Friday, February 25, 2011

Manila Blind Bordeaux Challenge XVIII: California Takes It Again.

Last night, the 24th February 2011, was the Grand Crew's 18th Blind Bordeaux Challenge at the Hotel Intercontinental Manila's Carlos P. Romulo Room of the Prince Albert Restaurant.

The Tasting Panel.

Doc points out his great-grandfather, former Philippine President Sergio Osmeña, in a photo with Gen. Douglas McArthur and Carlos P. Romulo.

As always, 4 competing reds were fielded to challenge the group's preference for Bordeaux, ranked blind by a panel of eight (i.e., us and our wives). We started off with some Freixenet Reserva Real Cava with our...

...Amuse Bouche.

The Reserva Real is really a step up from the run-of-the-mill cavas locally available: more fullness, body, depth and complexity, with entertaining subtle toasty notes, yet still retaining that refreshing cava character. Mrs. Vigneron mentioned that she'd enjoyed a bottle of this recently with Barbara A. The bottle I brought last night was quickly drained. I should've brought two.

The Prince Albert's manager, the ageless Francis, took care of us that night; and, acting as our sommelier for the competition was no less than the hotel's F&B Manager, Laurent Casteret.

Since I enjoyed the Pan-fried U.S. Scallops Salad with Greens, Balsamic Olive Oil and Leeks Wrapped in Bacon during a recent lunch here, I had it again last night, as did the Vigneron and Mrs. Stockbroker. With this we enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay - from the Stockbroker. Pear, slight green apple, hint of peach, leesy vanilla and oak notes on an medium frame. Trim and nicely taught until midmouth, expanding with added buttery notes thereafter to a notable finish. Available locally at Premium Wine Exchange. This is my wife's favored style of chardonnay and she enjoyed it with her starter of...

Braised Burgundy Snails in Fresh Herbs and Garlic Butter.

The competing reds were then served...

...and the game was afoot.

There were initial comments that, aside from Wine # 4, the others seemed to have very similar bouquets and flavors. It was actually quite difficult for some of us to decide, so my wife and I waited to for our main courses to try out the wines' pairing capabilities and for them to open up a bit more.

My Roasted Australian Rack of Lamb with Green Mustard-Crumb, Garden Vegetables, Potatoes and Onion.

My wife's Roasted U.S. Angus Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding, baked Potatoes and Red Wine Sauce.

The Yorkshire Pudding in a puddle of gravy.

Wine # 1 - Resiny topnote, herbs, underlying plum to mild cassis, sweetish tea leaves, violets raspberry and slight cranberry surface towards the back and in the finish. Nice and neat. Good purity, poise, precise balance. I eventually ranked this as the 1st best wine. It turned out to be Doc's 1992 Ridge Montebello.

Wine # 2 - Persistent saline topnote, the tightest and lightest in body of the wines. Comparatively linear as well. Expanded a bit towards the back. I ranked this 4th best. It turned out to be the Stockbroker's 1987 Dominus.

Wine # 3 - Warm, plum, cassis, raspberry, dried herbs, bit of wet tea leaves. This was the most concentrated and heftiest of the wines. I ranked this 3rd best and it turned out to be my 1995 Château La Mission Haut Brion. Nb: I decanted this for 2 hours per the e-mail advice from the château.

Wine # 4 - Bouquet of tea leaves, gaminess, cedar, obviously the oldest wine by far. Raspberry, cherry, plum, light whisper of balsamico. Violets. Lots of bottle-age sweetness. I ranked this 2nd best and it turned out to be the Vigneron's 1990 Château Palmer.

We also had the above 2 reds (not served blind, not entered in competition) as pairings for our main courses: a 1990 Château Lynch Bages from Doc, and a 1979 Château Pichon Lalande from the Vigneron. I opined that the 1990 Lynch Bages, if entered, would have won.

