Dinner at Home With Good Friends

A dinner with some dear friends provided an occasion to taste some favorite wines from my cellar. The 1985 Salon Champagne, a 100% non-malolactic Chardonnay, was still remarkably fresh and lively even at nearly two decades of life. Even more momentous was the virtually perfect 1983 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste.-Hune Vendange Tardive. A tour de force in winemaking, it is one of the finest white wines I have drunk. I had the good fortune to have it on two separate occasions over the last year. It has some residual sugar, but the minerality and extraordinary acidity cover everything so effectively, it gives the impression of an exceptionally intense white with laser-like precision to its personality. The 1998 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste.-Hune, which we served before it, seemed like pure liquid rocks with a hint of grapefruit. It has not yet begun to strut all of its stuff, although I do not believe that even at its finest it will ever come close to achieving the compelling nature of the 1983.

We then moved into a mini-horizontal of some of my favorite 1990 Bordeaux, all of which were decanted six hours in advance. The only perplexing bottle was the great 1990 Château Latour. It is very ripe, displaying some of Latour's classic walnut and cassis character, but it is just not singing at full blast. I wonder if it is ever going to live up to the accolades I, as well as other wine writers, bestowed on it? Still youthful and exuberantly grapy, it was blown away by the two St.-Emilions, and it was even outclassed by its nearby neighbor, Léoville Poyferré. The latter wine was magnificent. It revealed a saturated ruby/purple color to the rim as well as a classic nose of cranberry juice, cherry jam, black fruits, graphite, earth, and spice box. The bouquet was followed by a wine of voluptuous proportions, gorgeous concentration, and no hard edges. This amazingly youthful 1990 should drink well for at least two more decades.

Two staggering wines are the 1990 Beauséjour-Duffau and 1990 Troplong-Mondot. It's hard to pick a favorite, although the pure nobleness, complexity, and extraordinary blueberry, raspberry, and striking liquid minerality of the Beauséjour-Duffau makes one think this may be a legend in the making. One of the greatest wines I have ever tasted, it continues to age at a glacial pace. Still young, it tastes more like a five year old wine than one approaching its 14th birthday. There is no color degradation whatsoever, and it continues to develop extraordinary aromatics without losing any of its remarkable opulence or super-concentrated style. Like any great Bordeaux, despite its size it is light on its feet. Even more massive and concentrated is the 1990 Troplong-Mondot. A tribute to Christine Valette, it was her first truly great vintage, although the 1988 and 1989 are not that far off the mark. The inky dark/black/blue/purple-colored 1990 reveals notes of espresso roast, chocolate, graphite, blackberries, smoke, white chocolate, and lavender jump from the glass. Unctuously-textured and full-bodied, with spectacular concentration, this is the stuff of legends. Like Beauséjour-Duffau, it has at least 2-3 decades of evolution ahead of it.

We finished the evening with another monumental effort, the 1989 Coutet Cuvée Madame, a virtually perfect Barsac with extraordinary crème brûlée, honeysuckle, unctuous pineapple, and marmalade-like flavors buttressed by considerable acidity. It possesses a freshness, vigor, and youthfulness that must be tasted to be believed. As we discussed the wines, all of us agreed we had to salute France and the greatness of its wines and vineyards.

As for the food, one of my favorite summer dishes is my wife's open-faced herbed tomato and Gueyère cheese tart. It is made from a homemade pie crust, tomatoes and herbs from our garden drenched in olive oil, and Gueyère cheese. An amazing combination, it is not easy to match up with wine, but it works beautifully with a great Champagne. Lobel's Waygu strip steaks are unreal (both in quality and price), but for a special occasion, these steaks deliver the goods. As I learned from Pierre Rovani, you have to be careful cooking them. If you like your steaks caramelized and pittsburghed, the Waygu steaks do not handle that as well as something less intense. I found the marbling seems to respond better to a slower cooked style than the searing heat needed to pittsburgh steaks on the grill. In any event, the flavor of the meat is extraordinary, and the texture is mindboggling. I wish they weren't so expensive, but, like anything, one must pay for truly profound stuff.

More articles from this author