Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1st Philippine Wine & Spirits Auction.

The evening of last Thursday, the 24th March 2011, saw the Philippines' 1st Wine & Spirits Auction. The event was conceptualized and organized by wine retailer/direct merchant Forth & Tay and leading alcoholic beverage importer/distributor Future Trade International, in cooperation with Salcedo Auctions, Mandarin Oriental Manila and media partners.

Karen Kua-Lerma, president of Salcedo Auctions, makes the opening remarks.

The proceeds of the auction would go to Virlanie Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping street children.

Virlaine Foundation founding president, Dominique Lemay.

Ina Gemperle who ran the PR of the event and Eric Kahn, Senior Marketing Manager, of Future Trade Int'l. earlier on tapped J-Lab and I to act as the event's "wine experts"* (we're really just geeky winos with around 40 years of studied consumption between us who happen to write about wine) for the inspection of the wines. J-Lab and I inspected the wines on separate days, I visited Future Trade's compound for that purpose after work on the 3rd March 2011. I recall J inspected a day or two before that.

The few bottles brought in the auction from 3rd parties, however, we did not inspect. We were also asked to give a short talk during the formal viewing of the lots and to talk about some of the wines during the auction itself.

Future Trade Int'l. president, James du Vivier.

Yours truly.

*Neither J-Lab nor I charged nor received payment for doing this (we've our real-life jobs to keep ourselves fed and lacquered) and just did it for the love of wine. Besides, the organizers' officers, James du Vivier and Robert Burroughes are friends of ours. They did offer to give us some bottles, but it's not like either of us really need any. We've more than enough fine bottles of our own.

There were hundreds of people at the Mandarin's Ballroom on the 3rd floor. No less than a hundred wines were available for tasting and there were a lot of pica-picas on tables in the middle of the room, situated just before the cordoned-off auction area and stage. Happily, I bumped into so many friends there, among whom were Robert & Jen Burroughes, Juan Carlos de Terry (who entered into auction a 1994 Château Latour and vintages 1972 & 2002 of Oremus Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos), Chef Colin Mackay, fellow WSCP member Bodjie, and, of course, Usual Suspects the Stockbroker, Greg & Arnie.

Auctioneer Hamilton McLeod.

J-Lab commented earlier on that he didn't think the Stockbroker would be bidding that night - likely because he already has over 11,000 premium bottles in his collection. I replied that having a lot of wine never stopped the Stockbroker from buying more - the truth of which J acknowledged with a silent nod. J and I had our own plans for a few of the lots and did our homework on retail prices in the US - so we were ready to bid, our bail prices well in mind - and so proceeded the auction.

David Beddows picked up the lot of 6 bottles of 2004 Penfolds Grange.

Colin got, among others, the 1949 & 1957 Glen Grant Single Malts.

The Stockbroker picked up 3 lots, adding up to 20 bottles, amongst them a mini vertical lot of Santa Rita Casa Real, and promptly reported that the 1995 vintage was delicious, reminding him of "an aged St-Émilion". I picked up one lot of 3 bottles of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Wellington Palo Cortado VORS Jerez - I wasn't really planning to, but, when the auctioneer announced that lot, Catha (who loves Palo Cortado sherry) turned to me and asked "Is that my sherry?" Of course, I had to get it for her then. Fortunately, J-Lab, gentleman that he is, didn't challenge my bid, so I got it at a very good price. Among other active bidders were...

...Stephan Granroth & Stein Melsbo (Neil McLeod between them), and...

...Roger Simmond.

I had my eye on the lot of 6 bottles of 2004 CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino, but other bidders quickly drove up the price so I bailed. Another lot I was interested in was 6 magnums of 1999 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. Since there was only one lot of this and J-Lab, Bodjie and Colin were interested as well, we decided to let J-Lab bid for us all and we'd divide the 6 magnums amongst us. Well, we got the lot at a superb price - so we were all very happy about that.

The organizers with representatives of Frescobaldi, Penfolds, Torres and Santa Rita.

In my estimation, the auction was nothing less than a smashing success. I understand from Ina that 85% or so of the auction lots were sold - not bad at all for a maiden voyage. James, Eric and Ina all thanked J-lab and I for our participation. We were more than happy to have helped - besides, we had fun and picked up some wines at very good prices - what's not to love?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Swiss Dinner @ Appenzeller Bar & Restaurant, Alabang.

