Once again Chef Cindy Wolf showed her mastery of fish, sauces, soups and deep-frying in her impeccable, remarkably consistent and always brilliant manner. At this dinner, we had some very interesting wines that did not follow any theme. The Aubert 2008 Chardonnay Reulingwas sensational, in a richer, more concentrated style than the pretty 2005 Catena Alta Chardonnay, which was more minerally and crisp, lighter, but still very flavorful and intense. The1989 La Conseillante magnum – at least this one – seemed fully mature, displaying a good bit of orange and amber at the edge, loads of mulberry and sweet cedary notes, a fleshy, open-knit mouthfeel and a long finish. It should drink nicely for another 5-10 years, although I was somewhat surprised at how maturely this particular bottle performed.

The two older California Cabernet Sauvignons, and two of the best I’ve had, included the 1987 Robert Mondavi Reserve, which is throwing a lot of sediment but is still very dense, rich, and quite Médoc-like in its notes of graphite, cedar wood, black currants and forest floor. The 1985 Château Montelena, which was dormant for so long, yet always seemed to have more promise than real sizzle, has finally arrived. Certainly at age 26 it should finally be showing something, and it is. Dense plum/garnet/purple to the rim and loaded with minerals, subtle smoke, earth, and crème de cassis, this wine is rich, full-bodied, and has at least another 10-15 years of potential evolution.

The Catena Zapata reds stole the show at the very end, with the wonderful 2004 Malbeccontrasted with a fully mature 2001 Zatena (mostly Cabernet). Both were terrific, exhibiting loads of dense raspberry fruit, spring floral notes intermixed with graphite, some smoky barbecue notes, and earth. Medium to full-bodied, with very good acidity, both were beautiful wines with everything integrated.

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