Charity Dinner, Oregon Grill, Hunt Valley, Maryland
he Menu: This is one of Baltimore as well as its suburbs' finest restaurants. With the Chardonnay flight, we had the exquisite Maryland soft shell crabs in a beurre blanc with mustard seeds. The second course was planked salmon served with mashed potatoes and a red wine sauce made out of a reduction of Bordeaux. The third course was straightforward New York strip steak with creamed spinach, mushrooms, and crispy onions. The dessert was crème brulée.
Flight One: As for the wines, the Flight One lived up to expectations, with my only comment that the 1994 Pahlmeyer is beginning to tire, yet the 1992 Kistler Cuvée Cathleen is splendidly rich, complex, and multi-dimensional. The 1980 Chalone, one of the greatest California Chardonnays ever made, was a bad bottle, as evidenced by a tasting two months later where it merited 100 points and bested an upper-90 point Montrachet, the 1979 Ramonet.
Flight Two: A good, untainted bottle of 1983 Margaux was young and vibrant, with many years ahead of it, and still not even close to its plateau of full maturity. A magnum of 1962 Palmer was showing some fatigue, but still very good, floral, with a lot of complexity. The star of the red wine flight was the 1991 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which showed more complexity and richness than either the Mondavi or the Stags Leap, both very fine wines and certainly outstanding.
Flight Three: This was where all the aromatic and flavor fireworks took place. All of these wines are extraordinarily young and virtually no different than my original tasting notes. I had the wines double-decanted several hours prior to dinner, but still the most backward were the unctuous Harlan Estate, firmly structured, elegant Shafer Hillside, and the broodingly big bruiser, the Château Montelena, and of course, the unformed Philip Togni. The most delicious, at least for current drinking, were the 1997 Screaming Eagle, largely just because of the extraordinary purity of fruit, and the 1993 Bryant Family Vineyard. Nevertheless, these are world-class wines of extraordinary richness and individuality, and it is striking to see how different they all are when they are tasted side by side.
Flight Four: Lastly, two of my favorite vintage ports, the 1970 Fonseca, still young but just entering its plateau of maturity, and the fully mature but still vigorous and youthful 1963 Taylorare as good as it gets for vintage port.
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Petit Louis Bistro
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