Was this my last lunch with Bernard?

If I was a Bordeaux chateau owner, I’d probably do the same thing: concentrate on China right now. Still, it’s a bit unnerving when you see it happening right in front of you. Like at the recent Chateau Palmer lunch, with the Commanderie de Bordeaux in Boston. Charming Palmer marketing manager Bernard de Laage played it down, but he was essentially handing us over to a second-in-command, while he does the Asia route. Second in command in this case is the equally charming longtime friend of Palmer Jean-Louis Carbonnier, whose French accent is even more charming, but still…

It was, however, a wonderful lunch: BYOB Palmer at Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, Mass. Not being a Palmer collector, I was allowed to bring the apéritif champagne: Cuvée Louise 1996, which went over pretty well. OK, yeah, it was a wine-snob lunch, and we all enjoyed every minute of it.

The wines: Palmer’s delightful 2003, 1990, 1989, then finishing with a very young and fresh 1983. In the middle, the 1979 was corked, alas, but someone rallied with a 1990 Léoville Las Cases, very herby by comparison with the lush Palmers. The menu: Potage of Native Celery Root with black truffle dumpling; Szechuan-Peppered Duck Breast with vanilla mascarpone potatoes, red wine roasted figs, turnips and their greens.

With the cheese we had Alter Ego’s second vintage, the merlot-based 1999, alongside the Palmer 1999. Both were terrific, and the Palmer got to show off its refinement.

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