February 13, 2008

Casual neighborhood dining

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Last night I got together with some friends for a casual dinner, since we haven't drunk wine together for a few weeks. The location ended up being Benson's, which is just across the street from my apartment in Happy Valley. I had only been to Benson's once in the year or so since moving to Happy Valley, which is an indication of my regard for this place...

There were 7 of us, and we had brought along a few bottles to taste. The main event was to be a showcase of 3 Grand Cru Burgundies, and we started off with the '97 A.-F. Gros Richebourg that Kevin had brought along. It was naturally smooth but a bit on the weak side due to the vintage, and faded quickly in the glass.

The bottle was accompanied by the starters - parma ham and melon, and sauteed clams. Both of these were quiet decent.

Next bottle was the '06 Araujo Viognier Eisele Vineyard, which was also Kevin's contribution. This is quite a rarity, since the grapes are grown to be blended with the winery's Sauvignon Blanc as well as co-fermented with the Syrah. The bottling of the Viognier only occur in vintages where there are excess grapes, and apparently only 30 cases were made. This was very interesting - very Californian - and the nose was a bit sharp with a hint of tropical fruit.

We then moved on to the '97 Dominique Laurent Charmes Chambertin, the bottle that I brought. I had opened this in the office, and the wine had more than a hour of breathing time when we got around to it. This was classic grand cru Burgundy, and much more powerful compared to the Richebourg. Nose of five spice and smoked meats. Given the weak vintage I was satisfied with the performance.

Last of the Burgundy trio was the 2000 Prieure-Roch Chambertin Clos de Beze from Riz. This was a couple of years younger, and it was easy to sense the youthfulness of the wine, and the black cherries in the nose was also a lot more obvious. Overall it was pretty good.

Now that we have finished with the Burgundies, it was time to move on to the single bottle of Bordeaux, Chateau du Terte. Unfortunately I don't remember the vintage, but the wine performed better than I expected. It was, after all, a Fifth Growth Margaux that I had never tried before...

Now, a word about the food. I had ordered roasted duck breast for my main course, which was served as many thin slices on a plate. This was actually not bad, with the right level of tenderness in the meat.

Kevin, however, suffered a different fate with his food. His ribeye steak came much too well done for his taste, so he sent it back and asked for crab meat pasta instead. When the pasta came, he discovered only a few morsels of crab meat among the pasta, and a complaint was lodged with the waiter. A few minutes later, an apologetic waiter returned with a small plate of extra sauteed crab meat for added measure. But it is fair to say that it would be some time before Kevin would return to Benson's...

My offer to run across the street and procur a bottle of dessert wine was declined, and Kevin pulled out yet another bottle to finish off the evening. The final bottle turned out to be the '01 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain, an estate that Kevin used to like. Surprisingly this was not as "Cali" as I expected, and the alcohol level as well as concentration were more in line with Bordeaux classed growths of recent production. Very nice indeed.

After enjoying 6 bottles of wine among the 7 of us, I found myself quite inebriated at the end of the evening. Fortunately I didn't have to travel far to reach home...

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