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WTN: Magnums and more

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Jay Labrador

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WTN: Magnums and more

by Jay Labrador » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:15 am

The start of year is turning out pretty nicely at least as far as food and wine is concerned. The nonstop feasting during the holidays continues into January with a magnificent dinner hosted by Markus Ruckstuhl, director of the International Wine and Food Society (IWFS) Philippines Branch at the Peninsula’s flagship restaurant, Old Manila.

A tradition at the IWFS is that directors take turns hosting the board meetings in alphabetical order. It was the turn of Markus this month and, as he has a longstanding relationship with the Peninsula, it was natural for him to have it at the hotel. He originally wanted to do a Chef’s table right in the kitchen as he had done it before. Unfortunately, a renovation altered the layout such that it would not have been practical to do it. Instead, we were able to book the restaurant’s Magsaysay room (named after my grand uncle, President Ramon Magsaysay) so that we would have some privacy and I guess so that the inevitable rowdiness after a few drinks would not inconvenience the other guests.

I arrived early and saw that preparations for the wine service had been completed under the expert guidance of the Society’s Wine Master, Bernie Sim. Arranged at a table were several magnums with the contents gently breathing in wide-bottomed decanters. There was also a large silver bowl filled with ice and water holding a magnum of champagne. Aside from the large bottles, several smaller bottles were also prepared for the dinner to follow the meeting.

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Magnums by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

When the majority of the board had arrived, the magnum of champagne was popped open to serve as a welcome drink and to lubricate the discussions during the meeting proper. As luck would have it, it was one of my favorite bubblies: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1998. This 100% chardonnay was light lemon gold in color. At first the nose was not too expressive but later a slight matchstick aroma became apparent. Lemon curd flavor dominates this rather tight, young, but weighty wine. Being from a magnum, this needs a longer time to mature than wine from a regular bottle. I would say this could probably go for at least another 5 years and possibly double that before it starts showing more complexity and depth. Still, not a bad way to get things started! A couple of canapés were also served. The standout was a sort of ceviche with some greens and a tomato relish served in a Chinese spoon. The acidity of the dish tamed the tartness of the champagne to make a fine pairing.

I suppose the sight of all the great wine was an incentive for us to finish the meeting quickly so after about an hour’s discussion, we adjourned for dinner. Another Taittinger Comtes de Champagne followed, this time the 2004 Rose. I’ve never had Taittinger’s top Rose before so this was a first for me. Pale salmon in color, the wine gave off the unmistakable scent of strawberries, which was also confirmed on the palate. There is also impressive length on the sweet finish. Although young, this is a pleasure to drink now.

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Comtes de Champagne Rose 2004 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The Rose was accompanied by a starter of Cured Venison Carpaccio with an Elderflower emulsion, Romaine heart, and Port wine fig. The gentle flavors of this dish gave way for the champagne to star.

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Venison Carpaccio by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The second course was dubbed French Duck and Pigeon Tasting and consisted of a very flavorful and almost gamey Demitasse of Pigeon Consomme and some Slow-roasted Duck Breast with Truffled Beetroot Puree. Although the demitasse was glued to the serving plate, with a teaspoon provided for taking the soup, it was so good that, manners be damned, I unglued the cup in order to drain every last drop of it. The duck breast was also good but I have to say I think it was upstaged by the consommé, which is not an easy thing to do.

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Pigeon Consomme and Duck Breast by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

The appropriate pairing of a burgundy with the gamey birds was poured for this course. A magnum of Marquis d’Angerville Volnay Champans 1er Cru 1990 was the first red for the evening. Ripe cherry and old leather, rich and sweet, soft and full bodied, this had the stuffing to match the assertive flavors of the dish. A very good wine probably at peak now.

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d'Angerville Volnay Champans by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

A magnificent Crown Roast of Lamb was brought in by Chef Samuel Linder so that we could admire it before it was carved for serving. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a crown roast served at a dinner. OK, so it’s rather old-fashioned but still, it does make quite an impact. The lamb was very tender with an even doneness all throughout. It was accompanied by Mediterranean vegetables, mushroom sauce, and a delicious potato gratin.

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Crown Roast of Lamb by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

An equally impressive wine was summoned to do justice to the lamb and so a third magnum made an appearance, this time a Chateau Haut Brion 1990. Very dark and youthful looking. This wine is quite dry, elegant and understated. Tobacco, leather and dried herbs come through on the palate. The tannins are already quite soft. It finishes long and is already fully mature. This provided an excellent foil for the lamb.

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Haut Brion 1990 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Not content with just one wine for the main course, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1982 was brought forth. Slightly angular but it packs a lot of flavor. Soft and sweet, there is some plum, chocolate and mushroom. There’s also an earthiness bordering on barnyard but not quite there yet. I think this still has a bit of upside left but it’s pretty close to peak. My number 2 wine this evening.

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Lynch Bages 1982 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

And the hits just keep coming. The last red was Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1986. I thought it would be difficult to top the Lynch Bages but this managed to do it. Very dark, deep, rich and warm. Truffle, espresso, tobacco and plum are all in here. This is quite round but the finish is still a touch firm. A gorgeous wine and, although Mouton can sometimes be a letdown for a First Growth, this particular wine is firing on all cylinders. My favorite wine of the night.

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Mouton 1986 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

In a somewhat unusual departure from the conventional sequence of wine service (dry white before dry red), we finished the savory courses with a dry white. And so we ended with a Duc de Magenta Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Garenne 1er Cru 2004. According to the Louis Jadot website, the Domaine Duc de Magenta belongs to an old Burgundian family that has given the house of Louis Jadot the right to vinify and sell their wines. Thus, the name of Louis Jadot also appears on the label of this wine. Light lemon in color with a gentle but noticeable oak, there is a bit of honey sweetness here with some peach and pineapple thrown in. This accompanied the cheese course of a gooey Vacherin Mont d’Or from France with the appropriate sidings of bread, dried fruits and nuts. (Apparently, the Swiss also have a cheese of the same name.) The match was pure perfection, the cheese emphasizing the fruit and sweetness in the wine. I was a skeptic when the wine was presented but I dare say it was my favorite pairing of the evening.

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Accompaniments to the cheese by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

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Duc de Magenta Puligny Montrachet by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Finally, dessert. Being Swiss, I suppose it was natural for Chef Linder to create a trio of Swiss chocolates for as a finale. There was a dark chocolate ice cream in gold foil, a mousse in a chocolate cylinder called Chocolate Bliss and a lava cake. I thought the ice cream and chocolate bliss were very good but, perhaps because it was rather small, the lava cake was a touch over baked. A digestif was an appropriate way to end and so we partook of some Domaine de Jouatmaou Bas-Armagnac 1948.

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Trio of Swiss Chocolate by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

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Bas Armagnac 1948 by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

Espressos and mignardises were served after dessert and although it was way past the usual bedtime of some of the more senior attendees, it seemed as if everyone was a bit reluctant to end the evening. However, after an hour’s meeting and four hours of dinner, with just a little over one and one fourth bottles worth of wine in each of us, we congratulated and thanked Markus and Bernie for hosting what was undoubtedly the best dinner this board has seen, and went our separate ways.

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Oscar Ong, Samuel Linder and Bernie Sim by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr

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IWFS Board by jaylabrador.winesteward, on Flickr
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David M. Bueker

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Re: WTN: Magnums and more

by David M. Bueker » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:25 pm

fantastic! Thanks for the Mouton note. One 750 is resting quietly in the cellar.
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.

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