After usual Saturday golf, I felt the need of a hearty dinner and didn't feel like going all the way to Makati. Thus, Catha and I took the boys to old, reliable, nearby Appenzeller Bar & Restaurant (Estrellita Bldg II, Alabang-Zapote Road, Alabang) for some Swiss fare. The food is good, consistent, served in large portions and the prices are very reasonable.

We got there early, around 6:45pm. The kids usually play billards while we wait for our food to arrive, but there were already other players using the table when we got there, so we just ordered and waited. We didn't have to wait long (we never do, actually).

Throughout the meal, we had some Oettinger Hefeweißbier Naturtrub Beers - Relatively light, easy-going, gulpable, with very approachable flavors of wheat, malt and slight fruitiness (banana). Nothing intense or serious, but very drinkable and I like it with our regular dishes here.

Appetizers of Chorizo (curiously served with bread and mustard on the side); and,...

...Fried Camembert.

The kids polished off the appetizers very quickly. Catha and I didn't even get any of the cheese. I thought of ordering another one since the kids were bickering about who got more than his fair share, but I decided against it since the portions here are so large (probably catering to the expat crowd that frequents this place).

Case in point: above is the eldest's order of Weinerschnitzel with which he chose a side of fries. He can finish this by himself, but, tonight, he opted to share it and an order of Rösti (background) with Catha. I can't remember the dish's complete name, but it has bacon inside and topped with a fried egg. The second got a platter of Roast Beef & Gravy, with which he had some Potato Salad. The youngest got a platter of Spaghetti Carbonara - which the kids said was pretty decent, but that the one in Caffé Caruso is much better. We also had an extra order of fries for the middle.

Me, I had my usual order of Veal Bratwurst (Boiled), Potato Salad & Sauerkraut. Sounds and looks heavy, but it somehow is not on the belly. I always wind up asking for an extra serving of mustard to go with this. Very nice with the beer.

Everyone got so full, nobody ordered dessert except the second - he got the Apple Strudel, which we recalled was pretty good last time we had it. Unfortunately, he attacked it while I was at the bar having a smoke so I wasn't able to take a photo of it. Nice, casual dinner. I'm glad we have a place like this nearby. The price? Exactly P4007 for everything - coming out to approximately only P800/person and we were all stuffed. Not bad at all!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday Wine Lunch @ RED.

Coming from work, I arrived at around 1:30pm at yesterday's (16th March 2011) wine lunch with the Usual Suspects at RED (Shangri-La Hotel Makati). We were 8 in all for lunch; J-Lab was stuck in a meeting so just followed after.

The guys were already done with their starters and white wine by the time I got there and were making headway into their main courses with the reds. They, however, thoughtfully saved me a glass of white which I had with my first course of Spaghettini Bottarga.

A 1961 Cérons Sec from Richard - served blind to everyone, including, belatedly, to me. Nobody was able to guess what it was. Cérons is a small, white wine producing (80% semillon) AOC within the Bordeaux region, approximately 30 kms south-southeast of Bordeaux City heading towards Langon. I must admit, I had to do some research on it afterwards since I am not familiar with it or the wines therefrom, though I must have surely passed through it a few times in the past.

The wine was light and dancing on the palate, with notes of lightly spicy, moderately sweet, candied pineapple, with bit of peach and apricot underneath. With the dominant, surface candied pineapple notes was a bracing/lifting acidity that was actually quite zippy all the way to the finish. I ventured that it maybe had chenin blanc in it, but Richard shook his head. Other guesses were made, some came close identifying it as a Barsac (I recall Greg being one of them).

We were all quite surprised when Richard revealed it to be a Cérons, and a 50 year-old one at that. Nobody even came close to it's age. I thought it was from the mid-90s. I really must start looking into the wines of Cérons.

Greg & Richard

Next was a red also served blind: Massively concentrated, extracted, mouth-filling, full-bodied, rip-roaring modern with buckets of unabashedly forward, dense super-ripe dark berries, lots of chocolate and new oak/vanilla and low in acidity. There was quite a bit of heat which I may have likely mistaken as pepper notes as well. I guessed it to be an Australian shiraz blend. Others guessed it to be from south America (e.g., Chile and Argentina). It turned out to be a 2003 Château Pavie - the Stockbroker's bottle. Notably, most all of us are very familiar with and favor Bordeaux, and not a single one of us could guess it was from there.

Arnie & Johnny perplexed - as we all were.

My main course of Rack of Lamb finally arrived. I had ordered it pink- between medium rare and medium - but it arrived literally raw inside (mushy and almost impossible to cut with a table knife). I sent it back and it returned a few minutes later properly rosé. With this, I had the rest of the reds.

