Bert Basignani’s Birthday Dinner

To celebrate Bert Basignani’s (one of Maryland’s finest winemakers as well as a friend of over 25 years) 66th birthday, he pulled some of the gems from his wine collection for the benefit of his guests. We started with a Champagne I seem to drink just about everywhere I go these days, Billecart Salmon’s non-vintage rosé Champagne. This superb Champagne has become my go to rosé Champagne because it is so consistent ... and good. We followed that with a flight of 1982 Bordeaux he had bought as futures from Washington DC wine shops and has cellared perfectly ever since. The wines, which were decanted several hours in advance and left in open decanters, performed fabulously. The Pomerols were the sexiest of these wines, with the Trotanoy slightly eclipsing the l’Evangile. However, both revealed loads of fruit as well as sweet, opulent, fully mature personalities. Neither will fall off the face of the earth in the next ten years,  but if you are looking for mature, complex, cerebral wines that satisfy both the intellectual and hedonistic senses, both are perfect choices. As someone at the dinner party asked, will the 1982 Léoville Las Cases ever be ready to drink? I rated this wine 100 early in its life and I have had a couple 100 point bottles since, most recently at a dinner party in Tokyo. This is one of the most backward wines of the vintage (along with Mouton and Lafite). It still reveals a healthy dark ruby/purple color as well as lots of black currant fruit intermixed with hints of sweet cherries, forest floor and damp earth. It is full-bodied, but remains tannic and youthful. In total contrast, the 1982 Léoville Poyferré exhibits lots of cedar, black currants, underbrush and a hint of balsam. Complex, forward, luscious, succulent and opulent, it is totally different than the more masculine and backward Las Cases. Close to full maturity, the 1982 Lynch Bages reveals abundant cedar and black currant characteristics along with a fleshy, opulent mouthfeel that is very much in keeping with the 1982 vintage, although I believe Lynch Bages produced even greater wines in 1989, 1990 and 2000. Once again, Pichon Lalande stole the show with its perfect combination of richness, finesse, complexity, depth, equilibrium and nobleness. It is a stunningly rich, full-bodied wine that tastes like liquid haute couture. This extraordinary example of Pauillac exhibits a Pomerol-like note of crème de cassis along with chocolate, coffee and forest floor characteristics. We finished with two sweet wines, including a remarkable half bottle of 1978 Château St. Jean Belle Terre Riesling Select Late Harvest. It resembled molasses, but the wine’s terrific acidity balanced out its huge sweetness, making it relatively refreshing. We also opened a legendary port, the 1963 Fonseca. Decanted for over three hours, it was an elixir of candied roses, red and black fruits, licorice, cassis and kirsch. At nearly 50 years of age, this stunning vintage port appears to have another 20-25 years of life remaining.

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