Dinner Chez Moi
Dinner with longtime friends who are also great wine lovers included a stunning array of wines. Since one of the guests did not care for Champagne, we began with three still whites. The Verget 1995 Chablis Valmur can be variable, but this bottle was young and vibrant, tasting like a barrel sample. It revealed beautiful minerality, honeyed citrus notes, and tremendous persistence, but it was extremely young and backward. The fabulous, young 1995 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes was much more accessible. Lovely aromas of hazelnuts, lemon oil, oranges, and crushed rocks were followed by a medium to full-bodied, rich wine with superb acidity and precision. This is my favorite vintage of the nineties for white Burgundy, and at ten years of age, the wines are youthful, vigorous, and concentrated. 1994 is a mixed year for white Burgundies, but Coche-Dury, a consistent genius, produced a fabulous Corton Charlemagne. While it may not rival his great Cortons of 1986, 1990, 1995, or 1996, it is a brilliant effort boasting notes of brioche, orange marmalade, custard, and honeyed lemons with a steely mineral component in the background. Full-bodied and powerful, with no notions of botrytis or mustiness (a characteristic found in some 1994 white Burgundies), it is a fresh, vibrant wine with another 5-10 years of life remaining.
One of the advantages of having a wine cellar is being able to buy the wines young and allow them to mature under perfect humidity and temperature conditions. That was admirably demonstrated by the following 1982 Bordeaux, which were all purchased in 1983 as futures, and pristinely cellared since I took possession of them in late 1984 and early 1985. All of the wines were decanted for 4-5 hours. Their colors were remarkably young and vibrant, with only Trotanoy, Cheval Blanc, and L'Evangile revealing any amber at the edge. Good storage is everything in terms of drinking mature wines, although the only fully mature offerings in this line-up were the Trotanoy and L'Evangile. Cheval Blanc is 2-5 years from hitting its peak, but the other five wines are many years from full maturity, even though the vintage's great fruit and richness makes them wonderful to drink. After 23 years, they have begun to exhibit serious complexity as well as nuances. The 1982 Trotanoy was plump, rich, full-bodied, and silky-textured, offering notes of herbs, tomato skin, and loads of black cherry and plum-like fruit. The 1982 Cheval Blanc is one of the most variable wines of the vintage, ranging from virtually perfect to rich and concentrated with rustic tannin and jagged edges. This bottle fell somewhere in between. It was beautifully-scented, offering aromas of tobacco smoke, spice box, and black fruits, medium to full-bodied with cedary sweetness, a long finish, and some tannin still to be resolved. The sumptuous 1982 L'Evangile (one of the finest wines ever made by this château) is pure black truffles, raspberries, plums, figs, and black currants. Huge but velvety-textured and sumptuous, some technocrats might find the notion of sweaty saddle leather to be off-putting, but this is a fabulous wine. The young, still adolescent 1982 La Mission Haut Brion is a perfect wine. Its dark plum/purple color is accompanied by classic aromas of scorched earth, tar, black fruits, licorice, and graphite. With enormous body, power, and concentration, noticeable but silky tannin, and a mind-boggling finish, it is an extraordinary effort made before the Dillon/Delmas administration acquired this château in 1983.
The final flight of 1982s started off with a horrendous bottle of Ducru Beaucaillou. It had a beautiful fill (none of the wines had any alluge), but an incredibly volatile and off-putting nose made me pull another bottle from my cellar. The second bottle was splendid ... young and vibrant with a superb perfume of violets, crushed rocks, raspberries, and black currants, medium body, tremendous persistence, good acidity, and moderate tannin. The greatest Gruaud Larose of my era, and certainly the finest since the 1961 is the 1982, a wine of enormous concentration, breadth of flavor, depth, and intensity. Its dark plum/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary nose of saddle leather, black fruits, roasted meats, dried herbs, and sweet blackberries, figs, and cassis. Fabulously concentrated but still young and virile, it seems to have immortal potential. The same can be said for the 1982 Mouton Rothschild, one of the greatest Moutons ever made. A dense purple color and pure crème de cassis flavors are found in this beauty. When I first tasted this wine with the renowned, late cellarmaster, Raoul Blondin, he quizzed me enthusiastically about the characteristics of the wine. After I ran out of superlatives, he told me it was the greatest Mouton Rothschild since the 1945. Who knows? But it is glorious, and one of the youngest wines of the vintage, with 30-50 more years of life ahead of it. In many tastings, Latour's 1982 is the most forward of the first growths, but this particular bottle was backward, brawny, tannic, and hugely endowed, but the least forthcoming of the Médocs. A sensational wine, its ultimate potential is easily discerned, but this bottle was not one of the more forward examples of this vintage.
We finished the evening with a glorious blueberry tart accompanied by the 1976 Hugel Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles, a wine I purchased from Hugel on a visit to Alsace in the early eighties. While this bottle was less impressive than previous examples, it was an outstanding, nearly dry Gewurztraminer.
Lastly, I can't say enough good things about the Peter Lugar strip steaks, grilled with a crusty edge and rare middle. They are fabulous steaks which can be ordered over the Internet.
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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...