Christmas Dinners

It was a busy and eventful year so we had a lot of things to celebrate this year and some incredible wines to match.

21 December 2014, Gotham Bar & Grill, Manhattan

One year earlier, I had proposed to Diane and we went to dinner at Gotham Bar & Grill to celebrate.  A year later, I surprised her by having her parents and my brother join us.  In addition to a superb seasonal menu, we had:

N.V. Jacques Selosse Champagne Blanc de Noirs La Côte Faron

N.V. Jacques Selosse Champagne Blanc de Noirs La Côte Faron

The same wine we had in Piedmont at La Ciau del Tornavento – it remains my favorite Champagne I’ve ever tasted.  His solera-style Pinot Noir based wine is utterly profound with huge textural depth and richness.  It develops over time in the glass as the Champagne warms up to room temperature.  Floral and fruity armoas overlay the biscuity/brioche flavors of the wine.  98 points

Our white for the evening was from one of our favorite producers in Burgundy:

2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Meix Chavaux

2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Meix Chavaux

Still very young and tense with a piercing acidity that made me think of Chablis initially.  Mainly lemon and citrus at this point as I believe this is still too young to hit its proper stride but still a good wine.  90 points

We finished the meal with the wine that was a turning point for both Diane and I:

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero

We tasted this wine for the first time 4 years ago and it was the first “wow” wine we shared together.  It immediately made Giacosa one of our favorite producers and Barolo one of our favorite regions to this day.  This wine was in top form with the perfect combination of sweet candied fruits with the complexity of leather, cigar box and damp earth that age adds to Barolos.  Don’t think this improves much more although I think it will continue to hold on for another 5 years at least.  96 points

24 December 2014, 222 Park Ave. South, Manhattan

We were fortunate enough to share Christmas Eve with Anthony, Jennifer, Jennifer’s mom and Nicolas at their apartment.  An incredible meal of smoked salmon (from Scotland!) and rack of lamb with potatoes was delicious as always.  As is becoming a bit of a tradition this holiday season, we started with our favorite Blanc de Blancs:

2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

The tasting notes from our visit to the winery are still relevant here.  An incredibly complex wine that’s still an infant but shows freshness as a result.  96 points

For the smoked salmon, we moved on to a Champagne with more Pinot in the blend:

2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame

2004 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame

Again, the tasting notes from the Chateau visit are relevant here although as we spent more time with this wine during the meal, I felt the wine started to open up more, possibly hinting at its potential down the road.  White stone fruit and more textural depth than the Ruinart.  93+ points

The piece de resistance of the night was the red Anthony opened for us – the best Bordeaux experience I’ve ever had:

1983 Chateau Palmer

1983 Chateau Palmer

You can taste the large portion of Merlot with the great body.  It still has huge structure as you’d expect from Palmer but in this instance with the tannins balanced and smooth and the entire palate in perfect harmony.  I’m not sure if Bordeaux can get better than this … but in case it can: 99 points

25 December 2014, 100 Jane Street, Manhattan

Our Christmas dinner was spread out over a few hours as we moved from cured meats and cheeses to the various courses of the meal.  The highlight of the food was a 4 oz white truffle which we paired with several courses but the wines made it special.

With our cured meats and cheeses, we had:

  1. N.V. Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label) – a great entry level wine that’s simpler than its vintage brethren.  Good acidity and citrus fruit with just minor hints of bread.  A good aperitif.  89 points
  2. 2004 Veuve Cliqcuot La Grande Dame (see note above) – showed just as well one day later. 93+ points

For our first course, we had baked eggs with white truffles.  I wanted a lighter but medium bodied white to pair with the truffles here so we went with a 2010 Emidio Pepe Pecorino.  This was my first experience with a Pepe white and I wasn’t a huge fan of the fairly oxidative style although the pairing was decent.  Golden yellow color with some honeysuckle and peach on the palate.  Too much air for a 2010 in my opinion.  Curious to see how this changes in bottle although I’m not sure it’s going to get matierally better.  88 points

For our pasta course, we had the simple tajarin with white truffles, paired with a wine Nard brought, the 1996 Eraldo Viberti Barolo.  Drinking perfectly now from a strong vintage, the Viberti has everyone you want in a Barolo of this age, it just is lacking the extra “it” factor to make it an exceptional wine and I think it’s at the peak of its drinking window at this point.  90 points.