The Results*:
(tallied as usual by Mrs. Vigneron)

1st Place - Doc's 1992 Ridge Montebello with a total of 28 points broken down as follows: five 1st place votes (Mrs. Doc, Mrs. Stockbroker, Mrs. Vigneron, Doc & myself); two 2nd place votes (Catha & the Vigneron); and, one 3rd place vote (the Stockbroker).

2nd Place - The Vigneron's 1990 Château Palmer with 22 points broken down as follows: three 1st place votes (Catha, the Stockbroker and the Vigneron); two 2nd place votes (Doc and myself); one 3rd place vote (Mrs. Stockbroker); and, two 4th place votes (Mrs. Doc and Mrs. Vigneron).

3rd Place - The Stockbroker's 1987 Dominus with 16 points as follows: two 2nd place votes (Catha and the Stockbroker); four 3rd place votes (Catha, Mrs. Doc, Mrs. Vigneron and Doc); and two 4th place votes (the Vigneron and myself).

4th Place - My 1995 Château La Mission Haut Brion with 13 points as follows: two 2nd place votes (Mrs. Vigneron and Mrs. Doc); one 3rd place vote (myself); and, five 4th place votes (Catha, Mrs. Stockbroker, Doc, the Stockbroker and the Vigneron).

*There was an error in the voting as the Vigneron ranked 2 wines 4th place (the 1987 Dominus and the 1995 La Mission Haut Brion), but the error would not have had an effect on the rankings.

This made for Doc's 4th consecutive victory, and his 2nd with a Californian wine (ref: Bordeaux Challenge XVI whereat Doc won with a 1994 Peter Michael Les Pavots). He half-jokingly proclaimed that our blind competitions should officially be re-named as "Blind Napa Challenge".


The Vigneron thereafter somehow managed to break one of the wine glasses - the one which happened to contain his share of the winning wine from Sta. Cruz, California - and had everyone in stitches by exclaiming "Zat eez what eet deserves!".

Ze yooltimate yoomiliation.

An assortment of desserts followed, but I only got to take a photo of the Gâteau Basque Almond Cream Pie and Orange Grand Marnier Ice Cream. I recall a Chocolate Soufflé, Crêpe Suzette and, I think, a Pistachio Financier with Home-Made Fresh Mango Ice Cream.

The results highly unsatisfactory for all but one competitor, there are never any hard feelings, and, of course, we were all very happy for Doc.

Until the next!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wines @ Mamou; Craft Beers @ The Tasting Room.

Recently discovering that Richard had not yet eaten at Mamou, Miguel and I set up a lunch there with the Usual Suspects. Jimmyton Araneta of Global Beer Exchange joined us for lunch and wine, and we were to proceed to The Tasting Room at the Greystone Gallery thereafter. We were 9 in all: the Stockbroker, Vince, Arnie, J-Lab, Jimmyton, Richard, Miguel, Greg and myself.

Malou Fores happened to be entertaining people at her restaurant that day, and she and her sister, Annie (who manages Mamou), took real good care of us (as always). Though our table is quite demanding due, among others, to our need of a lot of stemware, everything ran perfectly smoothly. Mig and I were the first ones in, so Malou sent us a couple of complimentary very refreshing Dalandan Slushies which were most welcome as it was a very hot day.

Richard arrived next and the rest arrived in short order. We had, in the meantime, started off with some of my favorite, locally available cava (thankfully, Aaron's ADP has a new stock of this):

Freixenet Reserva Real - My bottle, one of several I ordered from ADP Industries' December shipment (Miguel A. immediately got half a case as well). I've favored Freixenet's special blend of vintage cavas from the first time I tried it from Aaron, so I took particular note of this bottling's cellar when I visited Freixenet at Sant Sadurni d'Anoia (outskirts of Barcelona) in the morning of March 24th, 2010.

Clean, toasty, slightly biscuity (with time in the glass), heftier, creamier and rounder than most cavas I have. This is always very well received when I open it for friends. Great stuff, I most always have a stock of it at home.

