Notes from a wine dinner, Nov. 2, 2019
I had a bunch of wines that were venerable, costing along on (hopefully) their aging plateau and needing drinking, so I crafted a dinner around them.
I had a few bottles of champagne from the millennial celebrations (both the ignorant one on Dec. 31, 1999, touted by the numerologically inclined, and the actual end of the millennium on Dec. 31, 2000), so decided to open a couple of them.
I served them with some sour cream blinis topped with crème fraiche and smoked salmon, and thin slices of foie gras pate on crackers.
Lanson Brut Black Label (nv) – probably a blend from a few vintages up to ten years old, and unusually, vinified without malolactic taking place. Showing a medium yellow colour and a nose of honey lemon toast, this had clean acidity medium length and retained a decent mousse. Our local liquor monopoly over-estimated demand for both New Year’s eves and I picked up a case of this in the subsequent sales. Last bottle.
1990 Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Millésimé – also in fine shape with a brioche nose and good fine mousse. Clean and complex in the mouth and good length. Perhaps the best (and last) bottle from my cellar.
We then moved to table to share an interesting terrine of chicken, veal, sweetbreads, chicken liver with bacon lardons that I tried out of Ruhlman and Polcyn’s recent book. Interesting in that the texture was intentionally fairly coarse and it was without herbal addition. I liked this a lot and may repeat it for my annual terrine event next summer. As it is an Alsatian recipe (and includes Alsatian Riesling marinating the terrine), I went for an Alsatian wine as accompaniment – but not a Riesling, which I felt might be too sweet.
2008 Albert Mann Pinot Gris Furstentum Grand Cru – mid amber colour, with a rich viscous mouth feel and a nose of smoky lychee and citrus. It wasn’t too sweet and went very well with the food. I’d repeat this food and wine combination any time!
From there we moved into Burgundy and as I often enjoy doing, I contrasted a village wine with a premier cru, the latter served after the first wine had been tasted for a bit. I matched the food with a roasted Portobello mushroom, crusted with melted Parmesan and a judicious drop or three of truffle oil (something I rarely use, but it works well with mushrooms) all topped with sautéed oyster mushrooms.
1996 Arnaud Chopin & Fils Chambolle-Musigny – probably pushing it a little for a village wine at a quarter century old, but it acquitted itself well. Nice pinot nose, mid colour, very decent fruit levels and medium length.
1999 Domaine Jacques Prieur Volnay 1er Cru Champans – a fair bit darker with a pleasantly funky Burgundian nose, brighter fruit, well knit and lengthy finish. Very nice. Wish I had more than I do! At a very nice point now.
The main course was a recipe that I have made in the past and always enjoy – boned rack of lamb, coated with cumin, cinnamon, cloves, aniseed and cardamom, seared lightly to seal the flavours, encased in Phyllo pastry and roasted until rare. The sauce is rendered from the bones with added tawny Port. I served roasted grape tomatoes with sumac (imparts a nice lemony note) and baby hakurei turnips glazed with white miso with the lamb.
I wanted some old Bordeaux to accompany the food, so went for 1975 St. Juliens, a Gruaud Larose and a Leoville Barton. The vintage gets little attention today, but back then it was generally hard as nails and was a race between the slowly mellowing tannins and the slowly abating fruit levels. You bought them and then sat on the sidelines while watching this slow decades long contest to see which wines would win and which would lose by having the fruit gone before the tannins became bearable. I’ve had a few disappointments and a lot of wins from this vintage.
1975 Château Léoville Barton (St. Julien) – both wines were mid shoulder fills, and this one had a really excellent nose of cedar, leather and a bit of fruit and spicy notes with tobacco undertones – really nice. On palate this wine was a simpler presentation, though a darker colour, Very pleasant.
1975 Château Gruaud Larose (St. Julien) – decent nose with a hint of funkiness, concentrated in the mouth and still showing softening tannins (must have been a real brute in youth!) and a slightly lighter colour with pale but not browning edges. The Leoville won the nose contest but the extra complexity on palate of this wine persuaded us to give it a unanimous win. Both went well with the spices used on the lamb, as expected.
For the cheese course I opted for a lighter and much younger wine than the old geezers I’d been opening, just to see how it was doing.
1995 J.W. Burmester Porto – fairly dark wine, with a spicy nose, sweet and a tad spirit, with nutmeg notes, good length, but needs time. Second day – still dense colour, a bit more spice in the nose, smooth on palate, finishing with some heat. Still youthful and probably needs another five to ten years to further mellow and develop, but not too tannic to enjoy today.
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