CHEVAL BLANC DINNER 1970 - 2004 - Chez Sandy, San Jose, California (4/3/2010)
Is there a more elegant embodiment of the yin and yang of wine (heavily structured, often tart Cab Franc paired with lush, fruity Merlot, in roughly equal measures, depending on the vintage) than Cheval Blanc? I’ve been thinking about it for a few days since this magnificent tasting, and I can’t come up with a better case in the wine world for advaita, non-dualism or whatever you want to call it – the sense that two supposed opposites can come together and be one perfect thing, with no sense of opposition or separation whatsoever – than this Premier Grand Cru Classe A of St. Emilion.
Our dear friend Sandy Crozier suggested we do a Cheval Blanc dinner, and offered her home, and then came up with wonderful dishes to go with the wines that she prepared (sourcing the beef cheeks from Marin, and having to drive two and a half hours one way to get them). Robert collaborated with her by dreaming up some appropriately yin/yang oriented Japanese dishes (sourcing much of the fish needed directly from Japan), and a couple of gorgeous Champagnes, to get our palates ready for the main event: 8 vintages of Cheval Blanc, from 1970 to 2004. We finished with a couple of lovely sweet wines, and then an '85 Port with our cheese course. The food was delicious and complimented the wines beautifully, and the wines did the food and all the effort undertaken for the dinner proud by showing gorgeously themselves, with no flawed wines the entire evening.
Among the Cheval Blancs, the standouts for me were the rich and deep 1990, the beautifully balanced '95 (which has long been a favorite of mine), and the surprisingly good (especially as I came to it with no prior history or expectations at all) and youthful 1971.
Krug and Sashimi
For our stunning first course, Robert prepared high end sashimi, with fish sourced from Japan. Our plate included three scallops: one with caviar, the second with salmon roe marinated with sake (a phenomenal taste treat), the third with sea salt and lemon. In addition there was botan ebi (spot prawn) with roe, and a delicious, peppery piece of uni. Our '96 Krug is a fabulous Champagne, but still quite tight these days. I think it needs at least another two to three years before it’s showing really well.
1996 Krug Champagne Brut - France, Champagne
Light medium golden color; yeasty, bready, tart white fruit, tart citrus nose, that opens to tangerine after 30 minutes in the glass; tight, very tart citrus, tangy, tart lemon, mineral, kumquat palate with medium-plus acidity; long finish (94 pts.)
Robert’s sashimi creations, and interesting pairings, continued with this flight of sake. Both sakes were delicious, in very different styles. I’d had the Divine Droplets before, at Alinea Restaurant in Chicago, and it continues to be the best sake I’ve ever tasted. Our next dish, the monkfish liver, was awesome – somehow light and deeply savory at the same time (more yin/yang). Then the akami and o-toro combination was exquisite. I guess Robert was just trying to accustom our palate for the exquisite combination of opposites that was to come with our Cheval Blancs.
With monkfish liver
akami and o-toro, both from bluefin tuna
N.V. Yamahai Jikomi Junmai "Tengumai" - Japan, Ishikawa
Light yellow color; floral, earthy, peachy nose; rich, creamy, floral, bright stone fruit palate; long finish (bottle dated October 2007) 94+ pts. (94 pts.)
N.V. Takasago Shuzo Junmai Daiginjo Ginga Shizuku (Divine Droplets) - Japan, Hokkaido
Light, green-tinged yellow color; floral, lime, acacia flower nose; tasty, creamy textured, sweet, nutty, almond, acacia palate; long finish (bottle dated December 2007) (96 pts.)
