining.
The horizontal flight of 1989 Hermitage revealed some brilliant wines, including nearly perfect performances by the Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle, Chapoutier Le Pavillon, and Chave, a close competitor to the brilliant 90's from Chave. The clunker was a corked bottle of 1989 Sorrel Le Gréal, and the sleeper was the 1989 Faurie Le Méal. This is not a producer one hears a lot about, but this guy can make top-flight wine and deserves greater attention.
The Châteauneuf du Papes were all gorgeous. The most Burgundian-like was the 1998 La Janasse Cuvée Chaupin, and the most internationally-styled was the 1998 La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes. Perfection was achieved with Les Cailloux 1998 Cuvée Centenaire. Keep in mind that all of these wines are relatively young, but they deliver loads of pleasure. I would be remiss in not commenting on the spicy, Provençal-styled Bois de Bourson 1998 Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Felix, and the similarly-styled but denser 1990 Vieux Donjon, one of the best buys from that vintage. The 1998 Clos du Mont Olivet Cuvée du Papet wasn't singing, but it is unquestionably an outstanding wine.
We ended this extravagant lunch and wine tasting with an old, ripe Grenache displaying considerable residual sugar, the 1948 Maury Doré.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...