To commemorate the 15 years since Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers bought Château Haut Bailly, the staff put together a great dinner, both elegant and rich with flavor, a perfect reflection of the wine’s style. The ambiance was international and interesting, with lucky hacks like me invited but also reps/owners from other domains, including both Harlan and Screaming Eagle as well as Jean Trimbach of Trimbach in Alsace.
Haut Bailly director Véronique Sanders introduced Philipe Labbé of the restaurant l’Abeille in Paris, who was recently awarded Cook of the Year by Gault & Millau. For the dinner, he rose to the challenge of highlighting a selection of rare wines from across the world: including magnums of Domaine Roulot Meursault Clos de Mon Plaisir 2009, which was crisp and substantial - no hint of 2009 heat nor any premox; Harlan Estate 2005, Screaming Eagle 2006 (will get to notes below); Château Haut Bailly 1983 served in carafes from jeroboam bottles and an utterly incredible Trimbach Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles 2001.
When that last wine was served, owner Jean Trimbach - who is usually rather serious - got everyone to sing along: “Trimbach, Trimbach, bring back my bottle to me, to me” – to much applause and laughter.
The food was magnificent, from a delicate and delectable starter of daikon ravioli that looked more like a gorgeous Impressionist painting (see pictures in my blog on this dinner and tasting), by way of lamb served with aubergine caviar and a tasty Saint Nectaire cheese, ending with scrumptious mango pomelos with coconut.
The dinner wines were excellent, and I particularly loved the Roulot, also because it went so very well with the first serving.
Harlan and Screaming Eagle:
They went with the lamb and it was fascinating to compare these two notable cult wines from Napa. Even though the Screaming Eagle is three times as expensive, I preferred the Harlan, which seemed more Old World in style. Others remarked that in trying to be Old World in style it begged comparison with Bordeaux and thus was not as good as the more flashy, the more glossy the more - to some - pristine Screaming Eagle. I can understand how fans of Screaming Eagle will jump up and down singing its praises. Yes, there is a very smooth veneer to this wine, but it kind of reminded me - oddly enough - of Cos d’Estournel 2009 en primeur. I noticed more the glossy sheen than the substance. The Harlan just seemed to have more nuance, more contour. Still both were quite, well, “otherwordly” after having tasted through 15 vintages of Haut Bailly - from 2012 back to 1998. The difference between Old and New World was noticeable. As for that vertical, two wines stood out in particular: 2005 and 2009, but I guess that comes as no surprise…
A classy act from Haut Bailly to have these legendary American wines for the main course in a Bordeaux dinner.
The Haut Bailly 1983 served from large format bottles was impressive, but slightly overshadowed by the New World force and gloss (particularly from Screaming Eagle) that preceded it, but it matched up well to the delectable cheese.
Finally, in terms of dinner wines, I think my absolute favorite was the the Maison Trimbach Gewürztraminer SGN 2001. Vivacious yet opulent, the wine exuded subtle spice notes including ginger and nutmeg, with floral aspects and ripe white fruit.
Jean Trimbach noted that 2001 was certainly great for Sauternes, but also for late harvest Alsace wines.
Trimbach? Trimbach? Please, do bring back that bottle to me!