2005 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta - Mark's bottle. Another modern, very ripe, concentrated, extracted and new-oaky wine, but several notches toned-down and firmer in structure compared to the 2003 Pavie and with a comparably/moderately more meaty/savory character.

2001 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino - Greg's bottle. I've bought and opened many of these, particularly this same vintage, ever since Doc introduced me to this around 7 years ago - I remember it well, he brought one to a dinner we had at Tower Club's continental restaurant (the food was still good there then).

Checking through my blog, the last bottle I have notes on was back on the 19th November 2009 at Kosh Sehwani's Snake River Farms dinner for EO at Enderun's Restaurant 101. Not surprising the time lapse, really, since my stock and that of Bacchus Int'l. ran out a long time ago. Bacchus does have more recent vintages though. My notes then were:
My bottle, 100% sangiovese (called "brunello di Montalcino" in the Montalcino area). I've had this wine a few times before (as well as a few of other vintages of it). The Doc was the one who introduced me to this wine many several years ago. I last had this from the Stockbroker during his 2008 birthday lunch, side-by-side the more modern 2001 Casanova di Neri Brunello Montalcino. My notes then are still applicable:

"2001 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino - Off the bat, from the aromas, I opined that this one was closer to the classic/traditional style: More of sweet cedar, touch of camphor, ripe strawberry, raspberry, cherry, cassis, underlying espresso, light touch of licorice, tobacco, minerals, violets, a whisper of leather. The fruit was not as sweet, but well-ripened as well, and earthier in character.

Clearly more earth-driven (rather than fruit-driven) compared to the other wine - less polished, rounded and sleek as well; but firmer in structure, much better focus and definition. Much more properly reserved. I liked them both, but much preferred this wine as a match for the steak. This is more of an eating wine, it needs food to show its beauty, where the other wine I enjoyed more alone. I accepted a second pour of this one and drained every drop. Excellent match. Loved it with the steak."
This bottle was, as earlier mentioned, decanted and aerated since 12:15 - so over an hour before serving. I like the firm but flexible, somewhat lean but sturdy structure of this wine. Showed more apparent leather notes than last time. Definitely masculine brunello, if not particularly complex, but a no-brainer pairing with the steak.
Now, this wine seems much more relaxed, comfortable and at ease with itself. The fruit had softened and the middle broadened somewhat. This was my favorite match for my rack of lamb.

1995 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou - Aaron's bottle. I've had this a couple of times before, the last (to the best of my knowledge) being on the 31st March 2010 the Ban du Millésime de la Commanderie du Bontemps at the Musée d'Art Contemporain à Bordeaux. I recall vividly that the two bottles at our table then were brought by the producer and I poured from both of them to re-confirm my impressions. My notes then were as follows:

1995 Château Ducru Beaucaillou - Regular drinking buddies know I am not taken by the wines of this highly-acclaimed producer except for a wonderful bottle of the '78 that the Stockbroker generously shared before. This seemed quite closed and reticent. Oh, you'll get the slight asphalt/tar infused blackcurrant, faint herbs, bit of violets and cedar but, as a whole, it just isn't giving much at all. More time in bottle? More aeration? I really don't know.
Yesterday's bottle was similar with not much of a middle and a rather abrupt and clipped finish. Richard called it "a bit flat with a short finish". I agreed.

2001 Domaine Faiveley Latricières Chambertin Grand Cru - My bottle, decanted for well over an hour before I got to it. Richard advised that, due to its youth (for what it is), we should have it with a bit of cheese - so cheese platters were ordered for the wine. Pure, very focused, streamlined red cherries, tartish wild cherries, bit of crunchiness, tightly-knit minerality, slight resin, cedar and whispers of sous bois and violets. Still tight and rather primary. Firm structure, notable length and acid lift. This, I expect, will take around another 7-8 more years to start coming around and developing some real Burgundy decay. The cheese helped it along a bit, I must admit.

Aaron having a good laugh.
The Stockbroker was out intermittently taking calls so I didn't get to take a solo shot of him.

Moët & Chandon Ratafia de Champagne 1743 - Richard's bottle, again served blind. Sweetish white grape juice with a passito-like character and gentle walnut-cognac-reminiscent undertones. I remember asking Richard if this was fortified and saying that the fruit was like a passito and that it reminded me of sweet cognac. Nobody again could even come close to identifying this. Truth to tell, amongst us, only J-Lab knew what ratafia de Champagne was. It turns out it is a vin de liqueuer from Champagne, the fermentation of grape juice being blocked by adding wine distillate.

