Dinner at Home With Friends

A dinner my wife and I (mostly me) cooked for some friends included my famous crab cakes, made from the highest quality Maryland jumbo lump backfin crab meat I can find. With very little filling and just enough mayonnaise to hold them together, these butter-sautéed beauties are to die for. First we drank the 1998 Dom Pérignon, which, while not up to the 1996, the 1998 is unquestionably better than their 1993 or 1992. I enjoy this Champagne more and more with each bottle, but I think it is a vintage that will require early consumption (although these wines always seem to last longer than I predict). With the crab cakes, we had the exquisite 2003 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard from Mark Aubert. A beautiful perfume of white currants, honeysuckle, orange blossoms, and citrus oil jumps from the glass of this full-bodied Chardonnay. It reveals much more minerality than most California Chardonnays.

We then moved to two magnums of blockbuster Châteauneuf du Papes. Most 2001 Châteauneuf du Papes are not ready to drink, so I was somewhat hesitant to open the magnum of Janasse's 2001 Chaupin, and old vine Grenache-based cuvée. However, this wine was exquisite. While still young, it revealed an inky/ruby/purple color as well as a gorgeous nose of melted licorice, black raspberries, cherries, and hints of earth and spice. Full-bodied, opulent, and rich, it should last another 10-15 years. That wine was eclipsed by the 2000 Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin. Nearly every 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape seems to be "open for business," and even this heavily Mourvèdre-based effort reveals a richness, density, and accessibility that is unusual for this particular cuvée. An inky/blue/purple color is accompanied by an extraordinary nose of flowers, blueberries, blackberries, graphite, and sweet earth. This full-bodied, powerful, rich effort's tannins are largely concealed by a cascade of voluptuous fruit. An exquisite Châteauneuf du Pape, it will age for another 15-20 years.

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