With our Spaghetti Bottarga first course, we had 2009 Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis - Miguel's bottle which he brought in from Piedmonte (he also got some for me, but I've already finished my bottles - the last one at our farewell tribute to Je Suis Gourmand to go with the moules de Bouchot marinière with frites). Then, as now: "Slight hints of cool limestone and seashell infuse bright, vibrant, mild grapefruit, bit of pear, apple, citrus with an appetizing bitter-almond nuance....Love it." It was an excellent match for the bottarga pasta.

Greg, Jimmyton, Vince, Arnie, the Stockbroker, J-Lab, Richard & Miguel.

For 8 of us (J-Lab opted for a Roast Beef Sandwich that day), I ordered 3 Double-Sized Dry-Aged US Prime-Grade Bone-In Rib-Eyes and 1 Dry-Aged US Prime-Grade T-Bone Steak. Unfortunately, the T-Bone was attacked before I got to take a photo of it. With these, and many orders of Steak Rice (red for Miguel & Jim, white for the rest of us) and a couple of orders of Creamed Spinach, the reds were poured.

There were so many, I only got to have a few of them. There were a couple that were proclaimed by their owners as off/damaged bottles (Richard's 1996 Bahans de Haut Brion and Greg's 2001 Phélan Ségur) so I didn't try either of them. What I did have were:

1995 Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot - My bottle, a bit reticent at first, but eventually fleshed out, gained heft and opened up in glass. Halfway between medium and full bodied, this showed smoke, underlying roasted coffee, licorice, toasty oak, violets, bit of leather and tar in its dark plum, black cherry and bit of raspberry. Comes off a bit rustic to me, but a very decent wine for the steaks.

Richard polishes off his Roero arneis before the steaks and reds.

Jim did with his cava as well.

1993 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - The Stockbroker's bottle, from consistently one of my favorite Napa producers. Dark, judiciously concentrated Bordeaux-esque black fruit, cassis, bit of tobacco, black coffee, cedar, violets, moderate oak, slight mintiness at the top and middle gives it away as a Napa. Smoldering, serious personality. Very nice.

Having a good laugh at Miguel who always orders the "healthier" red steak rice, but always has some of the white version after he finishes the former.

2001 Karl Lawrence Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - J-Lab's bottle. Evidently ripely sweeter in fruit (crème de cassis, hint of kirsch, underlying sweet pipe tobacco as well) than the '93 Montelena (the vintage) and with crowd-pleasing doses of chocolate and vanilla bean. This has an easily approachable, easy-going personality. Not quite as complex or serious as the Montelena, but easily pleasing and easy to like.

Vince had brought along a bottle of Rasteau which I was unable to try; but he did bring another BC wine and made sure we all got some (we kid him a lot about his advocacy of BC wines and his persistent, though, to date, unsuccessful attempts to "show us the light" as regards these wines). In the above photo, Greg chuckles as Jim pours him some of the BC wine. Greg is a steadfast Bordeaux aficionado, so I was teasing him that the BC wine may give him a rash.

Vince looks on as the BC wine is tested out.

Note the Stockbroker's bemused expression (top right) as he sniffed.

This is the latest BC wine Vince inflicted upon us. Slightly cloyingly sweet, hot, notably concentrated and extracted, hit of pepper, good dose of wood. I don't know what its name or vintage was. It wasn't for Greg, Miguel, Richard and I (we dumped our glasses). Jim was being as polite as can be. We, though, gave Vince a lot of good-natured grief over it - I kidded him about his having to pay for the whole lunch as a penalty for bringing that wine. Vince is always a great sport though - and, knowing him, he'll have yet another BC wine for us to try all too soon.

The Aftermath.

Dessert for the group was a few orders of Pecan Pie with Schlag. This is probably the best pecan pie I've had in the country - rich, very flavorful, but not cloyingly sweet as many are. This was expertly chosen by J-Lab to pair with a special sweet wine.

Bodegas Alvear Solera 1910 PX (D.O. Montilla Moriles) - The Stockbroker's bottle. Lovely, rich, warm, liqueur-like, mild/not too sweet molasses, sweet-dried dates, dried fig, walnut, vanilla, hint of malt. The sweetness is there, but much milder than most all PXs I've had. Lovely stuff and an absolutely genius of a match for the pecan pie. I'll remember this pairing for a very long time.