According to Richard, this was made in 1743 and kept in Moët & Chandon's cellars, bottled, in his estimation, around 60-70 years ago and topped up every so often thereafter. 1743 was the year Moët & Chandon was founded. With the amount of sediment it had (the wine around the punt was virtually black - "more food than drink" commented Richard - it is undoubtedly very old indeed. With the soft cheeses, especially the bleu, it was sublime. What a treat!

Around a little past 3pm, J-Lab called. His meeting finally done, he rushed over and Richard saved him the last glass of old ratafia.

He also had some of the other wines, except the '61 Cérons Sec which was all gone by then.

By that time, Mark, Arnie, Johnny, Greg and the Stockbroker had headed off. Johnny had left us a couple of bottles of ice wine, but Richard had had enough whites by then. Thus, Aaron pulled out another red, this time from Rioja.

2001 Ontañon Colleción Mitológia (Gran Reserva) - Sent to Aaron by the producer for our evaluation and possible inclusion for sale in Manila. Per Aaron, this bottling constitutes the producer's vino de autor (producer's bottling, the wine of which the winemaker is given an absolute free hand in creating in his own personal style). Popped and poured, I let it rest in glass for around 20 minutes before trying it. Rich, well-concentrated, very ripe red fruit with lots of palate push. On the nose are plum, black cherry, raspberry liqueur, anise, vanilla. In the mouth, some dark chocolate undertones. Admirable structure. Lush, forward, modern.

Richard opined it was quite young and should have been decanted for an hour or two beforehand. I'm sure he is right. This has a good future, I think, and will undoubtedly age well; but it doesn't really fit in our focus on aged, traditional tintos Riojanos. Very nice though. I'm sure other ITBers would be happy to bring this in to Manila.

We finally called it a lunch at around 4:45pm. Richard headed home while Aaron, J-Lab and I proceeded to Bacchus to check out the wine sale. Thereafter, J-Lab and I continued on to Terry's 2ºPiso for a meeting with the Futuretrade people for the coming 1st Philippine wine auction. That meeting inevitably led to more wine with some tapas - but I was pretty much all wined out by then.

Until the next!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bodegas Resalte (Ribera del Duero) Dinner @ CAV.

Last night, 9th March 2011, was at CAV for the Bodegas Resalte Dinner organized by The Wine Steward, Inc. (of J-Lab) together with Darras + Bowler (of Dondi Joseph). Laurence Colson, Bodegas Resalte's Export Manager, was there to present the wines.

Catha & I came straight from the office to the event. We got there at 7:30, just in time for the tail-end of cocktails. J-Lab sat with us and walked us through the first two wines served. Thankfully, there were still a lot of pass-arounds left since Catha and I hadn't had lunch.

A vaguely smoky brandada de bangus (i.e., milkfish) according to J-Lab,
alongside a couple of shots of gazpacho.

With those we had a couple of glasses of Torre Oria Cava Brut - 100% macabeo per J-Lab. Pleasant enough basic, straightforward cava with fresh, crisp, dry white grapefruit, undertone of lime and medium acidity. Good match for the gazpacho and brandada de bangus for me, and timely for the coming summer. P570/bottle.

Poured next was the 2008 Peña Roble Joven - The mark "Peña Roble" is under the Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel S.A., the wines of which are meant to be similar to the Resalte but available at lower prices. Charming enough, nice freshness on a light frame. This is meant to be consumed casually at bars with tapas. Pretty decent ripeness of fruit apparent. Very quaffable; good for bars and cocktail parties. P695/bottle.

A couple more tapas were served, one being Shrimp & Cod Fritters with Aioli. Nice. I remembered JC de Terry telling me that tempura was actually introduced in Japan by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries. It was also JC who showed me that tempanillo based tintos go well with certain seafood dishes. The subject tinto joven reinforced what JC taught me.

Shortly thereafter, we were called to the table for dinner proper.

The Menu

Laurence gave a brief talk on Bodegas Resalte's history, mentioning all their wines are 100% tempranillo. We then started things off with a delightful and comforting dish of Warm Chorizo Salad with 62°Organic Egg , Arugula, Rye & Cherry Tomato. Catha and I loved this - earthy and rustic.

The egg, when sliced...

...yielded its golden goodness. Miguel's remark, made in connection with his finding a poached egg underneath an escargot dish at Daniel Boulud's Las Vegas Brasserie: "I was so excited it's like I saw Gold coming out of a faucet". Absolutely delicious. Catha and I wiped our plates clean. This was paired with...

