This was another brilliant meal for a charitable cause with the wines donated from my cellar, and the cuisine generously offered by the great Chef Daniel Boulud. Although Daniel was on vacation, his talented Executive Chef Jean-François Bruel turned out what may be the finest meal he has yet prepared for me. The astonishing dishes included the Rabbit Porchetta, Slow Baked Maine Halibut, Red Snapper En Crôute, Roasted Squab, and the trio of Niman Ranch Pork offerings. We finished with one of Daniel Boulud's signature dishes, Braised Short Ribs in red wine, with which Jean-François served beautiful Seared Rib Eye with a creamy morilles sauce.
It was one of those nights where all the wines exceeded expectations, with no corked, funky, or off bottles. The great, fully mature Veuve Clicquot 1990 La Grande Dame is capable of lasting another decade. The California Chardonnay flights included wines from my favorite producers. I thought the finest of this group was the Marcassin 2000 Marcassin Vineyard, which stood out for its extraordinary minerality and complexity, but the majority at my table preferred the Peter Michael 2002 Mon Plaisir or the Kongsgaard 2002. For me, the Marcassin was reminiscent of a great Meursault Perrières or Chevalier Montrachet with its liquid minerality and extraordinary intensity of fruit and depth.
The first Bordeaux flight showed exceptionally well since Philippe, Daniel's sommelier, did such a good job of decanting these wines in advance. The 2000 La Mission Haut Brion was a chancy choice since this vintage is at a closed stage of evolution. This wine, while still a baby, revealed its fabulous potential. 1998 was a greater vintage in Pomerol, St.-Emilion, and Graves than in the Médoc, but Lafite Rothschild hit a home run in this vintage. The 1998 Lafite is extraordinarily rich and concentrated. Just the opposite, 1996 was a superb vintage in the Médoc, and a so-so year in Pomerol and St.-Emilion. The 1996 Pichon Lalande is atypically strong, muscular, and powerful, and not nearly as supple as it is in most vintages. But wow, what a great young wine it is. We then moved to two brilliant 1990s. The 1990 Léoville Las Cases exhibited a certain austerity along with notes of lead pencil shavings, wonderful ripeness and richness, and an extraordinary youthful personality. One of the top 1990s, the Troplong Mondot, gets my nod as the finest wine the gracious proprietress, Christine Valette, has ever made. A magnificent wine in mid-adolescence, it is undeniably compelling. We finished the Bordeaux flights with two superb efforts from an irregular vintage that has many more disappointing angular, austere, hard dry wines than top-notch successes, 1975. The 1975 Haut Brion and La Mission Haut Brion, two superstars of that vintage, were a great match-up of still young, vibrant, aromatically complex, 30-year old wines. Haut Brion is the more noble, elegant, delicate, and refined, whereas La Mission remains a rich, concentrated, powerful behemoth with edges that could be called rustic. Loaded with soul and personality, with serious aeration it is quite drinkable, especially with food.
Next we enjoyed a gorgeous line-up of Châteauneuf du Papes, including some wines that I have all too frequently it seems. The 2000 Pégaü Cuvée da Capo is one for the record books with its extraordinary power, richness, and aging potential, as is the 2001 Clos du Caillou Réserve. We finished with two brilliant, fully mature 1990s, Henri Bonneau's second cuvée, the 1990 Marie Beurrier, a great buy if you can find it as it is one-tenth the price of the renowned Réserve des Céléstins, and the undeniably captivating 1990 Rayas.
We then moved to California. All of these great reds performed well, but were obviously completely different from the preceding wines. I'll simply say that my favorites included the 1996 Les Pavots and 1996 Shafer Hillside Select. Of course, they were two of the older wines in the flights, even though they are less than ten years of age. The group's favorite appeared to be the 1997 Pahlmeyer Merlot, but it was hard to tell as they were pretty evenly split between Pahlmeyer, Screaming Eagle, and Shafer.
To tell you the truth, I was somewhat shot by the time the dessert wines were served. The 1999 Yquem is a wonderful wine, but not profound. The Coutet Cuvée Madame 1995 was very good, but again, not one of the greatest examples this superb Barsac estate has rendered.
All things considered, it was an outstanding dinner, with impeccable food and sumptuous wines, that raised a tremendous amount of money for a noteworthy charitable cause.
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