January 10, 2009

Jacques Selosse Champagnes and a very old Madeira

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I got together last night with one of my winetasting groups, which consists of staff from a local wine shop as well as some of customers. This was our first gathering of the new year, and the organizer put together a great menu at Celebrity Cuisine (名人坊) at Hotel Lan Kwai Fong. There was a ton of food and an abundance of wine, so it made for a really good evening.

The menu:
Appetizers including pan-fried turnip cake (煎蘿蔔糕), deep-fried egg tofu (炸玉子豆腐) and sauteed string beans (乾扁四季豆). The turnip cake was excellent, especially with a bit of the XO sauce from the restaurant. The others were OK.

The snake soup (蛇羹) was pretty well done, looking a bit darker than the ones I've had in recent memory. I refrained from putting too much white chrysanthemem petals and shredded lemon leaves into the soup.

Vegetarian roll (羅漢上素卷) - the wrapped tofu skin and vegetables was a nice palate cleanser after the soup.

Chicken wings stuffed with birds nest (燕窩釀鳳亦) - very well done. The wings were air-dried before being deep-fried, and the skin was so light and crispy.

Crab-in-a-box (大良鮮蟹盒, pardon the poor English translation) - the chunk of crab roe is deep-fried inside a shell made from batter. Kinda interesting.

Giant grouper steamed in bamboo basket (籠仔蒸龍躉) - not a big fan of this dish. The skin of the grouper is very thick with lots of gelatin fat, which gets sticky after being steamed. I would have preferred the skin to be fried. The chilli pepper here provided the spice to this dish.

Prawns stir-fried with XO sauce (XO醬炒蝦仁) - anything done with XO sauce from this place is bound to be good...

Braised abalone and goose web (鮑魚炆鵝掌) - the abalone was small but decent, and the goose web as nice and soft.

Choy sum in broth (上湯浸菜心) - very nice and tender, cooked with the broth of the abalone.

Stuffed duck (福祿百寳鴨) - did not touch much of this dish, as my plate had almost no duck and was all about the stuffing, which was mostly taro .

Chinese-style beef steak (燒汁牛肉件) - the usual pan-fried medallions of beef with lots of onions. Not bad.

Roast pigeon (烤乳鴿) - very nicely done, and a perfect match for the Pinot Noir...

Shrimp and ham fried rice (鮮蝦雲腿炒飯) - really good fried rice with a lot of wok hei (鍋氣). The preserved ham from Yunnan really made the dish.

Almond cream with egg whites (生磨蛋白杏仁茶) - this is such a good almond cream, and the addition of egg whites always take this to the next level. Great way to finish the meal together with the fruits.

We also celebrated a birthday with a light cheesecake.

Onto the wines. We were a little more restrained this time, with 11 bottles for the 13 of us. The highlights of the evening were always going to be the three bottles of Jacques Selosse Champagne brought by a friend, and the bottle of very old Madeira I brought.

Jacques Selosse Brut Initiale NV, mis en bouteilles Novembre 2007 - wonderful mousse. A hint of caramel on top of lemon citrus in the nose. Very fresh and crisp acidity. Pretty dry finish.

Jacques Selosse Brut Initiale NV, mis en bouteilles Juillet 2007 - what a difference 4 months can make! The color here is darker, more mature than the first bottle, with lots of caramel, oaky and marmalade notes. Also much smoother on the palate and not as fresh.

Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Substance NV, mis en bouteilles November 2007 - by far the best of the three bottles of Champagne (duh...) Wow! The carbonation from the bubbles just go shooting up my nose... Lots of caramel, marmalade and honey. The color is golden honey here. After leaving it in the flute to breath for a while, the nose was even more amazing.

2003 Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Pucelles - initially not very open, with some minerals and a hint of lemon citrus. Later some sweet butter came out. Very smooth on the palate with a slight bitter finish.

2004 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - lots of lemon citrus and banana on the nose with a hint of sweetness. Acidic on the palate. A little disappointed.

2002 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - amazing jasmine and floral nose, with a bit of white pepper and minerals. More acidic on the palate with a long finish. A great wine.

1998 Cheval Blanc - explosive nose, classic Bordeaux with brett, sweet fruits and a bit of smoked meats. Surprisingly a hint of mint despite no Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.

I brought the following pair of Cabs from BV. These are two different clones of the varietal made by the same winery in the same year, which makes for an interesting side-by-side comparison. Unfortunately they weren't served in the same types of glasses so it wasn't 100% accurate. I was also worried that the wines may be corked, since it is well known that BV had issues with TCA in their cellars for the 1997 vintage, and had to recall a large chunk of their wines.

Fortunately as well pulled the corks out, we did not detect any problems with these two bottles.

1997 Beaulieu Vineyard Clone 6 - smoky, wet chalk and sweet red fruits. Very Bordeaux-like. The crowd was surprised by how "French" the wine is, but I have always tasted the French roots of BV wines in the past. Georges de Latour was French after all...

1997 Beaulieu Vineyard Clone 4 - very alcoholic nose, with a bit of smoke and red fruits, plus vanilla and caramel. More concentrated and New World-like.

1999 Sine Qua Non the Ox - an Oregon Pinot Noir from one of my favorite Californian wineries. The first thought that came to my wine when I took a whiff of this was Cantonese liver sausage. Yes, it smelled just like the Chinese rose wine (玫瑰露) used in the production of the sausage. The nose was very sweet and alcoholic, with caramel and a bit of grilled meats. This was a very American Pinot, and exactly what I would expect from Sine Qua Non.

1863 Leacock's Malmsey - this was the highly anticipated finale, as most of the crowd have not tasted anything this old. I loooooove Madeiras, and what an amazing wine! After four hours in a big-bottomed decanter, the wine still smelled a little closed (!) Amazing nose of caramel, sweet fruits, vanilla, coffee, preserved orange rind (not marmalade but 陳皮). This wine just kept going on and on, and it was obvious that it was still in the prime of its life, despite being more than 145-years old... Time to collect more Madeiras...

Looking forward to our next gathering, and hope we get to close down another restaurant when we meet...

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