Chef Cindy Wolf was in Italy the night we visited, but the kitchen staff did not miss a beat, preparing a wonderful meal with everything precise, beautifully flavored and elegantly presented. I adore Chef Wolf’s deep-fried cornmeal crusted oysters as well as her soft-shell crabs. Both are a lesson to all those who think deep-fried foods have to be heavy, greasy and clumsy. Cindy Wolf’s are as good as it gets. The tuna tartare was bursting with flavor as was Maryland’s local bass (which we call rockfish) from the Chesapeake Bay. The salmon in red wine reduction is always a perfect match with red wine, especially Bordeaux.

The Coche-Dury 2001 Corton Charlemagne was loved by everyone at the table, but for me, it seemed less impressive than I had hoped. I was expecting something in the upper nineties and while it was rich, complex and drinkable, it was not at the level I anticipated. Certainly the five 2003 Bordeaux (which I double decanted five hours in advance) were magnificent. There has been some chatter about some 2003s maturing quickly, but it really depends on the wine and the terroir from which it emerged. Because of the record heat in France during July and August, this year set all-time records. September was normal and there was rain at the end of August, but many vineyards planted on light, shallow sandy or gravelly soils suffered. In Bordeaux, the vintage can be seen as two completely different years. In the Médoc, the further north you go the better the wines get and those from St.-Julien, Pauillac and St.-Estèphe are brilliant. They will be very long-lived and some should turn out to be monumental efforts. In St.-Emilion some vineyards on the chalky limestone hillsides fared extremely well, but in total contrast, most Pomerols and many St.-Emilions on the Pomerol border, where the soils are sandy and gravelly, suffered terribly. The same can be said about the wines from Graves and to a lesser extent, the wines from Margaux. Margaux is much more complex as the soils are lighter and the Cabernet Sauvignon did well in 2003. The only caveat with most Margaux is they are maturing quickly, unlike the northern Médocs or the limestone hillsides in St.-Emilion.

These five 2003 Bordeaux are among the great wines of the vintage as well as some of the greatest wines produced in Bordeaux over the last 25 years. All of them require at least another 5-8 years of cellaring, with Lafite Rothschild, Latour and Montrose all needing another decade as they are 40-50 year wines. The most drinkable and complex is the fabulous 2003 Cos d’Estournel, even though it is still a young adolescent, followed by the thick, juicy, complex, chocolaty, earthy, dense 2003 Léoville Poyférré. Even with five hours of aeration one could see the brilliant quality, stunning purity and no hint of over-ripeness in Montrose, Lafite Rothschild and Latour, all of which are infants in terms of development. It was a great showing for these 2003s, and despite their youthfulness, they can be enjoyed at this age.

Altogether, this was a wonderful night of well-loved old friends and fabulous wine as well as cuisine.

More articles from this author