Notes from a wine dinner:
Small group (6) dinner where we get together a few times a year to drink mature interesting wines. This one was my turn. I entitled it “Guilty Pleasures’ and featured the foods we most love to eat but might feel a tad guilty about later.
Started out with some sesame parmesan twists (puff pastry with some added cayenne) and some endive, chive and lemon verbena tarts.
Lanson Black Label Brut – an NV Champagne released about 14 years ago and now showing some colour and lots of development. Decent complexity and balance.
Next up was a bed of sautéed apples on a toasted brioche half, topped with a slab of seared foie gras.
1998 Ch. Rieussec – a full bottle. Now becoming golden, with a nose of honey and saffron. Smooth, luscious and long – a perfect match with the foie gras.
The next course was another favourite – steak tartare. The recipe I used was from Les Halles. Classic bistro fare.
1981 Domaine de Chevalier – waxy slightly smoky nose with hints of tobacco. No tannin left, balanced by now getting fragile. It did fade over 15 minutes or so but gave a decent showing before it started to fade.
1981 Ch. Palmer – this wine suffers from a bad Parker review. He tasted it once in 1998 and gave it an 81 score, which pretty much condemned it to obscurity. Hint – if you can find any at auction, fill up on it – it ain’t dead and never was. An elegant bright Bordeaux with very good fruit, balance and medium length. It is on plateau or headed slightly downhill, but drinks well and should continue to do so for a few more years. 1981s are good value if you can find the good ones, but a good wine whose reputation was ruined by a single drive-by review is even better value. I have no doubt RP tasted a poor bottle. Too bad he didn’t retaste and revise.
The next course was a lamb loin a la Tour d’Argent, although I added my own variations by introducing a cinnamon dusting on the outside of the loin and a pile of sautéed fresh chanterelles mushrooms on a bed of spinach dusted with ground nutmeg.
1996 Ch. Clerc Milon – a very good fruit based nose with cassis and cedar notes, full body and good length.
1998 Ch. Clerc Milon – earth, mushroom and some pencil lead – not as pretty a nose but a sweet friendly wine, mellow and with good depth of fruit.
2000 Ch. Clerc Milon – reticent nose that finally came out to play and showed some more red fruit than the others had, rich in the mouth with sweet fruit and good length, but I think it will benefit from a few more years. Perhaps my favourite.
I then went against my normal habit (which involves vintage Port and blue cheese) and offered a dessert – a crème Catalane, made with citrus peel, ground toasted fennel seeds and no sugar at all – the sugar (for those that wanted it) came as a broiled brown sugar glaze on top, while others (myself included) opted to go unsugared – a more subtle experience but one that I felt would interfere less with the wine.
1976 Richter Boltendahl Eltviller Sonnenberg Riesling Beerenauslese – I found this half bottle in my cellar, and it had survived mosr probably because I had somehow omitted it from my computerized cellar list. A fantastic vintage and a wine of some distinction. Golden dark amber in colour, the only off note was a waxy resinous nose with nuts and dried fruit underneath, atypical, but the wine sang on palate, still surprisingly sweet but balanced with a very long finish.
A great way to drink wines like these.