Dinner at a Friend's House

Two things were magical about this meal. One was the extraordinary magnum of 1980 DRC La Tâche (I owned a case of this wine at one time and drink every bottle with great joy). I thought that at age 24, even from magnum, this 1980 might have been over the hill ... not a chance! Despite a decrepit looking garnet color that revealed plenty of amber, it exploded from the glass offering up celestial aromas of underbrush, black fruits, smoke, herbs, and a plethora of other good things. Velvety-textured, unctuous, expansive, and broad, this is the type of grand cru Burgundy that drives one nuts and fiscally irresponsible buying up these wines knowing full well that only a small percentage will live up to their pedigree. However, this fully mature magnum, which possessed plenty of sediment, was sublime. It made up for a relatively disappointing performance by some of the other DRC wines. The 1998 DRC Echézeaux revealed a thin, acidic, hard, vegetal character with a hint of rot in the background. The exhibited more vegetal notes along with annoying scents of decaying garbage and foul, earthy notes. That, plus shrill acidity and an absence of fruit, made it undrinkable. Another wine that I have loved in the past, but was badly corked at this dinner, was the 1978 DRC Richebourg. Another great Burgundy was the 1983 Mongéard-Mugneret Grands Echézeaux. From a controversial vintage that produced only a small number of superstars, this is a magnificent wine of unbelievable power, tremendous aromatics, and broad, powerful flavors. It appears capable of lasting another five or more years. The 1985 Dujac Bonnes Mares was tasty and aromatic, but collapsed completely after 15 minutes in the glass.

As for the white Burgundies, we opened an oxidized bottle of the 1995 Verget Chablis Valmur. Even though it had been decanted (as recommended by Pierre Rovani), it exhibited an evolved color as well as tired, old flavors. The other white Burgundies performed well. The highlights included the 1992 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet and 1989 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. Lest I forget, the 1989 Krug also revealed a trace of oxidation, making all of us check the calendar to be sure it wasn't Friday, the 13th.

Despite the vinous disappointments, Lobel's meaty, juicy skirt steaks, cooked to perfection on a hot grill, and drunk with the magical 1980 La Tâche, resulted in a terrific evening.

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