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 …

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.

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

Dinner at Anthony and Jennifer’s

16 November 2012, 222 Park Avenue South, Union Square

Before the holiday season got into full swing, Anthony and Jennifer invited Dan, Sul, Diane and I over for dinner at their place. As part of their wedding registry, they had several wines they chose at New York Vintners and they opened several of those bottles they received from us for this meal!

The Lineup

The Lineup

  1. *** NV Krug Champagne Grand Cuvee – a perfect aperitif paired with some cured meats, this champagne was light, floral and crisp. We quickly went through two bottles before sitting down for the meal.
  2. *** 2007 Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino – from one of my favorite producers in Tuscany, this wine was drinking surprisingly well at a relatively young age. The wine was decanted for many hours before the meal and had the typical leather and tobacco aromas of a well-made Brunello. Smooth tannins and very strong fruit on the palate. Great to drink now and I think will continue to develop for over a decade.
  3. **** 2001 Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque – allegedly the middle child among the three great Guigal wines of Cote Rotie (La Landonne and La Mouline being the others), this wine typically has a small percentage of Viognier for added aromatics. Huge fruit, big body but with a lingering but somehow light finish. Doesn’t leave your mouth coated or blown away like most California Syrahs – much more elegant and refined.
  4. *** 2008 Chateau Rieussec – my first time having this Sauternes, delicious, young, vibrant and a long life ahead. I don’t have much experience with Sauternes but this was the closest in balance – acidity, mouthfeel and sugar – that I’ve ever had when compared to d’Yquem.

As is always the case when they have us over for dinners, the food at Anthony and Jennifer’s was incredible. I took no notes but vividly remember each course today, over two months after the meal:

  • Assorted cured meats: my favorite meats were the jamon and bresaola – an air-dried, salted and aged cured beef.
  • Tagliatelle with white truffles: the most decadent dish of the night, fresh pasta with butter, an egg yolk and shaved white truffles – an unbeatable dish for the Fall/Winter.
  • Roasted leg of lamp: seasoned with garlic and spices, a perfect main for the big red wines we had lined up.
  • Mixed green salad with a mustard vinaigrette
  • Cheese course: I had my first taste of an incredible cheese, Mont d’Or. This rich, creamy cheese (only available in winter months) is held in an oak encasing. Anthony told me you typically leave it on top of the oven to heat up and serve slightly warm. Made from cow’s milk, this  is incredibly rich with a woody taste imparted by the encasing.
  • Assorted cupcakes and banana cream pie from Magnolia

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