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