Notes from one of my dinners that I do once or twice a year. This one had as invitees, three couples with whom I had shared trips to France and specifically the Rhone, and so I decided to feature wines from that area in the dinner.
With Roquefort and onion tartlets made using some antique tart moulds I had bought from France), I served:
Ruinart Brut Champagne (nv) – the turn of the millennium, whether the true one in 2001 or the ersatz ignorant version in 2000 celebrated by those impressed by numbers over fact, occasioned the release of many new Champagnes, including a number of very good non-vintage wines. This one was probably blended from several late 1990s vintages and was therefore around 16-18 years old. It showed a fair bit of colour, and, also predictably, a mature nose4 showing lots of development and faint oxidative notes, as well as a good clean acidic finish. As expected, about half thought it long in the tooth and the other half liked it that was for the added complexity it showed. My last bottle in any case, although I think I have some nv Lanson yet to broach.
The first course was a tuna tartare with some heat and some cooling avocado, served with a Gruyere mustard baton of puff pastry, and a small clump of cooling fresh blueberries.
2005 Tantalus Old Vines Riesling – I am a big fan of Riesling. This is the best Riesling made in BC, in my opinion, so in a dinner featuring French wines, I chose it in place of an Alsatian Riesling. It was my last bottle, and it showed very well with a very nice varietal nose, penetrating acidity that persisted throughout the lengthy finish, and some nice midpalate fruit. I thought it played well off the somewhat spicy food and the odd blueberry was a respite and palate refresher that also worked with the wine.
The next course was home made ravioli stuffed with smoked salmon from Northern Washington. The salmon was enhanced with Ricotta and lemon zest and was topped with a cold sauce of crème fraiche, lemon juice and zest, and chives, and I topped it with a leaf of fresh lemon verbena, which I love, but can be a bit hard to find (I grow it).
2011 Dom. de la Saraziniere Macon-Bussierres – I had figured this modestly priced but very decently endowed chard would mate well with the salmon and I think it did. Some vanilla in the nose, but not over done, and some nice lime notes developed in the nose after airing. Medium length and interesting with the food.
The next course was a galantine of quail stuffed with a chicken and pork forcemeat that was spiced with cumin, nutmeg, coriander and allspice (you don’t want to over do the last one, but in the right quantity it adds a lot to the mix). I served it with a slice of the forcemeat on the side (the pistachios and little ham cubes look rather scenic) and surrounded by half red grapes that I had pickled in spices. I chose to offer a pair of fully mature Chateauneuf du Papes with this course.
1993 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape – soft entry, after a nose of asian spice, soft, smooth and elegant wine, now losing a bit of colour but still in good shape, and with a very pleasant sweetness at the end.
1994 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape – riper higher alcohol and therefore hotter nose, still showing soft tannin, unlike the fully mature 1993, and good fruit, if drying a bit at the end after extensive airing, which of course emphasizes the terminal acidity of the wine. I had expected to prefer the 1994 and ended up loving the 1993, sadly also my last bottle.
The main course was intended to have some stuffing and spice to mate with the wines. It was slow braised short ribs (I did them two days ahead as the flavours develop) with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and another vegetable course I’d been tempted to serve separately. It was young carrots, blanched and skinned and the rolled in a mix of sugar, mustard powder, smoked paprika cumin and coriander (you may have surmised that I love the match of this sort of spicing with red wines). I then cooked them in a big frying pan and then served them on a large dollop of sauce made from Greek yogurt, harissa paste, lemon zest and fresh thyme (and lots of it). I’ll do this one again – it worked well.
1995 Dom. Santa Duc Gigondas Les Hauts Garrigues – this wine was too hot and ripe to enjoy in early life, so I laid it down and have now started in on it in a major way. It was ripe, dusty nosed with cocoa and smoke, and a smooth slide across the palate with long finish. My only criticism is that this extracted wine isn’t terribly typical of Gigondas, but on occasion I can overlook that.
1998 Ch. St. Cosme Gigondas Valbelle – this, on the other hand, was absolutely true to the terroir and showed garrigue in the nose and a hint of sweetness, and on palate, some umami meat and peppered cherry flavours and good long finish. This one is a classic!
After the main course, we had the obligatory cheese course with predominantly blues – Fourme d’Ambert, Gorgonzola and Bleu d’Auvergne, as well as some Gruyere, goat brie and Fontina.
1977 Warres Port – good colour, nutmeg and dark fruit nose, not too hot, delicious and sweet in the mouth with excellent length, a very well balanced mature Port showing well and absolutely in focus although I am sure it has lots of time to go.
We went on to have a white chocolate cream with Cointreau and peppered strawberries and the majority of the group the left for home. The remaining couple weren’t averse to watching a couple of cooking shows and so I felt obliged to open some more bottles, this time blind. These are those notes:
1997 Ch. St. Cosme Gigondas – they did a very good job with the regular wine in this vintage and it showed as still dark with a sweet nose and showing lightening colour at the rim. Mature red fruit and medium length. As good as it will ever be.
1998 Dom. La Boussiere Gigondas – ripe nose, still tannic with puckery astringency and medium fruit levels, Mature and if this bottle is any evidence, time to drink up before the fruit falls.
2001 Dom. les Pallieres Gigondas – also dark and fairly ripe, but much better balanced on palate with tasty umami/salty notes. This is in prime time now and merits early attention.