The Oregon Grille

A delicious lunch at nearby Oregon Grille with three older wines disproved the nonsense that you can't have red wine with fish - once again. What's the old saying - little minds have little ambition or creativity? The Oysters Avery, which is a marvelous dish at the Oregon Grille, is a generous serving of Blue Point oysters from Newfoundland or New England with a substantial mélange of jumbo lump crab meat, finished with a touch of heat on top and served perfectly with the oysters barely cooked and the crabmeat nice and warm. We followed that with one of the luncheon specialties that I love - the filet of mountain trout with mushrooms. Occasionally they have artichokes, but I usually avoid those because they are tough on wine (which proves one of the exceptions to the myth that you can't drink just any wine with any food).

We had three older wines that were very interesting. Perhaps the one that surprised me the most, even though in terms of point scores it was the lowest, was the 1977 Martin Ray Merlot Winery Lake. I've never had this wine before and it was holding onto life quite nicely, with lots of caramel, cherry, plum and fig. Winery Lake must be the vineyard in Corneros that was largely reputed to have very fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the label only said California back in those ancient days, even prior to The Wine Advocate.

The Shafer 1999 Hillside Select, from a vintage I am less enthusiastic about than some of my peers, was beautiful. Showing the Shafer family's Midas touch with Cabernet Sauvignon, licorice, crème de cassis and a touch of wood smoke were all present in this medium to full-bodied wine, which is an adolescent quite capable of lasting another 10-20 years minimum.

I rated the Chave 1999 Hermitage slightly lower than I had after release, largely because it seems that the fruit has faded more than I expected, and the acids poke through slightly more alarmingly than I would have imagined. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful wine and I suspect this was probably the only wine that needed a more gamey, meaty dish to strut its stuff.

All in all, a delicious, elegant lunch of wine and food at The Oregon Grille made for a warm, relaxing getaway from the frozen landscape that is Maryland in January.

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