Palena Restaurant, Washington, DC March, 2001

This was my first dinner at Palena with my colleague, Pierre-Antoine Rovani, and friends. Some of the great courses we had included a foie gras soup, caramelized duck leg, and incredible boudin blanc. The occasion was to taste 1982 Bordeaux, several of which have been tasted a number of times this year. However, the meal began with white Burgundies, including 1989 Jadot Corton Charlemagne, a still extremely young wine, the 1995 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne, and a flawed bottle of a legend, the 1986 Leroy Meursault Les Perrieres. This bottle was dominated by mercaptan and brett. A 1996 Carillon Puligny Montrachet Les Referts elicited quite a controversial response. I thought it was acidic even though the fruit characteristics were good. I don't see the acidity ever going away, but there was plenty of disagreement over this particular bottle.

As for the 1982 Bordeaux, there were no surprises other than a slightly corked bottle of 1982 Margaux, which otherwise looked to be impressive. The most mature of the great first-growth Pauillacs has consistently been Château Latour. Along with Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild, it is a perfect wine. The Lafite needs at least another 5-10 years of cellaring, the Mouton another 10-15 years. To me, the 1982 Mouton is a modern day incarnation of the 1959 or 1945 ... take your pick. It is always interesting to see how opulent, viscous and forward the 1982 Latour is. It has not changed in over a decade, and is always the most drinkable of the first-growth Pauillacs. Pichon-Lalande turned in another brilliant performance scoring 99 on my scale and 100 points on some others'. Probably the most decadent wine of the tasting was the 1982 Lafleur. Luxuriously rich, it is over-kill for the olfactory senses. How I wish I had about ten cases of this squirreled away. It is just starting to drink well, by the way. Pétrus has been an irregular performer in 1982, as witnessed by all my tastings. In this tasting it easily merited 96 points, and is still relatively young. Fully mature and brilliant is the 1982 La Conseillente. A phenomenal showing for the 1982 L'Evangile, it has become one of the vintage's superstars, which was further attested by a tasting of it from magnum seven months later at Veritas restaurant in New York City. The 1982 Léoville Las Cases, which has been closed and in a dormant state for many years, was another near perfect wine, as was the 1982 La Mission Haut Brion. The sleeper of these 1982s was the Léoville Poyferré. This magnificent wine is one of the unheralded great 1982s. The 1982 Haut Brion performed extremely well, but it is nowhere near the league of the 1989 or 1998.

Once we finished the 1982 Bordeaux, we drank a fully mature 1975 Lafite Rothschild. It possessed plenty of smoky, earthy, mineral notes with the famed graphite character and sweet tannin (surprising for a 1975). Another fully mature 1975, the luscious Trotanoy shows no signs of falling apart.

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