Mark's Duck House

Our wine and food extravaganza at Mark's Duck House began with the brilliant, moderately sweet 2004 Dönnhoff Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Spätlese which offered gorgeous aromatics as well as wonderful notes of citrus fruit intermixed with striking minerality. That was followed by an incredibly young, fresh, vigorous 1985 Chave Hermitage Blanc. Tasting like a five rather than twenty-year old wine, I was amazed by the strong mineral/steely component it still exhibits. Drinking beautifully, the 2000 Bongran Mâcon-Villages offers loads of tropical fruit, and crisp, flowery characteristics. Initially closed, the young looking 1978 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles blossoms to reveal notions of hazelnuts, caramel, butter, and minerals. While it was not complex, and it fell off in the mouth, the aromatics and attack were pretty. The only California white, the 2004 Ambullneo Chardonnay Big Paw was a classic southern California Chardonnay boasting abundant tropical fruit aromas. This big fruit bomb will drink well for 1-2 years, in contrast to the French whites which have aged much longer.

Next we moved into a flight of gorgeous red Burgundies. The 2002 Clos de Tart is a more delicate, restrained, elegant sibling to the blockbuster 2003, which is dense, rich, and full-bodied as well as elegant and potentially complex. Both wines exhibit 10-15 years of aging potential. The two biggest surprises included Bertagna's 2003 Clos St.-Denis, a spectacular grand cru red Burgundy displaying big, meaty, bloody notes interwoven with notions of mulberries, blackberries, sweet cherries, fresh mushrooms, and forest floor. It is a gorgeously complex, rich, young, surprisingly fresh and vigorous effort that should evolve for 15-20 years. The other surprise was the 1999 Vincent Girardin Corton Renardes, which appears to be approaching full maturity. Its sweet perfume of pomegranates, black cherry jam, earth, herb, and spice box is followed by a rich, velvety-textured wine to drink over the next 5-10 years.

We had two stunning and two unusual Rhônes. I have had better bottles of Les Cailloux's 2000 Châteauneuf du Pape. This bottle was atypically fluid and diluted, but it was neither cooked nor off, just disappointing. The rustic, savage 1994 Trollat St.-Joseph is very much in character with this producer's wines. It will last another 10-15 years, but the tannins are hard in this huge, massive offering. It is the type of wine that generally never comes together in a meaningful manner. That said, the Domaine La Bouissière 1998 Gigondas La Font de Tonin is a brilliant effort from an appellation that often disappoints more than it should given the potential for excellence from so many old vine terroirs. Drinking beautifully, it exhibits aromas of white flowers, blueberries, black cherries, licorice, and truffles. Full-bodied, elegant, pure, and rich, it offers a glorious mouthful of wine. Even better is the spectacular Domaine Soumade 1999 Rasteau Fleur de Confiance. It boasts stunningly concentrated old vine Grenache flavors of kirsch liqueur, licorice, and earth. Big and spicy with sweet tannin, full body, and loads of purity, this remarkable wine should continue to evolve for another decade.

One of my contributions to this event was a bottle of 1964 Château Montrose to celebrate Pierre-Antoine Rovani's birth year, but it was wretchedly corked. What a shame since the color and aromas that could be discerned beyond the smell of dampness and wet cement were impressive. Unfortunately, it just reeked of TCA. A wine I loved in its youth and that is still holding on to life, displaying no signs of decline is the brilliant 1982 Haut-Marbuzet. While it has lost a lot of its jammy, exuberant, fleshy character, it is still a beautiful albeit more restrained, elegant claret. Its lovely deep plum/ruby/purple color is followed by a rich, concentrated wine with sweet tannins as well as loads of fruit and depth. This beauty has held up far better than I anticipated for a nearly 24-year old cru bourgeois. The 1961 Rouget was extremely dense, powerful, slightly rustic, but enormously concentrated and rich. It only lacks the nobility and charm of a great vineyard. Lastly, the 2004 Canis Major Pinot Noir as tasty, but seemingly superficial and one-dimensional.

Altogether, this was another great tasting, and, of course, if you love Dim Sum, the food at Mark's is as good as it gets in either the United States or China.

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