November 16, 2009

Primum Familiae Vini Gala Dinner

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I was lucky enough to be dragged out of my apartment tonight by my friend Lili, who insisted time and again that I join her for the gala dinner for Primum Familiae Vini tonight at the Island Shangri-La.  It was a helluva lot better than sitting at home in front of my PC, going through a bunch of legal documents...

Primum Familiae Vini is a group of European family winemakers who are part of an elite club.  Each family must have made wine for several generations, and families must be invited into the group - which is limited to 12 families.  Currently there are 11 of them, as the Mondavi family has dropped off the list after the winery was sold by the family.

The menu was put together by the chef of Petrus, and was obviously meant to match the wines.  The evening went something like this:

1998 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill - this was served during the cocktail preceeding dinner, and naturally it was gone by the time we sat down at the table.  Hubert de Billy introduced the wine and mentioned how difficult it was to talk about a wine when the audience no longer has it in front of them... I didn't take notes but remembered it was a bit acidic on mid-palate, which is consistent with my memories of this wine.

Carpaccio de noix de St. Jacques aux grains de caviar - the Hokkaido scallops were diced into cubes and marinated.  I thought it might have been ginger, but my neighbor - who probably had a better palate than me - was sure it was celery leaves...which actually makes sense looking at the picture.  The Oscietra caviar on top was creamy and lovely - not overly salty.

2005 Hugel Riesling Jubilee - Hugel is one of my favorite producers and the Jubilee wines are among my favorites from this house.  The 12th generation of the family is now running the business, and the wine was introduced by Etienne Hugel. Class nose of petrol, minerals, plastic, white flowers...beautifully sweet.  Ripe on the palate but not too much, with good acidity balance.  The only drawback is that it didn't pair well with the caviar.

Filet de sole glacée à la truffle blanche, gnocchi de pomme de terre Monalisa - a pretty interesting way to present Dover sole.  Fortunately it was only a tad over cooked, but the glazing was nice.  The gnocchi was too soft and mushy, lacking that chewiness I was looking for, but I liked the shaved lemon rind on top - a classic flavor combo done in a new format.  Of course it's always nice to have white truffles on your plate...

2005 Joseph Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne - Wow! This was one of my wines of the evening, if not THE wine this evening.  Nose of toasted oak, lemon, a hint of minerals at first as it was served too cold... nose was a little ripe but not overpowering as I expected... beautiful and subtle.  When I warmed up the wine, a little cedar emerged, with honey, floral, flint and a bit of sweet corn notes.  The wine was ripe on the palate, a bit acidic on mid-palate but interesting with a sweet finish - great acidic balance.  With the second pour, the high alcohol level became very evident, especially when drunk with food.  Introduction by Laurent Drouhin who joked about his height...

Ravioli de jarret de veau en osso buco, fine marmalade de légumes - this dish just didn't work.  The veal shank stuffing was a little too dry, and a little too bland.  The ravioli shell was pretty al dente, although I wonder if it was too much for me... I actually really liked the vegetable marmalade and the sauce, and wiped my plate clean with the help of some bread.

2004 Tignanello - I am usually not a big fan of this wine given the dominance by Sangiovese, but tonight the wine drank surprisingly like a Bordeaux.  Smoky, sweet fruit with grilled meats, eucalyptus and coffee on the nose. The wine gained concentration with time, with tannins sooo smooth and round it took me by surprise.  With more time in glass it finally started to turn acidic on the finish, and later died horribly and turned medicinal.  But for a time it drank beautifully.  Introduced by Alessia Antinori, who used to live in Hong Kong and is part of the 26th generation of the family in the business.

2003 Sassicaia - nose of mint, concentrated sweet fruit, toffee, smoke...the Cabernet was very evident.  Sweet and tannic on the palate, but curiously the wine was tannic on mid-palate with a short and acidic finish.  The alcohol was very obvious, and remained so with a fresh pour.  The sweet nose got better with the second pour.  Decanted for 3 hours prior to serving.  Introduced by Sebastiano Rosa.

Caillette de pied de cochon champignons des bois marines - I loooved this dish.  These little hamburger patties were made from pig trotter (and probably a bit of offal) and wrapped in caul fat, giving the whole thing a really wonderful, fatty taste. Of course the use of black truffles helped with the success of the dish, too. The marinated mushrooms were a little too acidic for me, but I can understand that it was meant to cut down on the fat.

2001 Torres Grans Muralles - introduced by Juan-Maria Torres and probably my least favorite wine of the evening.  This was soooo alcoholic, especially at the start.  Nose was a bit chalky, smoky and plasticky, which surrounded the core of tangerine and mint.  I felt the tannins on mid-palate but the finish was smooth.  Later on the wine improved as the chalky nose faded.

1994 Vega Sicilia Unico - this very beautiful wine was introduced by Pablo Alvarez.  Nose was sweet and grassy, with mint and a bit of smoke.  The wine initially tasted a little thin and acidic on the palate, but improved later.

Canard colvert à la royale - the Mallard duck was done in a classical style with duck liver, black truffles and (I believe) the blood of the duck.  Unfortunately this didn't quite work for me...the taste was complex and decent, but the execution somehow failed to impress as it was overcooked.  The foie on top, though, was done very nicely.

1995 Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin en magnum - just about my red wine of the evening... The nose was nice but a little closed at first.  Eucalyptus, pine needle, a bit of smoke with game notes and a hint of white pepper.  Initially a little alcoholic and sharp, but very smooth on palate.  Introduced by Marc Perrin who is the current President of the PFV.

1989 Mouton-Rothschild - it's always a great honor to have Baroness Philippine de Rothschild in attendance, and she was very lively tonight - almost giddy like a little girl.  I had little expectations for the wine, and therefore was pleasantly surprised.  This was a classic Pauillac, with cigar smoke, fruit, a hint of medicine, mint, lead pencil and lots of coffee.  Finish was acidic with round tannins.

Tarte au Stilton, crumble de fruits secs - what a surprise this turned out to be.  Basically done like a tarte tatin with blue cheese on top. There were almonds, walnuts and raisins underneath the Stilton cover, and the whole thing had a sweet, butterscotch taste to it.  Simply wonderful.

2006 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsel - what a privilege it was to be able to taste this wine, rare as it is on the market. Egon Müller himself was on hand to do the introductions, and joked about his family's preference for the name Egon.  The wine itself was like sweet nectar of the gods, with a bit of orange, plastic, honey, orange blossom, marmalade, minerals and beautiful botrytis.  Very sweet and viscous, with good acidity balance at the same time. Wow!  On par with the Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne as my wines of the evening.

1994 Graham's - I'm still not a fan of vintage port, and much prefer my tawnys and colheitas.  This was just too alcholic and sharp for me.  Very sweet nose of medjool dates and caramel.  Introduced by Paul Symington.

Croustillant caramel, bavaroise poire et sorbet Williams - this was such an awesome dessert, and possibly the best dish of the evening (what does that say about the chef when he is upstaged by his pastry chef?...).  The bavaroise with bits of pear was just soft and delish, and the poire Williams sorbet was wonderfully refreshing.  And the caramelized pear on the side...  A great way to finish the meal.

Serena Sutcliffe was the MC for the evening, and auctioned off a PFV Collection Case to the tune of HKD 300k to benefit the Heep Hong Society.  Very well done!

Amazingly, I didn't have to carry my stomach out of the Shangri-La tonight, although I was very nicely buzzed and really enjoyed the evening.  I'm really glad Lili dragged me out!

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