Cinghiale is a beautiful and comfortable restaurant with the tables nicely spaced. In addition, the wine list is exceptional and the staff is knowledgeable as well as helpful. My experience with the cuisine includes some terrific winners as well as some surprising misses. I do not understand the disparity between the sensational and the uninspired, but that seems to be a problem every time I visit. At this meal, the fluke was virtually flavorless except for the good olive oil that had obviously been used in its preparation. However, the pasta dishes are usually sensational. The ragu of bison over homemade pasta was delicious. Even better was the stuffed tortellini, which I usually opt to have as it is always a killer dish.
As for the wines, we started with the 2002 Dom Perignon, a superb vintage in Champagne. The 2002, which ranks alongside the brilliant 1996 and 1990, is a crisp, fresh, lively, intense effort that is exceptionally elegant. Following that we had a magnum of Mark Aubert’s 2009 Chardonnay UV-SL Vineyard (the UV stands for Ulises Valdez, a well-known grower/winemaker). This sensational Chardonnay offers notes of orange marmalade, lemon oil and assorted citrus with the oak component pushed to the background, being just a subtle nuance in the overall flavor and aromatic profiles. Medium to full-bodied with terrific acidity, freshness, purity and texture, Aubert’s Chardonnays are some of the top two or three of California, possibly the world.
We then moved to a flight of three Barolos, including the Giuseppe Mascarello 2004 and 2001 Barolo Monprivato. The 2004 seemed somewhat light, but it offered a classic perfume of Chinese black tea, soy, tobacco leaf and rose petals. The 2001 had more stuffing, a slightly darker color even though it was three years younger, and a fuller, richer, complex, Nebbiolo personality. It appears capable of drinking well for another 10-15 years. I had my doubts concerning the future evolution of the 2004. The 2001 Giacomo Conterno Barolo was the biggest, richest Barolo on the table. A dense, deep ruby color was followed by lots of forest floor, black tea, cherry, rose and leafy, roasted herb-like notes. Full and rich, it required significant decanting before offering enjoyable drinking. It should continue to age for another decade. We finished with another brilliant example of the 2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape. Drunk from magnum, it revealed classic lavender, licorice, kirsch, balsam wood, pepper and spice in a full-bodied, opulent, unctuous style. However, it was never over-the-top or too heavy. In this bizarre vintage for Châteauneuf du Pape, only a dozen or so producers hit home runs, and Clos des Papes was one of them. This 2003 continues to go from strength to strength, although I would recommend drinking it earlier rather than later because of the fragility of the vintage.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...