A charity dinner at Daniel was exemplified by typically brilliant cooking. The good Duo of Sardine and Scottish Langoustines were followed by delicious Sea Scallops, Pancetta wrapped Tuna Loin, Scottish Partridge, Venison Saddle, and Wild Boar Civet from Chef Daniel Boulud and his Executive Chef, Jean-François Bruel. A fabulous, perfectly ripe Vacherin was served, as the French would say, à point.

With respect to the wines, there were no corked bottles, and every offering performed up to expectations ... a rare, but gratifying occurrence. My favorite non-vintage rosé Champagne, the Billecart-Salmon exhibited a light pink color, beautiful effervescence, and notes of strawberries and kirsch. That was followed by a tight, but promising, medium to full-bodied, honeyed 1995 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers from Michel Niellon. This light gold-colored, 10-year old wine tastes much younger than its age. Exhibiting citrus oil, white peach, and honeysuckle characteristics along with superb acidity and minerality as well as a long, full-bodied finish, it appears to need another 2-5 years to hit its peak. It should last through 2015. I am not a great believer in aging California Chardonnay, but the 1997 Marcassin Gauer Vineyard may be an exception to the rule. Its mature-looking medium gold color was accompanied by abundant ripe flavors of honeysuckle, pear, and tropical fruit. I would opt for drinking it over the next several years. Every year, one of the top California Chardonnays emerges from Peter Michael. The 2002 Point Rouge (from magnum) was spectacular. Boasting aromas of citrus oil, smoke, spice as well as voluptuous, full-bodied flavors that caress the palate, with good minerality, hints of orange marmalade and buttered popcorn, this amazing effort represents a synthesis between the minerality of a French white Burgundy and the intense, heady fruit of a top California Chardonnay.

We then moved into a flight of Pinot Noirs. The debut vintage of the first Marcassin estate Pinot Noir, the 1996 Marcassin Vineyard, was stunning. Still a young wine, it offered notes of forest floor, plum, anise, sweet cherries, and violets. This beautiful Pinot could easily be mistaken for a top grand cru French Burgundy. Fully mature, it should keep for another 5-7 years. As a part-owner of Beaux Frères, I cannot comment on the magnum of 2002 Pinot Noir Upper Terrace.

The surprisingly good 1993 Petrus still possesses a dense ruby/purple color as well as abundant quantities of plum, mocha, cherry, and mulberry characteristics presented in a medium-bodied, slightly firm, but full-bodied style. I mistakenly thought it would be completely overwhelmed by the virtually perfect 1989 La Mission Haut Brion. The latter wine revealed notes of scorched earth, black currants, sweet cherries, plums, cassis, and hints of graphite as well as smoke. This full-bodied, opulent, voluptuous La Mission has been drinking beautifully for many years, yet it appears to still be an adolescent in terms of maturity. It should age effortlessly for another two decades.

Daniel Boulud's heady, gamy dishes were accompanied by two completely different styles of Châteauneuf du Pape. The 1998 Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée des Cadettes is one of the few Châteauneufs that spends time in new oak barriques and includes a high percentage of Mourvèdre. This stunning cuvée, which has absorbed all of its new oak, revealed aromas and flavors of black olives interwoven with graphite, black fruits, garrigue, licorice, and pepper. It is tempting to say it is more internationally styled than most, but this bottle was a classic Châteauneuf du Pape. Just now hitting its peak, it should last for 15-20 more years. The still youthful, unbelievably rich, full-bodied, powerful 2000 Pégaü Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée da Capo is not as dark purple-hued as La Nerthe, but it boasts classic characteristics of kirsch liqueur and spice box. Drink this huge, concentrated wine over the next 20-25 years. It is a monument to old vine Grenache aged in both neutral wood and vats.

We finished the evening with a beautiful, Bordeaux-tasting 1994 Dominus. Aromas of tobacco leaf, spice box, and cedar were accompanied by a voluptuous, opulent, full-bodied, flavorful wine with no hard edges. The deep ruby/purple-tinged 1991 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard revealed fewer aromas than the Dominus, but it offered rich, concentrated flavors as well as light to moderate tannin. It is still on the upswing, and should last for another 20 years. Tasting more like a barrel sample than a finished wine, the 2002 Peter Micheal Les Pavots was dark as moonless midnight. Sweet notes of licorice, tapenade, crème de cassis, charcoal, and graphite were followed by a full-bodied, unctuously-textured wine. While thrilling to drink, it remains years away from full maturity. The evening concluded with a rare wine, the 1991 Zind-Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris Rotenberg SGN. Boasting a deep gold color as well as a perfume of nectarine liqueur, coffee, honey, and waxy orange marmalade scents, and good underlying acidity, it was fascinating to taste this extraordinarily rich Tokay Pinot Gris. Formerly a huge fruit bomb, it has become well-delineated and impressive.

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