Lunch at Citronelle

I misplaced the printed menu renowned chef Michel Richard had prepared, but essentially, I had asked him to prepare 12 courses of my favorite dishes from those he had served me over the last few years. As usual, the food was delicious as well as brilliantly executed, but this was one lunch where even Chef Richard would agree that it was the wines that took center stage. Probably the greatest rosé Champagne I have ever had is Dom Pérignon, and the 1990 is extraordinary. When I first purchased it, it was closed, but several years ago it began to blossom, and has continued to taste like a complex, bubbly grand cru red Burgundy. After the Champagne, we moved to a flight of Coche-Dury, a producer whose wines I have been buying since I first discovered them over twenty years ago. He is such a great winemaker that his 1986 Meursault Villages is still a young, vibrant, incredibly concentrated effort. No one at this luncheon could believe this was a nearly 20-year old village wine. The bottle had to be presented as evidence. The 1997 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne will probably be one of his shorter lived wines, although it is capable of lasting 10-15 years. It is opulent and honeyed, with less minerality than usual. The perfect 1995 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne is a wine for the ages. I was only able to purchase a few bottles from importer Kermit Lynch, but this is an extraordinary effort, perhaps the greatest young white Burgundy I have ever tasted.

The next flight, all wines from my cellar that I adore, consisted of traditional Barbarescos from the master himself, Bruno Giacosa. This was a very special flight, and with eight of us at the table, none of these wines went to waste. All of them had tremendous amounts of sediment, so all the reds were decanted. At one time, the 1971 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano was the greatest red wine I had ever had in my life. I had one bottle remaining in my cellar, and I wanted to share it with people who, like me, love this man's wines. I expected it to be in decline more than it was, but it was a magical bottle, as were all the wines in this flight. The opulent 1990 is just beginning to reveal all its complexity and nuances. The 1982 blows away just about all of the wines of that vintage in Piedmont. It is vibrant, fully mature, and should be consumed over the next 4-5 years. The amazingly youthful 1978 is a monster. It is a monument to old style winemaking, conservative viticultural, and to the great Bruno Giacosa. This wine could easily evolve and improve for another 15-20 years.

The next flight included two of the legendary Barolos produced by Bruno Giacosa. I had had a bottle of the 1989 Barolo Rionda di Serralunga Red Label at Mark Duck's House and wanted to have a second bottle in order to confirm that this is a monumental wine. It is. Young and vibrant, but changing with almost every sip to reveal more nuances and concentration. Still an adolescent, it is irresistible. The 1978 Barolo Rionda di Serralunga is considered to be one of Piedmont's greatest Barolos ... and it is. Like many of the top 1978s, it remains young, with huge body and massive flavor, with another two decades of improvement ahead of it. More approachable, yet spectacularly complex with aromatics to die for is Conterno's 1985 Barolo Monfortino. Most Conterno wines need years of bottle age until they become fully mature, but this vintage has always been one of the sexiest out of the gate.

We then shifted gears and moved to Bordeaux, with only one Italian ringer thrown in for fun. Again, all of these wines came from my cellar, and their conditions were pristine. The 1982 Cheval Blanc can be a 100-point or mid-90 point wine. It and the Château Margaux performed brilliantly, but they were both outclassed by the one truly great wine Sassicaia has made, the 1985. It is hard to equal this legendary effort in power, richness, flavor dimension, or complexity. Believe it or not, it is still an extremely young wine!

The next flight was virtually one perfect work of art after another, including the youthful 1982 Lafite Rothschild, the extraordinary crème de cassis smelling and flavored 1982 Mouton Rothschild, and the blockbuster (the biggest wine in the flight) 1982 Gruaud Larose. The latter wine does not reveal the finesse or ethereal complexity of the first growths, but boy does it have power, richness, and meaty characteristics that just go on and on! It is a massive Bordeaux that should last for another 20-30 years. The most supple and evolved was the perfect 1982 Latour.

We then moved into a flight that included the extraordinary 1979 Lafleur, another wine that can hit perfection on occasion. At this tasting, it was slightly rustic with ragged tannins, but it remains youthful, and is unquestionably the wine of the vintage. I am always amazed by how it transcends anything else produced in 1979. The 1970 Petrus, which has been variable from bottle to bottle (I remember buying a case in New York for $275 in the mid-seventies), has given me some great bottles, and others that are only very good. This bottle was closer to the latter.

We finished with the controversial 1975 vintage, a year that produced some terrific wines, but too few of them. The 1975 La Mission, L'Evangile, and Lafleur are three of the most prodigious. They are all still young, even though they are nearly 30 years of age. La Mission Haut Brion's 1975is a wine for the ages. The 1975 L'Evangile is relatively mature, but spectacular, and the 1975 Lafleur is irregular from bottle to bottle (even from the same case). The finest bottles are representative of one of the greatest old style, head-turning, blockbuster Pomerols one could ever taste. The La Mission Haut Brion should last another 30-40 years, L'Evangile for 10-15 years, and Lafleur, depending on what's in the bottle, for two more decades.

With apologies to Michel Richard, although the food was great, it was hard not to focus on the wine treasures before us.

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