Charity Dinner at Restaurant Daniel

  • Robert M. Parker, Jr.

  • 01 May 2002 | Events

Another marvelous meal prepared by the great French chef, Daniel Boulud, the early courses were brilliant. They included his incredibly perfumed, intensely flavored fresh anchovy dish, and delicate salad of crab. Daniel's crusty scallops were top-notch, but the two courses the blew me away were his stuffed bar (bass), which was filled with ceps and lobster, which worked incredibly well with the flight of Rhône wines. That was followed by another magnificent course, a balantine of stuffed rabbit. The only slightly off course of the evening was the baby suckling lamb, which seemed chewy, and not terribly flavorful. However, that slight disappointment was quickly erased by Boulud's incredible braised short ribs ... cuisine to die for!

As for the wines, an oxidized bottle of 1985 Meursault Charmes from Comte Lafon continues the up and down history of older vintages of this famed domaine's white Burgundies. As I have said many times before, his red Burgundies age better than his whites. Louis Latour's 1989 Corton Charlemagne was still vibrant and young, full of intensity and complexity. The 1998 Kongsgaard Chardonnay and 1997 Marcassin Chardonnay Hudson were more flamboyant, but both revealed good minerality, especially the Kongsgaard.

There were no disappointments in flight two, with structured, concentrated premier cru white Burgundies from Domaine Leflaive and Michel Niellon. Both were from the 1995 vintage, my favorite white Burgundy vintage of the last dozen years. They were easily rivaled by the rich, concentrated, mineral, and perfumed 1999 Peter Michael Chardonnay Point Rouge.

In flight three, the 1997 Amiot-Bonfils Montrachet revealed excessive smoky oak in the nose and a good attack, but little followed. The star of the flight was the brilliant 1995 Marcassin Chardonnay Gauer Ranch, a spectacular, buttery, honeyed Chardonnay with great underlying acidity as well as minerality. Most of the guests agreed this was the finest white wine we had, although a handful preferred the 1989 Latour Corton Charlemagne.

The first flight of reds included four legendary Bordeaux. Sadly, the 1986 Mouton-Rothschildwas corked, although its overwhelming power and richness managed to push through the corkiness, which became increasingly apparent as the wine sat in the glass. The sensational, fully mature 1983 Château Margaux possessed celestial aromatics, medium body, and a classic style. That was followed by a 1982 Mouton-Rothschild that was more evolved than bottles from my cellar. It offered gorgeous crème de cassis flavors intermixed with cedar, spice box, and Asian spices. This was one of the few times where I have had this wine and it was not the finest wine of the flight, simply because of the opulence, richness, and prodigious qualities of the 1989 Haut Brion.

Next was a great flight of Rhônes, including a perfect bottle of Jaboulet's still young, but so impressive 1990 Hermitage La Chapelle. The more evolved Chave Hermitage revealed striking aromatics. It may have been the finest, most complex bouquet of any wine served. An earthy, rich, concentrated 1990 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape and the sumptuous 1990 Rayas Châteauneuf du Pape followed, but it was not the perfect bottle I had from three tastings of this wine from my cellar over the last six months.

A wine I had never had (it was made only for the Napa Valley Wine Auction) was the 1996 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Sun Spot. It had incredible richness and intensity, as did the commercial release, the fabulous 1996 Shafer Hillside Cabernet Sauvignon Select. The Venge Family Reserve 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon has already started to soak up its enormous quantities of new oak, and is revealing plenty of black fruits. It was followed by a gorgeous 1996 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, and the wine that put every other California wine in its place in this flight, the prodigious, port-like 1997 Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

The next flight was marred by a corked bottle of the 1996 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, but it included exceptional bottles of Behrens & Hitchcock 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville1997 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1997 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford.

Lastly, the 1997 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was a perfect wine. It was followed by the exotic 1995 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon, which revealed that striking blueberry liqueur note intermixed with lilac aromas. Those two wines dominated the disappointing 1990 Wendouree Shiraz-Mataro, and the compressed, monolithic 1999 Icarus, a Rhône Ranger from Ravenswood.

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