Oregon Grille

Longtime professional acquaintance, wine consultant and château owner, Dr. Alain Raynaud, was visiting Baltimore with Hélène Garcin promoting her portfolio of Argentine wines, so I invited them to be my guests at the Oregon Grille after one of these tastings. It also gave me a chance to retaste some of Hélène’s Bordeaux as well as her high-end, high-elevation Malbec called Poesia, a wine I usually love, but rarely get a chance to taste. I brought along two magnums, the Aubert 2004 Chardonnay Lauren and the 1990 Clinet. The 2004 Aubert Chardonnay Lauren was perfect with the Oysters Avery, which possess a slightly spicy character since it is a recipe that originated in New Orleans. The Oregon Grille prepares these barely poached oysters on a half shell perfectly with generous amounts of jumbo lump crab meat on top. One of their signature dishes created by the original chef, Mark Henry (who has moved out of the area), is the striped bass (locally called rockfish) sautéed and served with an assemblage of local vegetables interwoven with lots of Maryland crab meat. One would think this dish would be better served with white than red wine, but the addition of the potatoes, crunchy tomatoes and herbs makes it delicious with red wine.

The 2004 Aubert Chardonnay Lauren (one of the first Chardonnays Aubert produced on his own) was spectacular. Full-bodied with a light green/gold color and a stunning nose of orange marmalade, citrus oil, lemon butter and melons, this fragrant white reveals great acidity as well as sensational concentration. It should drink well for several more years. Unfortunately, I have none left in my cellar.

We then moved to a flight of wines fashioned by proprietor Hélène Garcin assisted by Alain Raynaud as consultant. They are all top-flight Bordeaux, with one of my two favorites being the extraordinary micro-terroir near Haut-Bailly, Branon. It is a sensational, concentrated, full-bodied, still youthful 2005 that exhibits a dense purple color along with hints of tobacco leaf, graphite and blue and black fruits. This unctuous, super-endowed wine still reveals a considerable amount of tannin, and I do not see it being close to full maturity for another 5-8 years. More evolved and forward, the 2005 Barde-Haut reveals more licorice, forest floor, underbrush, black cherry and black currant characteristics. Although it has some tannin to lose, it is on a much faster evolutionary track than the Branon. Still an infant, the velvety 2005 Clos l’Eglise offers wonderful caramelized plum and black cherry notes intermixed with hints of lead pencil shavings, mocha and vanilla. This plump, voluptuously textured, stunning Pomerol will hit full maturity in 5-7 years, and last for two decades or more. The most perplexing wine of the evening was the magnum of 1990 Clinet. This wine can approach perfection, and although this magnum came directly from my cellar, it tasted as if it had had some heat damage (impossible as it had been stored impeccably since I purchased it in the early nineties). However, this is one of the disasters that can often result from the deplorable shipping conditions of fine wine. The amber at the edge of the color and slightly roasted aromatics are more than simply a vintage characteristic. The fruit seemed to be somewhat burnt compared to previous 1990 Clinets I have had from my cellar in regular format bottles (750 ml). It should have been younger and more vibrant. While it is still very good, enjoyable and complex, I was disappointed based on what it should have been. We finished on a high note with a spectacular 2008 Poesia Malbecfrom Argentina. My colleague Jay Miller as reviewed this wine, and I think he may have been a little stingy with his score. The wine’s dense blue/purple color is followed by notes of blueberry liqueur, scorched earth, graphite, blackberries and a hint of white chocolate. It should age effortlessly for 15-20 years. Moreover, as good as it is, it sells for a reasonably attractive price in today’s marketplace.

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