Saturday 4/14/2012. This was an exceptional once-in-a-lifetime dinner based entirely around Sauternes. The staff at Jardniere was extraordinarily helpful throughout the meal and put together an exquisite menu to pair perfectly with these wines. The wines themselves were generously donated by Fred and spanned 80 years, from 1921 to 2001. The company this evening was lovely and included everyone from sauternes drinkers, sauternes collectors, professional wine merchants, and professional sommeliers.
This course was a set of hot and cold oysters. The hot oysters were cooked in celery butter, while the cold ones were cooked in wild fennel granita. The pairing, especially with the fennel granita, was exceptional and really complemented both the oysters and the wine. The 2001 Chateau de Fargues, always one of my absolute favorites, showed its exceptional potential both through this course and through the rest of the dinner.
2001 Château de Fargues - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Light golden-orange colored; lovely aromatics of honey, bright fresh citrus, very complex; palate showed great balance, very young, minerality, ripe melon and mango, hint grapefruit, precise; finish is long with fabulous acidity. This is somewhere between youth and early maturity and will need a lot of time. This bottle confirms that my previous taste of this wine was a bit advanced, likely because of poor storage from where I had sourced it (though still excellent). Overall, this wine remains one of my absolute favorites (and beat out the 01 Yquem at the last tasting). 98++ (98 pts.)
Terrine of Foie Gras with Sauternes Gelee and Mache Salad, Brioche. The Foie was delicate and melt-in-your-mouth rich. I think the absolute most interesting piece of this dinner was the sauternes gelee served in this course. Such delicacy and explosion of sauternes flavor that I have never had before in food. Of note, the sauternes used in many of our courses was either a 2001 Loupiac, a 2003 Castelnau de Suduiraut, or a 2005 Rieussec… all fabulous wines in their own right, and it definitely showed. During this course, the Yquem was very closed and really wouldn’t open up until much later in the dinner. The Climens was excellent as a pairing, but I feel like the additional richness of the Yquem would have been welcome with the Foie if it had opened up in time. Timing was a difficult variable during this meal, since sauternes are known to change so much in the glass over time. We ended up keeping small servings of each wine from previous courses to see how they evolved, so by the end we had a dozen glasses in front of us!
1997 Château Climens - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
Notable for its wonderfully complex nose of fantastic spice, fennel, clove, wildflowers; palate was on the lighter side with good minerality but lacks a bit of concentration in the midpalate; finish was medium-length with hints of saffron. This was a surprise of the night and was of excellent quality, especially with its beguiling nose. In terms of longevity, this is excellent now but will probably sit at this plateau for years. (93 pts.)
1997 Château d’Yquem - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
When first opened, this was very closed. It took a lot of time in the glass (2+ hours) to become expressive. Concentrated, ice-wine like fruit with great acidity, some showing of wood indicating more integration time is needed; palate was very enjoyable. This needs much more time in bottle… at least 5-10 years. This is a very interesting wine, since it seems to be different every time that I have it. The best showing, however, was my last one after the wine had hours upon hours of air. 93-94 (94 pts.)
Petrale Sole, Savoy Cabbage, Pancetta, and Sauce Sultana. A fabulous dish by itself, but the cabbage especially was the standout pairing with sauternes. The slight tartness of the cabbage went wonderfully with the slight sweetness of 25 year old sauternes (not too sweet, but not yet dry either). The sole itself was delicate and flavorful, especially with the sauce sultana. The 86s needed a bit of airtime as well, but the 01 Fargues was also an excellent pairing with the fish.
1986 Château Climens - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
Hint of chlorine early that mostly dissipates, the key word for this wine is balance. Nose shows light complex baking spices; still quite young with light, clean, minerality on the palate, tart citrus fruit; nice clean finish. This could also use 5-10 years of more age. Has much potential. Of note, this style is not necessarily one that stands out with competition, but has subtlety that would make it superb by itself. 93-94 (94 pts.)