The main course featured a roasted pork shoulder, green beans with almonds and Diane’s famous mashed potatoes.  This paired with a second bottle Nard brought, the 2003 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo that was drinking exceptionally well for an off vintage.  Great complexity on the palate and a lingering finish – I’m not sure this gets better but it might so I’m going to wait before trying another one. 92+ points

The Christmas Lineup

The Christmas Lineup

We’re going to have to open some serious wines on New Year’s Eve to top this …

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Champagne – Dom Ruinart & Veuve Clicquot – Tasting notes

31 October 2014, Reims, Champagne

Before getting to the tasting notes, for anyone thinking about visiting the Champagne region, it can be more than a day trip from Paris.  We spent a couple days exploring the town of Reims and enjoyed visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palais du Tau and the Hotel Le Verguer.  Additionally, L’assiette Champenois is an incredible dining experience as Antonio has mentioned in a prior Vinous Table post.  Friendly service, a gorgeous atmosphere and French food at its best – truly deserving the 3 Michelin Stars in my opinion.

I. Dom Ruinart

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The oldest Champagne house founded in 1729, this is one of the big houses I did not have a lot of experience tasting prior to this trip.  That changed fairly quickly after tasting their wines and I’ve already purchased some of the 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs.

1. NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – bright and fresh with citrus aromas and a light body with a short finish.  A simple, linear wine that I wasn’t a huge fan of as it lacked depth.  They try to achieve this type of style for this wine though by only blending 3 recent vintages to keep the freshness.  60-70% is a base year with 80% from premier cru sites with 9g / liter of dosage.  88 points

2. 2004 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs – toasted, creamy and vanilla notes.  When you close your eyes and smell the wine, it gives aromas of a great white burgundy.  More layers and depth than the NV but still very tight today.  They only use grapes from grand cru sites for this wine and is a wine I’ve already started purchasing.  Also 9g / liter of dosage.  96+ points

3. NV Ruinart Rose – again, as with the NV Blanc de Blancs, linear and simpler taste on the palate.  Strawberry/red fruit and floral aromas but something I would use as an aperitif or summer wine as it lacks the power and depth to be a great food pairing wine.  As with most of the big houses, they make their roses by blending red and white base wines.  89 points

4. 2002 Dom Ruinart Rose – great potential but way to young and too tight.  I thought the ’04 Blanc de Blancs could use time in the bottle to get better, the Rose NEEDS time in the bottle at this point.  Toasted bread, ripe strawberries, red roses but noticeable acidity and concentration that I think could get better with time.  Having not tasted any older vintages of this wine, tough for me to score today.  93+ points

Our four wines at Ruinart

Our four wines at Ruinart

In glasses

In glasses

II. Veuve Clicquot

Our amazing tasting at Veuve Clicquot started at their private hotel in Reims, Hotel du Marc where a representative joined us for lunch.  The goal of the lunch was to show how well Champagne can pair with food.  The building itself was incredible and located fairly close to the winery’s visiting area.

Our menu at Hotel du Marc

Our menu at Hotel du Marc

Wines with lunch:

1. 2004 Veuve Clicquot Grande Dame – biscuit/yeasty aromas with a complex, layered palate.  Vanilla brioche with piercing acidity.  It didn’t feel as tight as the 2004 Dom Ruinart which felt as if it could eventually explode and yield greater complexity – this wine was drinking well and paired well with our appetizers with its high acidity but probably doesn’t have the same upside.  93 points

2. 2004 Veuve Clicquot Rose – roses, red fruit with some noticeable tannins.  As with Dom Ruinart, made as a blend of white and red base wines.  20 wines in the blend including grand and premier cru.  91 points

3. NV Veuve Clicquot Demi-sec – 35g / liter dosage and meant to be paired with our desserts.  Not only was I not a big fan of the wine, I didn’t think it was a good match for most desserts as it’s sweet but not enough to match anything but the simplest desserts.  Stone fruit and ripe pears on the palate with still some acidity to balance the sweetness.  If anything, I’d drink this wine by itself as a digestif, not with desserts or before a meal.  88 points

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It’s also worth mentioning that a visit to Veuve Clicquot is worth it for the cellar tour alone.  We only saw a small portion of the 18km they have but it was staggering.  Combining former stone mining tunnels with newly built tunnels, it’s such a large operation they use golf carts to go from one part to another:

The yellow stairway to their caves

The yellow stairway to their caves

Lane lines in their cellar

Lane lines in their cellar

Dinner @ Maialino with a few French wines

28 August 2014, Maialino, Manhattan

Maialino has been one of my favorite restaurants in NYC since it opened.  It’s located in the beautiful Gramercy Park Hotel (a pre-dinner cocktail at the Rose Bar across the lobby is a great way to start the evening) and has a lively and inviting atmosphere paired with impeccable, friendly, Danny-Meyer style service.  The food is fantastic and the wine list is among the most fairly priced in the city.  I recently went for dinner with my fiance and a couple friends, one of whom works in the wine industry.

