Vito’s Ristorante Italiano in Maryland
This was a terrific meal with friends at our local Italian bistro. I asked Chef Luca to make his homemade ravioli, which are clearly Michelin three-star in quality. I had just purchased the truffles for the experience of trying some of Australia’s fresh, black truffles from their limestone soils. Believe it or not, it is fall in Australia and truffle season, and these are very close in quality to the best of France’s Périgord and Vaucluse regions. I purchased the truffles from Urbani in New York, probably the top truffle and fresh mushroom purveyor in the United States. They were aromatic and flavorful. So, absolutely no complaints, and they were significantly cheaper than the French black truffle that are not available until November and December.
I followed the ravioli with a great fish stew from Chef Luca in a wonderful, fennel-infused tomato broth over oodles of mussels, shrimp, clams, squid and a wonderful, sweet, fleshy and intensely flavorful line-caught grouper.
With that we had a mini-vertical of Aubert’s Chardonnay UV-SL, which comes from Sonoma. The 2010 Aubert Chardonnay UV-SL was remarkably young, making me think maybe I am drinking my Auberts too young. Nevertheless, I certainly enjoy them. This was made from an old Wente clone taken from the Hyde and Hudson vineyards and planted on the hillsides of Green Valley – a notoriously cool-climate area of Sonoma. This wine showed plenty of delicate pineapple, apricot, poached pear and floral notes, wet rock and medium to full-bodied flavors. The acidity was terrific and fresh. The 2011 Aubert Chardonnay UV-SL was almost Viognier-like in its exotic nose of honeyed apricot, peach marmalade and nectarine. It showed slightly less minerality than even the 2010 and 2012. The 2012 Aubert Chardonnay UV-SL was spectacular and, again, showed an amazing intensity of flavor. Pushing 15% alcohol, as all these wines are, this wine has great acidity and still seemed incredibly young next to the 2010 and 2011, but with a good 5-10 years of life left. All three were consumed with great pleasure by those of us at the table.
We then moved to two magnums of Châteauneuf du Pape from my cellar. The 2007 Clos St. Jean Châteauneuf du Pape La Combe des Fous is finally starting to open at age nine. An incredibly complex nose of spring flowers, blueberry and forest floor is about as intricate as one could ask for. The wine hits the palate with a crescendo of juicy, expansive fruit, has a full body and probably a good 15%+ in natural alcohol, but there is not a trace of heat. It is a beauty that is just now hitting early adolescence in its evolution. An absolute monster, in terms of richness, is the 2007 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes, a top cuvée from the Sabon family at this great estate tucked away in the northeastern sector of Châteauneuf du Pape. This wine has certainly been one of the superstars from the very beginning when I first tasted it in summer of 2008. With an inky purple color, the wine has unctuous texture, a gorgeous nose of créme de cassis, blackberry, licorice and a touch of Provençal herbs and beef blood. It is beginning to show evolution, but the incredible texture - like a compressed skyscraper in the mouth – and its amazing ethereal qualities and lightness on its feet (despite its enormous size and richness) is something to behold. It is a masterpiece of modern-day Châteauneuf du Pape that should continue to drink well for another 20+ years.
This was a great night of food, friends and wine.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...