The dinner took place this past Saturday, the menu as follows (thanks to Miguel for the use of his pictures of the food and for taking pictures of the wine):
White Asparagus and Truffle Mousse with Green Asparagus Salad
Pan-Fried Foie Gras atop Bread & Butter Pudding, Balsamic Gastrique
Oxtail Tart with Caramelized Onions, Porcini – Morel Jus, White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette
Poached Salmon & Cod Duo, Fennel Remoulade, Provençal Vegetables
French Duck Breast with Blueberry Jus, Spice Whipped Potatoes and Wilted Greens
Baked Brie de Mieux, Truffle Honey Pesto, Strawberries and Cream
Chocolate Cake, Praline Chantilly, Coffee Brandy Ganache
By around 8pm, our table of 12 was complete, and the feast began its parade.
The initial salvo of Tomato Sorbet, Basil Oil and Garlic Touille was excellent - the tomato sorbet's cool, fresh surface flavors whetted my appetite while the basil oil's underlying savory flavors and heft teased my hunger of pleasures to come. The garlic touille just ran with the tomato (anyone who has ever eaten a Italian food knows garlic and tomato are excellent matches), its added crunchiness a precise counterpoint in texture.
2002 Léon Beyer Riesling Réserve (Eguisheim, Alsace) - My bottle. I recall the very first (official) IWFS function I attended some 3 or so years ago was a blind tasting of 10 rieslings at Bianca's; most all the accompanying dishes revolved around white asparagus (it must have been in season somewhere in the world). Thus, whenever I see a dish with white asparagus as the main ingredient (depending on accompanying sauce or dressing), I automatically think: riesling.
Maison Léon Beyer has been producing traditional Alsace whites for centuries, the reins of the domaine passed down since the maison was formed in 1867. The Beyer family, though, have been winegrowers in Alsace since 1580. Marc Beyer now runs the maison with his father, Léon Sr., and his son, Yann-Léon.
My wife and I had the pleasure of being personally toured by Marc
Way before meeting them, however, I had been enjoying their wines. Traditionally dry, and masculine in style, Beyer wines are very food-friendly. This is no accident, Marc believes (as I'm sure his father does and ascendants did) that the overly ripe/high sugar content modern style favored by many professional reviewers are simply too sweet to be versatile in food pairing.
Their 2002 Riesling Réserve is textbook Beyer. Initially tight and reticent, it unwound itself after around 15-20 minutes in glass, displaying properly dry white stone fruit, underlying minerality and mild orange rind with light, delicate touches of citrus and the barest whisper of truffle exquisitely woven in (the citrus crescendo more towards the back). Nice, definitive, barely medium heft, a cool, stony feel on the palate, its goût de pétrole very subtle. A fine match, if I do say so myself.
[C]lean, sweetly fresh flowers, rose petals, spiced lychee and
peach in the nose, mirrored in the mouth in a lively, exuberant, racy,
slightly-less-than-medium body with good acidic lift and discreet underlying
minerality. Light on its feet, it danced on my palate. It is a pity that so few
in this country bother to try to get to know the joys of Alsace gewürztraminers.
This one was so very pure and clean. Precisely balanced, excellent wine, and, at
its very reasonable price of P1635 per bottle, a definite buy....
Consistent notes, but I now add that it had a faint, alluringly "oily" feel on the palate which accentuated its rose petals and plump lychee notes - Just enough ripely sweet fruit to play with the savory foie and enough acidity to brighten the dish and keep the palate from being overwhelmed by richness.Between the next two courses mentioned below, with a Warm Salmon and Cod Duo (a fusion of the two fishes), Fennel Remoulade, Provençal Vegetables:
2000 Henri Bourgeois Sancerre "La Bourgeoise" (Sancerre, Loire) - My bottle. I've enjoyed a few bottlings from Domaine Henri Bourgeois, from different vintages. Regular readers of my blog know I particularly enjoy the 1999 vintage of the La Bourgeoise bottling. Sancerre is in the Loire, across the river from Pouilly-fumé, if memory serves. The fresh, bright, minerally whites produced in the area are, like Pouilly-fumé, 100% sauvignon blanc. Honestly, I, personally, couldn't be able to tell one from the other if tasting blind though - maybe someday with a lot more practise.
Sancerre blancs are usually enjoyed young, though there are a few that are meant to age. This wine is one of them. Evidently heftier, fuller, bigger-boned and more generous on the palate than most Sancerre blancs, this maintains the grapes' inherent freshness and acidity - it behaved more like a somewhat tense young Sancerre straight out of the bottle (a bit tight, tart and thin) but fleshed out and gained weight wonderfully after around 30-40 minutes (kept chilled of course).
