Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday Wine Lunch @ Mamou.

Lunch of Wednesday, the 27th October 2010, was with Usual Suspects Rene, Aaron and J-Lab at Mamou (Miguel was on a plane to Spain and the Stockbroker was unavailable). I arrived a little past 1pm and the guys had already started pouring. They made sure to save me a couple of glasses of champagne though.

1995 Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill - Rene brought this bottle, it was one of those bequeathed to our little group by O.C., California-based fellow-wino, Clem Nieto, during a most enjoyable dinner at Ciçou on the 6th September 2010. Its nicely rounded, moderately creamy mid-palate and pliant, ripe pear, green apple, lemon custard, dried fruit and pastry flavors what struck me the most. This is a hedonistic champagne. It gained more complexity as it sat in glass, revealing added sourdough and buttery nuances. Having rushed over from work, it was an excellent way to immediately unwind.

Maraming salamat, Clem, and as promised, we offered a toast to you from this bottle.

Rene says "¡Salud!"

Mamou's Spaghetti Bottarga, it was especially good yesterday. Magnifico!

With this we enjoyed some of J-Lab's 2009 Dr. Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Kabinett - Notably well-focused, zippy, taut, clean and lean-ish peach, apricot, ripe lemon and slight quince with a bit of edgy slate. Acidity and minerality were precise. This is a real charmer, and it was a lovely foil to the rich-salty-savory bottarga. Very refreshing and cleansing between bites.

There was a quick discussion which steaks to order, and we finally decided on two orders of Mamou's tried-and-tested Dry Aged, USDA Prime Grade, T-Bone Steaks with 4 sidings of White Steak Rice.

Steak No. 1

Steak No. 2

We ordered them medium-rare (I was the only one in this little gathering who likes my steaks bloodier) and they came out exactly as requested. Both steaks were perfect.

J-Lab, Rene & Aaron

As usual, we had several reds to choose from. We just opened 3 though:

2006 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - My bottle, a gift from Boozze, a most steadfastly Napa-headed longtime friend (thanks, Manong!). We asked for decanters, but the restaurant only had these tiny, pitiful excuses of decanters available, so we opted to let the wine breathe in glass - thankfully, they have sizable Riedel stemware which did nicely.

Wow, this was big and bold and surprisingly drinking very well for so young a Napa cab. Luxuriously lush, indulgent, concentrated, well-extracted, nicely layered crème de cassis, blackberry, hint of kirsch, black cherry, cedar, loam, bit of chocolate, underlying charcoal, moderate oak (initial cedar and mint topnotes). J-Lab noted the charcoal notes picked up on the steaks' own charcoal-smokiness. Tannins were big but smooth enough, the acidity lowish, but good enough to maintain over-all balance. The votes were unanimous - although too big and youthfully powerful to drink alone, this wine paired best with the steaks.

1991 Château Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - Rene's bottle, from a batch he picked up in the US. I got to my glass of this as I finished my plate of steak (shaving off as much as I could from the bone). Serene, subtle, deep, mellow; cedar, violets, gravel and mushroom lace the halfway over medium-bodied, earthy black fruit and minor black and wild cherry. Admirable restraint and balance. This gently but surely reminded me of why Château Montelena is one of my top two favorite producers of Napa cabs.

1998 Bodegas Riojanas Viña Albina Gran Reserva - Aaron's bottle, one amongst several sent by the producer for us to taste and consider bringing in. This, I noted, was old-school Rioja, of a leaner, old Bordeaux-reminiscent style as compared with Riojanas' "higher" Monte Real line. Dignified, serious, proper and elegant - I could say "patrician". Firm structure, healthy acid balance, cedar, slight worn leather and even slighter balsamico notes are seamlessly woven into the dark strawberry, raspberry and wild cherry, with fleeting highlights of bright red spice. This is both food-friendly and contemplative.

