Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Stockbroker's Advanced Birthday Dinner.

Dinner last night was at back at Sala for the Stockbroker's advanced birthday dinner; just 4 of us: he, Doc, Eric and I. The Stockbroker always brings good wine, whatever the occasion; but, for his birthday, he always kicks it up a notch - or ten.

On these occasions, we are forbidden to bring any bottles as he insists on bringing them all. We do/did, however, bring some, but as gifts, mere tokens of our utmost regard and appreciation of his friendship and generous nature.

Doc, Eric and the Stockbroker

We started off with a bottle of 1982 Salon Le Mesnil Sur Oger, a blanc de blancs (i.e., pure chardonnay) which is the only kind Salon makes, and only in years deemed up to their highest standards. Champagne aficionados know this maker well, their wine considered by many as sort of a "cult" champagne, some say the pinnacle of bubblies. This is only the second vintage of Salon I have ever tried.

We were to have this with our amuse bouche and starters. Unfortunately, this bottle was flawed, the Stockbroker immediately noted the unusually sparse effervescence and Eric almost immediately declared it as damaged. I am well aware that Salon has a slightly oxidized style yet noted that it was too pronounced and had too sharp a sour bite towards the back.

I sucked in some air with the bubbly in hopes of reviving it, and it did help slightly in expanding and frothing it up just past mid-mouth, bringing out a shadow of creaminess to the slim, crisp apple - but none of the depth and generosity I had before experienced. It happens. There is always a risk of buying older vintages and keeping them for years - no matter how careful or selective one is. I asked that the bottle just be set aside instead of being discarded - to see how it fares later on. Alas, we all forgot to get back to it by the end of the evening. For whatever it is worth, Eric highly doubted it would come around.

Undeterred, the Stockbroker promptly pulled out a bottle of 1999 Coche-Dury Meursault. What can I say? Simply stated, Coche-Dury is one of the most revered makers of Meursault and Corton Charlemagne. I've had these only twice in my recollection, both from Gentleman Joe (a '97 Coche-Dury Corton Charlemagne and a 2001 Coche-Dury Meursault Premier Cru Perrières - tragically, I lost all my written notes of the evening I had the latter), so this was the first village wine I've tried from this maker.

I had this with my appetizer course of Salad of Crispy Lobster Tail with Corn Purée and Roasted Pepper Salsa.

1999 Coche-Dury Meursault - Initially, the bouquet was a little shy/tight, but, after around 15-20 minutes in glass, it released deeply alluring scents of tarte citron complexed by ethereal toasty/leesy, vanilla bean and vaguely nutty beurre noisette notes. These were mirrored beautifully on the palate in a softly curved, medium body. Loved it alone and with my crispy lobster salad. Lobster and corn is an ubiquitous New England combination, and everyone is familiar with the likewise ubiquitous lemon-butter sauce that is served with lobster. Given the flavors of the wine as stated, it is no wonder that the pairing was natural, familiar and precise.

The reds, two grand cru Romanée St-Vivants by two excellent makers, had been opened at the beginning of the evening and had been quietly breathing in bottle for a little over an hour by the time we got to them with our main courses.

I chose the Proscuitto Roasted Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Slow-Cooked Belly with Spiced Red Cabbage, Mustard Gnocchi and Apple Elderflower Purée for my main course, as did the Doc.

1997 Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée St-Vivant - Even those not familiar with the wines of Burgundy recognize the name of Domaine Romanée Conti (a.k.a., "DRC"), generally considered one of the best, if not the best maker (its wines are certainly the most expensive) of Burgundy. Because this wine is so rarefied, I've had but a handful of their wines, and, amongst them, only one of their whites (an excellent 1997 DRC Montrachet the Stockbroker, Doc and I shared over lunch several years ago).

Romanée St-Vivant is a grand cru climat in the township of Vosne Romanée where, a few hundred meters behind the place de la mairie lies a concentration of the Côte d'Or's top vineyards. The wines from Romanée St-Vivant vineyards are generally known for their relatively lighter body/power and distinctively refined, elegant, pure and floral characteristics. My wife snapped that photo of me outside Arnoux's portion of Romanée St-Vivant during one of our long afternoon walks around the vineyards.

The '97 took but 15-20 minutes to open up its bouquet of decaying violets, sanguinely meaty dark red berry-fruit, black cherry, raspberry, truffle, moist earth/fallen leaves and an alluring suggestion of hoisin sauce. In the mouth, the scents held true on a silken, shades-over-medium body, with added dried fig mid-mouth and sweetish, dark, woody spice notes past mid-mouth that join violets and cherry at the finish. Confidently understated, complex, elegant and notably harmonious. Excellent wine.

