Magdalena Restaurant at The Ivy Hotel

This meal was absolutely spectacular. Chef Mark Levy has a knack for selecting some of the freshest and plumpest oysters from Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Stellar Bay oysters, served with pomegranate and ginger mignonette, were just out of this world. He followed that with an incredibly creamy, rich langoustine bisque, and then some seriously great dishes that were three-star Michelin. The white Alba truffle risotto, the open ravioli of rabbit and foie gras, and then a dish that has made a comeback at many fine restaurants, the pork belly, in this case from Berkshire heritage pigs. We finished with a daube of wagyu brisket with mushrooms and salsify. All in all, this was one of the finest meals that I had in 2016.

The wines were all chosen from my cellar for this charity event to raise funds for Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. We started with a flight of six exceptional California Chardonnays.  I guess the surprise, for those who know my taste, was Signorello’s 2015 Hope’s Cuvée Chardonnay. This comes from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Napa, and Ray Signorello hit pay dirt big-time with this wonderfully Burgundian-styled Chardonnay that is rich, concentrated, but has great acidity and purity. The other Chardonnays all stood out as well, perhaps my two favorites being the 2012 Peter Michael Cuvée Indigne, an earthy, waxy, complex, full-throttle Chardonnay, and the marvelously fresh, young 2003 Marcassin Estate Chardonnay.

The whites were followed by a tour of Bordeaux, as I wanted to give the guests who had supported this charity a nice tour of different appellations. We started with softer wines, including the fully mature and brilliant 1989 La Conseillante, which is pure silk and luscious herb-tinged blackcurrant and cherry fruit with some licorice and Asian spice. That was followed by a couple of powerhouses. The 1998 Trotanoy, which comes from a great vintage for Pomerol and St.-Emilion as well as the Péssac-Léognan, which was strutting its stuff, offering loads of earth, iron and blackcurrants, plus full-bodied richness and intensity. This beauty is just coming into its adolescence. Obviously very young, but still impressive was the 2010 L’Evangile, which had plenty of black raspberries and incense. A magnificent, powerful, and young 2000 Latour, which was full-bodied and intense, was followed by one of the superstars of a difficult vintage, the 2003 Cos d’Estournel, which was opulent, viscous, and loaded with fruit and intensity. Unfortunately, the 2003 Leoville Poyferre was corked, my second bottle from this case that was corked, which gives me the creeps.

We then moved to a much more powerful style of wine, without the tannic clout of the Bordeaux, but much more expansive and textured on the palate. I’m speaking of the sun-baked area of Provence and the beautiful old village of Châteauneuf du Pape. We started with more mature examples. The 1998 Bois de Boursan Cuvée Felix is a beautiful wine, with mulberry, new saddle leather, roasted herbs and some gamey, meaty notes. This rich, full-bodied wine is fully mature. Next came the 1998 Beaurenard Boisrenard, which sees a touch of new oak and is a modern and progressive style of Châteauneuf du Pape in complete contrast to the Cuvée Felix. The Beaurenard was young and impressive. A traditional, classic, old-style Châteauneuf du Pape, the 1998 Raymond Usseglio Cuvée Imperiale comes from vines of Grenache planted in 1904. It is a beauty — full-throttle and rich, with loads of herbs, beef blood and smoked game in a full-bodied style. We then hit a young, elegant, almost Burgundian style of wine, the 2007 La Roquete, which is 100% Grenache but very beautiful, with its raspberry and floral notes, full-bodied mouthfeel, but silky tannins and a suave, graceful personality. The 2001 Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve includes a big wallop of Mourvedre that gives it more structure and meatiness than some of the other wines, as this was the wine that had the most Mourvedre of any of these examples. 2001 was a top vintage for Clos du Caillou, and this wine is still a young adolescent with a dense ruby/purple color and a beautiful nose of incense, graphite, blackcurrants, kirsch, licorice and earth. It was followed by a juicy, full-bodied, earthy but slightly brett-tinged, meaty and full-throttle 2000 Pégaü Cuvée da Capo, which is over 90% old-vine Grenache aged for a number of years in old casks before it’s bottled unfiltered.

We finished the dry red wines with some gems from Northern California. The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon from the iconic Martha’s Vineyard of Heitz didn’t show as much eucalyptus as it did in its older incarnations, but it displays loads of deep fruit, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and beautifully sweet tannins. It was eclipsed somewhat by the 1998 Screaming Eagle, a vintage not nearly as highly regarded as 1997, but Screaming Eagle’s selection process and impeccable winemaking produced a pure wine with plenty of creme de cassis, medium to full body and sweet tannin. A massive wine and a killer effort is the 2001 Sloan, which is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon but has some Cabernet Franc, Merlot and possibly a touch of Petit Verdot in it as well. This is still a very young wine that has tremendous upside. Fully mature, but showing no signs of age is the 1996 Pahlmeyer, a magnificent, full-bodied wine that shows, at 20 years, just how these wines can age beautifully, as this wine still has a good 10-15 years of aging left in it. We finished with two opposites. The classic, all-American 1997 Venge Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville was a full-throttle wine offering loads of oak, massive blackcurrant fruit, a heady, opulent and viscous personality. The more Bordeaux-style blend was the 1997 Peter Michael Les Pavots, a brilliant wine with notes of licorice, tapenade, creme de cassis, charcoal and graphite. All of these wines acquitted themselves well, but if I had to pick a favorite for drinking now, it would probably be the Peter Michael and Venge, with the biggest upside the 2001 Sloan.

Lastly, and it may have been overkill, we finished the night with one of the great vintage ports, the 1970 Fonseca. This Fonseca was beautiful — sweet and rich, with notes of caramelized dark fruits, spice and flowers. The wine was full-bodied and very fresh and lively.

All in all, this was a magical night, although I should say we started the night with the beautiful Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), the 2004 Ruinart, which is a sensational Champagne.

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