Dinner a couple of months ago, the 25th November 2007, was hosted by a gentleman whose kindness, generosity and appetite for fine wine and food are boundless.
Eleven members of the International Wine & Food Society's Philippine Branch were in attendance (in alphabetical order): Jorge Araneta, Gerry de Jesus (the Doc), myself, Fil Juntereal, Joe Ledesma, Dr. Leelin, Jojo Madrid (the Stockbroker), Freddie Pio de Roda, Dong Puno, El Presidente Bernie Sim and Jun Sison.
With pass-arounds of salmon tartare, among others, the evening started off with bottles of 1996 Dom Perignon. My little wine group has been enjoying this wine for almost 3 years and I have posted notes on this several times. Aside from my notes of nearly a year ago, I would say that the wine's middle, back and finish seem fuller, no longer linear or precocious, is developing biscuit/toasted brioche creaminess to the back, and is all the more enjoyable than before.
With Steamed Norwegian King Crab Claws in black beans/honey/lemon dressing served on assorted lettuce:
1998 Marcassin Chardonnay Lorenzo Vineyard - More discreet, less heavy than the 2002 Marcassin "Three Sisters" Chardonnay (See: http://www.westcoastwine.net/ubbthreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Board=6&Number=334129&Searchpage=1&Main=63636&Words=sisters+Noel&topic=0&Search=true#Post334129). Comparatively purer, leaner, linear, less oaky/buttery, more of the chardonnay shines through the toasty oak and vanilla. The fruit and mild minerality seems to brake halfway through the finish, leaving mild vanilla and toasty oak to follow through. With the King Crab Claw salad, this wine paired well. The subject Three Sisters would have over-powered it. If paired with a richer dish like, say, butter poached lobster, the Three Sisters would be the way to go.
1997 Domaine Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne - Compared to the '98 Marcassin Lorenzo Chard, this wine, while exhibiting similar dominant chardonnay/vanilla/toasty oak profiles, was clearly more understated and elegant. The vanilla/toastiness of the oak was much less eager and was more apparent only to the rear and finish, rather than sitting mid-mouth. The fruit had a livelier bracing minerality to it and toasted brioche whispers came into play towards the rear. Superb wine.
With Confit de Canard in a shallot sauce with mesclun greens and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing:
1934 Château Lafite Rothschild - Having had some experience with Bordeaux this old, and even older (down to the mid-1920s ex-chateau), at first glance, it was apparent that the wine was damaged: murky, dark brownish red, no clarity - which, to me, shows improper storage/over-oxidation. A few sniffs, both above the glass and within, and an experimental sip confirmed my apprehension: wrapped in dominant, tell-tale old sherry notes, there were dried/decaying violets, mild compost, some whispers of brown spices (clove/cinammon/nutmeg), old dried violets fused with slight vinegar, and faintly musty old cardboard - most likely stored in less than ideal conditions.
I had a similar experience around 6 years ago with two of my father's bottles of 1978 Lafite Rothschild which, due to inadvertence, were not placed in the wine fridge with the rest of the bottles from the same case when he moved houses.
Still and all, buying any wine this old is always a risk; much moreso if not purchased ex-chateau. Every opportunity to try Bordeaux this old (and a first growth, no less), in any event, is a rare treat and always greatly appreciated.
1971 Château Pétrus - This was easily my choice for the wine of the night. Mild violet-infused plum liqueur, faint allspice, slight mocha and milk chocolate, a bit of cigar box, demure sweet cedar, camphor, slight anise - in the perfumed bouquet, and delicately mirrored on the palate in exquisitely fine, complex layers spanning a dark cassis river.
It's texture was incredibly silky, virtually seamless; it's balance and complexity incredible. Discreet chocolate/cocao notes surface towards the rear but hold back for a split second on the finish, just letting the violets and spices go first. After swallowing, I exhaled violets, brown spices and sweet camphor.
No big, in-your-face performance this; it was a study in elegance.