We ordered a plate of Fuet & Cheese with Honey to go with the last of the reds; J-Lab and Aaron got a slice each of Pecan Pie to end the meal. I didn't have any though and just went for a double espresso.

Great lunch, guys. Excellent company, fine wines and heart-stoppingly good steaks. I'll be back in Mamou sooner rather than later. Until the next!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila Board Lunch.

Tuesday, the 26th October 2010, was a lunch board meeting of La Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila at Alex's Kitchen (the Alexander House office of the Lichaytoo brothers' Bacchus International). I had tried to back out the last minute due to work, but we wouldn't have had a quorum if I did - so I arrived late. The Vigneron, Stockbroker and Clifford had already started with the many appetizers, the table was groaning with them.

From Italy

The ones on the left are from Sardinia, if I recall correctly.

Alcachofas - I love these... well as these: Pickled Young Onions, and these...

...Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil.

There is always some kind of foie gras at Alex's table. This was topped with fig jam - sinfully good.

Alex was whipping up some pasta for us as we tried to put a dent in all the starters. In between bites, our attention was called to a recent issue of Decanter magazine...

...which cited two of the Vigneron's recent vintages, namely,...

...his 2009 Siran as one of the 100 best values from Bordeaux for the much touted vintage 2009 & his 2007 Siran as one of the best wines from Margaux in vintage 2007.

He was, of course, deservedly proud and happy as all his hard work was properly recognized. Now, I'm not one to say "I told you so", but I will anyway - as way before, I already wrote favorably of Siran's vintages 2007 and 2009. Anyway, back to the food....

Alex's Spaghetti all'Arrabiata was a thing of beauty: simple, honest and absolutely delicious. I had 3 helpings and stopped only because I had a dinner to attend that night.

True to it's name, the pasta had a kick of heat which initially caught Stockbroker off-guard...

...but, like me, his Bicolano blood came through with a quick thumbs-up in appreciation.

As if these were not much more than enough, Alex then served a "kicker" dish of Pan-Seared Foie Gras with Smoked Magret de Canard topped with Balsamic Vinegar. Be still, my heart, this was indulgently sublime - prompting the Vigneron and I to egg Alex to open his own restaurant. He chuckled and said he never would as he is happy enough cooking for friends. Too bad, with his access to an incredible array of the finest ingredients, he'd surely give every restaurant in the country a hell of a run for their money if he ever did.

Of course, we had a number of bottles ready - it wouldn't be a Commanderie de Bordeaux gathering otherwise. With the starters, we had some...

Marchesi Antinori Montenisa Franciacorta Brut - A cool, refreshing, charming and dangerously quaffable bubbly from Lombardy made of, as I recall, a champagne-esque blend of chardonnay (mostly), pinot bianco and pinot nero (more popularly known as pinot noir). Disarming, friendly, pleasant apple, pear, hint of citrus with a slight milkiness (the pinot noir likely) with whispers of almonds and soft bread. If I recall correctly, this will soon be on Bacchus' shelves, priced similarly to their prosecco lines.

1995 Château Siran - The Vigneron's bottle, naturally. This is the first time I've had his 1995 vintage. After around 15 minutes in my glass, the bouquet was typically Margaux, a perfume of graceful cedar, whisper of earth and asphalt, blackcurrant, worn leather, pencil lead shavings, raspberry, violets and light touches of lavender and red spice past mid-mouth and in the finish. Medium-bodied, clean lines and old-school austerity make this very food friendly. Well-poised and very neat. I wonder if PWX will be bringing in this vintage any time soon. I can recommend it to those who appreciate old-school Bordeaux/Margaux.

Next was a rogue bottle from Rioja...

