1982 Bordeaux 30th Anniversary Gala Lunch
Benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation
This fund raiser arranged by Antonio Galloni and myself netted over $250,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation, which supports the families of United States Navy SEALs. We even had some excess proceeds that Antonio Galloni and I divided between local charities we support. In my case, it was the Ron Smith Pancreatic Cancer Research Foundation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. I have been involved in many great events over my career, but this one made me truly feel that we had given something back to a group of people who, without hesitation, put their lives on the line for the freedoms all of us enjoy 24/7, and often take for granted. I read a small prayer I had written prior to the lunch, which lived up to everything I had hoped it would be – emotionally, qualitatively, and spiritually.
I thought I would share with you the prayer I wrote and read to all the guests in attendance.
Dear God, Oh how I wish we could leave behind a world that knows no war. Where none of God’s children will suffer anymore. But the world can still be evil, and the devil a force of ill. God bless those who protect us. May their courage never fail them. May their hearts remain undefiled. May their love of country never waver. May our love of them never falter. May they always come home to peace. We honor our United States Navy SEALS yesterday, today and forever more. Amen.
Daniel Boulud pulled out all the stops in preparing what may be the greatest meal I have had at his restaurant Daniel in a number of years. The appetizers were so delicious I could have stopped there. But I’m grateful I didn’t as the Scottish Langoustines En Gelée blew me away as did the Tête de Veau en Tortue. It sounded slightly weird at first, but it was a beautiful dish. The Wild Turbot was a classic presentation, and one of the finest dishes I have had in the last year was the Porcini Ravioli stuffed with rabbit liver and served with rabbit legs. The pressed duck cooked in its own blood was sensational, and the black Angus rib eye with foie gras and black truffles was off-the-charts delicious.
As for the wines, with the exception of the two Champagnes (which Antonio Galloni bought directly from the wineries) and the magnums of Lafite Rothschild, were all from my cellar. I had purchased them as futures in Spring, 1983, and received delivery on them in Fall, 1984 and Spring, 1985. They had not moved from my cellar until I hired a private driver to deliver them to Daniel several weeks in advance of this event. All the wines were decanted and served impeccably at the correct temperature by the staff at Daniel, which was led by Daniel Johnnes. Four bottles of each wine were opened. With respect to corked bottles, we had a problem with only one bottle of La Mission Haut Brion, one bottle of Calon Segur and one bottle of Cos d’Estournel, for which we had back-ups. The condition of the bottles was fabulous. It emphasizes the importance of buying the wines as soon as they arrive in the country and storing them perfectly. You simply cannot store wines such as this casually or at warm temperatures.
Some of the 1982s are still not fully mature, but most of the Right Bank wines from St.-Emilion and Pomerol are fully mature, although they are in no danger of falling apart.
First the Champagnes. The 2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, which I have not yet seen in the market, was absolutely spectacular, as was the amazing freshness, precision and incredible perfume of the 1982 Dom Pérignon Rosé Oenothèque. Both were served from magnums, which is my favorite way of drinking Champagne. Both were exquisite wines. Thank you Antonio for choosing and buying these two great wines.
We then moved into the first flight, which was served in the following order: La Lagune, Calon Segur, Cos d’Estournel, Lynch Bages and Pichon Lalande. I selected the order, which I wanted to be meaningful and at the same time have the first growths before the end of the meal, when everyone is becoming saturated in both wine and food. The 1982 La Lagune (which, if I remember correctly, cost me around $65-70 for a full 12-bottle case) was delicious young, and, because of its extraordinary balance, continues to be absolutely amazing today. Very Burgundian, with lots of cherries, cedar and spice box, it is fully mature and wonderfully rich, pristine and luscious. The 1982 Calon Segur is just reaching full maturity. It exhibits a big, earthy, rustic, full-bodied style that appears to have a half century of life ahead of it. The 1982 Cos d’Estournel is close to full maturity. This château has been making splendid wines over the last decade and I thought the 1982 might look weak compared to some of its more recent vintages, but it did not. Obviously, in 1982 there was not the draconian selection process that is employed today, but this wine was sensational. The 1982 Lynch Bages and 1982 Pichon Lalande were both fabulous, with the Lynch Bages possibly the strongest showing I have ever seen. Surprisingly, it was even more rich, full and profound than I remember it being the last time I tasted it. A winner every time it is served, and a wine that I first scored 84 points from barrel and kept raising until it hit the magic three digit score when I tasted it from bottle is the 1982 Pichon Lalande. This wine was sumptuous, voluptuous, compelling, prodigious – whatever you want to say – when it was released in 1985, and it has never lost a step in the last three decades. A magnificent wine, for me it is the greatest Pichon Lalande of all time. It performed unbelievably well at this luncheon. It has been fully mature for the last twenty years, but perfect balance and great richness have held it together miraculously in a cold cellar.
