Lunch at Home With French Friends

Several good friends from France were coming through Maryland, so my wife and I had them to our house for lunch and decided to dig deep for some of the cellar’s treasures. Of course, the food wasn’t bad either, especially the Daniel Boulud smoked salmon and the Russ and Daughters’ herring in sour cream. However, the highlight of the lunch was probably the 45-day dry-aged prime steaks from Bryan Flannery in Corte Madera, California.

Everyone but me loved the 1982 Krug. (I found it too old, with that oxidized, less-than-fresh taste that I know some Champagne lovers adore. I prefer my Champagnes fresher and more lively.) However, the 1982 Krug still had plenty of effervescence, and it is certainly a big, bold style of Champagne, but the oxidative notes turned me off.  However, I was in a distinct minority.

The 1995 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne was probably the best white Burgundy I’ve had in 8-10 years. I’m not sure it wasn’t nearly perfect. It seemed far more evolved and honeyed than I would have thought for a Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne, and I have bought and drunk every vintage he has made to date. What kept me from giving it a perfect score is that this bottle, which was purchased from Kermit Lynch in California and stored perfectly, is at full maturity, and those who have a bottle probably need to drink it up. It had a medium-gold color and an exquisite nose of honeyed brioche, crushed rock, tropical fruit, caramel, and  marmalade. Full-bodied and unctuous, it seemed more like drinking an Aubert or Marcassin Chardonnay than what I normally find from Coche-Dury.

The three Bordeaux were sensational. All were decanted three hours in advance. The 1989 Haut-Brion is, of course, a modern-day legend, and while it may be the most concentrated Haut-Brion of the last 50 or more years, it is also classic Haut-Brion with its notes of red and black fruits, scorched earth, camphor, and charcoal. Unctuously textured, thick, but at the same time elegant and even surreal, it’s a fabulous wine, and I hope to drink every bottle I have before my time comes to pass. The 1982 Lafleur starts off slowly, but there is a level of concentration that surpasses even that of the 1989 Haut-Brion. It is much younger than the 1989 aromatically, and in the mouth still seems adolescent in terms of its quality. Dense ruby/purple, with super-concentrated kirsch and dark raspberries as well as some truffle and iron-like notes, the wine is full-bodied, rich, vigorous, and youthful – a tour de force in winemaking. This wine has at least another 30-40 years of aging to go. Lastly, the 1982 La Mission Haut-Brion can be 100 points, but this bottle, from the original case I purchased from MacArthur Beverages as a future and which was stored at 55 degrees or lower since I took it into my possession in 1985 (25 years to be exact), was extremely youthful, robust, almost rustic, with a dark garnet color to the rim, and notes of smoked meats, barbecue, truffle, camphor, and black fruits. Brooding and backward, this wine was one everyone admired, but it was the least pleasant to drink on this day. I will probably forget my remaining bottles for at least another 5 years.

This was a great lunch. As the old saying goes: “Living well is the best revenge,” and this was living exceptionally well.

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