New Year's Eve
I decanted all of the Bordeaux three hours in advance. Somewhat surprisingly, the wine that blew everyone away was the 1982 Calon Ségur, which remains amazingly young at 30 years of age. It possesses the densest color and sweetest fruit as well as remarkable purity and intensity. The 1986 Lafite Rothschild was very close in quality, but at 26 years of age, it is even younger than the Calon Ségur, and will benefit from another 5-10 years of cellaring, which is typical with this vintage that is aging at a glacial pace. The wines that I thought would be the most open and drinkable turned out to be less accessible than I had hoped. The 1985 Lynch Bages (which was a Wine Spectator “wine of the year”) has never been one of my favorite Lynch Bages, although I have loved it as it has always been a precocious, showy offering. This bottle revealed a disconcerting, more herbaceous, bell pepper-like character than I remember in previous examples. Perhaps that was due to bottle variation. However, it possessed black currant fruit as well as a medium to full-bodied, silky style, and was holding up nicely. Even more troublesome was a slight corkiness found in the 1985 Lafleur. This rare wine, which was fabulous in 1985, was still drinkable as the corky character was simply annoying. Although it possessed sweet kirsch and raspberry fruit as well as a silky mouthfeel, it was a disappointing, somewhat flawed example. The 1982 Canon was beautiful. Fully mature, but in no danger of fading away, its dark plum/garnet color was accompanied by notes of minerals, black fruits, earth and damp forest floor. This impressive, large-scaled Canon may be the finest Canon produced in the last three decades. The 1975 Lafite Rothschild displayed a musty, mushroom-like character in its aromatics along with solid, masculine, tannic flavors much in keeping with this hard, charmless vintage. There is good depth and richness, but the astringency of the tannins will only be enjoyed by masochists.
As for the other wines, the fabulous 2002 Dom Pérignon is very young with superb potential longevity. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was the youthfulness of the 1989 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann. I served it blind and my guests thought it was 4 to 5 years old, not two decades. While slightly off-dry, the wine’s high acid and intensity made it come across as a reasonably dry style, but it exhibited a wonderful citrus oil/petroleum-like earthiness as well as stunning richness and freshness. This Riesling has at least another 20 years of life ahead of it. Amazing! A major failure is Louis Latour’s 1989 Montrachet. I bought a case of this wine when it was released because the price was reasonable. The five or six bottles drunk when it was 2-3 years of age were wonderful, but the wine fell apart quickly, and this bottle (my last) was all oak and acidity with the fruit completely desiccated. Amazingly, the color was healthy looking and not maderized, and there was no ullage after nearly twenty years in my cellar.
The highlights of the meal were the appetizers, the extraordinary terrine of Hudson Valley foie gras, and the Russ & Daughters smoked fish and the sensational nutty, delicate caviar (which revealed very little saltiness). Russ & Daughters calls this caviar their amur schrenckii, which comes from a large river in Siberia/Mongolia. It was super fresh with tiny, crunchy eggs (which I love). As much as I loved it, in the future, if I’m going to spend that kind of money for caviar, I’ll stick with the Siberian baerii from Russ & Daughters. The Waygu prime rib beef cap from Flannery’s was over-kill. This is a special, luxurious cut of beef, but when it is made from Waygu, it is too fatty. It was almost scary to eat given its high fat content, although the flavors were excellent. From now on, I’ll stick to the American beef prime rib cap, which is also fatty, but not nearly as artery-clogging as the Waygu.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...