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!