Dinner in Honor of Paul Pontallier and Château Margaux Jackson Hole, WY

I was in Jackson Hole for their wonderful Wine and Music Festival (as this year's honorée), and it was an extraordinary four days with some of the finest chefs and wine producers in the world. The second evening of the Festival, residents host private dinners where a guest chef prepares the meal and a winery/winemaker is honored. All of these dinners were undoubtedly great (based on the talented chefs), but I was invited (fortunately) to Daniel Boulud's dinner to honor Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux. One can not say enough about the Boulud's cooking. Even though he was working in a residential kitchen with only a handful of assistants from his restaurant, he turned out a brilliant, elegant, flavorful meal that was typically Boulud in offering wonderfully rich dishes that were creatively presented. After a wonderful 1995 Taittinger Comte de Champagne, we moved to a 22-year old vintage of Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux, the 100% Sauvignon Blanc produced in 1982. Still intact, it was chunky, vibrant, and rich. Although slightly monolithic, it worked well the food. More recent vintages, such as the 1999 and 2001, seem to have taken this wine to an even higher level of quality, and I highly recommend them. I think Paul Pontallier wanted to prove how long Pavillon Blanc can last even in a vintage that is not considered a great one for white wines.

We then moved into a mature, tasty, supple-textured, complex 1989 Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux. It was beginning to reveal some amber at the edge, but has nice floral and berry fruit flavors, medium body, and no hard edges. It can be drunk now and over the next 7-8 years.

1986 was a terrific vintage for the northern Médoc, but the wines are taking forever to reach full maturity. At 18 years of age, they taste like 6-7 year old adolescents. The deep ruby/purple-colored 1986 Château Margaux revealed blossoming aromas of black fruits, earth, and flowers. On the palate, it remains enormously endowed as well as concentrated, extremely Cabernet in character, but firm and tannic. It had been decanted many hours before the meal, but was still oh, so youthful. While impressive, so far it has only delivered the promise of its potential. This may be a 40-50 year vintage, but unfortunately, people who bought this wine to drink during their lifetimes, will probably never see that day. We then moved to a glorious vintage for Bordeaux, 1982. I have long believed that the appellation of Margaux fared better in 1983 than 1982, and that estates such as Château Margaux and Palmer as well as Prieuré Lichine and Rausan Ségla produced far superior wines in 1983. These are the exceptions to the general rule between these two vintages. Interestingly, over the last several years in side by side tastings of Château Margaux, the 1982 seems to be keeping abreast, and perhaps moving ahead of the château's 1983. Both are prodigious wines, but when Paul Pontallier was speaking about the 1982 at this dinner, he surprised me by acknowledging that in 2004, the château now believes that even they were wrong, and that the 1982 will ultimately turn out to be the greater wine. It just seems to have more in reserve, and appears to have the ability to outlast the 1983 by a generation. We did not taste the 1983 at the dinner, and it is a magnificent wine, the strongest candidate for Bordeaux's "wine of the vintage." However, this extraordinary 1982 was one of the greatest bottles I ever tasted. It is still young, but so rich, opulent, and concentrated.

Two bottles of the 1953 Margaux were well past their prime ... proving again the ancient axiom ... there are no great wines, only great bottles.

We changed gears completely, and it was somewhat of a shock to my sensitivities to move into an extremely young, virile, super-charged, dense ruby/purple-colored 2001 Grace Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. It was probably not the best placement for this wine after such glorious complexity and elegance. Nevertheless, it is impeccably well made. It just tasted like a barrel sample coming after the much more polished wines of Château Margaux. Lastly, we finished with an exquisite, still amazingly youthful 1983 Château d'Yquem. Wonderful notes of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, and crème brûlée emerge from this blockbuster Yquem. It has at least 40-50 years of longevity ahead of it.

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