Dinner at Home

Dinner at home with friends included the wonderful pastrami smoked salmon from Russ and Daughters as well as some gorgeous backfin crab cakes made from Maryland crabs that are just coming into season locally that my wife sautéed in brown butter. That was accompanied by another of her specialties, long-braised chunks of Waygu chuck steak cooked in a broth of onions, mushrooms, carrots and Châteauneuf du Pape.

I pulled out all the stops in order to treat these good friends to some of the finest wines in my cellar. We started with one of my favorite champagnes, the Bollinger 2002 Rosé, a wonderfully bone dry, crisp, full-bodied rosé. That was followed by two stunning Chardonnays, Aubert’s 2009 Larry Hyde & Sons Vineyard, which is a lower alcohol, slightly less powerful Aubert than recent vintages (a hallmark of the 2009 vintage, and likely to be in 2010 as well), and the stunningly Bâtard-Montrachet-like, honeysuckle-scented and flavored, buttery 2005 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Estate.

Next came a succession of Bordeaux that I decanted 3 to 4 hours prior to dinner. Every bottle possessed some sediment, with the highest amounts in the 1990 Montrose, 1982 La Tour Haut Brion and 1982 Latour. The 1996 Lafite Rothschild remains an infant in terms of development, but what a remarkable wine. It just keeps getting better and better. One of the most concentrated and densest colored Lafite Rothschilds I have ever tasted, it essentially defines this first-growth estate’s terroir with its lead pencil shaving, subtle graphite and smoke, black fruit, earth and spice characteristics. Full-bodied as well as wonderfully fresh, pure and long, it is a brilliant achievement in a vintage that was very strong for the northern Médoc. The 1990 Montrose is still a monster. The wine is super-rich and concentrated, and all the bottles I have pulled from my cellar have been completely brett free as they have been stored pristinely. At twenty years of age, it is hard to believe this young, incredibly promising, dense purple-colored wine is just coming in to an adolescent stage of development. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the 1989 Clinet. It reveals wonderfully rich mocha and caramel notes intermixed with sweet black cherry, fig and plum-like fruit, but the wine was over-shadowed by its two predecessors, the 1996 Lafite and 1990 Montrose. Context is important in the service of wines and perhaps it just suffered more than I would have thought given the performance of the two wines we had before it. Not suffering at all was the 1989 La Mission Haut Brion, which has always drunk fabulously well, even in its youth. It continues to develop wonderful smoky, earthy, charcoal/burning ember-like characteristics along with abundant black fruits. It is an opulent, full-bodied, beautiful wine. If you love the quintessential smoky earthiness of a Pessac-Léognan, this effort has it in spades.

Three 1982s included the soft, fully mature, rich, opulent 1982 L’Evangile that revealed lots of caramel, violet, sweet black cherry and jammy black currant notes intermixed with a hint of roasted coffee. This wine is not likely to get any better and should probably be drunk over the next 5-10 years.  From a vineyard that has now been absorbed into the second wine of La Mission Haut Brion, La Chapelle de la Mission, the 1982 La Tour Haut Brion is still somewhat rough textured with high tannins, a dense purple color, and lots of smoke, charcoal, earth and black fruit characteristics. A knock-out wine, it is thick, full-bodied, masculine, muscular and still surprisingly young. That was followed by an exquisite vision of what perfection in wine is all about, the 1982 Château Latour. Classic notes of crème de cassis, roasted almonds, earth and spice box as well as a voluptuous, full-bodied mouthfeel, a velvety texture and a finish that lasts nearly 60 seconds make for a monumental wine. It has been drinking beautifully for the last decade and should continue to do so for another quarter of a century.

Lastly, we had the last bottle I have from a wonderful group of wines I purchased many years ago, the 1947 Vieux Chateau Certan, which came from a very cold cellar in Belgium. This was the original cork, so I used an Ah-So corkscrew to remove the cork. It broke slightly, but it was still able to be extracted without any particles falling in the wine. The wine remains an amazingly dark ruby/purple color, but it had more sediment than any of the other wines including the caked pigmentation on the inside of the bottle. It was rich and full-bodied with lots of black fruits and probably the highest alcohol of any of the wines served, but because of the wine’s glycerin levels, it was beautifully fresh. At age 63, this remarkable wine still has abundant life remaining.

This was a memorable night with fabulous food, thanks to my darling wife (of 42 years), outstanding wines and good company.

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