October 11, 2012

Italia x Patagonia

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It's been a while since I last attended a wine dinner organized by a merchant or a restaurant.  There are plenty of these around town, and usually I either don't find them very interesting, or they end up being a little expensive for my taste.  The dinner I attended tonight was the exception.

I first tasted the wines from Bodegas Chacra about a year and a half ago, and I was completely blown away.  The estate is known for its Pinot Noirs, made in the Patagonia region of Argentina by Piero Incisa della Rocchetta - from the family that brought us Sassicaia.  I couldn't believe how beautifully the wines were drinking at such a young age.  When I found out that Piero was in town and would be showing his wines at dinner, it took me all of about 2 minutes to respond to an invitation from the local distributor.

Tonight's venue was Café Gray Deluxe.  I have only been here once previously, having found the food to be too heavy for my liking.  Had it not been for the dinner tonight, I'm not sure when I would have returned after my first experience more than 2 years ago.

The waiter laid down a little dish containing yogurt dip for our bread.  Very Gray Kunz, I must say.

Salad of smoked duck breast, fresh figs and lentils - not sure what to make of this dish, honestly… Did the flavors really come together well?

Hungarian goulash soup, sour cream and chives; rye bread croûtons - pretty surprised to see this on the menu.  I did like it a lot, especially the deep-fried strips of onions I fished out of my bowl.  Croûtons were yummy, too.

Roast quail, filled with plums and pistachios; caramelized fall vegetables, jus - loved the quail, and especially loved the stuffing flavored by spices like cumin.  The bed of vegetables at the bottom was especially nice.

Veal cutlet Milanese; ricotta salata, baby artichoke and basil persillade - not my favorite but I ate it anyway.  Never quite appreciated the way the breading is done, and certainly thought the basil persillade was too much and distracted from our wines.  There was so much salt in the greens on top I had to take sips of the wine just to wash it down.  Not exactly a FAIL, but certainly not a hit, either...

Red wine, cinnamon and vanilla poached pear; vanilla-résinée ice cream - pretty decent.

Chunks of chocolate - they weren't kidding when they used the word "chunks"… Very yummy.  I couldn't resist having a few.

I was excited about the wines tonight, and once again I thought the Pinot Noirs were really something special.  Piero spoke about farming biodynamically in order to bring the vineyards back to health, maintaining a good immune system.  He stopped being biodynamic once the vines and vineyards were healthy, likening it to stopping medical treatment for a patient once the health has been restored.

There were 8 wines in all this evening:

2010 Chacra Barda - floral nose with dried herbs, rich, jammy and sweet with a bit of sulfur.  Very nice wine to start with.

2010 Chacra Cincuenta y Cinco - elegant and floral, with animal notes and leather.  Very lovely and sweet on the nose, showing a hint of tobacco and mint.  Finely balanced on the palate at 11.5% alcohol from a cool vintage.

2009 Chacra Cincuenta y Cinco - a much bigger wine than the 2010, from a hotter vintage and weighing in at 14% alcohol.  Nose of forest, potpourri and very sweet.  Sharp on the nose with lots of concentration here.

2010 Chacra Treinta y Dos - sweet and jammy but definitely showing its character from the cool vintage.  A bit of smoke, mint, pine needle, coffee, leather, smoked meat and bacon fat.  Lovely.

2007 Chacra Treinta y Dos - seems much cooler compared to the 2010.  Showing mineral and metallic notes, a slight hint of brett.  Acidity is higher on the palate, and actually pretty grippy at the same time.

2008 Chacra Mainqué - ripe, jammy and sweet.  Minty and a little vegetal with a bit of smoke.

2009 Chacra Mainqué - nose was luscious at first, then got a little leaner, showing smoky notes.

2007 Sassicaia in magnum - surprisingly a little dusty, smoky, then suddenly showing sweet and tropical notes along with caramel.  Lovely to drink now like so many other 2007 Tuscans.

I don't know what it is, but I've just been having bad luck when it comes to these wine dinners where I don't know all the guests.  Just like the disastrous dinner featuring Champagne Krug, I once again found myself in the company of ladies who doused themselves with perfume - and tonight there were two.  Despite being seated 2 or 3 seats away, the attack was relentless all evening.

Look, I understand that this is a nice evening out for you, and that you got all dolled up and came with your husbands to this fine dining restaurant to have nice food and wine.  What surprised me was that the husbands - who you'd think would be wine lovers - never bothered to ask their wives to tone down their perfumes in deference to the wines.  Perhaps they had superior abilities to distinguish the scent of perfume from those coming from the wines, or perhaps they have long ago developed immunity when it comes to their wives' perfumes.  Unfortunately, I had neither of those abilities.

It would have been rude for me to spend half the evening out of my seat just so I could smell the wines - the way I took care of the problem at the Krug dinner.  Instead, I did the next best thing - albeit only a little less rude - and turned away from the husband who was seated next to me.  He must have thought I was totally rude and anti-social…

I was relieved at the end of the evening.  The prior couple of hours had been a mild form of torture for me.  After my recent run of luck, I think I'm swearing off going to any more of these wine dinners - not unless I'm 100% sure that everyone attending is really serious about wine.  A few of my friends have always said that they are very picky about who they eat with, and in my case I'm going to be extremely picky about who I drink with!

1 comment:

HK Epicurus said...

I find that some women actually start to smell nicer naturally when they are drinking wine (not too much of course). They don't really need the perfume otherwise :P

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