Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dinner @ Ciçou with the Nietos.

Dinner last night, the 8th September 2010, was at Ciçou to finally meet Clem & Loidy Nieto from O.C., California. Clem and I "virtually met" each other around a year and a half ago in Wineberserkers, the fastest-growing USA-based internet wine community founded by Todd French. Clem and I are two of less than a handful of Filipino regulars and so immediately had a lot in common besides a shared passion for fine wines. Though we've been conversing about wine for quite a while, we'd never met in person until last night.

Around a week ago, Clem sent me a message on Facebook informing me he and Loidy would be in Manila this week and asked if we might have dinner. Clem generously wanted to share some very fine bottles from his cellar that he would bring over for his short trip. I, naturally, agreed and, after some schedule coordination with Clem, last night's dinner took place. We were 6 in all; aside from Clem & Loidy, Catha, Miguel, Rene and myself were in attendance (the Stockbroker and Vigneron are in Bordeaux now and Doc, though he said he'd try his best to join, got stuck at the hospital). Due to lack of material time to prepare a special menu, I asked Cyrille to prepare only one off-the-menu dish for us. We ordered the rest of our dishes from his regular menu.

The evening's reds.

Though Clem had brought along a 1995 Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Winston Churchill, another fine vintage bubbly had already been opened to start the evening off...

1998 Champagne Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Rosé - Rene's bottle. Though initially a little tight, a bit of time in the glass opened up this subtle and elegant fresh strawberries,  red currant, light citrus and, past mid-mouth, overtures of freshly baked biscuit. Graceful medium body, lots of finesse in this, with precise balance as well. Lovely way to start an evening.

L-R: Clem, Loidy, myself, Catha, Rene & Miguel.

Due to the age of 2 of the reds and not wanting to take any chances with crumbling corks, I requested Rene to take charge of opening the bottles.

The old Riojan's cork came out cleanly (almost surely re-corked at the bodega judging from the looks of it); but the old Pauillac's broke in half down in the neck. Rene, however, deftly and cleanly eased out the remaining portion...

...and carefully returned the bottle to the service table.

Prawn Croquette amuse bouche

Cyrille explains how he prepared our off-the-menu first course.

Marbled Terrine of Pan-Seared Foie Gras and Unagi with Teriyaki Sauce, Salad and Lemon Confit, paired with...

1997 Rolly Gassmann Gewürztraminer Oberer Weingarten de Rorschwihr Sélection de Grains Nobles - My bottle. This is a luscious, sexy beast of a full-on botrytised gewürz that I picked up at Terry Selection a couple of months or so ago at around P5700/bottle (appx. US$127). Full, quite hefty, incredibly rounded honeyed, spicy lychees, peach, bit of orange rind underneath, notable depth of fruit, nice lilt of slate/white minerality. There is just enough acidity to keep it from being cloying. Rip-roaring wine, and well that it was as it needed to stand up to and complement Cyrille's luxuriously rich and indulgent dish (an absolute hit, by the way, at the last Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila dinner).

The pairing was incredibly good, if I do say so myself - and it was but natural as Alsace produces a lot of foie gras where it is normally paired with its local vendanges tardives or sélection de grains nobles gewürztraminers.

My Lamb Rack main course, très rosé as I ordered it. With this I had the 2 old reds.

Clem pours.

1966 Château Latour - Clem's bottle, a generous treat indeed. Rene, Miguel and I commented on how healthy and robust it looked for a 44 year old wine; we weren't too surprised though given Latour's aging capabilities. It carries its incredible depth and complexity matter-of-factly on its solidly structured full body. Earthy cassis, walnuts, bit of truffle, violets, slight midnight cherry, cedar, whisper of warm asphalt and a pinch of rich Cuban tobacco. Very masculine, discreetly powerful, has a somewhat smoldering character. Wonderful. Profound. It's recent flight to Manila didn't seem to affect it badly in any way. Excellent harmony and balance.

1964 Bodegas Faustino I Gran Reserva - My bottle, one of those that came straight from the bodega's own cellar and flown in from Spain by Miguel. We had one of these around 3 weeks ago at Mig's birthday lunch. This bottle was every bit as sublime: graceful, balsamico, cedar,  vague nuttiness, old violets and faint ceps lace a silken, seamless, bottle-sweetened, lightly red spiced black cherry, darkly ripe raspberry and plum elixir underpinned by worn leather, with the merest whisper of oloroso at the finish. Ethereal. A wine of old romance. Very refined, elegant, and, belies its 46 years with lovely balance, good push and precise acidity that made for a natural cut-and-counterpoint to the lamb. Loved it then, love it now.

