TNs: TWEC (TM) Wooden Anniversary at Montecito: All Sauternes Dinner (+ Sparklers)


The Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal ™, whose origins stem from my decision to dub us with a suitably wine snobbish group appellation at an impromptu wine dinner get-together years ago, celebrated its wooden anniversary last night. The original core founders of Michael Grammer, Jay Shampur, Michael Wright and myself convened together as Mike G. arranged for a special get-together to commemorate the anniversary. To keep things interesting, he told us that he would be bringing all wines and that we were only to bring an aperitif and a digestif wine if we so desired but he would not be informing us of what wines he was bringing to celebrate nor what the tasting menu would be composed of. Everything was a surprise for the celebration. One of those surprises is that Mike ended up bringing the dessert wine himself as well after I volunteered to do so.

The location chosen was Montecito in downtown Toronto, which is managed by our friend and Honorary Female Member Heather MacDougall who is also a professionally certified sommelier (and ex-accountant, but don’t hold that against her). Executive chef Matt Smith came up with a spectacular 5 course dinner to go along with our special celebration wines:

13TH STREET 2007 GRAND CUVEE BLANC DE NOIRS – This Niagara sparkler was my contribution. Made with an extremely low dosage of just 2 g/L and it shows. This stuff is bone dry without any perceptible sweetness. You’d think there’d be no richness with so little sugar to it but in fact this is quite rich and stuffed with ripe pear fruit flavor to go along with the lees. A slight bit of oxidation has set in giving it some Sherry-like rancio as well. Very nice sparkler and certainly comparable to the 1975 Sensation Champagne we had at Edulis recently. Please note that pic is only of the bottle itself. That is sparkling water in the glass next to it.
VARNIER FANNIERE NV GRAND CRU ROSE ZERO – Jay ordered this for the table off of the menu. This is my first time ever having a zero dosage Champagne and if I have anything to say about it, it’s the only and last time as well. Now don’t get me wrong, this is an insanely high quality wine. 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, this was extremely complex 100% completely austerely and severely bone dry… and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Tons of minerality, high acidity, a pristine mousse and body, and even a touch of tannins… and virtually no fruit to be detected. Resulting, this made the wine extremely hard to enjoy on its own. I actually gave a harsh opinion of it at the table but then walked it back once I had it with food. That’s when it hit me. This is definitely a food wine. I mean, literally a food wine. I mean, as it’s absolutely unenjoyable on its own without food. And that’s a problem for me because I like drinking Champagne and sparkling wine on their own with food. I respect the craftsmanship but this definitely needs food as it’s very hard to enjoy on its own without it. I’ve no doubt true Champagne lovers will enjoy this.
CHATEAU RIEUSSEC 2001 SAUTERNES – This was served to us in a decanter and looked like brown sugar dissolved in water. The only reason it looks much brighter in color is due to the HDR setting on my phone camera and the low lighting above the table. Sorry the pic isn’t much better. The nose is all coconut cream pie with a touch of oak. On the palate, flavors of cream, marmalade and roasted pineapple seamlessly blend together with sweetness and a touch of bright acidity and oaky vanilla. Pretty much perfect and an astonishingly good match with all the savory dishes we had.

CHATEAU RIEUSSEC 1988 SAUTERNES – A near polar opposite to the 01, there was much more bright gold color though still a touch maderized. Lots of tasty sweet fruit to this Sauternes which came out of a half as opposed to the 01’s full bottle. In exchange, however, there was virtually no nose to speak off and a surprisingly short finish. Heather felt that this was because it was too cold but as it warmed in glass I really didn’t notice much difference. Basically, a lot fruitier but less complex of a wine. However, since our desserts both contained fruit as a major component, this wine went spectacularly with both of them.
Our celebration meal began and with a lightly dressed Albacore ceviche with avocado slices, radish slices, edible greens and flowers, and a blood orange, cumin and coriander gel. Notice how the characteristics of this dish are extremely complementary to the Sauternes flavors: creamy flavor and texture from the avocado and albacore, crispness and a slight touch of acidity from the radish and greens, sweetness and spices from the gel. Great starter. There was neither salt nor acidity added in order to not clash with the Sauternes but bear in mind that this is not a ceviche you would ever have on its own without the Sauternes due to flavors that clash within the dish itself.
Second course was a beautiful deconstructed chicken liver parfait with chicken liver parfait, charred rhubarb jam, and the unusual addition of 72% dark chocolate nibs. The dish was also liberally sprinkled with 72% dark chocolate cocoa. All was served with homemade rustic bread. This was fantastic and chocolate goes a lot better with liver than you would ever imagine. So much so that Jay said he would even love to have this for dessert. So would I.

