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Mark Squires' E-Zine on Wine

Ch. Pichon Lalande, my photo, 1988

Articles, July/August, 1996


Magnums at Restaurant Daniel, High Noon.....New York City

Wine to me is very simple. It means fun and cameraderie. If you've perused a few of the articles on this site, you'll no doubt notice that a lot of them are simply reports of great food and wine events. This may be especially irritating if you weren't there. I'm sorry. I remember watching Jancis Robinson do a video on wine while tasting and supposedly explaining Yquem. In the midst of every explanatory sentence she gulped and apologized, "I'm SO sorry you can't be tasting this." This, however, did not mitigate her enjoyment. Similarly, while I feel your pain, I keep on writing nonetheless.....and if you have friends and enjoy wine, there's little reason why you can't go to Daniel, one of New York's great restaurants, too. And if you can't, remember the cameraderie part. It counts for a lot. So, I don't really feel guilty describing this.

It seemed almost like a gunslinger's challenge. One day I got this email from a certain Mr. Parker inviting me to join him and a few friends in the business at Daniel. High noon, he said. He came with magnums blazing and a small group of serious wine people who fully intended to do serious damage to the superlative food and wonderful wines. As it should be. ...

We began at the beginning. The restaurant was just filling up and the waiter was pouring 82 Billecart, one of my favorite champagnes. I would like to give you a detailed tasting note, but I was very busy watching Everyone Who Matters pour into Daniel and trying to keep up with the wit, one-liners, stories and wine nuggets going round the table. I didn't bother to take notes, so what you see is both what I got and what I recall. (g)

If we began at the beginning, by the way, we would also end at the end, having outlasted several seatings and giving the owner just enough time to get ready for dinner. That, after all, was the plan, and I have to say, it's a familiar experience. At home, even with my normal group, a lot of chefs don't want to seat us too early. They figure we're closing the place down no matter when we arrive. And they're often right. We don't see why this is problem.

The Wines (all dry wines in magnum but for Lafleur)
1989 Ramonet Batard Montrachet 1982 La Conseillante
1979 Lafleur 1989 Huet Vouvray CuveÚ Constance

The Ramonet was just wonderful. I've been criticizing his other, lesser wines recently, and others said, "try the Batards." Good call. Rich, ripe, round, but with a welcome bite, and held open in the glass and warm for what seemed like ages, until there was none left and I couldn't experiment any longer. I almost drank rather too much of this. The melt in your mouth sea bass and the veloutÚ went well with it and I was enjoying it too much. That is, the five of us had already knocked off a magnum of the Billecart, the mag of Ramonet was dwindling and we had another mag and two single bottles left.....As it turned out, not a problem.

The 82 La Conseillante had been decanted a long while and came out soft and supple, with roasted, meaty flavors on the nose and palate. I think I'd have preferred not to decant this, just to see whether it retained some fleshy, youthful exuberance. But this version of it held its own nonetheless and coated the mouth. The 79 Lafleur was remarkable on several grounds. I'd never had it before and as we poured, there were comments around the table that this was arguably the wine of the vintage, and a freak at that. Indeed. On first opening, I wasn't impressed. The first nose was of decay and must, and the wine on first sip seemed to reveal nothing. Then, it just exploded in the glass. Fruit appeared from nowhere. Tannins popped out. As if the wine were saying "just kidding there at the beginning." As good as La Conseillante was, this was more youthful and better. There aren't many 79s in my recent experience holding this well--or for that matter, that ever showed this well. Frankly, I'd have never guessed this was a 79 in a blind tasting.

I should mention that our senses were being assaulted by the food as well. The crab was wonderful, in a sauce so creamy that you needed to clean your arteries out afterwards if you weren't drinking red wine. The lamb and tongue were fabulous. The bone became a souvenir. Which is to say, the food kept pace step for step, and there was never a moment when there wasn't some interesting taste on your tongue. This, of course, is how we should spend every dinner.

And finally, the Huet. The CuveÚ Constance was a new experience for me. To simplify, it was the best, the richest, the sweetest Vouvray I've had to date. Full throttle Vouvray doux, honeyed, but not heavy. Just lovely.

May I add, if I haven't made it clear already, that half the fun was the company. Witty, convivial, gracious, funny, and into it. My kinda guys.

Finally, it came time to leave. The funny thing was, it wasn't enough. I think the adrenalin was flowing. I struggled (due to a knee injury not inebriation) down 7th Avenue toward the train station on foot, alternately savoring the wines and the food, and then consumed with a desire for port and a cheese course. This is a bad sign, of course. When you can't walk much (just "lost" my left knee playing tennis) and you're eating with this much abandon, the next step is a serious weight loss program. But dieting will have to wait for another day with lesser wines and ordinary food. All life is a dilemma, I guess.

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(c) 1996, Mark Squires