Wit and Wisdom

This was the first time I had eaten at the relatively new Four Seasons Hotel located on Baltimore’s waterfront. The place was booming and the bar scene at Wit and Wisdom, the hotel’s flagship restaurant, was hopping. The restaurant itself is very attractive with beautiful views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and an open kitchen with a burning pizza oven as well as an open grill. The food was just okay, nothing memorable. The Gratin of Crab Imperial had nice flavors, but was slightly watery. The Rib Eye cooked over a bed of hay was unusual in the sense that what’s the point of having great beef, a fabulous wood fire in the open kitchen, and then throwing the steak on a bed of hay and roasting it in the pizza oven? In any event, it was a fun time celebrating a dear friend’s birthday, and the company and wines made up for the listless fare.

In addition to the beautiful views, the wines were the highlight of the evening. The champagnes, while not quite as exquisite as I had hoped, were top-notch. The full-bodied Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill was in complete contrast to the more delicate, silky, lacy Taittinger Comte de Champagne. The whites from three of my favorite Chardonnay producers in Northern California were all brilliant wines. The 2007 Peter Michael Ma Belle-Fille revealed the most tropical fruit, the 2006 Marcassin Estate the most earthy, buttery, and honeysuckle notes, and the 2009 Aubert Reuling Vineyard the most intense floral and mineral characteristics as well as the best balance and acidity of this trio.

We then moved to some terrific red wines. The 1989 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape has become somewhat of a minefield as there have been a number of bad corks that made it through their quality control, resulting in a number of bottles with tremendous leakage. There are also a lot of corked bottles in this vintage. However, this magnum was absolutely sensational, probably the finest 1989 Beaucastel I have had in the last five or six years. It was incredibly fresh and young (in fact, several people thought drinking it now was committing infanticide). A deep ruby/purple color was followed by lots of sweet blue and black fruits with just a hint of Mourvèdre’s slightly stinky character still present. Full-bodied with good acidity and lots of depth, it remains an impressive wine at age 23. One of the great 1986 Bordeaux has always been the 1986 Talbot, which is still drinking fabulously well, although I suspect it may have peaked several years ago. Nevertheless, it is still a noteworthy, nearly prodigious wine as well as one of the all-time great successes from Château Talbot. The 1989 Talbot is a softer, lighter version without the concentration, structure or density of the 1986. The 1989 L’Angelus, especially from magnum, was the youngest wine in the entire series. It exhibited a dense purple color, a gorgeous nose of boysenberries, black currants, kirsch, licorice and a hint of wood spice, and tremendous opulence and body. This is a rich, concentrated, full-throttle wine. We finished with the 1991 Dominus, a wine that can be (depending on its provenance) a perfect example of this great estate in the Yountville sector of Napa Valley. Tasting very Bordeaux-like, it revealed a full-bodied mouthfeel, a dense plum/garnet color, sweet kirsch and loamy soil notes intermixed with spice box, cedar and a boatload of black currants. Rich, full and multilayered, it has another two decades of life ahead of it. We finished with a still incredibly young 1986 d’Yquem. It was just beginning to lose some of its tell-tale sucrosity/sweetness. The color was a beautiful medium gold, and the wine was incredibly long.

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