1998 Bodegas Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva - My bottle, showing quite differently from the bottle I opened at the last IWFS event in that this displayed a rich, forward aromas and flavors of creamy, slightly toasty new oak (French, not American) , concentrated, moderately dense, indulgently ripe, macerated black cherry, raspberry, underlying rich dark fruit, bit of fig, licorice, cinnamon and a dose of creamy vanilla and new leather. Very round, hefty and comparatively robust. This wine, for some reason, reminded me of the Stockbroker's bottle of 1985 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial at Una Noche Riojana.

In the meantime, Maja had breezed in from a business meeting, thus, completing a quorum for transacting Commanderie business,...

...and, so, the meeting proper began...

...along with a bit of dessert of course.

The next event was then planned - a dinner featuring vintages of two Margaux appellation châteaux, namely, Giscours (3rd growth) and du Tertre (5th growth) - candidates for membership discussed, reports on the prospective menu's tasting made and some new rules proposed. Business was disposed of efficiently and decisively - this was my type of board meeting. The excellent food and fine wines certainly didn't hurt.

Until the next!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Riesling @ Masseto.

This past Wednesday, the 20th October 2010, was one of the Stockbroker's Wine 101 tasting/lectures at Masseto, of which he is part-owner. I had booked my niece, Nicole, for the lecture as a supplement to her HRM wine class. I figured it would be good for her to be walked through some good wines by someone who knows well whereof he speaks (I was horrified when she mentioned that one of the wines her teacher made them try before was Gato Negro). In addition, one tastes the wines as each grape/wine is discussed - which is essential for the information imparted to be truly understood.

My wife accompanied Nicole to Masseto for the lecture and I was to meet them there after work and have dinner with them there. It was around 6pm when I arrived, the lecture well underway. I sat with Bernie, my wife and her younger brother, the latter two having some pica-picas while Bernie, also a part-owner of Masseto, had some work to do.

From what I could hear, the Stockbroker initially walked them through wines of the major white grapes: chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc)...

...before moving onto the reds: a pinot noir (a nice basic Bourgogne by Arlot), cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a bonus Bordeaux blend from Pessac-Léognan (a 1996 Château Smith Haut Lafitte if I'm not mistaken).

Nicole, on the right, paid attention intently, tasting reasonably as each wine was discussed.

The Stockbroker not only concentrated on the basic characteristics of each grape, but also gave some regional comparisons as well.

Having had a lot of reds with steak at Elbert's the night before, I just ordered a Green Salad with Cambozola, Pears and Candied Pistachio Nuts and Spaghetti Bottarga for dinner (Nicole had the Baked Chicken, Topsy had the Rib-Eye, while Catha had the Beef Cheeks). With these, I ordered a bottle of...

2007 Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese - I've gone through at least 3 or 4 bottles of this in the past 2½ months, having bought a few from Premium Wine Exchange back in August. Dönnhoff is widely recognized as the best producer of Germany's Nahe region (Rhineland-Palatinate). I've been a fan ever since I first tried their wines, and I can't recall a single wine from them that I did not enjoy. My last notes on this were from a dinner at home for Miguel's mom who was visiting from Barcelona:

I opened this with the Chili-Garlic Prawns in mind, figuring its clean, pure, light-footed, graceful, off-dry, white minerally, slate-touched pear, bit of peach, apricot, quince, bit of kiwi and slight ripe pineapple notes would balance off the dish's spiciness. It was a good call resulting in a good match (if I do say so myself). Eminently drinkable wine this, and it is available at Premium Wine Exchange for around P2400/bottle more or less. This was my last bottle of it, and I'm definitely getting more.

With the spaghetti bottarga, and even with the salad, the wine was an excellent match, underscoring the inherent versatility of good German rieslings. Its crisp acidity and minerality lent lift and cut to the salad's creamy, slightly gamey cambozola, and, together with its pure, admirably focused off-dry fruit brought a bright, entertaining contrast to the bottarga's salty-savoriness.

Excellent, light and healthy meal with a wine that paired famously. Nice evening. Nicole said she learned a lot and, from my probing questions, revealed that a lot of the Stockbroker's lecture, indeed, sank in. I'd recommend those relatively new to wine sign up for the next one. It's an effective and enjoyable way to learn.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tasting Some Riojas @ Elbert's Steak Room.

