Chez Dickinson - A charity dinner benefitting Camillus House in Miami, Florida
This was one of two special dinners held in Florida to benefit several charities, one being my local charity in northern Baltimore County, Maryland, My Neighbor’s Foundation, and the other the Camillus House in Miami. Both were organized by Bob Dickinson and his wife, Jodi, who have long been generous contributors to charitable events both in their hometown and throughout the United States. The objective of Camillus House is to eliminate homelessness in Miami. From all accounts, they may be the most progressive and successful charitable institution involved in this ongoing and very worthy effort.
All the wines (from my cellar) for this dinner Chez Dickinson were sent months ahead of time for storage until we could arrange a date that was convenient. Bob’s wife, Jodi, prepared an amazing meal that stands out as some of the best home-cooking (and that is not meant to be pejorative in any sense of the word) I have ever had. Jodi Dickinson had the courage to serve me pan seared Maryland crab cakes, which were delicious. Believe me, once I’m outside the state of Maryland, I am pretty picky about my crab. Everything from her wild mushroom torte, lollipop lamb chops, and killer slow roasted short ribs worked brilliantly with the line-up of 1982 Bordeaux, an emotional, threshold sort-of vintage for my career. It is wonderful to taste these wines as they have all been stored perfectly since they arrived to these shores in late 1984 and 1985.
We started with four white Burgundies, three of which were from my favorite white Burgundy producer, Coche Dury. The fourth was from Domaine Niellon, whose wines have, sadly, declined in quality over recent vintages. The Coche Dury wines were all magnificent. Even the 2003 Corton Charlemagne (from a bizarre vintage) had good acidity, freshness, vigor and youth. However, the wine that blew me away was the 2001 Meursault Perrières, for me, the finest Perrières made. Other than his Bourgogne Aligoté, Coche Dury’s easiest to drink wine is always his Meursault Rougeots, and the 2001 was the most mature of these wines. The 1996 Chevalier Montrachet from Niellon should have been great, but I have had mixed reactions to it as the bottles are showing more and more oxidation, and are losing their fruit at an accelerated rate. While this wine was not totally oxidized, it was off enough to warrant concern.
The first flight of 1982 Bordeaux was dominated by the Right Bank. The two superstars were the 1982 Lafleur, which is emerging as one of the three or four top wines of this vintage. While fully mature, it will continue to drink well for another 20 years. Pure licorice and kirsch liqueur emerge from this opulent, full-bodied, staggeringly rich, complex wine that must be tasted to be believed. The 1982 l’Evangile can be a bit spotty, even bottles from my impeccable cellar, but this bottle was beautifully complex with a touch of brett as well as lots of cedarwood, white chocolate, plum sauce, blackberries and black currants. A wine I clearly over-rated early on is the 1982 Certan de May, which is revealing more and more herbaceousness and none of the richness and opulence of the vintage. While good, it was the least impressive wine of the flight. The fully mature 1982 Canon is not going to improve, but it is a beauty. The youngest wine in the flight was the dense ruby/purple-colored1982 Le Gay, which was made by the same team as Lafleur. It is backward and rich with lots of minerality as well as blue and black fruits.
The second flight was a stunning display of St.-Juliens. The least impressive, although by itself a great wine, was the 1982 Léoville Barton, which is somewhat masculine, tannic, hard and austere though still young and deep. The 1982 Léoville Las Cases, which can perform very backwardly, was spectacular. Perhaps shipping it to Florida opened it just enough to reveal its first-growth qualities. It offers gorgeous graphite, black currant and black cherry notes in a medium to full-bodied style. The classic 1982 Ducru Beaucaillou is their finest wine after 1961 and before some of the cuvées recently made by Bruno Borie. A first-growth in quality, the 1982 Gruaud Larose is one of the more massive and colossal wines of the vintage. It is full-bodied and powerful with meaty, beef blood, black currant, earth, licorice and forest floor notes. Perhaps the most fruit and least complexity are found in the 1982 Léoville Poyferré, which I do not think is as good as vintages made by the Cuvelier family over the last 10-15 years. Nevertheless, it is a beauty that should not be underestimated, particularly when served alone. It was just in very difficult company at this dinner party.
We then moved to a mixed flight of 1982 Pauillacs, St.-Estèphes and one Graves. Not surprisingly, two perfect wines (and they have been perfect on every occasion I have had them) emerged. The 1982 Pichon Lalande is fully mature, and the 1982 La Mission Haut Brion has another 25+ years of cellaring potential. Both are exquisite wines that everyone who loves great Bordeaux should have a chance to drink. Perhaps the biggest surprise in this vintage is how strong the 1982 Lynch Bages has turned out to be as it has put on weight and gotten richer and more endearing as it has aged. While fully mature, it is in no danger of going over the hill. Another fully mature wine is the 1982 Cos d’Estournel. Although it does not match the more recent efforts made by this estate, it is certainly a top wine displaying lots of earth, cedar, incense, licorice and black currant characteristics. More rustic and masculine with two decades of life remaining is the 1982 Calon Ségur.
We finished the reds with a flight of first-growths. The 1982 Ausone was made by Pascal Delbec, who never achieved what he was capable of at this property. It shows some dusty, loamy soil notes, a slight angularity and austerity, good fruit and decent acidity. The 1982 Cheval Blanc, which was once a perfect wine, shows the advantage of knowing your wines well and drinking those that are on a fast evolutionary track before they begin to fade. This 1982 has been on the downslope for over a decade. This bottle revealed some delicious caramelized plum notes, but the fruit seems to be fading and the wine is slightly desiccated in the mouth. The 1982 Château Margaux will never be compared to Mouton, Latour or Lafite in this vintage, but it is a great wine that is aging at a glacial pace. Big and beefy by Margaux standards, I suspect the estate prefers the more elegant versions they have produced over the last two decades, but this wine is loaded with fruit, has a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a bit more substance and richness than we see from this property today. Two perfect wines include the 1982 Mouton Rothschild, which is just coming into its own and age 31, and a wine that has always drunk well, the 1982 Latour, a velvety heartthrob and massively rich, silky wine. Both of these legends performed up to their abilities at the Chez Dickinson benefit meal.
We finished with the 1990 Château d’Yquem, which exhibits lots of crème brûlée, honeysuckle, orange marmalade and rich, juicy fruit. The sugars in this still youthful wine seem to have been resolved and are less noticeable than they were in its youth. However, like most vintages of Yquem, it can be drunk now or by your great, great, great grandchildren in 75-100 years!
Kudos to Jodi Dickinson, our Chef de Cuisine, and her husband, Bob, for putting on a spectacular dinner. I was thrilled that the wines I had kept so pristinely since the early 1980s by and large performed stunningly well.
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