Before main courses were finished, Rene noted we were running low on reds and summoned a Cheese Platter for the next bottles.

1993 Château Mouton Rothschild - Clem's bottle, one bearing the original label depicting Balthus' barely clad young lady in languid repose (sorry, I forgot to take a solo shot of the bottle). I've had a few of bottles of this in the distant past, way before I started my blog. My first bottle of this I opened sometime in May 2002, during dinner with Catha at the old Melo's in Greenbelt 1. I've had it twice since then, but didn't take any notes on them. The last I remember opening was at my dad's place one Christmas - probably in 2004 or 2005. In my notes of 2002, I opined that this would drink well through 2005. Judging from Clem's bottle, though, I obviously underestimated this wine at the time.

It's drinking well now, but after the 1966 Latour, it simply had to suffer in comparison. However, albeit the typical luxuriously textured, rich, concentrated, creamy, very ripe, chocolate-touched dark fruit and formidable palate presence of Mouton Rothschild presented dialed down several notches in this wine, it was still an admirable effort given the vintage. It did seem in much better shape than the '93 Haut Brion I opened this past mid-April.

1995 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande - Rene's bottle. I recounted to them that at the IWFS Pichon Lalande vertical dinner I attended a couple of years ago at Old Manila, I rated this wine my favorite over the PL '96, '89, '86, '75, etc. (there was no '82 PL at that event). This is a stylish, plush PL with more of a masculine slant like, say, the '85 and '89. Cedar, violets, cassis, ripe plum, black cherry, bit of raspberry, mere whisper of truffle, bit of new leather, pencil shavings, underlying loamy notes. This is bright and quite open (certainly one of the more open and enjoyable top growth '95 Médocs I've had at this point), but, to my mind, still too young. Though it undoubtedly is already pleasurable to drink, I believe this will gain a lot more depth and complexity over many more years. Nice now, but with a lot more in potential.

Dessert was another of Cyrille's new additions to his menu: the sinfully good Kouing Aman Cake from France's Brittany region - another of the big hits at the last Commanderie dinner linked above. I find it difficult to describe and not just gush mindlessly about. Just try it out yourself - it is one of those rare desserts that has a somewhat light palate feel/texture, but is incredibly rich in flavor without being cloying or tiring. Wonderful stuff.

2000 Château Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos - Clem couldn't help but open yet another of his bottles for us. I actually tried to dissuade him as we already had quite a bit, but to no avail. Just about medium in weight, it showed typical honeyed, dried apricot, peach, bit of candied orange rind and vanilla bean. Acidity was on point, lending brightness and light feet. Quite nice, but I was already stepping into overload so had only one pour of this.

Cyrille joins us for a glass of Mouton Rothschild.

Truly a great pleasure to finally meet Clem, and, of course, Loidy, in person. A million thanks for the enchanting company and wines so generously shared. It is a pity they are here for so short a time, and with so busy a schedule at that. We only hope that our new friends come back soon and spend more time in Manila so that we may reciprocate properly. Maraming salamat, Clem! Hanggang sa susunod.


Miguel said...

That was a good dinner...lovely wine and good food. It was nice to meet Clem and his wife. He was so generous for bringing all those great wines! Thanks again.

We might go back to Cicou this weekend, I have to let Ria try that dessert!

J said...

Hi Noel,

I've been reading your blog for several months now and I must admit with candour that it's an immaculate platform for sharing various wine experiences, your notes and impartial stance on the wines and culinary pairings provide a very professional and descriptive point of reference, kudos for sharing and lucky you for all those great tipples !

I'm a wine retail consultant from KL and through luck of our small world, I understand that your friend, the "Vigneron" will be in KL as part of my business partner's invitation to host a brief Ch. Siran dinner and to facilitate our efforts to initiate a Commanderie Bordeaux union here in KL.

Also, we have close business links with our German trade counterparts whom I believe are in business with your friend, the "Stockbroker's" PWX trade in relation to German Rieslings.

Just a brief note to say hello, and perhaps some day we may be acquainted and share some good bottles, some where in this globe. Stay in touch.

Salut !