October 8, 2012

Masseto massiiive

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It was finally my turn to host an MNSC dinner tonight, and I'd been waiting for this occasion since early last year.  Normally I'd be hosting my dinner in the earlier part of the year, but putting it together while living in Taipei turned out to be a little challenging.  And it seemed the perfect way to mark my return to Hong Kong…

I wanted a change of venue, so I decided to book a room at Gold by Harlan Goldstein.  We haven't been here for MNSC dinner before, and it was pretty easy to arrange everything with Harlan, even on short notice.

I arrived early to set up the wines for the evening, and was starving badly…  There was no way I was going to start drinking on an empty stomach, so I asked for some of the restaurant's yummy bread.  That green sauce on the side ain't no ordinary pesto… it's damn good and addictive!

Home-made Italian testa, smoked cheese on toasted turkish bread - more bread to start!  Hurray!  And it's served with slices of head cheese (which is NOT cheese…) and smoked cheese on top, with a dollop of that green sauce.  Like a chunky crostini, in a way…  Yummy.

Italian scampi, sea urchin, punterelle resting in a cauliflower panna cotta - I don't remember ever having scampi raw, but I guess it wasn't that different from having raw prawns at Japanese sushi joints…  The panna cotta was pretty interesting, since I love the taste of cauliflower, and the punterelle threw in extra textures and flavors into the mix.

Grilled black porcini mushrooms, wild rocket and white truffle dressing - simple and straightforward.  A smidgen more salt than I was expecting, but love the smoky flavors from grilling.

Beef cheek ravioli in a red wine jus - this was just sooo yummy.  The beef cheek filling was awesome, and if I weren't already stuffed with bread, I'd use it to scoop up all the red wine jus.  The black truffle grounds did kinda interfere with our nose for wine...

Truffle tagliolini pasta, shaved Castermagno cheese and chives - pretty nice, but unfortunately it's not white truffle season yet, so we had to make do with truffle oil, which certainly screwed with our nose.

Slow-cooked Colorado lamb chop and filo wrapped loin, white parsnip puree and roasted garlic sauce - OH YEAH, Colorado lamb is definitely my favorite these days…  This was very close in quality to my favorite lamb, and about as tender and fatty.  The separate cut of lamb loin in filo pastry, while comparatively tough in texture, came with a delicious mix of exotic spices.

Dessert surprise - chocolate and mixed berries… a classic combination.

This was a highly-anticipated evening for me.  I have been wanting to do a vertical tasting of the famed Masseto for a long, long time - since I was introduced to the man behind the wine.  As a man driven by passion, Masseto was clearly his baby… and I wanted to see once and for all if the fame of this wine was deserved.  2001 was the last harvest under his ownership, so I thought I'd bring out all the vintages in my cellar up to that year.  I also thought I'd throw in a ringer, and decided that the 1997 Ornellaia would make for a natural pairing with the 1997 Masseto.

2009 Peter Michael Chardonnay La Carrière - sugary sweet on the nose, lots of oak, flint, white flowers, honey and vanilla.  Beautiful.  Very ripe on the palate and a little tart finish.  Burns a little going down my throat thanks to the alcohol…

First pair:
1993 Masseto - pencil lead, smoke, sweet fruit, open nose with mint, a little grass and tea leaves.  95 points.

1995 Masseto - a bit riper fruit, smoke, earthy and minty.  93 points.

Second pair:
1997 Ornellaia - with the first whiff, Pineapple remarked that it was "un petit bouchonnée".  I thought it was corked but not undrinkable.  Grassy, vegetal, cardboard, a hint of sweetness, minerals.  88 points.

1997 Masseto - huge exotic nose with tropical notes, coconut oil, pretty sweet, then fading to reveal smoke.  95 points.

Third pair:
1994 Masseto - savory, mineral, a bit sweet, mint, a bit earthy and smoky.  92 points.

1996 Masseto - mint, smoke, sweet, really lovely, savory.  Concentrated on the palate.  94 points.

Fourth pair:
1998 Masseto - smoky, a bit earthy, minty and a bit sweet.  A big wine with lots of concentration.  94 points.

2001 Masseto - ripe and sweet fruit with coffee.  Clearly the youngest vintage and full-bodied.  94 points.

As it turns out, no one guessed I was serving Masseto; no one even thought these were Italian, even though the name had come up in discussions.  Everyone thought I was serving Left Bank Bordeaux or Californian Cabs…  I think I managed to deliver the lowest-scoring evening in MNSC history… certainly lower than our Opus One tasting earlier this year!  Nevertheless, I think everyone enjoyed the wines, myself included.  The wines are indeed impressive, and I'm glad to have had this opportunity to showcase Lodovico's babies.

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