1999 Château Le Pin - A bold attack of black cherry liqueur, violets, slight olive nuances and an underbelly of dark/ripe (but not overripe) plum. The initial strike, though definitive, isn't followed through mid-mouth; the wine seeming to gradually run out of steam in the middle all the way to the finish. Despite its elegant and supple mouthfeel, the initially confident flavors falter mid-way and fade, leaving me with a hollow feeling of being suddenly abandoned. Will this improve with age? I have my doubts, but, then, only time will surely tell.
After the Passion Fruit Sorbet, "Ohmi" Wagyu Steak au Jus with double-baked potato and steamed asparagus spears (I didn't eat the aspargus for fear of it interfering with the following reds):
1997 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto - Aromas of sweet plum liqueur, kirsch, raspberry, touches of olives and dusty cocoa powder. Confidently full-bodied, broad and expansive starting mid-mouth with plum and raspberry liqueur, dark ripe plum undertones, luscious dark chocolate and a touch of kirsch to the back. Quite a forward, generous, up-front wine. Held nothing back. Definitely my favorite pairing with the steak.
1994 Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon - Sweet camphor, cassis nose with a slight eucalyptus nuance. Full and a bit heavy on the palate but the flavors were light-footed and graceful. I could use the word elegant. I've tasted a slightly older vintage of this, and I remember it to be quite similar. Although, personally, I generally find California cabernet sauvignons a bit too ripe and heavy-handed to drink alone, Bryant Family Vineyards makes two of the most graceful ones I have ever tried.
2002 Screaming Eagle - this was the second time I tried this wine this year, the previous time also courtesy of the night's generous host. The wine was as I remembered, exceedingly dense and heavy, just short of syrupy, lots of caramel, vanilla cream (lots of new oak likely) and toffee on the nose; and, frankly, a bit blocky, lacking in finesse and complexity. The last time we had this, it was also with wagyu steak and I found the Eagle, at the time, the best match. This time, with the Masseto's presence, the Eagle took a back seat.
1986 Château Mouton Rothschild - This was the second time I've tried this wine. The first time was at our 2nd Blind Bordeaux Challenge (Edouard's bottle, a gift from Bernie Sim) around 2-3 years ago and it wasn't decanted - its sweet, perfumed bouquet alone pretty much cinched it for me and I voted it the best wine then. I believe last night's bottle was decanted for well over 2 hours prior to serving and I had to coax its bouquet from the glass. Faint anise, cassis, a mere hint of dark chocolate, touch of sweetness to it, ethereal, but difficult to analyze/fully appreciate after the Eagle. It would have been easier for me if this was served before the California reds.
2002 Sine Qua Non "Just for the Love of It" - Slight band-aid/iodine/camphor/eucalyptus/anise notes wrapped warm blackberry/cassis/raspberry, bit of black pepper and violets. This was mirrored on the palate (thankfully, sans the band-aid/iodine) with cedar notes and suggestions of mild anise and clove surfacing more to the back and onto the very long finish. Big, ripe, confident and certainly not shy. Until last night, I'd never heard of this wine, the only SQN I had ever tried being their dessert wine from the Doc (which, by the way, I found excellent).
2001 Pingus - Black cherry, licorice, earthy leather/iron come in mid-mouth, with small red berries/raspberries that trail at the end. Big but gentle tannins, medium-structure, acidity medium bordering on low. I found the earthy leather/iron nuances most intriguing. Long and confident though, proud of its heritage. A compelling wine. Olé!
With a bit of Roquefort, 1986 Château Yquem - This was, to my recollection, the 4th time I tried this particular vintage of Yquem in the past year or so (See: one of my old notes); twice from 375mls (which I hand-carried with some 1997s from Bordeaux) and twice from 750mls (both times from the evening's generous host). Both times I tried from 750ml bottles, the wine had noticeably more heft and a better body and middle than from the 375mls.
Naturally, it was a perfect match with the wine's sweet/tangy botrytised apricot/peach/orange marmalade richness (cut and balanced by its acidity) playing with the cheese's saltiness. Always love it.
A double Illy espresso after a Grand Cru Arriba Dark Chocolate Mousse brought an end to a gourmand's dream.
Many thanks to the host, whose wines were humbling and generosity nothing short of overwhelming.