Restaurant Petrus

This is the third time I have eaten at this top floor restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong. There have been changes in chefs, but they have always remained faithful to utilizing a top French chef (currently Frédéric Chabbert) as well as offering creative as well as original cuisine. As the menu demonstrates, we enjoyed an assortment of stunning dishes, with my favorites probably the black truffle, egg and lamb courses.

As for the wines, there were many brilliant offerings from California, France and Spain. I have always been skeptical of the aging potential of the top California Chardonnays, but I am beginning to change my opinion, at least for the top Chardonnays from the likes of Marcassin and Mark Aubert. The brilliant 1996 Marcassin Chardonnay Gauer Vineyard (a site now known as the Jackson Family's Alexander Mountain Estate) is nearly perfect. I shipped the wine from my cellar to Singapore and it was hand-carried from there to Hong Kong. It is a tour de force in winemaking, and its youthfulness and complexity would rival, if not eclipse just about any white Burgundy I have ever had. I can't say enough about how well this wine has aged, and it certainly opened my eyes to the long-term potential of some of these Chardonnays. The two cuvées of 1990 Hermitage, a great vintage, are both out-of-the-world, profound wines. They include the 1990 J. L. Chave Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin from the Les Bessards Vineyard and the 1990 Paul Jaboulet-Ainé La Chapelle, the greatest La Chapelle made after the monumental 1961. Both wines are still somewhat youthful at age 24, which is hard to believe, but they came from my cellar where they had been perfectly stored since their release. It was difficult to pick a favorite, although the La Chapelle was more meaty and beef blood-dominated, whereas the Cuvée Cathelin was more floral and exhibited more minerality as well as structure. Both are truly perfect wines.

We then moved to two more spectacular wines, the limited production 2003 Chapoutier Ermitage l'Ermite, which comes from the top of Hermitage from this bizarre vintage that produced incredibly tiny yields. For producers who waited to harvest, the level of extract and concentration is nearly beyond belief. This wine tastes like a 3-4-year-old wine, or even a barrel sample, than one that is eleven years of age. Loaded with potential, and, unlike the white wines from this vintage (which need to be watched very carefully as they could oxidize quickly once they begin their downhill march), the great reds (which are few and far between) seem to be 50-60+-year wines. The 2001 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Tychson Hill Vineyard is a brilliant effort from a great vintage in Napa. From one of the tenderloin sections of Napa, just north of St. Helena on a gentle hillside, this wine was showing spectacularly well. The Chinese in attendance went bonkers over the extraordinary fruit quality, purity and intensity of the wine.

With the next course, a beautiful pigeon dish with foie gras, we had the 1996 Pingus from Ribera del Duero, made by Peter Sisseck. This was a beautiful wine, but in this particular flight, the 1986 Lafite Rothschild was out of this world. Truly profound, utterly perfect and complex, I actually asked to see the bottle because it was so youthful and deeply colored that I thought it might be the 1996. But, no. It was an authentic 1986 Lafite Rothschild purchased directly from the château. It is good to see this vintage finally turning the corner after several decades of being closed and forbiddingly tannic and unattractive. This great Lafite has always been the favorite of Lafite's owner, Baron Eric de Rothschild, and I can understand why after tasting it in Hong Kong. We then moved to the 2001 Screaming Eagle, which boasts a dense purple color, incredibly pure cassis fruit, and gorgeous complexity and intensity. We finished with the 1993 Harlan Estate and 1996 Abreu Madrona Ranch. One can't ask for greater winemakers or Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. At this event, the 1996 Abreu slightly edged out the 1993 Harlan Estate, which is not totally unexpected as Harlan Estate hit home runs in 1992 and 1994, with 1993 a stunning wine, but just eclipsed by the Abreu. The colossal 1996 Abreu Madrona Ranch is one of the great wines from that vintage. It was showing lots of licorice, acacia flower, blueberry and blackberry notes intermixed with hints of camphor and graphite. The 1993 Harlan Estate is more meaty and gravelly displaying notions of burning embers, charcoal, and dense black currant fruit. It was great to see the Chinese wine enthusiasts, who rarely get the opportunity to taste these wines, enjoy their full-bodied, world-class quality. It was eye-opening for them.

This was another great night of food, wine and friendship at a fabulous world-class restaurant in Hong Kong.

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