August 5, 2008

'70 Horizontal

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Last night I hosted my second MNSC tasting of the year at Caprice. It's been about 6 weeks since the last MNSC tasting, and two months since I attended the last one, so I was very eager to have the opportunity to taste some fine wines.

The theme I chose for the evening was a '70 horizontal, across 6 different regions and 4 different grape varietals. I had been collecting some of these wines for the last few years, and had been eager to organize this tasting for my friends. I would be tasting some of the wines for the first time along with them.

We started with the 1990 Dom Perignon before dinner. This tasted very young for a Champagne of its age, with notes of straw and toasty oak. I haven't had a '90 for a while so it was nice to be reminded just how lovely this wine is...and the fact that replacement cost is now triple of what it was worth a few years back. The rest of the wines, served in 3 pairs, were:

First pair:
1970 Gros F and S Vosne-Romanee - plenty of bacon fat, grilled meats in the nose. Thought I also detected a bit of wet rag but it faded quickly. There was certainly a core of sweet fruits, but showed inconsistently because it was being masked by the meats. Even though this was only a village wine, the storage conditions seemed excellent when I picked it up a few months ago.

1970 Guigal La Mouline - I've been waiting to taste this wine for a few years since I acquired it. La Mouline is probably my favorite wine, and this older vintage certainly did not disappoint! Totally smoky, again with a lot of bacon fat, mint, espresso bean grinds and at the same time lots of sweet fruit comes through. Very awesome. Because of the age, the acidity did show through a little on the palate. Definitely the wine of the evening with an average score above 96 pts by the group.

Second pair:
1970 Musar - classic nose of sweet grass and brett as well as sweet fruit. I had this wine a few years ago and have been wanting to serve it at an MNSC tasting. Funnily enough I have been seeing younger vintages of this wine show up in the last month at friendly gathering.

1970 Vega Sicilia Unico - nose was sweet but a bit funky, with some wet chalk emerging in the middle only to fade away. I served this wine for my birthday at an MNSC dinner in 2002, when it was very well received. This bottle was the biggest disappointment of the evening.

Third pair:
1970 Latour - classic Left Bank Bordeaux, with mint and enough sweet fruit but not overpowering. A bit smoky. Good balance with acidity and tannins. This bottle showed much better than the one I served in 2002.

1970 Sassicaia - very powerful nose of strawberry jam, plenty of oak. Acidity was reasonably high. This was another wine for which I had high hopes, and it didn't fare well in my book.

The food at Caprice was fantastic as usual. We started with lobster carpaccio with Aquitaine caviar, nori seaweed and yuzu blanc manger. The salty caviar and the nori provided a strong contrast to the sweet lobster, and of course the citrus flavors of the yuzu just added another dimension to it. I really enjoyed this course.

The second course was duck foie gras terrine with Victoria pineapple jelly, crispy sweet spices and shiso leaves. The layer of pineapple jelly with two thin wafers of pineapple was very refreshing. The sprinkle of spices and shiso on top introduced a funky element to the classic dish.

The smoked ratte potato veloute with chicken sot-l'y-laisse, Girolle mushrooms and parsley emulsion was fairly interesting. The taste was heavy and salty, but the "chicken oyster" was very yummy. The veloute was quite heavy and you can taste the cream and feel the consistency of the potato on your tongue.

The monkfish fllet spirnkled with black truffle, creamy polenta and iberico ham was interesting, as the fish was wrapped in a slice of jamon iberico. The fish felt a little tough, and was stuffed with strips of black truffle. The "salsa" of black truffle and jamon iberico worked well against the polenta.

The final course was sisteron lamb fillet with aubergine en escabeche, sweetbread fricassee and aged balsamic sauce. The two strips of lamb were oh-so-tender, pink and juicy with thin layers of fat to impart the right amount of flavor. The sweetbread fricassee was also interesting, and a friend remarked that he thought he was biting into a chestnut instead of sweetbread...

I had cheese to finish the evening, and had the usual selection of 4-year old Comte, 18-month Mimolette, Epoisses de Bourgogne and another soft cheese whose name I couldn't remember. Great stuff.

To compensate for accidentally leaking the identity of Sassicaia before the blind tasting started, the manager kindly offered each of us a glass of 1971 Cognac. I am by no means a fan of this drink, but what I had in my hand was just incredibly aromatic - lots of toasty caramel and sweet grass.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening, and thankfully my abstinence from the wonderful bread of the restaurant meant that I wasn't as stuffed as I usually am... Now looking forward to the next gathering in two weeks!

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