Mark's Duck House, Arlington, VA
I was in the minority, but I found the 1999 Schleinitz Riesling Koberner Weisenberg, 1998 Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Clos Windsbuhl, and 1998 Zind-Humbrecht Tokay-Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl to be too sweet for my taste. I admire their quality, but I prefer my Alsace wines a bit crisper, especially with this type of food. The 1997 Domaine Weinbach Tokay–Pinot Gris Ste. Catherine worked beautifully as its acidity balanced out the big, rich, concentrated flavors.
We quickly moved into the reds, with a badly corked bottle of 1999 Joseph Roty Charmes Chambertin Très Vieilles Vignes, a wine that should have been spectacular. That was followed by two tremendous efforts from Bruno Giacosa. Giacosa's wines, especially his Barolos and Barbarescos, are like money in the bank. I usually wait a good decade before I start pulling their corks, and they are just amazing ... the Pinot Noirs of Italy, with extraordinary fragrance as well as provocative textures and unbelievable complexity, proving (should anyone be foolish enough to doubt it) that Nebbiolo is a great varietal. The 1990 Barbaresco Santo Stefano (from my cellar) was gorgeous. Just reaching its plateau of full maturity, there is plenty of amber at the edge of its color, and it offers a spectacular nose of singed leather, sweet cherries, underbrush, and tobacco smoke, a lush, silky texture, full body, but an ethereal lightness on the palate. A magnificent effort, its combination of complexity, maturity, and suppleness would have made it the "wine of the day" if it had not been for the following wine. The out-of-control 1989 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Rionda de Serralunga Red Label Riserva was pure perfection ... one of the greatest Barolos I have ever tasted. It started off like an awkward teenager with a deep ruby/garnet color to the rim. Within 20-25 minutes (both of the Giacosa wines came from my cellar and I had decanted them, washed out considerable sediment, and re-corked them approximately five hours before the tasting/lunch) it exploded in the glass offering up notes of Asian spices, cedar, plums, licorice, black cherries, truffles, and minerals. Full-bodied, powerful, concentrated, and still amazingly youthful, I wish I had bought more of this wine. It is just now beginning to "show," but has at least 15-20 years of life ahead of it. Man, do I love great Barolo and Barbaresco. I miss the opportunity to taste these young wines, but life marches on.
Bordeaux rarely works with Cantonese food, but we keep trying. It was fun to have a chance to taste the 2000 Cheval Blanc, a spectacular wine that seems to be sloughing off its post bottling dormancy. Extremely rich, but surprisingly light on its feet, it is much more concentrated and structured than the 1990 or 1982. It appears to be the finest Cheval Blanc of the last 3-4 decades. However, 5-10 more years of patience is warranted. The 1975 Petrus came across as somewhat rustic. While fabulously concentrated and still youthful, the tannin seemed slightly raspy and astringent. Perhaps the bottle was not in mint condition. The fruit appeared healthy, but young and backward. Just beginning to emerge from a dormant period, the great 1986 Rauzan-Ségla may be the finest wine this estate has produced over the last twenty years. A dense ruby/purple color is followed by gorgeous aromas of flowers, black fruits, earth, cassis, and meat. This is a rich, firmly structured, concentrated, impressive Bordeaux that is just hitting adolescence. The 1982 Tertre-Rôteboeuf seemed loosely structured. Delicious and open-knit, but revealing considerable amber at the edge, this has always been a very good effort, but it needs to be consumed. When I look back over my notes, I do not think proprietor François Mitjavile hit full stride until the late eighties, where he has remained ever since.
The food at Mark's Duck House is always spectacular. We order in advance some of the special dumplings (lobster, scallop, and the super-sized shrimp dumplings), and their dim sum is as good as I have had anywhere, including Hong Kong.
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Petit Louis Bistro
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