Recently, my good friends Lew and Louise Mitchell, who were just named "Restaurateurs of the Year 1986" by the California Restaurant Writers Assn., invited me, along with a few friends, to an informal dinner at their Orient Express restaurant on the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles.
"I think it's time," Lew had said, "to do a vertical tasting of Jordan Cabernets. And while we're at it, Louise will dazzle us with some dynamite Chinese chow."
Ever since Lew Mitchell opened the restaurant in 1980, the Orient Express has been known for its marvelous Chinese food. But Mitchell has complemented his Oriental cuisine with outstanding California wines, saying, "I've tried to select wines that have great value, which means good taste and a moderate price structure."
For that evening's vertical tasting--the expression "vertical tasting" indicates the tasting of successive vintages of the same wine--Mitchell selected Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vintages of 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1981. At its launching, the 1976--Jordan's first release--had been called "a pleasant little claret with good drinkability but probably not much future." Everyone agreed that it was a wine to drink right away. Wrong! I blind-tasted it in 1984, and the wine had such a new and enchanting "personna" that I thought it perhaps a 1978 Pauillac. At Mitchell's table in 1987, this 11-year-old wine was even more stellar, with no sign that it will not last another five years at its peak.