José Andrés Luncheon at Home

This may have been one of the greatest lunches (all six hours of it) that I have ever experienced. When I consider what my favorite foods are - from fatty toro (tuna belly) to sea urchin (uni), beautifully aged, flavorful beef as well as iberico belotta (black ham) and, of course, caviar as well as suckling pig - this meal had it all. I can't express enough my appreciation for José Andrés' generosity for hosting a group of culinary enthusiasts at his residence for this remarkable lunch. We all contributed plenty of wine, and I'll quickly run through some of the memorable wines of the day - and there were plenty of them. But the food clearly took center stage, at least for me.

We started with the Cava Joan Esteve Avinyo, which was crisp, correct, fresh and light-bodied, and was followed by some Spanish whites, which all performed well, especially the 2013 Ferreiro Albarino Cepa Vellas. Of course, the bright spot of the early part of the day was the Mark Aubert's 2012 Chardonnay from Napa Valley called Sugar Shack, a vineyard he owns in Rutherford. I provided this wine from magnum, and it was just sensational, with loads of poached pear, honeyed citrus, good minerality and terrific acidity and freshness in a full-bodied style.

The reds came in various flights, and as you can see from my scores, most showed well, but the real knock-out flight was the mini-vertical of Artadi's Viña El Pison. The 2004, 2009 and 2010 were just out of this world - great, young, densely packed, concentrated Riojas with terrific flavor, definition, intensity and complexity. I was disappointed in the 1998 Clos Erasmus, and while the 2004 was beautiful, it was eclipsed by several other wines, including all of the El Pison cuvées as well as the 1985 Vega Sicilia, which was fully mature, and the two wines from Toro, the 2005 Numanthia and the 2004 Termanthia, both of those wines exhibiting sensational fruit intensity and deep color. At ages 10 and 11 respectively, neither seems in any danger of falling apart. The 1975 Lopez de Heredia was delicate, aged, graceful, and challenging to taste in the company of all of these much bigger, bolder, more exuberantly styled wines.

The three Bordeaux were marred by a very badly corked magnum of 1986 Mouton Rothschild, but the bottles of 2000 Lynch Bages and 1989 Haut Brion performed well, although I detected that the Haut Brion seemed much more evolved than similar bottles from my cellar. I was unimpressed with the 1979 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon, but the 1998 Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz proved it's a world-class, still youthful, fabulously concentrated and complex wine that's beginning to move into full adolescence. This is a wine made by the famous Sparky Marquis. It has certainly stood the test of time admirably and has at least another 20 years of aging ahead of it. We then had a fabulous Maestro Sierra Amontillado 1830 that was just glorious, especially with the sea urchin and iberico belotta ham.

All in all, this was an exquisite meal, everything perfectly prepared by José Andrés and staff from his many restaurants in Washington, DC. He's a thinking man's chef, for sure, a real intellectual, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent talking on a multitude of subjects with him.

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