Rene aptly noted that it wasn't anywhere near as aggressively grassy as many sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. Very true, I, fortunately, have never run across a Sancerre that is - the gooseberry/grapefruit and mild citrus notes are much more discreet and refined. Though bigger and more generous than most Sancerres, this wine is still adequately focused and holds true to its origin's clean minerality.
As to its pairing, I was very happy with it, the wine possessed body and push enough to stand up to the fused fatty/oily fish and, at the same time, was fresh and bright enough to give the dish needed lift and brightness.
~ With Oxtail Tart with Caramelized Onions, Porcini–Morel Jus and White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette ~
~ and French Duck Breast with Blueberry Jus, Spice Whipped Potatoes and Wilted Greens ~
2000 Bahans Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan) - Rene's bottle. The second wine of 1855 first growth, Château Haut-Brion, the ruler of Pessac-Léognan (arguably an undisputed title now since the owners purchased its only legitimate rival, La Mission Haut-Brion, years back), and from a very strong vintage to boot.
Expansive, almost full-bodied, somewhat velvety in texture, this red confidently displayed ripe dark fruit, cassis, kirsch and raspberry topnotes, tobacco, subtle roasted herbs, cedar and dark spice. Good extraction and ripeness, but not over-the-top. A general earthy theme permeated and tied in all these. Its earthiness ran with that of the oxtail, porcini, morels and truffle oil while its ripe red berries/kirsch notes picked up the caramelized onions' savory-sweetness and added a foil to all the earthiness.
Lovely wine. For me and the Vigneron, the red wine of the night. It is presently more ready to drink than the 2000 Carruades de Lafite (2nd wine of Lafite Rothschild).
Still youthfully exuberant (naturally) and tannic, it would benefit from, say, around 40-45 minutes decanting/aeration before serving to let the wine open up. It reminds me somewhat of the château's well-regarded 2000 but not quite as leathery or roundly muscled. For whatever it is worth, I understand Wine Spectator gave this 2003 a rating of "90". Replenishment stocks, I believe are again locally available as the initial tranches sold out quickly.
2003 Delas Freres Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette (Hermitage, Nothern Rhône) - My bottle, purchased from the Stockbroker who advised me to try pairing it with the duck course because of the blueberry jus. I had this once before on 4 December 2007. My old notes stated:
2003 Hermitage Marquise de la Tourette by Delas Freres - the lone Rhône from the
Stockbroker. Very young, very ripe, very forward, very big, some new oak on the
nose, but not overly much. Full, somewhat smokey dark wild blackberry over
cassis and cedar with dashes of pepper. Stood mightily with the venison course
and picked up some of the red cabbage's sweetness. I'd like to see how this
grows up after 4 years or more.
Because it is young, I tasted this after approximately an hour's decanting. By then, my wife noted some blueberry on the nose and she was right. That's probably what the Stockbroker had in mind when he recommended it. The decanting smoothed it out considerably, revealing touches of underbrush to the wild berries and cassis. I noted some jamminess to the fruit as well as roasted Provençal herbs this time which I did not before. Still quite big and spicy (a bit too spicy for the Vigneron), I think it paired much better with the duck as it overpowered the oxtail tart. For those into professional scores, Parker gave this a rating of "95".
~ With Baked Brie de Mieux, Truffle Honey Pesto, Strawberries and Cream ~1994 Léon Beyer Gewürztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles (Eguisheim, Alsace) - My bottle, another from Maison Beyer, this time a gewürz. I recalled a brief conversation I had with Othmar Ober late this past May about the effects of botrytis cinerea, to the effect that said noble rot generally makes it much more difficult to identify the grapes used in a wine. I agreed with him. In the case of dessert wines made of gewürz, however, I believe we have to make an exception. Even the effects of botrytis cannot seem to alter gewürz's distinctive redolence and flavor of lychee.
Spiced lychee and, to a lesser extend, ripe cling peach dominate with tangy wild honey, candied apricot, vanilla and honeysuckle notes. Clean lines, light on its feet despite its richness, not overly concentrated, extracted or dense - more Barsac than Sauternes in terms of weight and body. Admirable focus. A healthy acidity buttresses the honeyed and spiced fruit, keeping gourmand's stupor at bay. Liked this a lot. Too bad it was my last bottle and I believe Bacchus is all out of it.
Our feast was rounded off with sinfully rich Chocolate Cake, Praline Chantilly, Coffee Brandy Ganache and cups of coffee (no pictures of the desserts as we finished them off before anyone remembered to take any).
A very enjoyable evening of good company, food and wine. Everyone should dine like this all the time.