Dinner Honoring the First African-American President of the Maryland Bar Association

I have known Harry Johnson for over twenty-five years and was happy to provide the wines for a dinner honoring him as Maryland's first African-American President of the Maryland Bar Association. The venue was Baltimore's finest restaurant, Charleston, and the cuisine by Chef Cindy Wolf was superb. The menu included her world-class crispy cornmeal crusted oysters, a wonderful shellfish bisque, and terrific jumbo lump crab cakes served in a delicious whole grain mustard sauce. Chef Wolf's Scottish salmon in a red wine reduction sauce is also outstanding. A new course for me, the roasted breast of duck with white beans and seared foie gras, was a stick to the rib dish that I loved.

As for the wines, the brilliant 1995 Dom Pérignon was a notch below the 1990, but significantly better than the mediocre 1993. The wines that followed were all from magnums. The 1996 Peter Michael Chardonnay Cuvée Indigéne was performing beautifully. Moreover, it has another 3-4 years of life ahead of it. It's a classic Chardonnay offering notes of orange rind, pineapples, leesy, smoky oak, and spice. Next came the opulent, nearly over the top 2000 Sine Que Non The Hussy. An extraordinary blend of Roussanne, Viognier, and a touch of Chardonnay, it is one of the most singular dry white wines I have ever tasted ... 

"friggin delicious,"

as one guest said ... and that really does say it all.

The red wines all performed well, including a splendid magnum of 1974 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Fully mature, it revealed first-growth like notes of cedar, tobacco, black currant, and licorice in a medium to full-bodied yet elegant, concentrated style. This beauty needs to be consumed over the next 5-7 years. Absolutely magnificent, and just emerging from a dormant stage was the 1991 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard. Along with the Beringer Private Reserve, it was, for me, the wine of the night. The spectacularly intense Eisele Vineyard revealed no color degradation, but brilliant mineral-infused blackberry and black currant fruit cascaded from the glass of this still youthful but remarkably concentrated, well-balanced wine. It has at least another 10-15 years of aging potential.

One of the most underrated wines of the great 1991 vintage for California's North Coast is Beringer's 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve. This spectacular offering is classic Napa in its blast of black currant, blackberry, chocolate, cedar, and earthy notes. Super-concentrated and opulent, it is both a hedonistic and intellectual turn-on. A fabulous Cabernet, it is just hitting its prime, where it should remain for another decade. The blockbuster 1992 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Anniversary Reserve is still somewhat chunky, closed, and monolithic compared to the three wines that preceded it. Nevertheless, one has to admire its level of concentration and intensity. It needs another 3-5 years of cellaring. I was surprised by the degree of mint/eucalyptus in the 1993 Joseph Phelps Insignia, a characteristics I did not notice in its youth. Because of that, I did not enjoy it as much as several other guests did. Although atypical for this cuvée, it is a finely-crafted, elegant yet authoritatively rich wine. The 1996 Pahlmeyer Reserve was more akin to a La Jota Anniversary Reserve, a chunky, monolithic, massive, chewy red that had not yet found its stride.

We finished the evening with exquisite bottles of nearly perfect Fonseca 1970 and 1992 Vintage Port.

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