Dinner at a Private Home To Benefit the Camillus House

Serving the Homeless in Miami, Florida 

This exquisite meal was held at the home of Bob and Jodi Dickinson, two terrific humanitarians who have been major players in alleviating the problem of homelessness in Greater Miami. Jodi is a sensational chef and this was the second meal she's prepared from scratch for such a benefit. I have to say the quality of the food was amazing. We started the reception with some wonderfully succulent bacon-wrapped quail pieces as finger food, truffle pizza and who doesn't love Yukon Gold potato cakes with caviar? Jodi's foie gras, dish, talapia and mushroom soup were all terrific, but she really outdid herself with a magnificent roasted veal chop.

As for the wines, most of them came from my cellar and were shipped down a month in advance to rest. Served with the appetizers were a bevy of limited-production boutique cuvées of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnays ranged from a very youthful 2012 Aubert Ritchie Vineyard and DuMol 2010 Clare to two fully mature yet still vigorous, fresh and exuberant Chardonnays, the 2001 Peter Michael Mon Plaisir and 2000 Marcassin Three Sisters. The latter wine is from the Sonoma Coast and still showing well, with loads of caramelized citrus, roasted hazelnuts and spice. The 2009 Marcassin Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the Aubert were probably my two favorites, but this was a sort of quick-hitting tasting.

We the moved to a very intriguing flight of Cabernet Sauvignons, ranging from the youthful 2008 Fortunate Son made by Jason Woodbridge at Hundred Acre and the Abreu 2008 Thorevilos, that great vineyard tucked behind the Meadowood Resort in St. Helena, to another still-young but remarkable wine from David Abreu, the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Madrona Ranch. The oldest wine, the 1994 Abreu Madrona Ranch, was probably my favorite, followed by the Kapcsandy 2006 Roberta's Reserve Merlot, which was our only Merlot in the tasting. All of these wines were in good shape, even from less successful vintages such as the 2000 Bryant Family Estate or the 1996 Shafer Hillside Select. I thought the Quilceda Creek might look different coming from Washington State, but it again preformed brilliantly, with a classic display of blackberry and cassis fruit.

As we sat for dinner, with the first course a trio of foie gras, we had Zind-Humbrecht's exotic, rich and still very young 1994 Tokay Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive Clos Jebsal. This was a perfect food-wine match-up from the Dickinsons. We then had some white Burgundies from my cellar. From a vintage that I loved and that lasted 20 or more years, the 1985 Meursault Perrières from Comte Lafon was showing some age, even though the color was surprisingly youthful. This wine is only a shadow of what it had been five or six years ago and needs to be drunk up. I have had real oxidative issues with the 1996s from Domaine Niellon, so I was surprised just how strong and rich the 1996 Chassagne Montrachet "Les Chaumées"performed. In this case it was the 1996 grand cru, the Chevalier Montrachet, which was oxidized. All of this was redeemed by the spectacular showing of the 2001 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne, a truly great white Burgundy that is fully mature and probably best drunk over the next 4-5 years.

We moved into a very brief flight of Châteauneuf du Papes that I thought would be relatively complex and fully mature. They all showed well, with perhaps the biggest surprise being the 2001 Solitude Reserve Secréte, which had a healthful dosage of Syrah included in the old-vine Grenache, with the Syrah aged in small cask and the Grenache in neutral vats. Another complex 2001 is the Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Felix, which displayed plenty of Burgundian forest floor, blue and red fruits, spice, and what I thought was a meaty, Porcini-like character, although that could have been the influence of the field mushroom soup. The two Pégaüs acquitted themselves well, with the Cuvée Réservée slightly more evolved than other bottles that I've had from my cellar, and the Cuvée da Capo, as it always does, flirting with (and sometimes hitting) perfection. This bottle was clearly the denser, richer one. That's interesting, because in early tastings at the winery and when they were first bottled, the differences between these two cuvées was not all that apparent, but now, as they hit 12 years of age, the differences are striking.

We then moved into some Bordeaux that I bought when they were first released and have stored perfectly. The real surprise to me was not the 1982 Mouton Rothschild - which was great, young, youthful, whatever - but it was the showing of the 1988 Lafite Rothschild and 1982 Château Margaux. Both of those wines were spectacularly young, vigorous, and intense, and to me, were the class of the first flight of Bordeaux. The 1986 La Fleur de Gay was fully mature, as was the 1982 Ausone.

The second flight of Bordeaux included some stunning wines. A slightly evolved and fully mature 1990 Latour had to take a backseat to two wines - the magnificent 1990 Leoville Las Cases, which of course comes from the vineyard just to the south of Latour and abuts Latour on the St.-Julien/Pauillac border, and the 1990 Cheval Blanc, one of the great wines for this famous St. Emilion estate. The two 1995s just weren't generally in the same class, although strong efforts for that vintage. The 1995 Haut Brion is just coming into its adolescent stage. The 1995 Petrus is extremely backward and young, withholding much of its charm and character. We finished the dinner with a gorgeous 1990 Château Climens, which had a medium gold color and loads of crème brûlée, pineapple and honeysuckle.

All in all, this was a great night for a great cause with a very entertaining group of wine lovers.

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