Aaron and I have some Riojan tintos, sent to us by the producers, which were up for consideration for our 1st quarter 2011 offering. Thus, we got a small group of aficionados together the past Tuesday at Elbert's Steak Room. Timely, since it doubled as a welcome home dinner for Miguel who just got back from a rather long business trip. We wound up being 8 in all, aside from Aaron and I, the Stockbroker, Miguel, Doc (who caught up still in his hospital scrubs), J-Lab and Richard had dinner there, with Miguel A. arriving for drinks after a last-minute working dinner.

Aaron, Mig, the Stockbroker, Richard and I had a couple of beers while waiting for the others to arrive - one of which was a 750ml of Estrella Damm Inedit (which Mig brought back from his recent trip), a finely fruity, refreshingly dry one developed by El Bulli's Ferran Adria. Thereafter, we moved to our table and popped open Aaron's 2004 Freixenet Cuvée DS Gran Reserva Brut.

I've written about this fresh, vibrant, refined and discreetly complex vintage cava so many times, so will forgo repeating myself anew. Let's just say that, in my opinion, at P1800/bottle (from Aaron's ADP Industries), I cannot think of a better vintage cava bargain than this in the country.

Aaron, the Stockbroker & J-Lab

With our salmon appetizers and various starters, we had some white Burgundy:

1999 Louis Carillon et Fils Puligny Montrachet Premier Cru Les Perrières - My bottle, which the Stockbroker, not surprisingly, immediately recognized as a white "...from an excellent producer, famous vineyard and very good vintage". Richard, a French-Swiss investment banker and fellow wine lover who moved to Manila a couple of months ago, quickly noted that it was a bit over-chilled (I got to my glass a bit later), and, so, waited a bit for it to warm up.

Plumpish, nicely rounded, pillowy ripe pear, apple, whispers of lemon custard, hazelnut paste, discreet vanilla, very slight minerality and white florality. Refined and poised, I liked this a lot - but - was looking for more complexity given what it is. I'll open another of this with some lobster or similarly rich shellfish dish soon just to re-validate. If it still seems a bit young, I'll wait for 2-3 more years before trying again.

We then moved on to our steaks and the reds, the first 2 side-by-side, back-to-back vintages. No decanting, Aaron just opened the bottles earlier in the evening.

Mine was a rare USDA Prime-Grade T-Bone with a side of fries.

1998 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva - From a highly respected, traditional Riojan producer, I tried this once before during my last dinner (paired with Chuletillas de Cordero a la Braza Asados a la Zona) at Logroño before driving back to Barcelona this past April.

Immediately open, displaying well-concentrated, notably ripe dark red strawberry, cherry, raspberry, bit of dried plum, slight roasted meat, licorice, loam, cedar, violets, hint of underlying chocolate and sweetish pipe tobacco, touches of violets, vanilla and cinnamon. A few notches over medium bodied, softly layered, amiably complex, comforting and warmly welcoming. Acidity is just enough for good balance and harmony. Very easily approachable.

1999 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva - This was comparatively tight and unyielding at first, but, after approximately 30-40 minutes in glass, it gave up sweetly cedar-lined scents and flavors. Good purity, nicely clean in the mouth. Similar, of course, to the immediately preceding wine, this, to me, was more masculine, possessed of firmer structure and acidity and a more challenging personality. Aaron noted this could probably age significantly longer than the '98, and I agree with his assessment. Very good wine, I'd have the '98 with chuleton and the '99 with lamb.

These will definitely be available in Manila by January or February 2011.

Miguel A. & Richard hard at work.

