Benefit for Camillus House and My Neighbors Foundation
This was a very impressive meal at the fashionable Strip Steak restaurant in the hip and cool Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The quality of the food, the wine service and overall ambience were terrific. This dinner was held to benefit Camillus House in Miami Beach (which provides services to the homeless, including lodging) and a local charity in my neighborhood called My Neighbor's Foundation.
We started with the only Gewurztraminer I've ever given a perfect score, the 1989 Zind Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Gewurztraminer. I bought several cases, drank through them, and immensely enjoyed every one of them. However, this is the first time I've ever had the wine in magnum. I was shocked that it's still holding as well as it is, offering the spicy, exotic character of Gewurztraminer, wonderful acidity, rich, full-bodied flavors, and not a trace of oxidation in either the color or the aromatics. This is another testament to the brilliance of the Zind Humbrecht wines, which are nearly immortal in terms of their longevity.
The next flight, which was served with a fabulous lobster dish, had two perfect wines - the 2008 Marcassin Vineyard Chardonnay (from a challenging vintage in which they had to declassify all the Pinot Noir due to the burnt smells coming from the wild fires that plagued Northern California during harvest time) and from magnum, the extraordinary, old vine, 100% Marsanne, the 2000 Chapoutier L'Ermite Blanc, from the very top of the hill in Hermitage. I can't think of two more complex and profound dry white wines, and it was fascinating to go back and forth between these two very different expressions of winemaking. Both are as good as it gets.
We then moved to an intriguing flight of Rhône and Rhône Ranger-type wines, served with a wonderful grilled ribcap. (The ribcap, which is the very top of a prime rib roast and decadently flavorful, is a very special cut of beef and hard to find or access. When I'm in the mood for splurging and decadence, I use my source, Flannery Fine Foods in Northern California.) The 2003 Guigal La Turque Côte Rôtie was absolutely out of this world, still young, and a remarkable achievement in this rather bizarre vintage. Guigal is as great a winemaker as there is, as well as a notable viticulturalist, and he nailed this vintage. This dark purple wine had a beautiful, magical nose of incense, black fruits, spring flowers and spice. It was nearly matched in intensity and full-bodied opulence by the 2003 Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage. Both of these wines were spectacular, with the Guigal probably having the longest upside to it, with a good 10 or more years of age possible, and the Chave closing in on maturity but also having another 10-15 years of aging potential. The monster in the entire flight was from the Barossa Valley in Australia, the 1998 Greenock Creek Roennfeldt Road Shiraz. These wines are almost overwhelmingly rich and massive in their youth, but this wine has calmed down and lost some of its baby fat, and is now starting to show greater and greater delineation. This is probably a 50- to 60-year wine, which may not make any economic sense, given today's culture of wanting immediate gratification, but this is a spectacular old vine Shiraz aged a long time in oak. It performed magnificently and really didn't stick out as an anomaly in this flight, with Syrah's classic road tar, pepper and meatiness well-displayed.
After the amazingly decadent grilled ribcap (served with some fabulous creamed spinach and luxurious truffled macaroni and cheese), we moved to a flight of Bordeaux - a magnum of 1982 Pichon Lalande and a 1986 Château Mouton Rothschild. Probably one of the most consistently great wines I've had the chance to taste over the last 30+ years, not only from my cellar but from others, has been the 1982 Pichon Lalande, and while this wine seemed slightly more evolved than some of the bottles I've had from my cellar, it was a beautiful, classic Bordeaux with plenty of cedar, spice box, blackcurrants and forest floor in a savory, round, opulent and seamless style. The 1986 Mouton Rothschild is one of the great vintages for Mouton Rothschild (in fact, it was a fabulous vintage for Pauillac and St.-Estè:phe as well as St.-Julien), and this bottle seemed to be just turning the corner and moving into an adolescent stage of development. It's a 100-year wine, for sure - inky purple-colored, with the classic Mouton Rothschild nose of crème de cassis, licorice and spice. Full-bodied and opulent, this is a wine that will probably never taste old unless poorly stored or abused in some other way.
We finished with some remarkable dessert wines, including the 1990 Zind Humbrecht Heimbourg Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive and the 1997 Quinto do Noval Nacional Port, but the two dessert wines that blew me away were the 1992 Taylor Fladgate and an absolutely remarkable 1946 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Convento Seleccion. I love a great vintage port, and of course, the 1992 Taylor is certainly that, but ancient Spanish sweet wines can be even more decadent and exotic, and the 1946 Bodegas Toro was certainly such a wine.
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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...