This charity luncheon, which benefitted New York city's Meals on Wheels, was prepared by the outstanding French chef, Michel Richard, and, with the exception of the two Bordeaux magnums, the wines were donated from my cellar. As always, Richard's cuisine was extraordinarily artistic as well as innovative, delivering remarkable flavor intensity. One incredible dish followed another, and it's nearly impossible to pick favorites, but I always have a fondness for Richard's famous Ahi tuna burger, his marvelous sautéed foie gras, the pork belly truffled in a Napoleon style, and the pork torte. The amazing short ribs cooked 72 hours were to die for. I could have eaten several portions even though it was the last and richest dish of the day.

The wine service was handled brilliantly by long-time sommelier, Mark Slater, also a regular poster on the Mark Squires wine board. As for the white wines, the first flight of Coche-Dury's(one of my favorite Burgundy producers) was somewhat of a let down, with the 1994 Meursault Les Chevalières corked, the 2001 Meursault Rougeots showing excessive amounts of sulphur (which did eventually clean up), and the 1997 and 1999 Meursault Rougeots very good, but hardly inspirational. The second flight was the real deal, with the Meursault-Perrières vineyard's extraordinary minerality on full display. The 2002 is still a baby, but it reveals extraordinary potential. The 1997 was ready to drink, and is probably best consumed over the next 3-4 years. The 1996, which is still an infant, is extraordinarily complex and rich. It's like tasting honeyed citrus interwoven with a liqueur of minerals. The flight of Corton-Charlemagnes included the 1998, a strong effort in this disappointing vintage, the 1995, a borderline perfect wine, and the 1994, an over-achiever. Drink the 1994 and 1998 over the next 3-4 years, but the 1995 should last for two decades or more. The last flight of whites began with a somewhat flat, honeyed 1995 Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignières from Coche-Dury. That wine was quickly forgotten by the magnificent 1989 Domaine Leroy Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières. This still young stunner is incredibly rich, intense, and complex. Sadly, one of my favorite vintages of Niellon's Bâtard Montrachet, the 1989, was badly ... and I mean badly ... corked.

The Côte Rôtie flight began with three virtually perfect 1999s, a prodigious vintage for this appellation. Ogier's Belle Hélène was the oakiest and most backward. The seamlessness of Guigal's La Mouline seemed to triumph over all three wines, although Guigal's La Landonne'spower and richness were awe-inspiring. All three of these cuvées have twenty more years of aging potential ahead of them. They are as good as Côte Rôtie can be. We next moved to a flight of relatively mature wines, all from Guigal. The 1991 La Mouline, one of my all-time favorites, remains an incredibly seductive wine that has been silky since its release. It revealed exotic levels of fruit and unctuosity. The 1990 La Mouline is slightly lighter, and even more mature than the 1991. Tasting great, and with 10-12 years of life remaining is the 1991 La Landonne.

The third flight was another tour de force for the wines of Guigal, with a ringer thrown in, the 1988 De Vallouit Les Roziers (ironically, Guigal now owns that vineyard). The gorgeous, complex Les Roziers was fully mature, and requires consumption over the next 5-6 years. The Guigal wines included a spectacular 1989 La Mouline, a perfect 1989 La Landonne, and a nearly perfect 1988 La Turque. Flight four consisted of three Guigal 1988s provided by wine collector Steve Verlin. The La Mouline and La Landonne were both awe-inspiring, perfect wines. The 1988 La Turque is the kind of wine you could drink anytime, anyplace given its marvelous complexity, but it did not possess the sheer majesty, breadth of flavor, and compelling aromatics of its two siblings. It was a treat to drink it twice - one bottle from my cellar, and another from Mr. Verlin's.

Guigal does extraordinary work in off vintages, and even following some legendary wines and years, the 1987s showed stunningly well. They are fully mature, yet capable of lasting another decade. Both the 1987 La Turque and 1987 La Landonne were sweet, expansive, velvety-textured, and rich. They were clearly superior to the slightly sterner and stiffer 1986 La Moulineand 1986 La Landonne. Even those wines are outstanding from this challenging vintage.

A ringer flight provided a different take on Côte RôtieJasmin's 1985 was very Burgundian, offering plenty of sweet cherries and dusty herbs. The earthy Dervieux-Thaize 1985 La Viaillère(this vineyard is now owned by Rostaing) revealed some brett along with loads of tannin, plenty of stems, and a virile, muscular, rustic style. Gloriously opulent, complex, and perfumed, is the fully mature, seductive 1983 Rostaing Côte Blonde. Its good to see that this wine's tannins, which were so prevalent in its first decade of life, have become beautifully integrated and silky. We finished the Côte Rôtie flights with three relatively mature offerings from Guigal. The stunning, rich, intense 1982 La Landonne still has 10-15 years of life ahead of it. The 1980 La Landonne is a sterner, more powerful, monolithic, rich, concentrated, impressive effort. The 1979 La Mouline is very fine, but it is over-whelmed by most of the wines made since.

Lastly, we opened two magnums of Bordeaux (donated by bon vivant Eddie Milstein) to celebrate the 58th birthday of Chef Michel Richard. The pristine magnum of 1961 Petrus was sensational, relatively young for a 45-year old wine, and extraordinarily rich, opulent, multilayered, and sweet. Even better was the remarkable 1948 Vieux-Château-Certan, which may be the finest wine ever made at this estate. Exquisitely rich, with a dense plum/garnet/purple color and a huge nose of scorched earth, cedar, black truffles, herbs, and sweet black fruits, this full-bodied, opulent effort still has some tannin in evidence. Unquestionably, the wine of the vintage, it is a tour de force in winemaking!

All things considered, this was about as civilized and sumptuous a way to spend a cool Monday afternoon on Planet Earth

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