This is undoubtedly the best performing red DRC I've had thus far.

1996 Domaine Hudelot-Noëllat Romanée St-Vivant - This was readier from the get-go, immediately displaying moderate Burgundy decay of violets and sous bois and more forward cherry (amusingly, the Stockbroker hesitates from using this descriptor - I rarely use it myself as I deem it included in "Burgundy decay" and damp earth). This shows younger than the '97 DRC RSV, a shade leaner, with more acidic lift, the black cherry/raspberry notes more at the forefront, and, less evident hoisin, sanguine, meaty notes.

Structure is firmer than the preceding wine, the mouthfeel marginally leaner and the red berry-fruit more focused and better defined. I felt these attributes made it more food-friendly and a better pairing for my main course. Thus, I ate with this wine and reserved the previous wine to be enjoyed alone and, later on.

As if all the foregoing wines had not been enough of a treat, with the cheese course, the Stockbroker opened a half bottle of...

1996 Château d'Yquem - This vintage was also the year the estate was sold to LVMH after over 220 years ownership of the Lur-Saluces family. This wine, however, was still made under the guiding hand of the Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces as he continued at the helm until 2004 when he retired completely and was replaced by Cheval Blanc's Pierre Lurton. The Stockbroker reminded us that we last had this wine at a 1996 all Médoc 1st Growth horizontal dinner at his wine shop (in which Eric is a partner) last 29th June 2008 - good thing, since I was so overloaded with wine that night, I failed to take notes on the Sauternes served.

Sauternes' sweet wines, in general, are opulent, rich and luxurious and Yquem's wines are at the top of the heap. With that in mind, when I describe an Yquem, it is always in the context of other vintages of Yquem. That said, this is a rich one, packed with honey, orange blossom essence, very ripe cling peach, orange marmalade, caramel and vanilla bean/crème brûlée. Lush and generous (much more than the '83, a bit more than '86, but not nearly as much as the '88 or '67), but with good structure (I'd say much better than '99, a bit better than '97) and more than adequate acidity to gracefully see it through at least a few more decades.

What a dinner. Another one for the books.

Many thanks again, buddy, and advanced happy birthday! Have a great one!


Chinkee said...

Happy Birthday to the Stockbroker! Was excited to see which wines he brought to his birthday and I was not surprised to see only the best:-)

Is there are reason why you're both growing out your bigotes?

Noel said...

Ha ha! Hi, Chinkee. I grew mine several months ago - no reason, just an experiment. The Stockbroker is growing his for the NY Marathon next month - inspired by Forrest Gump's running across America, I think. Heh heh.

Miguel said...

The food looks fantastic. Was that a special menu?

And the wines...oh my oh my....would not expect less from J.

Advanced Happy birthday Jojo!!

Noel said...

Hey, Mig. No, not a special menu, just off the regular menu. There are a few new things on it, but the old favorites like twice baked soufflé, squab sous vide, passionfruit/strawberry pavlova, etc. are still there. I ordered the lobster salad for pairing purposes (I saw it would go perfectly with a Meursault) and didn't feel like having the squab yet again, so went for the kurobuta pork dish.

Ironic, isn't it? We never expect less from Jojo, but we are never prepared for the "more" that he breaks out. What a guy.


Miguel said...

Food looks great as cant go wrong with SALA.

Anonymous said...

noel- wonderful notes. now i can relive those moments. I really try and resist falling in love with Burgundy because good burgs are so frighteningly expensive. For sure this dinner didn't help my cause. the wines were exquisite. the nose of the DRC RSV is like no other.

chinkee- thank you for the birthday greeting. as for the bigote- noel's right. I'm keeping it until i finish the race which is on Nov 1. -jojo

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if the Doc is close to turning to the 'dark' side...his love for highly-rated bordeaux is un-shakeable!

Noel said...

Hey, Jojo. Try as one may, I cannot see how one cannot fall in love with the wines of Burgundy. The Doc actually was the one who forshadowed my Burgundy affair when long ago he quoted to me that "All roads lead to Burgundy". He's well on that path as well, I suspect.



Anonymous said...

"Burgundy is a lovely thing when you can get anybody to buy it for you."

gerry dj

Noel said...

Well, that's true too! Ha ha ha!