Last 23rd of November, the Manila Gentlemen's Club had its final dinner of the year at the private room of Old Manila at the Manila Peninsula Hotel. I am currently the wine master of the MGC and have to work within a certain given budget for the wines. This dinner was for 8 persons and my wine budget was equivalent to approximately US$600.
All prices mentioned below are exclusive of state sales tax, insurance, shipping and handling charges, and airfreight and forwarding/delivery charges to Manila. None of these wines are available in Manila. I decided that all wines for the evening would be from France, and the following is what I came up with:
Michel Arnould Verzenay Brut Reserve Champagne NV - Purchased at $27.99 per bottle, served with pass-around cocktails of breaded basil-tuna rolls on exotic fruit salad; salmon tartar with horseradish dill cream; and, foie gras parfait with fig confit.
As I understand, this is made up of 2/3 pinot noir and 1/3 chardonnay from the 2000 and 2001 harvests of the small, family owner-grower domaine's own grand cru vineyards in Verzenay.
This bright, clear, lightly golden dry champagne has a mildly toasty nose and is distinguished by mid-palate fullness, generous heft and density that approaches/is reminiscent of non-vintage Krug. There is also a most intriguing milk-chocolatiness to the back and the finish. Bright acidity (absolutely no tartness though) keeps one from getting bored with it, while its heft and fullness makes a definite statement for cocktails - unlike many other NVs that one quaffs, pays little mind to and easily forgets about once seated for dinner proper.
I was so pleased with this bubbly, even moreso because of its low price, that I ordered more for my personal stash the day after. Even at a higher price, I would still buy this.
2006 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage Blanc - Purchased at $22.99 per bottle, served with butter-poached rock lobster,
celery-leek ragout, chanterelles and sea crab tortellini; continuing with the duck and mushroom consommé with foie gras raviolo.
White Rhônes made up of marsanne intrigue me to no end with their acacia flower/hazelnut/buttery/lanolin oiliness. This faintly green-tinged, light yellow-gold wine was no exception. Not a big wine (fans of Ex-Voto blanc should look elsewhere), it starts of very cleanly and one notices its medium weight slightly past mid-mouth and towards the back. Sucking in a bit of air releases a lot of the discreetly honeyed stone fruit, apricot, white flowers and creamy hazelnut in the mouth.
Its nice acidity cut and balanced off the butter poached lobster's richness, and, by the time the duck consommé with foie gras raviolo course was served, it had fleshed out/broadened enough to not get lost in the latter, its healthy acidity brightening up the heavy duck and foie flavors.
I was, again, very happy with this wine, again especially at its price. I thought it a bit of a gamble serving this as, I suspected, many were not familiar with marsanne-based wine and might find it too strange. My fears, thankfully turned out to be unfounded since it drew many appreciative comments and a couple of inquiries where to buy it. I think the price is quite fair, but would be willing to pay a few more dollars for it if needs be.
1999 Chateau Léoville Poyferré - Purchased at $42.99 per bottle, served with a wonderfully juicy and tender slow-roasted milk-fed Dutch veal tenderloin, roast parsnips and fennel, lavender mascarpone and asparagus.
My old notes from June/July this year state: “The nose was a classic cassis, slightly smoky cedar and truffle oil, with just a touch of gaminess. On the palate, it had a warm, earthy richness to its moderately full body, with well-knit earthy blackcurrant/black fruit compote, cedar, slight red fruit notes mid-mouth, and, to the back, with hints of chocolate, graphite and anise.”
I found my old notes pretty much consistent, save that I would now call it more "medium-bodied aspiring to full" instead of "moderately full"; the truffle nuances were very faint; and, the cedar notes seemed a bit more pronounced to the back than before.
Unfortunately, yet accurately, as noted by the MGC food master, one of the bottles was slightly corked. Oh, well, it happens.
As I said before, I say again: at the given price, it's a steal. If this were available locally, which it isn't, it would most likely cost around the equivalent $100-$120 per bottle.
2001 Castelnau de Suduiraut - Purchased at $30 per bottle, served with the gorgonzola platter, continuing to dessert of crème brûlée.
Castelnau de Suduiraut is the 2nd wine of Chateau de Suduiraut, the grapes of which come from a plot of land of the same name. This luxuriously dense, generously floral, honeyed, botrytis-rich, mildly spicy, candied apricot/orange marmalade youngster unabashedly displays its wares in multiple layers.
My first experience with Castelnau de Suduiraut was its inauspicious 2000 vintage, Bernie Sim shared some with me. Not generally easy to find and very reasonably priced, I begged Bernie to sell me some of his bottles - wangling around 10 bottles from him in the process.
I fearlessly purchased the 2001 without even trying it first. I figured that if the 2000 was so good, the 2001 would be a no-brainer purchase. Indeed, it was.
1998 Domaine la Soumade Rasteau Vin Doux Naturel - Gratis et amore from yours truly, served with Cuban Montecristo cigars (the exact model of which escapes me at the moment).
Made up of 100% grenache from very old vines (around 80 years and up, if I'm not mistaken), this full-bodied, opulent VDN displays rich profiles of jammy strawberry and cherry, crème de cassis, dark chocolate and faint licorice and clove undertones with moderate sweetness. The Aussie shiraz fans liked this a lot, and I easily understand why they did.