Dinner, Oregon Grille, Hunt Valley, MD

A simple meal with fine wines featured the excellent cooking of Chef Mark Henry of the Oregon Grille, one of the two or three finest restaurants in the Baltimore area. The delicious 2001 Tablas Creek Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, and probably a few other things, revealed tremendous citrus and white flower characteristics in a medium-bodied, fresh style. As I have written in The Wine Advocate, this estate, owned by the Haas family (owners of the Vineyard Brand import company) and the Perrin family (of Château Beaucastel), has followed a rocky beginning with better and better wines. The Tablas Creek was followed by one of the rarities of France, the limited production, 100% Aligoté, 1985 Ponsot Morey St. Denis Blanc. This curiosity performed superbly, revealing wonderful acidity, a big, uplifting, honeysuckle-scented bouquet, medium body, and loads of fruit. It was spectacular with Chef Henry's lobster corn cakes.

The red wines included a magnum of 1982 l'Evangile (from my cellar) that was double decanted five hours prior to dinner. This particular bottle revealed more animal/leathery characteristics than others I have had (no new oak was used at l'Evangile in this vintage), along with loads of sweet, concentrated, meaty flavors and the opulence and viscosity typical of the 1982 vintage. While fully mature, this 1982 should be in no danger of decline for at least another decade ... where well-stored. One of the greatest Petite Sirahs I have ever had is the Ridge 1971 York Creek. This bottle was not up to some previously tasted. It revealed a distinctive nose of coconut, eucalyptus, and abundant quantities of blackberry and currant fruit. Although still amazingly young with a saturated purple color, the American oak used in aging the wine has become increasingly annoying during its evolution. This wine would probably have been spectacular if it had been aged in 1-2 year old French oak (which is much more subtle). However, the wine's youthfulness is something to behold ... at age 32!

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