Dinner at Home with Friends
With some good friends, we had a casual meal celebrating my complete recovery from a total knee replacement. The sliced Joselito sliced Ibérico ham was as wonderful as one always remembers, melting in our mouths. I tried to prepare fresh scallops in the manner that Parisian bistro L’Ami Louis does, with loads of garlic and parsley. They were good, but I can’t seem to equal theirs, although of course I can’t get scallops as fresh as they do, with the coral on the side. The pièce de resistance was a wonderful roast chicken that I sautéed/browned on top of the stove first then roasted in the oven, spiced simply with salt, pepper, olive oil and a cavity stuffed with fresh herbs. It was delicious and succulent.
The wines all performed well until we hit the clunker at the very end, the 1983 Cockburn, which was badly corked. The two white Burgundies were great (which is not easy to say today, but I have never had an oxidized bottle from Coche-Dury, and I didn’t have any oxidized bottles of Neillon until the 1996 vintage). The 1995 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers is still a young wine at age 16. A brilliant wine with loads of honeysuckle, buttery poached pears, and white currants, it is medium-bodied, with great acid but wonderful, luxurious fruit and purity. The2001 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne seemed surprisingly evolved for a wine from Coche. Of course, it’s already 10 years old, but its beautifully pure, honeyed, buttery brioche notes intermixed with tropical fruits, crushed rock, quince, and a further hint of pineapple make for a gorgeously full-bodied, rich wine that was tantalizing.
All three Bordeaux performed brilliantly. They were decanted two hours in advance, as all three had tremendous amounts of sediment, especially the Gruaud Larose and, to a lesser extent, the Talbot. The 1982 Gruaud Larose does have a bit of brett, so if you are brett-averse, I suspect this wine wouldn’t please you as much, but it is massive, rich, concentrated and, for a wine that is nearly 30 years of age, remarkably youthful, vibrant, and super-complex, with loads of meat, cassis, earth, herbs and spice. The 1982 Talbot seems fully mature and is probably best drunk up over the next 5-8 years, whereas its sibling, the 1982 Gruaud Larose seems capable of lasting another 20, 30 or even 40 years. The Talbot has a slightly lighter color, more garnet and amber at the edge, with loads of licorice, cedar, earth, black currants and spice. Absolutely pure, and a classic example of Pauillac, is the 1982 Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Still deep ruby/purple, with beautiful crème de cassis notes, a hint of crushed rock and spring flowers, the wine is full-bodied, rich, concentrated and very pure. It is a striking contrast to the two St.-Juliens, which certainly have brett interwoven into their enticing textures, flavors and aromatics.
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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...