1998 Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza Reserva - This bottle was from the Stockbroker's vast collection. Previously, we had the Doc's 2001 Reserva which I really liked, and, from the producer, the 2001 Gran Reserva which I didn't enjoy. I remember commenting to Aaron that I seem to prefer their reservas to their gran reservas. Deep, firm, masculine, admirable structure. There is a serious-rustic-macho slant to this wine in its clean lines of leather-laced dark red fruit, discreet sanguine whispers, violets and cedar. Admirable balance and definitiveness, I greatly enjoyed this with my steak.

2004 Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza Reserva - Decanted for about 2 hours or so before I got to it. Still obviously tight and young, it showed similar clean lines, definitive/macho character and firm structure of its 1998 older brother. I wouldn't really start opening these now, but this surely has great potential.

The Doc, who introduced me to Remírez de Ganuza's wine.

The last red I tried out (I purposefully delayed to allow it time to open up in the decanter) was the 2007 Bodegas Roda Rioja Cirsion which I forgot to take a photo of. This seems, at this very early stage, a very modern type of Rioja, in that it is, to me, massively concentrated, ultra-ripe, notably smoky and obviously heavily new-oaked behemoth. Honestly, either this is way too young for me to appreciate or it is a Parker-styled Rioja that does not suit my tastes. At this point, everyone agreed that this was not enjoyable, some saying it lacked typicity. Given its extreme youth, however, I'd reserve judgment and re-try it after, say, 10-12 years, to see how it comes along. Only time will surely tell.

Miguel A., Richard, Miguel & the Doc

We ended with my bottle of 1993 Krebs-Grode Albalonga Trockenbeerenauslese from Rheinhessen, Germany. I found this quite unusual with its relatively light body, sweet grapefruit/pomelo, citrus, vague pineapple, with less sweet grapefruit underlying and trailing in the finish. Acidity was decent, the wine was certainly not cloying. J-Lab suggested I have it with some of Elbert's Apple Charlotte à la Mode - and he was right - it did go well and that dessert seemed to give it some roundness and seeming heft. That said, it is a strange wine, though not unpleasant. In all, I doubt I'll ever buy another albalonga-based wine unless I try it first and like it.

Most enjoyable evening. Many thanks to all who joined us and shared their company - and again to the Stockbroker for sharing his '98 Remírez de Ganuza Reserva. Until the next!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Stockbroker's Birthday Lunch 2010.

On the 6th October 2010, the Stockbroker hosted a lunch at Shang Palace for the Usual Suspects in anticipation of his birthday a few days after. He took care of all the food and, except for the 2 bottles opened after he left (i.e., Arnie's bottles since it was his birthday that day itself), all the wines as well. We were only 8 in all that day as Miguel was in London for work.

The celebrant opening one of the many bottles he brought.

Naturally, he started us off with a glasses of celebratory vintage champagne.

2002 Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Vintage Rosé - I've had this bubbly several times, but the last time I posted on it was around 10 months ago, on occasion of a Veuve Clicquot pairing dinner. It is still a notably bright, vibrant lively and fairly complex, fresh strawberry-dominant champagne (with minor raspberry, cranberry, red currant and brioche notes) and a faint coffee underpinning. What I remember most about this is how clean and neatly-packed it was. Very refreshing. Nice.

A toast to the celebrant.

The Menu

After the 3 dim sums (all good, but what stood out for me were the Deep Fried Cuchay Dumplings), a nice, subtly-flavored Braised Beef with Crabmeat Soup was served...

...which I tried with...

2009 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett - Pleasantly bright, fresh, light-bodied, light-footed, decently crisp, focused pear, Mexican mango (Keitt), slight peach and clean minerality. Comparatively straightforward and just a touch sweeter than other kabinetts I've had, this is quite charming in its simplicity and is very approachable and easy to drink. Very affordable and great value for money (nb: all the rieslings at this lunch are available at Premium Wine Exchange).

The celebrant pours for us.