2000 Peña Roble Reserva - Subtly smoldering, slightly smoky, good depth and quiet concentration to its ripe, earthy, cedary, dark red fruit with slight mineral and leather undertones. Notable balance in this; good depth as well. Many spontaneously expressed appreciation for this wine, myself included. A crowd pleaser, and, at its very reasonable price of P1,385/bottle, I easily can and do recommended this wine.

The next dish was Duck Feuilleté with Confit of Marmalade, Coco Beans & Foie Gras Velouté - yet another earthy and comforting dish. It may not be visible in the photo due to the angle, but the duck skin had a perfect toasty/smoky caramelized crispness. The duck's complex fruity-coco-foie savoriness simply went hand in hand with the Peña Roble Reserva's ripe-red fruit. Lovely.

The 2007 Resalte Vendimia Seleccionada was also served with the duck. Clean, neat lines, comparatively linear, less concentrated, with materially less depth and lighter in frame compared to the '00 Peña Roble Reserva. Young vines most likely. I commented to J-Lab that it tasted like a rainy harvest wine. I asked Laurence about the 2007 vintage weather in Ribera del Duero and she did mention there were rains before harvest. I'd like to try this again after 2-3 years to see how this can flesh out and open up. P930.00/bottle.

Dondi took this photo of Catha and I.

With the hearty, buttery soft and rich course of Braised Angus Short Rib, Saffron Potatoes, Speck & Brussels Sprouts, two wines were served side-by-side.

Laurence introduces the wines as Dondi looks on and Lucia van Bebber takes notes.

2005 Resalte Crianza; and,...

... 2004 Resalte Reserva.

After tasting both, I opted to eat with the 2005 Crianza and to have the 2004 Reserva after the meat course. The 2005 Resalte Crianza has a moderate, toasty oak lushness to it and has evidently comparatively better depth than the 2007 Vendimia Seleccionada. I chose to eat with it since it seemed to me to have a more rigid tannic backbone, and a touch of dry severity that served as a good foil for the buttery-rich, melt-in-your-mouth short rib. P1355/bottle.

The 2004 Resalte Reserva, on the other hand, though a year younger, seemed softer and more accessible alone. This was another wine that made me sit up and take notice. It seems, at this tasting, the reservas were putting forth a very strong quality statement - both in the Peña Roble and Resalte lines. Notable depth, precise concentration, balancing acidity with a modernish candied-ripeness of fruit accented by notes of coffee, licorice, well-integrated toasty oak and cinnamon. Very nice, and well-recommended at P2665/bottle.

David de Montaigne and Laurence Colson.

With the Cheese Plate with Mostarda & Condiments,...

2000 Gran Resalte (Gran Reserva) - New oak, I do not think American, is in the nose, but not overly so. There is the heft and breadth of a modern tempranillo-based wine, but with notable streamlined, neatness and purity. Pleasant dose of spiciness to the deep fruit. All corners tucked in neatly. Marginally more reserved than the 2004 Resalte Reserva, I'd guess that is due to lack of material aeration as there seems to be more smoldering power lurking in the depths of this wine. I'd certainly like to try this again with more time for aeration. As it was, I finished my glass of it quicker than I had intended. Very nice alone and with the cheese as well. P3960/bottle.

Dessert was an excellent Chocolate Terrine & Olive Oil Ice Cream on a Caramelized Olive Base. Although I do enjoy chocolate desserts and well-executed olive oil ice cream (I like the ones I've had at Pepato, Terry's 2º Piso and La Tienda), I do not normally finish a serving myself - especially rich chocolate portions. Well, this one, I finished every bit.

Glasses of Torre Oria Cava Semi Seco were served with dessert, but I had mine after. Similar to the starting cava, but, of course, a little off dry, heftier, with more of a rounded feel mid-mouth - a pleasant enough way to "wash up" after an excellent meal. P570/bottle.

J-Lab then took the floor, thanked everyone for attending...

...and led a round of applause for Laurence and Bodegas Resalte.

The evening's organizers, J-Lab & Dondi, take a well-earned break with
Lemuria proprietress Kit Schroeder after a night's "work".

CAV's own David Ong, joined by his wine-loving friends,
held court at his own long table for this event.

I must make special mention of the excellent meal we had. CAV's team of Chefs Markus Gfeller and Bjoern van den Oever deserve a lot of praise. Not only were all the courses very well executed, the portioning of each dish was precise. The service was good as well. Great work over-all. I'll most likely be eating at CAV more often in the future.