We had several antipasti to start including the fried artichoke and lemon (a must order).  We started with a bottle of the 2007 Pierre Peters Les Chetillons.  A gorgeous wine that took time to come alive in the glass.  Floral aromas and stone fruit with great minerality on the palate.  The wine was at its best after having time to breathe and warm up a bit – delicious today but will definitely get better with age.  (Also, at $185, an incredible deal at a restaurants given it retails for around $125 in the USA.)

*** 2007 Pierre Peters Les Chetillons:

We shared several pastas including the Malfatti with the braised suckling pig and arugula which is always my favorite pasta there.  We also shared a couple entrees including the piece de resistance, the maialino al forno!  The reason we came to eat here did not disappoint with the crispy skin and soft pork underneath.

For wines, we brought two Bordeaux: 1996 Jean Gautreau de Sociando-Mallet and 1998 Chateau Figeac.  All of us at dinner were relative novices in Bordeaux so thought it’d be fun to try these blind to see if we could guess which wine is which.  This would be harder than a typical left bank/right bank blind tasting as the Jean Gautreau is a barrel selection bottling and Sociando-Mallet has a large percentage of Merlot.  Also, the Figeac is almost 1/3 each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

** 1996 Jean Gautreau de Sociando-Mallet

*** 1998 Chateau Figeac

The 1996 Jean Gautreau tasted like the younger wine.  It still has heat on the nose and attack and actually smelled to me like a California style Merlot!  Green peppers and herbaceous notes, full bodied and noticeable oak.  Not my expected style of wine from Bordeaux but definitely well made and I would wait at least 5 years before trying another bottle of this.

The 1998 Figeac was much closer to fully mature – this smelled more like a left bank wine to me.  Floral aromas and cherry, tobacco and subtle hints of oak on the palate.  More medium bodied than the Gautreau and a lighter wine in flavor dimensions.  I had no problem finishing this wine but had some of the Gautreau left over – not because I didn’t enjoy it but it was too heavy for me by the end of the meal.

Catch Up

24 March 2013 – 14 April 2013, Manhattan, NY and Tucker’s Point, Bermuda

Lots of travel, golf and work set me back a few months on the blog so here’s my catchup post.

Prior to Dan and Sul’s move to London, Anthony, Jennifer, Diane and I joined them for a memorable dinner at Gramercy Tavern. We started with Dom Perignon at Anthony’s apartment beforehand and had two delicious but totally different wines with our meal:

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines "Anomaly" White Pinot Noir

2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir

A white pinot noir from the Finger Lakes of NY, this was refreshing and clean but with a red fruit flavor. The wine is made from Pinot Noir but the juice is immediately pressed and does not ferment with the skins, stems or seeds. The wine has a slight rose color despite the name and no tannins – great for appetizers and seafood.

The second wine of the night was my contribution:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Santo Stefano di Perno

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno

Giuseppe Mascarello’s Barolo from Monforte and his less heralded wine was drop-dead gorgeous. The floral and earthy aromatics led to an elegant mixture of red fruit, tannins and structure. Extremely delicate for a 2001 Barolo and in my opinion, drinking better today than the 2001 Monprivato.

Before Dan and Sul took off, we spent one evening setting up a Slingbox for them in our apartment (don’t think they get NFL Redzone yet in London). We opened two California reds that night and both were juicy, young and delicious:

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Bryant Family DB4 & 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon

The Bryant Family was a huge, inky, dark wine with strawberry, cherries and spice. Huge body and a bit too bold for me right now (will leave the other two bottles in the cellar for a while). While everyone else preferred the DB4, I liked the Paul Hobbs which had a similar fruit profile but more spice and leathery/earthy characteristics. It is also a wine I’ll wait a few years before tasting again.

Our second annual pre-golf, golf trip was female friendly so Diane came this year and we stayed at Tucker’s Point in Bermuda. The last night we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, The Point, and picked a new wine for both of us:

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin

A balanced and subtle Burgundy with plenty of bright red fruit but with a good backbone. It paired well with our fish dishes that had more complex sauces and seasonings. Medium body with a long finish.

