Restaurant Petrus

Prepared by the great French chef, Frédéric Chabbert, with head sommelier, Nicolas Pieron, this meal accompanied a look at some of my 100-point wines. While some may accuse me of being prejudiced, these wines were all in pristine condition and performed brilliantly. When I first looked at the wine list, I thought it would be somewhat of a challenge to move from Châteauneuf du Pape to the northern Rhône appellation of Hermitage to a California Cabernet Sauvignon and then to a group of Bordeaux, but it was effortlessly accomplished. I have never had so many perfect wines at one seating, and perfect wines that actually delivered because of the condition of the bottles. We started with an extraordinary, succulent squid dish cooked in squid ink. This appears to be a difficult dish to match with wine, but the 1998 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrin, with its high percentage of Mourvèdre and intense style, was magical. From an extraordinary vintage, it is one of the greatest Mourvèdre-based Châteauneuf du Papes ever made. While still young at age 12, it is a tour de force in winemaking, offering up notes of asphalt, black truffles, blueberries, blackberries, pepper and hints of wood spice and forest floor. That was followed by a wonderful egg dish with forest mushrooms accompanied by a spectacular bottle of 1978 Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle.Of course, ratings can change based on the condition of the bottle, but this was the finest example of this cuvée I have ever had. The bouquet filled the entire room in which we were dining with wonderful notes of crème de cassis, new saddle leather, damp earth, pepper and meat juices. This full-bodied, opulently styled La Chapelle has enough acidity to give it definition as the tannins have largely melted away. It should continue to hold up for another two decades.

With the beautiful 1994 Dominus we had the famous Spanish prawns along with the Pur Iberico Bellota ham. The earthy, black currant, licorice and nori-like notes of the Dominus were perfectly matched with this dish. From there we moved to a slightly less than perfect, but still off-the-charts 1990 Cheval Blanc. I have tended to think the 2000 Cheval Blanc may be even better than the 1990, but the latter wine is certainly the finest vintage of Cheval Blanc between 1982 and 2000. An exotic, superb bouquet of new saddle leather, mulberries, roasted herbs, licorice, incense and truffles was followed by a velvety textured, opulent, nearly fully mature wine that should last for a couple more decades. The roasted squab served with it was a little too rare for me as I have never been a great fan of bloody pigeon, but it was certainly tasty. The next course, a risotto made with celeriac and black truffles, was pure genius. The truffles were of great quality, and the earthy, scorched volcanic soil, barbecue notes and enormous fruit and body of the 1982 La Mission Haut Brion was another marriage made in heaven. This may have been the single greatest combination of food and wine I had throughout 2011. I would have enjoyed three or four helpings of this huge wine. Next we had a brilliant bottle of 1986 Lafite Rothschild, which performed better than one from my cellar did on New Year’s Eve (I rated that bottle 98). At Restaurant Petrus, the bottle was pure perfection. Still young, it exhibited a dense ruby/purple color along with notes of cedar, English walnuts, black currants, leather and earth. It tastes more like a ten year old wine than one that is 26 years of age. The 1989 Petrus may have been the finest bottle I have ever had of that cuvée. I had the good fortunate to enjoy several glasses of it with a wonderful veal dish accompanied by a concoction of autumn herbs and vegetables. In many ways it is just as young as the 1986 Lafite, but the 1989 Petrus reveals a broader, richer style because of the high Merlot content. It offered up a hint of mocha along with exquisite black cherry and black currant fruit, a full-bodied opulence and an amazing finish. Another terrific dish was the crispy truffle brie, which was generously stuffed with black truffles, and drunk with an exquisite bottle of 1961 Latour. Although it revealed a relatively low fill, the quality of the wine was remarkable. It exhibited fabulous notes of crème de cassis and smoky foresty floor, tremendous opulence and that texture and richness one only sees in vintages such as 1959, 1961, 1982, 1990, 2000, some 2003s, 2005, 2009 and 2010. This is unquestionably one of the legends of the 20th century. I remember the 1975 Yquem as being young and vibrant, and at 37 years of age, it remains a baby that is capable of lasting 100 or more years. This exquisite Yquem justifies its legendary status.

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