Two meals at Vail's Left Bank Restaurant

Two meals consisting of tuna tartar, foie gras chaud, steak au poivre blanc, care d'agneau, chocolate soufflé, pasta with summer truffles, and consumé of lobster were all superb.

Between mountain biking and white water rafting (both of which built a considerable appetite), I had the privilege of dinning twice at Luc Meyer's classic French restaurant, the Left Bank, in Vail, Colorado. One can't say enough about this restaurant, one I visit every time I'm in Colorado. Meyer opened the Left Bank on Thanksgiving, 1970, and has never deviated from his vision of creating classic French cuisine, which has become harder and harder to find, even in La Belle France. Moreover, he has been a believer of buying wines as soon as they are released, and cellaring them in an air conditioned environment until they are ready to drink. Consequently, the Left Bank's wine list is one of the treasures in the United States, despite the fact that it is not listed as a Grand Award winner in The Wine Spectator ... a glaring omission from what is otherwise a very reliable guide. The strength of the wine list is Burgundy. There are few restaurants in the world that include basically verticals from 1978 on of Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Henri Jayer, and Domaine Leroy. Many of the top wines from these estates are represented on the wine list at shockingly reasonable prices.

As for the wines, the extraordinary 1983 Trimbach Riesling Clos St. Hune tasted like a 5-7 year old wine. The case I had purchased of this wine is long gone, but from Luc Meyer's cold cellars, it remains in remarkable condition. 1995 is my favorite white Burgundy vintage over the last seven years. I have had several phenomenal, nearly perfect bottles of Leroy's 1995 Meursault Narvaux, but I had never tasted the Puligny Montrachet Les Foletières. While tight, with decanting it opened, but still seemed to have all of its potential locked behind good acidity and considerable structure. It probably won't hit its plateau for another 5-6 years, but appears set for 20-25 years of aging (where well-stored).

The 1990 Rayas out of magnum (a remarkable $350) seemed slightly more evolved than bottles from my cellar. However, it was still a magnificent expression of kirsch liqueur in a voluptuously-textured, full-bodied, splendidly hedonistic yet also intellectually pleasing style. This wine can be pure perfection, and this bottle fell just short of that. A perfect wine, and one of the greatest produced in modern day Bordeaux is the 1990 Beauséjour Duffau. Call it a one hit wonder if you want, but this fabulous estate has never made anything before or after that comes close to the quality of their 1990. It still possesses an inky ruby/purple color as well as an extraordinary nose of blackberries, raspberries, truffles, licorice, and a hint of damp foresty smells. Although tannic, this full-bodied wine is extremely concentrated, with a wealth of fruit and glycerin. Believe it or not, it will prove, in time, far superior to some of the other legends of the 1990 vintage (i.e., Cheval Blanc and Pétrus). It is still young, and should last another three decades.

As usual, the food was spectacular. What is so admirable about Luc Meyer and every meal I have enjoyed with him over the years is that everything is made from scratch, including the bread and all of his stocks. Few chefs have the guts to serve a consumé of lobster simply because to do it right, it requires enormous amounts of labor to get the intensity of flavor. Meyer's was the real thing, the likes of which I have not tasted in over fifteen years. Being a native of Alsace, Meyer is a master with foie gras. He also makes the best steak au poivre in the United States. This is a man who has done it all, having apprenticed in France at Le Pyramide in 1959 and at L'Oustau de Baumanière in 1961. One of the first great French chefs to move to the United States, the Vail Valley has benefitted from his presence for over thirty years ... so have I.

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