For this charity dinner to benefit the National Jewish Hospital, I provided the wines from my cellar and Chef Cindy Wolf prepared another sumptuous meal at her Baltimore restaurant, Charleston. As you can see from the menu, we had some of her finest dishes. It was difficult to choose a favorite as she prepared a wonderful Rabbit Risotto, and her Beef Wellington is legendary. Add to that a classic Southern dish of heads-on shrimp with stone-ground creamy grits as well as her sensational soups and you have the makings for a remarkable culinary treat.

Our six flights of wines began with the 2002 Dom Perignon, a brilliant but still young Champagne with a lot of life ahead of it. The Chardonnay flight included one grand cru white Burgundy, the 2002 Bienvenue Bâtard Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive, which was closed. It offered hints of minerals and honeyed citrus, but it was not very expressive even for a ten year old wine. As I have reported before, the 12-year old Brewer Clifton Chardonnay Sweeney Vineyard tasted just as young, but it was much more vigorous and interesting than the Leflaive. The Brewer Clifton wines, both their Pinots and Chardonnays, have remarkable longevity, but I suspect 95% of them are drunk within several years of their release. The fully mature 2002 Kistler Chardonnay Cuvée Cathleen was beautiful upon opening, but it faded in the glass. Better was the more tropical fruit-scented and intense 2004 Peter Michael Point Rouge. It remains vivacious and full-bodied with plenty of honeysuckle, pineapple and exotic fruit notes present in both the aromatics and flavors. More crushed rock/liqueur of wet stone, honeyed citrus, white corn, currant and a hint of brioche characterize the 2002 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Estate. This brilliant white is still young, with another decade of cellaring potential ahead of it. The flamboyant 2009 Aubert Chardonnay Lauren is extravagantly rich with full body as well as excellent acidity, purity and texture. Most of the guests ranked the Marcassin Estate and Aubert Lauren as the top wines of this flight.

Flight III consisted of Bordeaux wines, all of which performed well. While the 2000 La Croix St. Georges was outclassed by the greater wines surrounding it, it was a very good wine and certainly the least expensive offering in this flight of monumental efforts. The 1990 Léoville Las Cases is 5 to 10 years away from full maturity, but it is accessible, which is more than one can say for most vintages of Las Cases under 25-30 years of age. It exhibits deep, classic notes of crème de cassis, black cherries, vanillin, cedar and spice box. This brilliant, young, full-bodied Las Cases should continue to drink well for another 25 or more years. Although 2003 was a bizarre vintage, it did produce some monumental Bordeaux wines in the three appellations of St. Julien, Pauillac and St. Estèphe. The 2003 Lafite Rothschild could turn out to be a dead-ringer for their 1959. It offers an incredible perfume of lead pencil shavings, white chocolate and crème de cassis, followed by a surprisingly full-bodied, quickly maturing Lafite that, nevertheless, will last 50 years. It is big, rich, impressively pure, and surprisingly dense and masculine for a Lafite Rothschild. The 2000 La Mission Haut Brion, the most backward wine in the tasting, revealed notes of charcoal, black currants, black raspberries and smoke. Tannic, full-bodied, rich and impressive, it needs at least another decade of cellaring. There were two wines from the Perse family. The 2000 Pavie Decesse exhibited lots of the stony/chalky notes that come from this vineyard’s limestone soils. It was tannic, backward and more structured than the 2000 Pavie, even though there is more Merlot included in the blend. The 2000 Pavie is one of those monumental wines that should provide prodigious drinking for at least 30-40 years. While still an adolescent, it is revealing more nuances and the new oak component has been pushed to the background. This full-bodied, rich beauty is strikingly classic with superb minerality, depth, texture and length.

Flight IV was all 2001 Châteauneuf du Papes with the exception of the last wine, one of the few exceptional wines from its vintage in the southern Rhône, the 2003 Clos des Papes. I was surprised by how well the 2001s performed. The Bois de Boursan Cuvée des Felix, Domaine de la Janasse Chaupin and the Vieille Julienne Vieilles Vignes were fully mature, with the latter having more potential longevity than the other two. They were all beautifully fragrant and Provençal in style with lots of garrigue, lavender, raspberry and black cherry notes. The darkest colored was the Vieille Julienne Vieilles Vignes. Just coming into adolescence are the brilliant 2001 Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve and the 2001 Mordorée Châteauneuf du Pape La Reine des Bois. Both are more modern styled wines (small barriques were used for their Mourvèdre component). Both were young, vigorous, dense purple-colored, classic Châteauneuf du Papes that can be drunk now or cellared for another decade. The brilliant 2003 Clos des Papes continues to hit every sweet spot on the palate. It is evolving quickly for a Clos des Papes with a dark plum/ruby color and exquisite notes of sandalwood, pepper, sweet black currants, kirsch and cedar. Full-bodied, pure and seductive, it reveals good fruit and complexity as well as a touch of damp earth and saddle leather. It is just beginning to hint at maturity.

With respect to Flight V, the 1997 Peter Michael Les Pavots is a blockbuster. It is sensationally rich and concentrated, with lots of crème de cassis, licorice, white chocolate and espresso notes. The Sloan 2002 was completely closed in comparison to the other Cabernets. The outlier in this flight was the Syrah from SQN. The Sine Qua Non Poker Face was outrageously flamboyant with hints of forest floor, black fruits, graphite and spring flowers. The Mr. K Nobleman offered notes of maple syrup, molasses, honeysuckle, and buttered citrus, lots of acidity, great richness and terrific purity and precision. These remarkable wines are a tribute to the perfectionist behind them.

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