To celebrate my wife's birthday, the wines chosen were at her request. She loves mature Bordeaux, but I am reluctant to move 28-30 year old bottles to a restaurant, so we went for younger wines, except for the 1947 Vina Tondonia Rioja from my wife's birth year. A very good Rioja with little sediment, it is representative of its age, but each bottle we open is different from the last, meriting scores from the mid to upper eighties, to the low nineties. This bottle revealed abundant mushroom-like notes intermixed with old oak, dried flowers, and strawberry/berry fruit. It is an attractive, easy-going, although not terrible deep wine.

We began the evening with a bottle of Krug 1989. Frightfully expensive, Krug's somewhat full-bodied style revealed a trace too much oxidation for me. That was followed by a magnificently opulent yet incredibly well-delineated, honeysuckle, tropical fruit, and crushed stone-scented as well as flavored 2002 Chardonnay Ritchie Creek from Mark Aubert (the winemaker at Colgin). A considerable talent, Aubert obviously proved himself at Peter Michael, and continues to do so at both Colgin and his own winery, where he turns out Burgundian-styled, hand-crafted wines. Next was a magnificent magnum of one of the finest Châteauneuf du Papes money can buy, the 1998 Cuvée Centenaire from Les Cailloux. This vintage along with the 1990 are my two favorite years of this ancient (planted in 1889) Grenache cuvée (there is also a bit of Syrah and Mourvèdre in the blend). A sumptuous offering, it boasts extraordinary richness as well as body, along with a velvety texture. Bursting with complexity in its explosive aromatics and flavors, I wish I owned a few more bottles of this magnificent wine as I'm sure all of mine will be consumed before it ever reaches its plateau of maturity.

As always, it is a treat to eat at Charleston, the finest restaurant in Baltimore. Cindy Wolf's cuisine has always been good, but over the last several years she has raised the quality bar to new heights, and seems to be in that wonderful groove/zone that talented chefs often find. Let's hope she can stay there, which is not easy given the stress and enormous expectations placed on top chefs. Chef Cindy has been there for several years, and she gives no indication that she is ready to rest on her considerable laurels.

No restaurant in Maryland has the great selection of cheeses or such impeccably professional service as Charleston. It goes without saying that their wine list is superb as well, and that's all to the credit of Cindy Wolf's husband, Tony Foreman. To reiterate, the meal was brilliantly prepared and wonderfully presented. The intensely flavored, creative dishes take full advantage of the delicious raw materials used by Chef Wolf.

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