My friend Peter had a birthday party at Nell’s on Greenlake on Sunday night. Peter’s alternating yearly between Nell’s and Cafe Juanita, which gives us a chance to focus alternately on Italian and French wines, of course. The menu, put together by Phil for the dinner, included his incredible “Chimney Smoked Lobster,” a selection of appetizers out on the deck while we drank rose champagne, and Kobe beef hanger steak, which was incredible. Since I’m being very good these days, I had small bites of everything and shared the rest around the table, and avoided the foie gras appetizer entirely. The wines were:
- Billecart-Salmon Rose Champagne
- Raveneau 1995 Chapelot
- Comte Lafon 1996 Clos de la Barre
- Comte Lafon 1990 Meursault-Charmes
- Jadot 1989 Corton-Charlemagne
- Mascarello 1989 Barolo
- Beaucastel 1989
- Vieux Telegraphe 1989
- Gruaud Larose 1989
- Chave 1989 Hermitage
- Christoffel-Prum 1971 Auslese
Of these, the Mascarello 1989 was one of the best reds, with the Chave 1989 being delicious but more advanced than I recalled it previously. The Beaucastel was fascinating — a menthol-ish note reminded us of Heitz Martha’s Vineyard (at least in the old days) and the wine lacked a lot of the leathery bretty nose, but was sound and delicious. Maybe it’s entering a new phase, who knows? I brought my last magnum of the Vieux Telegraphe 1989, which took time to open up and come out of its shell but was open and lush and sweet. Those who tasted it right after pouring were disappointed, but the wine continued to improve long into the evening. I took some home and the glass eventually started to fade by 11 p.m. or so (it had been double-decanted around 4:30 or so). The Gruaud Larose was lovely with the Kobe beef and seems to be starting to show some secondary characteristics, but still is youthful in color.
Of the whites, the Raveneau was naturally the star of the show for me. Creamy lemony minerals and great acidity, I kept this in the glass along with all the reds and kept returning to it, and it continued to give pleasure for hours. The Lafon 1996 was great, young and brash but excellent. The 1990, in contrast, seemed a bit oxidized and was most people’s least favorite of the whites. The Jadot Corton was excellent but somewhat straightforward and unexciting. Drunk alone, I would have loved it but it didn’t compare well.