2009 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Riesling Kabinett - Comparatively better structure, a few shades more in body, depth, suavitée and complexity than the immediately previous wine. This is the best locally available riesling kabinett I have had thus far, so I made a mental note to buy some to keep at home.

2009 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese - Lush, more generous but with notable focus, purity, precision and refinement. Nice slate/minerality in this, as well as alluring honeysuckle notes. Excellent with the Deep-Fried Prawns with Spinach. This wine is another definite buy for me.

Lapu-lapu with Crabmeat sauce

2009 Hermann Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese - What can I say? I've been a sucker for Dönnhoff's Nahe rieslings since I first tried them, and this is yet another reason why. It is extremely difficult not to simply gush about this incredibly pure and focused, exceptionally balanced and complex beauty. I can't try to "break down" the flavors without doing it injustice. Wonderful alone and paired admirably with the slightly spicy beef course.

Stir-Fried Sliced Beef with Garlic Sichuan Sauce

1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia (Magnum) - This is only the 2nd time I've tried this wine, the first time, I foolishly opened the bottle when it was much too young and didn't enjoy it at all. It was, thus, a perfect opportunity to give the wine a fair shake, as it were. One of the less bombastic (this is a good thing for me) Napa cabs I've had of late that displayed judicious use of wood, notable harmony and firm structure in its creamy cassis, black cherry, slight kirsch and raspberry, dark plum, a moderate dose of chocolate, bit of licorice and loam, with a touch of violets. Good balance. I liked it more than I thought I would. Nice.

Conversation over some Beggar's Chicken.

There was another red from the Stockbroker, one I've had around 5 or 6 times previously that I enjoyed every single time. Unfortunately, this particular bottle was slightly corked. It happens. C'est la vie.

It did nothing to dampen the celebration though. I doubt anything could have, given the occasion we were celebrating.

Our generous host and celebrant lingered a few minutes longer and eventually left for an afternoon meeting (nb: happy thing about German rieslings is that they are generally quite low in alcohol, so one is still in fine shape after having quite a bit of them).

Many, many thanks, buddy, and, again, happy birthday.


Arnie then opened a couple of his bottles for us:

2005 Bott-Geyl Pinot Gris Sonnenglanz - Clearly my current favorite locally available pinot gris (distributed by Jerome Philippon's Sommelier Selection), I last posted on this around a year ago from a lunch with Aaron, J-Lab and Apa, during which I paired it very successfully with Peking Duck. My notes then were as follows:

Luscious, curvey and generously fruity from the get-go with grand cru weight and concentration. The soft, honeyed peach, lemon tarte, baked pear flavors are definitely ripe and somewhat creamy (noted by Apa), but with nice minerality, admirable freshness and balance. Its evident round fullness has precise heft and an alluringly viscous texture.

It is difficult for me not to gush about this wine, especially when paired with the 1st Way of the Peking Duck. Admittedly, I am a big fan of this estate and am yet again kicking myself for not having visited them in Beblenheim when I spent several days in nearby Riquewihr, Alsace. This wine is a joy to drink now and, I believe, can gracefully age for several years. I see no point in waiting, though. Enjoy it now with Peking duck and thank me later.

A year later, the wine is still nicely fresh, but somewhat more mellow/less forward and its spiciness has stepped up nicely. Arnie did try to order some Peking Duck to go with his bottle, but the Shang's kitchen was already closed.As far as I was concerned, that was absolutely fine as I was already quite full. Arnie then opened another bottle to end the lunch on a sweet note:

Dutschke Sun-Dried Shiraz - This was the very first shiraz-based dessert wine I've ever had: very full-bodied, dense, thick, viscous (like a pedro ximenez), it was just short of a syrup of prune, raisins, crème de cassis, muscovado, vanilla/oak and slight cinnamon. Very different and interesting. I'd imagine most of the Manila Gentlemen's Club would like to try this out with some cigars. Hopefully, I can get my hands on a bottle of this fairly quickly for such purpose.