We opened this last bottle after I got back from the 4th annual actual golf trip (AAA victorious!). Diane’s mom came into the city and we decided to go to dell’anima last minute. We brought:

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato

As I said above, I think that today, the Santo Stefano di Perno is drinking better than his flagship wine from Castiglione Falletto. I decanted this for a few hours and it was still continuing to evolve in the glass at the restaurant. While it wasn’t shut down, it took lots of swirling to coax the fruit out of the glass and the aromatics still have a ways to go before producing the perfume you’d expect from a Monprivato. Great wine but I plan on waiting at least three to four years before opening my next bottle.

** 2011 Anthony Nappa Wines “Anomaly” White Pinot Noir $19

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno $85

*** 2009 Bryant Family DB4 $100

*** 2009 Paul Hobbs Cabernet $75

*** 2005 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin $150

*** 2001 Giuseppe Mascarello Barolo Monprivato $125

White Burgundy

6 March 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

After the success of our Bordeaux dinner, Diane suggested we do another event focusing on white Burgundy. After some discussion, we narrowed our wines down to four Chablis and five Meursault. Vintages ranged from 1996-2002 and the freshness, diversity and complexity of the wines was incredible.

Our tasting table at the end of the night

Our tasting table at the end of the night

The food pairings worked well as Chef Ryan started us off with three ceviches: tuna with Shishito peppers, rockfish and scallops. The main course was organic roasted chicken on a bed of wheatberry, currants and olives.

On to the wines:

  1. *** 1996 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Montee de Tonnerre (Premier Cru) – in a surprising start to the flight, we had a barrel fermented Chablis that had a combination of the expected minerality and white pepper spice along with noticeable, but well integrated oak. The primary fruit was peach and this was not the stereotypical austere, high-acid Chablis that are typical from the region. $200
  2. *** 1996 Domaine Francois Raveneau, Vailllons (Premier Cru) – peach again, very similar to the first bottle but with more acidity and a less complex mid palate. Still excellent. $150
  3. *** 1997 Domaine Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Les Clos (Grand Cru) – full bodied, almost creamy with pears and caramel on the palate. Reminded me of a white from Lopez de Heredia – slightly oxidized and deliciously thick. $200
  4. ** 1997 Domaine Rene & Vincent Dauvissat, Vaillons (Premier Cru) – medium bodied and less complex than the Les Clos, hint of peaches and fruit but believes this is past its prime. $165
  5. *** 2000 Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Les Perreiers (Premier Cru) – our first of the Meursault flight, medium body with the smell of burnt oak. Buttery with an extremely long finish. $250
  6. *** 2000 Domaine Coche-Dury, Vireuils (Village) – huge structure with striking acidity and peach/stone fruit on the palate. Balanced and elegant – my wine of the night. $300
  7. *** 2002 Guy Roulot, Les Luchets (Village) – slightly oxidized with a palate of honey and nutty stone fruit. Medium bodied and a long finish. $150
  8. *** 1996 Guy Roulot, Les Tillets (Village) – also slightly oxidized but very balanced with the acidity, less complex than the ’02 Luchets but similar flavor profile. $200

A Bordeaux Tasting

23 January 2013, 21 Warren Street, Tribeca

On a frigid weeknight, a group of us gathered in the wine cave at New York Vintners to eat, drink and learn about Bordeaux. The guidelines for the night were: only Left-bank Bordeaux and vintages from 1986-1995 (years we felt were at their peak for drinking). The goal was to understand the differences between the various sub-appellations and vintages. I was shocked at how different some of these wines tasted – not something you’d expect from vineyards which are 5-10 miles away from each other.

The food, as always, was incredible – we started with some assorted meats and cheeses followed by a Brandt Farms sirloin steak with tons of sides including heirlooms carrots and a fried polenta dish that was probably my favorite of the night.

Not to be outdone, the wines delivered – 8 reds, 5 in the first flight followed by 3 blind, finishing with a dessert wine:

The Lineup

  1. ** 1989 Lynch Bages (Pauillac) – probably the one wine of the night that didn’t show well relative to expectations. Even those who had this wine before thought it was bottle variation or just a bad showing – vegetal as is indicative of Pauillac but with an additional layer of funkiness – not the good kind. Structurally sound but couldn’t make up for the odd aromatics. $300
  2. *** 1990 Cos d’Estournel (St. Estephe) – like the Lynch Bages, this started with a funky, closed aroma with good structure and a better palate than implied by the nose. All the bottles had been open for several hours before the tasting but this wine changed the most throughout the night. Started as a disappointment but by the end of the meal was showing brilliantly. $250
  3. *** 1986 Leoville Las Cases (St. Julien) – structured, huge fruit and despite being one of the oldest wine of the night, expect this to continue to develop. I always thought of St. Julien as being more fruit driven but this wine demonstrated the heft and body their wines can develop as well. $300
  4. **** 1986 Chateau Palmer (Margaux) – big, red fruit, with earthiness and mustiness. Someone accurately described this as “licking the side of a basement wall, but in a really good way.” To me, the biggest, most opulent wine of the night. $250
  5. **** 1995 Chateau Margaux (Margaux) – my red wine of the night. Delicate, feminine with balanced fruit and extremely smooth tannins. A great example of subtlety being more expressive than sheer power. It still feels like this one is in the very early stages of being ready to drink – would love to try this wine again in another 10 and 20 years time. $500
  6. Blind #1: *** 1995 Leoville Las Cases (St. Julien) – our first blind wine of the night was also our first vertical comparison of the night. Sweeter and fruitier than the ’86 and more prototypical of a Bordeaux from St. Julien. Great wine but won’t be as long lived as the ’86. $190
  7. Blind #2: *** 1995 Ducru Beaucaillou (St. Julien) – our second blind wine was another ’95 from St. Julien. Also very fruity and floral aromatics. I got more red fruit sweetness on this wine than the other St. Juliens. Also a great wine but don’t expect further development at this point. $175
  8. Blind #3: *** 1995 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – the only non-Bordeaux wine of the night was thrown in by Shane and Jesse and it completely fooled me. A handful at the tasting correctly guessed this was a California wine (including Diane) but it tasted too reserved and almost austere to be compared to the richer, more-extracted California style. My loss, as I hadn’t tasted much Dunn before. Biggest surprise of the night for me. $150
  9. **** 1995 Chateau d’Yquem (Sauternes) – as always, arguably the best wine of the night even with the incredible reds that preceded it. Balanced, light with honeysuckle and stone fruit with decades of life left, I still have yet to find a wine that is definitively better than a well aged bottle of d’Yquem. $250

Christmas

14 December 2012, 100 Jane Street, West Village

With a newly decorated Christmas tree in our apartment, Diane and I decided to have some friends over for the holidays to celebrate. Nicole, Elliott, Pedro, Christina, and Manoj came over for appetizers and wine:

The Lineup

The Lineup

The food during the night was (in no particular order):

  • Cured meats and cheeses – my favorite cured meat in the world is the Jamon Iberico from Spain. Nearly impossible to find in the US, Murray’s Cheese typically carries some and is where I usually load up. Our favorite cheeses including the clothbound Cabot cheddar and aged manchego also made an appearance.
  • Mini cheese-burgers and portobello-mushroom-burgers – the beef was from our local butcher, Florence Meat market with minimal seasoning and American cheese. The mushrooms were marinated in a balsamic vinegar sauce. Both cooked in the oven broiler.
  • A few assorted desserts  – cookies and ice cream

I spent a fair amount of time planning the progression of wines and thought it worked out fairly well:

  1. *** NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rose – my go-to rose Champagne. Reasonably priced and delicious with food or as an aperitif. Floral and fruity with a lighter body, I like drinking it out of a white wine glass to allow the bubbles to dissipate and wine to warm a bit. It gives me a better sense of the aromatics and freshness. $80
  2. ** 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble – as I mentioned before, the best value wine I had on my trip to California. Completely unoaked and an old-world style wine. This was served at the same time as our next white wine to compare it against. $28
  3. ** 2007 Martinelli Chardonnay Three Sisters Vineyard – a classic example of a well-made California style Chardonnay. Plenty of oak and vanilla and a much heavier mouthfeel than the Copain. While most enjoyed both wines, the majority preferred the Copain (at less than half the price!). $60
  4. *** 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo – the Azienda Agricola (non-estate) bottling, this was sadly my last bottle of this great value/entry level Giacosa Barolo. Still young and powerful, I decanted the wine for 6 hours and it still had plenty of sweet red fruit and smooth tannins. This wine was served at the same time as the next red to compare. $95
  5. ** 1981 Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino – not as aromatic or open as the last time I tried this wine a few months ago. More tar and leather than fruit in the aroma or palate; I was a bit disappointed compared to what I tasted the first time I had this at dell’anima. The opinion here was split but more people preferred the Giacosa. $85
  6. * 1969 Hugel Traminer “Hugel” Reserve Exceptionelle – a wine we tried more to explore than anything, the bottle was in surprisingly good condition for its age. On the palate a bit disappointing, well past its prime, it was barely clinging on to the fruit and acidity it probably once had and just retained its residual sweetness. $80
  7. ** 2010 Domaine des Bernardins Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise (375 ml) – great wine for the price. Lots of sweet stone fruit and honey, medium body for the sweetness and well balanced. Great after dinner digestif. $15