Champagne and Crab Bisque
For our next course, Sandy served an amazingly flavorful crab bisque. Forget about wine, this bisque itself had a ridiculously long “finish.” The best crab bisque I’ve ever tasted. Another '96 Champagne–again very tight, but showing great potential–accompanied the bisque.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé - France, Champagne
Light salmon orange color; reduction, tart tangerine, green orange, mineral, tart strawberry nose; tight, tart strawberry, tart orange, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)
Older Cheval Blanc Flight
We collectively decided to taste the older CBs first, and figured they would pair better with the milder, more delicate lamb ragout than with the beef cheeks. We were right. The '70 was as good as when I’ve had it at least three times before and the '71, which I’d never tasted before, was youthful and gorgeous. I had to keep going back to it. The '83 was complex, but not as rich and plush as when I’ve tried it a couple times before. The '90 was in such a different style than the first three wines–riper and more port-like–that it seemed to be chiding us for not having put it in the 2nd flight with the youngsters. For me it was the greatest of our great CBs.
Lamb ragout on Raffaelli porcini mushroom pasta
1970 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Slightly bricking dark red violet color; leather, mushroom, tobacco nose; leather, mushroom, earthy, tart cassis, tobacco palate with refined tannins; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
1971 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Bricking dark red violet color; berry, spice, red currant nose; rich, youthful, baked berry, red currant, mineral, herbs palate, elegant and complex; medium-plus finish 95+ pts. (95 pts.)
1983 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Dark red violet color; nice leather, dried berry, touch of chlorine, camphor, plum, caramel nose; dried berry, tart plum, satsuma plum, mineral palate with nice acidity and freshness; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
1990 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very dark red violet color; ripe cassis, berry, port-like, ripe plum, eucalyptus nose; rich, ripe plum, currant, spice, eucalyptus, caramel, oak and fig palate; long finish 96+ pts. (96 pts.)
Younger Cheval Blanc Flight
Next were the beef cheeks, and our younger CBs. The '95 continues to be a model of balance and elegance for me–always a favorite. The '96 and '04 had both been decanted for some time, but the '99 was not, and it did seem tight to the point of compression. The '95 was my favorite of this flight, but they all had their charms.
Beef cheeks with potatoes and carrots
1995 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very dark red violet color; lovely, elegant, plum, deep currant nose; tasty, rich, elegant, tart cassis, plum, mineral, youthful palate; long finish 95+ pts. (95 pts.)
1996 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, berry, charcoal nose; tasty, tight, deep, black fruit, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish (decanted for 1.5 hours; 66% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot) (94 pts.)
1999 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very dark red violet color; chocolate, plum, berry nose; tight, compressed, berry, deep, currant palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
2004 Château Cheval Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
Very, very dark red violet color; berry, currant, chocolate nose; rich, berry, charcoal, tar, tart black fruit palate; long finish 93+ pts. (decanted for six hours) (93 pts.)
Our next taste treat was a Meyer Lemon square that Sandy had made from lemons in her backyard. Absolutely delicious. And so were our sweet wines. I’ve had the '83 Rieussec a few times before, and it showed particularly well this evening. The '03 Z-H Clos Jebsal SGN is always a luscious delight, and this time was no exception.
Meyer lemon square with Willow Glen strawberry cheescake ice cream
1983 Château Rieussec - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Light medium orange color with red lights and clear meniscus; nice, tart apricot, tart apple, caramel nose; delicious, tart apple, apricot, gingerbread, tart orange marmalade palate with good acidity; long finish (94 pts.)
2003 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles - France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC
Light medium orange color with yellow lights; peach, floral, baked peach, baked apricot nose; gorgeous, silky textured, baked apricot, ripe peach, brown sugar, syrup palate; long finish (96 pts.)
Port and cheese course
For our final course, cheeses, Sandy opened up one of her many maturing Ports. The '85 is quite youthful still, but rich and very tasty. A long, lingering taste treat at the end of a memorable and all around delicious event.
1985 Fonseca Porto Vintage - Portugal, Douro, Porto
Very dark red violet color; primary, berry, chocolate, fig nose; rich, youthful, berry, black fruit, chocolate, fig palate; long finish (94 pts.)
Joseph, Kate and Tom
Kristi and Mischa
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