The third course was a Ricotta cheese stuffed egg agnolotti pasta with green garlic and Italian pancetta bacon.
Our main course was a stunning butter poached lobster with salt crust baked celery root and fiddleheads in a Sherry jus.

The dessert course consisted of two desserts. The first was a lemon poppyseed shortcake served with blood orange sorbet, lemon and coconut dacquoise, blood orange slices and white chocolate.
The second dessert was a goat milk cheesecake with rhubarb and lemon curd.
The TWEC ™ would like to thank Montecito for the great wooden anniversary dinner. We have come a long way since that first impromptu dinner. We look forward to our Iron Anniversary next year.

Looks like my kind of night. Could have used more sauternes though. =)

I missed you, Ashish! [grin.gif] And wait till I report on the “insulin special” next week from London!

I had a ton of fun doing this, something I wanted to further explore. This was one of only two fulls of 01 Rieussec that I own. Heather gave it about a 5 hour decant, and the 88 received about a 4 hour decant.

2007 13th Street Grand Cuvee Blanc de Noirs From Ontario, nothing wrong with this example, there’s a very nice, mature smoky thread weaving its way through. The effervescence is low-ish and all in all this has quite the degree of class, especially for an Ontario sparkler. Well done!

Varnier Fanniere NV Grand Cru Rose Zero yes indeed, zero dosage. Well, Heather warned that these kind of wines, you have to leave them age for a long time. I can certainly believe that, as this is all structure right now. Blind, I’d be hard-pressed to identify it as a rose, yet at the same time there were currant underpinnings to this quaff as well. Sure is lively. Very lively.

2001 Chateau Rieussec First, I was delighted at this bottle’s showing, for many reasons. Where initially the maple fudge and coconut are in ascendancy, with a sure balance between Climens lightness and Suduiraut thickness, different aspects of the wine are shown up with each dish. As an example, the salt and oil of the albacore tuna bring out the butter and pastry side of the wine. The chicken mousse accents a floral side with citrus/marmalade beginning to poke through. That becomes even more prevalent with the pasta, and the sugar and sweet push themselves to the fore. At this point in the meal, with 2 hours in the glass, the wine finally opens up and reveals a glorious multifaceted nose that is kicking on all cylinders. And then…and then it goes utterly quiet. Yup—right at the 3 hour mark or so in the glass it absolutely shuts the door. Tells me? 30 years at least of growth for the full bottle version of this. And open yours at least a day in advance! Still, I do verily believe this will get very close to the D’Yquem from this year. In due time.

1988 Chateau Rieussec By contrast, this, although still a touch young, was completely of itself from the first sip to the last (and Heather reported it was singing right on opening) and may be the leanest and raciest Rieussec I’ve ever tasted. Orange peel and even a touch of sweet lemon are in play with a very interesting minerally aspect to this. It has verve and style in a completely different way than the others.

My very, very deep thanks to Tran, Jay, Michael and Heather for their friendship and camaraderie through these 5 years. It was very special for me to celebrate in this way with them. Special thanks in particular to Heather who I entrusted with the wines, designing the meal and the service. Chef Matt was obviously thrilled to do something like this and we will find a way to challenge him again. We had a lot of fun.