With the wild turbot, black trumpet mushrooms and leek confit we had a flight of Pomerols and threw in Gruaud Larose at the end because it is such a massive wine, and I wanted it to come after the more delicate, softer Pomerols. The 1982 l’Evangile can be somewhat spotty in performances, but all the bottles showed great. Fully mature and extremely complex, it displayed lots of mocha, caramel, kirsch and black raspberry notes. The 1982 Certan de Mayseemed somewhat angular, austere, slightly herbal and harder with the tannins still showing. I may have overrated this wine at the beginning because it really hasn’t blossomed to the extent I predicted many years ago. The 1982 Le Gay was masculine, muscular, thick and rich. Of all these Pomerols, it is the most backward in style. Whether it will ever fully blossom, or always remain slightly coarse because of its high tannin levels remains to be seen. Another consistently perfect wine is the 1982 Lafleur. Reminiscent of a Château Rayas on steroids, it exhibits incredible levels of raspberry and kirsch liqueur intermixed with truffles and violets. It is an opulent, full-bodied, stunning wine. We followed that with what, along with the 1961, may be the greatest Gruaud Larose ever made, the 1982. It is a massive, masculine, dense, concentrated wine that tastes like blood from the vineyard. It remains a dense ruby/black/garnet color with lots of roasted meat, bouquet garni, licorice and crème de cassis characteristics.
The next flight included the 1982 Canon, Ausone, Figeac, Cheval Blanc and La Mission Haut Brion. Two wines stood out as underperforming, which did not surprise me. The 1982 Ausone, while good, but hardly great, pales in comparison to the superb wines that have been made at this estate since it was acquired by Alain Vauthier in the late nineties. It has enough acidity to hold it together, but it lacks the concentration of the top 1982s. The 1982 Figeac is vegetal and herbal. It continues to be the most underperforming great name in the St.-Emilion firmament. Both the 1982 Canon and 1982 Cheval Blanc were fully mature and performing beautifully. At one time the Cheval Blanc had been a perfect wine, but that ended at about ten years of age. It has always been a fast evolving effort, but it continues to be sumptuous and hold on to life. The last vintage of La Mission Haut Brion made under the old regime was the 1982. After that, the Dillon family, who also owns La Mission’s across the street neighbor, Haut Brion, had full control of this estate. The spectacular 1982 La Mission was one of the youngest wines in the tasting. Scorched earth, charcoal and volcanic notes intermixed with crème de cassis, roasted herbs, truffles and camphor jump from the glass of this dense, full-bodied, perfect La Mission Haut Brion. My best guess is that it is fully mature, but it appears capable of lasting another three decades or more.
With the amazing Duck à la Presse, pressed in our presence in an old fashioned French duck press and cooked with the blood from the duck, we had essentially a flight of first-growths, with the outlier being the 1982 Leoville Las Cases. However, that wine unquestionably turned in a first-growth performance. This wine can be extremely closed, tight, tannic and backward, causing one to wonder if it will ever develop. Well, it will ... and this one was. The 1982 Lafite Rothschild, which can be somewhat irregular in performance, came from magnum, and it was the greatest example of a 1982 Lafite that I have tasted to date. I had some perfect examples of this wine early in its life, but it had never again lived up to that perfection until this luncheon at Daniel. The following two wines are both perfect, but made in different styles. The 1982 Mouton Rothschild is a modern day clone of the 1959 or 1945 (as the late cellarmaster Raoul Blondin said to me when I first tasted it in March, 1983). It is still young and vibrant with at least 50 years of life ahead of it. The most showy, flamboyant and atypical wine Latour has made is the 1982. Like the Pichon Lalande (its neighbor), it has performed fabulously well since the beginning, which belies what most people tend to think about Château Latour. The 1982 Latourhas developed an incredibly compelling perfume of cedarwood, crème de cassis, earth, spice box, fruitcake and truffles. This amazing, full-bodied tour de force is one of the greatest Latours ever made. It rivals the 1961. Nearly perfect, but not at the level of the three predecessors is the 1982 Margaux. Bottle variation can plague this particular first-growth, but this was a beautiful example. Relatively masculine for Margaux as well as full-bodied, it is still very young.
The last flight was all St.-Juliens that performed brilliantly. The 1982 Branaire Ducru was fully mature, as was the Ducru Beaucaillou, even though the latter wine was somewhat younger in taste. The most backward wine of this flight was the 1982 Leoville Barton, which still needs time. The most surprising wine was the 1982 Beychevelle, to me the greatest Beychevelle ever made. This massive, rich, sumptuous effort is clearly one of the great buys in this vintage that is still in the marketplace, particularly at auctions where, hopefully, consumers can still find well stored bottles. Seemingly fully mature with a lot of length, richness and complexity was the 1982 Leoville Poyferre. I wouldn’t worry about this wine going over the cliff anytime in the next two decades.
Lastly, we enjoyed the 1990 Château d’Yquem, a great vintage for this offering. I had not had this wine in a while, but it is a magnificent sweet white Bordeaux displaying the classic marmalade, crème brûlée, honeyed flavors. The sweetness appears to have toned down ever so slightly, and this full-bodied beauty is incredibly young at 22 years of age. It has another century of evolution ahead of it.
For reasons of security and confidentiality, I cannot mention any of the SEALs’ names or the name of the father of a Seal killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, but their speeches were emotionally moving as well as inspirational. I hope to repeat this event next year, possibly with the 1990 Bordeaux vintage, given the success of this event and my commitment to giving back to charities in which I believe. This was one of the most memorable days I have ever enjoyed. I sat next to a gentleman who was the first military officer on the ground in Afghanistan following September 11, 2001. He led all our Special Forces, including the SEALs and other Special Ops in the search for Bin Laden and in operations in those perilous days. This luncheon reinforced so strongly in my mind that these are the people who are true heroes in this county. We can never do enough for them.
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