1986 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Wild honey; big body, good weight and sweetness, orange flavors, balanced but very full bodied with ripe expressive fruit; fabulous medium-length finish. This was probably the only representative of the “full bodied/riper” style of sauternes at this dinner, and it was excellent. It was fabulous with the fish. This wine could also use 5-10 years. 92-93 (93 pts.)
Devil’s Gulch Rabbit, Tokyo Turnips, Spinach, and Natural Jus. I almost never get to try rabbit, and it is a shame because it is incredibly unique and delicious. This dish was a unique combination of rabbit sausage and rabbit filet. The spices in the 1971 Coutet were a fabulous pairing with the texture and delicacy of the meat.
1971 Château de Fargues - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Unfortunately, very lightly corked on the nose. Still a very drinkable wine showing great sweetness and balance, but the fruit was subtle and the wine overall came off as simple. NR (flawed)
1971 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
Lovely mature spice, fresh young nose and palate; cinnamon, orange spice, hint saffron; lovely finish. Exceptional. (94 pts.)
Liberty Farms Duck, Dried Apricot compote, Farro and Honey Lacquer Crepe. A medley of food flavors, this was an exceptional dish as well. The duck was cooked to perfection and the apricot compote was the perfect accompaniment. The mini-crepe served alongside added great balance to the richness of the meat. The Rayne Vigneau was corked, but the Doisy Vedrines was an excellent pairing with just a hint of sweetness and much complexity. Some of the earlier wines such as the pair of 1997s and the pair of 1986s started to show excellently with this course.
1962 Château Doisy-Védrines - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Caramel colored; caramel apple nose, baking spices; savory palate with cherry, nutty/hazelnut, bursts of flavor, dried apricot, fabulous acidity; medium-long finish with enough acidity to get the salivary glands flowing, excellent. Very balanced and has life ahead of it. 97 (97 pts.)
1962 Château de Rayne-Vigneau - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Unfortunately, moderately corked on the nose and palate. Not drinkable at all. NR (flawed)
Fourme d’Ambert Tart, Poached Applies and Walnut Frangipane. I can still taste the intensity of the cheese combined with the flaky delicacy of the pastry. I think bleu cheese is often a tough pairing with sauternes (not the party line, but it’s what I’ve found), but the 1945 Rayne-Vigneau is probably the closest I’ve had to a good pairing. I’m still not sure it was perfect, but the very mild sweetness of the wine paired well with the savory cheese… much better than the more intense sweetness of the 20-40 year old sauternes.
1945 Château de Rayne-Vigneau - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Light copper colored; metallic, dry, mild sweetness; minerally, clean, coppery, great balance, fruit has dropped out mostly; finish was a bit drying. This was excellent, but it was probably the only wine of the tasting that I thought was fully mature and headed over the hill (even compared to the 1921!). (93 pts.)
Caramelized Walnuts. Unfortunately, the 1921 Doisy was corked! But luckily, the 1921 Coutet was spared and turned out to be the star of the evening. Almost completely dry, the Coutet was particularly notable because of its phenomenal acidity, exceptional balance, and some continued fruit flavors (after 90 years!). The Coutet seemed like it could age forever. The walnuts were great, but I preferred the wine by itself because I thought the texture of the nuts interfered with the delicacy of the wine.
1921 Château Doisy-Dubroca - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
Badly corked. Couldn’t even pour in glasses as it would contaminate nearby wines. NR (flawed)
1921 Château Coutet - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
Copper-rusty brown colored; copper, metallic; fabulous balance with apricot, caramel, absolutely lovely acidity. This is a stellar wine, a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, and possibly even young for its age. Superb! (98 pts.)
Truly a fabulous experience. This was certainly a dinner of firsts: The oldest wine I’ve ever tasted, and the broadest range of vintages that I’ve ever tasted (80 years). Thanks for the wonderful experience Fred!
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