Thereafter, a few of us had some double espressos, then the Stockbroker and Vince headed off. The rest of us proceeded to the Makati CBD to The Tasting Room of Jimmyton at my schoolmate Eric Jurado's Greystone Gallery (G/F, Prince Plaza II, Legazpi St. Greenbelt Park, Makati City - it's across Greenbelt 5).

Tons of really good craft beers and some Vela de Lomo.

Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale - As I understood, this is a Belgian styled pale ale with, per Jim, muscat, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc juice blended in. I could get the gewürz note in the finish, and J-Lab noted the muscat in the slight, general grapey slant of the ale. Very nice and very easy to drink. Clean and cleansing for me after all the steak and wine. J-Lab (or was it Arnie?) noted a slight carbonated mouthfeel to this. According to Jim, this is, ideally, supposed to be aged for another year. I liked it fine already, myself.

Rogue John John Hazelnut Brown Nectar - This was aged hazelnut spice rum barrels. Moderately malty, slight hoppiness, very mild caramel, bit of milk chocolate, toasted hazelnuts. Slightly heftier than the preceding pale ale. I'll likely get some of this in my next order for my 2 older boys to try since they like nutella so much.

Anderson Valley 20th Anniversary Imperial India Pale Ale - Orange peel, pine and mild citrus lace this ale's smooth, moderate hoppiness. Dangerously drinkable, this goes down all too easily. I think this would be nice for the beach and the summer in general.

Double Bastard Ale - Since I mentioned to Jim that I really liked the Double Dead Guy Ale I had at the Tasting Room the week before, he made sure I got to try this, one of his favorites. This is powerful stuff, it's not heavy on the palate or the belly - it is smooth and has good focus and purity - but it does, indeed, have quite a kick and you can taste it - but not in an overwhelming manner. You just can tell. Despite its power, it does make for easy drinking though. Miguel said he'd have this with some of the really raunchy cabrales he brought back from Spain. Exceptionally good.

Stone Imperial Russian Stout - Dried fruits, dark chocolate, bit of coffee. Very mild oatmeal, whispers of caramel and vanilla. I favor stouts. This was probably my favorite amongst all those we had last night. I did order a mixed case while I was there so I hope I included this in it. I'm not sure, though, if I placed my order before tasting this. Loved it in any event. If I didn't include it last night, I will certainly include it in my next order. Due to issues of storage space, I can't order more than a case at a time - but, no worries, as the weekend is coming up and my 2 teenage boys will surely make a good dent in this latest case.

Aside from these, we had several others, such as the Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout (which I've written about a few times before), Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale (a favorite of Richard), etc. Thereafter, Arnie and J-Lab left for a dinner, so Jim, Miguel, Richard and I soldiered on with Eric (on the right in the photo below) joining us.

We were, understandably, getting pretty plastered by then. I certainly was, so I started munching on some of the jamón Jim served - in hopes that the pork would help sober me up a bit.

Richard was already very "happy" and Mig looked like he was feeling no pain. This was taken a few minutes before Richard suddenly disappeared. We wondered if he walked home to sleep (he lives very nearby) or headed for Masseto where he always seems to be dining. Jim then had opened yet another for us for the road:

Anderson Valley Brother David's Triple Abbey Style Ale - Fruity with pear, banana, a bit of dried fruits, mild yeastiness, sweetishly malty towards the back, reminiscent of some trappist ales I've had (but not very dry like Duvel). Quite pleasant, easy to drink. Easily approachable.

What a day! I was totally wiped by the time I got home at around 8:30pm, and, promptly, passed out for an hour on the couch in the upstairs family room. My wife said our dachshund kept barking at me while I dozed. He must not have recognized my scent as I was reeking of alcohol (more than usual, anyway). Whew! I'd better lay low the rest of the week as yesterday was a real bender. We'll see.