Mark’s Duck House – December 2008

Mark’s Duck House
December 2008
Robert Parker

The big holiday bash at Mark’s Duck House featured their exquisite special-order dim sum plus many additions, such as the deep-fried whole fish, clams with black bean sauce, their roast pork (probably the best I have ever tasted there), Chinese sausage, and fried rice. I think someone even had an order of Peking duck, but I don’t recall trying it, although it is always top-flight as well.

This was generally a day where the domestic wines showed fabulously well, and most of the Burgundies were grossly overrated or just undrinkable. Starting with the worst and ascending, a Niellon 1996 Chevalier-Montrachet was completely oxidized. A 1989 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne was dead and fruitless. A Carillon 2006 Puligny-Montrachet Perrières was almost unrecognizable as white Burgundy, and the vertical of Domaine de La Romanée-Conti from one of my favorite vineyards, Grands Echézeaux, was woefully underperforming. The 2002 has to be one of the most overrated, mediocre wines in the wine world. I haven’t had a 2002 from DRC that would even classify as excellent. The wines are green, harshly tannic, and totally out of balance, with excessive acidity and a lack of fruit. The 2001 Grands Echezeaux looks to be better, but it is hardly a wine that would excite anyone not drinking the label. The 2000 is lean, a nice, competent, bistro-style red, but nothing more. As I have said so many times before, when this domaine hits a home run, as they did in 1990, 1999, and 2003, and apparently (I have not tasted them) 2005, they are the world’s greatest wines made from Pinot Noir, but more often than not, they under-perform. 

They weren’t the only big names that disappointed. A 2000 Remoissenet Montrachet was fruitless and undrinkable, a Domaine Leroy 2000 Chevalier-Montrachet was so oaky that it was impossible to find any fruit in it, and the Domaine Weinbach 2006 Gewurztraminer Furstentum had terrific Gewurztraminer character, but it was just too sweet. An uninspiring bottle of Champagne from a producer I don’t know, Charles Lafitte, the 1989 was pleasant, still alive, but not terribly interesting.

The Chardonnays that stood out were all from the Santa Barabara region. Ambullneo’s 2006 Chardonnay Big Paws showed crisp, lemony, white currants and honeyed citrus in a restrained, refreshing, Burgundian-style. It’s made in California, yet it out-classed all the dead Burgundies. It also kept the oak under control, something the Chevalier-Montrachet from Leroy did not. Even better, and an exquisite Chardonnay, was the 2006 Ambullneo Solomon Hills. Terrific tropical fruit notes intermixed with crushed rock and spring flowers, a gentle usage of wood, and a full-bodied, fresh mouthfeel with zesty acids made for the Chardonnay of the day. Just a beauty, it’s nice to see wines from proprietor Greg Linn show so well. His Pinot Noirs also out-performed the bottles of Domaine de La Romanée-Conti that were on the table, so he had a slam dunk. Of course, you can buy several cases of his Pinot Noirs for the price of a half-bottle of any of these Grands Echézeaux. The 2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Block One displays notes of licorice and black cherry as well as hints of forest floor and underbrush in a medium to full-bodied, well-built, structured style. It is certainly a successful 2006. More up-front but complex is the 2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Bull Dog. This seems to be the most precocious of the four Pinot Noirs I tasted from Ambullneo. The two other outstanding wines include the 2006 Pinot Noir Solomon Hills, exhbiting luscious raspberry and black cherry notes with hints of incense, licorice, and roasted herbs. It is a beautiful Pinot Noir, but the star of the show was the Ambullneo 2006 Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros, a dense, powerful, Côtes du Nuits-styled Pinot Noir with dark fruits, forest floor, some spice box and earth – a beauty. The white wine of the day for me was Pascal Cotat’s 2002 Sancerre des Monts Damnes. Sensationally rich, full, loaded with fruit, but with great minerality and acidity, this was a sensational wine that was in a class by itself. We had a corked bottle of the very expensive Cobos from Argentina and a sensational, still adolescent, but beautiful 2001 Péby Faugères from St.-Emilion. (This is a vintage that lives in the shadow of 2000 but, for the top wines, especially on the Right Bank, it’s a beautiful year.) Not surprisingly, the Châteauneufs always seem to show well, no matter what company they’re in, and the 2001 Janasse Chaupin was stunningly rich, with loads of krisch liqueur, spring flowers, and hints of spice box and garrigue. Even better was the young but just beginning to evolve 1998 Mordorée Châteauneuf du Pape Reine des Bois, an exquisite wine that is still veyr youthful, with at least another 10-15 years of life ahead of it. I thought the 2002 Vega Sicilia Valbuena, a vintage one doesn’t hear much about, was extraordinary. A great wine, with notes of graphite, pen ink, loads of black fruit, truffle, and soil notes, Voerzio’s 1996 Barolo Brunate will be a great wine in about ten years time. Backward but gorgeous notes of roses, tobacco leaf, sweet cherries, licorice, and perhaps even a hint of truffle are present in the terrific aromatics. The wine is still firm and closed in the mouth but exhibts tremendous weight and depth. Blankiet’s 2004 Merlot, a wine that is now blended with their Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, was fabulous. Merlot does not normally achieve this height in Napa, but this was a great, great example and a stunning wine. There was, of course, the 1975 Kirschmeyer Riesling, which was also D.O.A. All in all, a great time, terrific company, and loads of delicious dim sum.

Mark’s Duck House, 6184 Arlington Blvd, Arlington, VA; tel. (703) 532-2125


Assorted dim sum with my favorites the shrimp, scallop, and lobster dumplings and barbecued pork buns

1989 Charles Lafitte Champagne 86
2000 Domaine Leroy Chevalier-Montrachet 78
2000 Remoissenet  Montrachet 50
1989 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 70
2006 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet Perrières 75
1996 Domaine Neillon Chevalier-Montrachet 50
1975 Kirschmeyer Scholls Konig Riesling (Austria) 65
2006 Domaine Weinbach Gewurztraminer Furstentum 87?
2002 Pascal Cotat Sancerre des Monts Damnés 95
2006 Ambullneo Chardonnay Solomon Hills Santa Maria 94
2006 Ambullneo Chardonnay Big Paws 92
2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Block One Santa Maria< 92
2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Bull Dog Santa Maria 93
2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Santa Maria 92
2006 Ambullneo Pinot Noir Rancho Ontiveros 91+
1996 Voerzio Barolo Brunate 93+
2002 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 94
2004 Blankiet Merlot Napa 96
2001 Péby Faugères St.-Emilion 95
2004 Cobos Malbec (Argentina) corked ?
1998 Mordorée Cuvée de la Reine des Bois Châteauneuf du Pape 96
2001 Domaine La Janasse Châteauneuf du Pape Cuvée Chaupin 93