Stunning Evening


A few of the many stunning wines from the Somm Appreciation Dinner

I've heard about them. I've read about them. Those evenings where the stunning wines flow one after another--wines beyond the reach of most of us mere mortals. But I had never been to one. Now I have.

I was honored to be invited to the second annual Somm Appreciation Dinner, hosted by a very generous collector here in the DC area. It was held in his lovely home. Thirty of us attended--roughly half and half, sommeliers and collectors. Since I'm not a somm, I must have been invited as a collector--though I own few wines of this level (I'm proud of my cellar, but these were otherworldly).

The invitation directed--with good reason--that no guest should drive. Uber had a good evening. On arrival, as I entered, I got my first clue as I peeked in the dining room. It was full...jammed...with glassware. Our host welcomed me as I entered the kitchen. It was set up for wine staging. The actual cooking and food service would be done by chefs set up in the garage. For aperitifs, I had my choice of two rooms. One had seven large format bottles (mags and double-mags) of exquisite champagne, including three mature vintages of Krug and a ~50 year-old Dom Perignon. The other room, red burgundy. When I saw the bottles, my jaw dropped. Five different premier cru and grand cru wines from the 1990s produced by the famous Domaine Leroy. One would have been enough for me to mouth "wow!" So much amazing wine on either side of me was almost paralyzing. Which one did I want? All of them, thank you very much.

I showed just enough self-restraint not to try to drink all of them. I marveled at a glass of 1997 Domaine Leroy Clos de Vougeot...but my primary focus for the moment was on champagne. The 1966 DP was really interesting--though perhaps the earthy flavors from bottle development were beginning to overwhelm the fruit. The 1985 and 1995 Krug were both magnificent. All too soon it was time to go to the tables. There were three tables of ten set up in what is normally the family room. There were no assigned seats but each table sort of naturally ended up with about an even split of somms and collectors. Ours was a congenial group. I knew perhaps half...and enjoyed all.

The first course was sea bass with lemon beurre blanc. With it--three sensational rieslings, including 2010 Keller Kirchspiel, 1997 Nikolaihof Vinothek and 2014 Donnhoff Nidederhauser Hermannshohle GG. Note that my memory of the wines is good at this point. As the courses, and wines, began to add up, it would blur significantly. Each of the rieslings deserved wine of the night status on any other occasion. Beautiful, precise wines. But for me, the Donnhoff was the wine of the flight...maybe the wine of the night. It was one of those wines that captures your total attention. For a minute or two, there wasn't anyone else there...or anything else going on. Such clarity. Such depth. Such precision. Remarkable.

The second course was lobster bisque with chunks of lobster. The wines were a flight of white burgundies plus one--the one, L'Hermitage Blanc from Jean-Louis Chave. All were sensational. For me, the wine of the flight was the Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigneres from J-F Coche-Dury. Again, such depth. Such grace. A finish that was pure harmony...and went on and on.

The third course was tagliatelle with wild mushroom ragout. It was a perfect backdrop for the red burgundies. I was near nirvana...but not near sobriety. The wine of the flight for me? Maybe Jean-Marie Fourrier's Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St Jacques? His reputation is going up like a rocket. The Comte de Vogue Bonne Mares? The Comte de Vogue Chambolle-Musigny? The Roulot? I loved them all. And things were starting to get fuzzy.

Next up, after a palate cleanser, were lamb chops and the first of the big reds--Margaux and Haut-Brion, with some mature Vega Sicilia Unico and Joseph Phelps Insignia thrown in as a change of pace. Best of that flight--I think the 1990 Chateau Margaux, though the 1981 Unico was also sensational.

And the beef--Latour, Lafite and Mouton. I surrender. They were good. I was done. There was dessert. There was d'Yquem. There was an Uber. It's all a little blurry.

I'm deeply grateful to our host for his generosity. It was an experience like none I've ever had...and perhaps may never have again. There is a part of me that wishes I could take all the wines I tasted--there were perhaps 30--and separate each to its own night. Literally every wine I tasted deserved intense focus...to be appreciated...admired...savored. But they were together. As the famous old Four Seasons song says: "Oh, what a night!"

Oh, what a night!


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