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 …

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.

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

Another Dinner at Dan & Sul’s

14 June 2012, 27 N. Moore Street, Tribeca

Dan and Sul hosted another dinner at their place, catered by New York Vintners and Chef Ryan. It was an incredible meal and wine pairing, again, in a beautiful apartment and great company:

1. 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal (provided by Dan and Anthony) with cured meats and cheeses: this wine was discussed at the last big wine meal we had at Dan and Sul’s apartment. Simply incredible depth and complexity that changed my mind on Champagne.

2. 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs (Magnum – brought by Diane and I) with three summer ceviches – spicy tuna, rock fish and watermelon, scallop and cilantro yuzu:

2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs

Crisp, lemon acidity with an aroma or pear. Firmness on the palate with a taste that lingered and changed depending on the ceviche it was consumed with. Good, though not terribly complex wine that was a perfect pairing for the food (Jesse from NY Vintner’s recommendation).

There were two main courses, with sides, and two reds accompanying them – splitting them up in no particular order:

3. 1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (Magnum – brought by Matt Schwab and his wife) with marinated flat iron steak and raw kale salad with parmesean, citrus, and dried cranberry:

1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate

Full-bodied, opulent, fruity and perfectly integrated at this point in it’s life. The tannins reached a level of sweetness with the meat and the age added earthy aromas. Delicious wine.

4. 2003 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Magnum – brought by Anthony and Jennifer) with seared tuna and Napa cabbage with a side of a marinated bean salad with citrus:

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Lighter body, brighter and more subtle than the big California Cabernet. I had this wine a few years ago and the bottle age has made this much more enjoyable as the tannins are less awkward and upfront.

5. 2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah (Magnum – brought by Diane and I):

2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah

69% Grenache, 18% Syrah, and the balance of Mourvedre, Counoise, and Roussanne. Dark and full-bodied and striking similar to a Chateauneuf du Pape. Drinking extremely well with tons of fruit and smoothness – not paired with any course and a wine we sipped on after the main courses were done.

6. 1990 Chateau d’Yquem (provided by Dan and Sul) with assorted Takahachi desserts: also discussed in an earlier post when Dan and Sul brought a bottle to a dinner hosted at 100 Jane. As is typically the case, my wine of the night – can never get enough d’Yquem.

**** 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal

** 2010 Schafer-Frohlich Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Grosses Gewachs (Magnum), $240

**** 1997 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (Magnum)

*** 2003 Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste (Magnum)

*** 2003 Pax Cuvee Moriah (Magnum), $125

**** 1990 Chateau d’Yquem

Pre-Summer Celebration

19 April 2012, 27 N. Moore Street, Tribeca

As summer approaches, that means planning for the summer house share with our usual crew – Dan and Sul, Nick and Michelle, Diane and I, and Cliff with his date, Michelle. Dan and Sul offered to host a dinner at their new apartment in Tribeca and it was easily one of my most memorable wine meals ever. The food was prepped by New York Vintners and everyone brought a bottle of wine to share with the group.

We started off with a bottle of 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal to accompany the cured meats and cheeses:

1990 Louis Roederer Cristal

62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay –  floral nose with a crisp attack. Perfect balance of acid, yeast and stone fruit; incredibly smooth with a long finish. One vote for wine-of-the-night (Diane).

The second bottle of the night was a white Rioja, the 1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonio Gran Riserva Blanco:

1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonio Gran Riserva Blanco

Served at cellar temperature and reminds me of the “orange” wines of Friuli in it’s mouth feel. Earthy with mild oxidation and delicious as a pre-dinner aperatif.

With our first course of the night, a yellow beat salad with walnuts, was a Grand Cru white Burgundy, the 2002 Henri Boillot Batard-Montrachet:

2002 Henri Boillot Batard-Montrachet

Decanted just prior to serving. Floral nose but without the power I expected from a Grand Cru – heavy stone fruit and a touch of vanilla on the palate. Medium finish with good balance but hadn’t developed any tertiary flavors or complexity yet.

Our flight reds began with two red Bordeaux to accompany our pasta course. The first a 2000 Chateau Kirwan:

2000 Chateau Kirwan

Full decant for 12 hours. To me, this wine is a great example of both its varietal and region. Full bodied, big dark fruit with a long finish – plenty of tannins and mouth grip at twelve years. I thoroughly enjoyed the wine but was a bit surprised that it was five people’s WOTN! (Dan, Sul, Michelle, Cliff, Michelle)

The next Bordeaux was a Grand Cru, 1986 Chateau Latour:

1986 Chateau Latour

Full decant for 2 hours.  Brown tinges on the rim, dark, earthy nose. Mild red fruit on the palate – has probably peaked at this point but had a subtlety due to bottle age that was missing in the first Bordeaux we had.

Our next red, along with the prime rib, was a 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero:

1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero

Decanted into a clean bottle for about 12 hours before. Incredible nose – tobacco, earth and tar. Very sweet, red fruit on the palate – continues to have structure though with perfect integration of the tannins. Loved it – hands down one of the top five Barolos I’ve ever had. One vote for WOTN (Nick) and would’ve been mine were it not for the last wine we had.

With the dessert course, a 1989 Chateau d’Yquem:

1989 Chateau d'Yquem

Apricots, honey, elderflower and some spice. Impeccable balance and finish – just a perfect wine. My WOTN.

A perfect meal hosted by Dan and Sul. By the end of the night we were all full, happy and ready to pass out:

Panchito, ready for bed

**** 1990 Louis Roederer Cristal, $450

*** 1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Riserva Blanco, $90

*** 2002 Henri Boillot Batard-Montrachet, $280

*** 2000 Chateau Kirwan, $75

*** 1986 Chateau Latour, $440

**** 1990 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero, $275

**** 1989 Chateau d’Yquem, $300

Birthday wine at Eleven Madison

14 April 2012, Eleven Madison, Gramercy

Back in November, I got Diane a bottle of wine for her birthday – a white Burgundy from Montrachet. We finally brought it with us to Eleven Madison for an incredible meal. Before getting to the wines, it’s worth noting the incredible service across the board at Eleven Madison. Everyone including the host, bartender, sommelier and wait-staff was polite and made the meal flow seamlessly. They immediately took our bottle of wine, offered to chill and then decant it so it would be at the proper temperature during our meal. We had a cocktail at the bar before dinner (a must – they have some of the best cocktails in the city) before we began our four-course tasting.

The 2006 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet was incredible:

2006 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet

As our sommelier explained to us, Sauzet grows and vinifies the wine from this plot in Montrachet (not in the negociant style). Sourced from 50 year old vines, this is one of the few times I will concede that there is no equal in any other part of the world with this Chardonnay. A powerful nose of sweet fruit and honeysuckle with a perfectly balanced palate of stone fruit and refreshing acidity with well integrated oak. For anyone who doesn’t believe in terroir, this wine will change your mind.

In serving the wine, the sommelier recommended decanting it to both let it warm up to cellar temperature as well as to let it breath and open up. Diane and I both loved the “duck” decanter they used:

Riedel Duck Decanter

About halfway through the meal, we decided to order a red for the roast duck course – a whole duck for two, carved table-side and prepared two ways. With the help of our sommelier, we went with a half bottle of the 1995 Chateau Gruaud Larose:

1995 Chateau Gruaud Larose (375 ml)

A delicious Bordeaux with bottle-age that you could taste. A combination of musk and earthiness mixed with red fruit and strong tannins that haven’t fully integrated into the wine. A perfect match with the fowl.

**** 2006 Etienne Sauzet Montrachet, $450

*** 1995 Chateau Gruaud Larose (375 ml), $75