July 19, 2010

How to woo your lover with wine

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We got together for another MNSC tasting tonight.  The format was "open", meaning each of us brought a bottle to fit a theme and the evening wasn't scored.  Our current convener paired us up, and asked each of us to bring a bottle to "woo" the other person.

We held the tasting at Summer Palace (夏宮) for the first time, and will most certainly be our last.  Honestly, the only time I've dined here in the last 8 years or so was the Araujo dinner - and I came for the wine, not the food.  I never understood why people liked the food here, and laughed my head off when the Michelin people gave this place 2 stars.

Baked stuffed crab shell (焗釀鮮蟹蓋) - once again this was very, very yummy.  I refrained from using any sauces at the beginning, since the taste of crab meat was good enough by itself.  I could also taste the butter... slurp...

Sautéed prawns and scallops in crispy nest (雀巢海中寳) - honestly very ho-hum.  I had one scallop and one prawn, with lots of celery along with part of the deep-fried dough that made up the nest.

Double-boiled sea whelk soup with US ginseng (花旗參燉螺頭湯) - the smell and taste of ginseng was overpowering.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but our evening was about wine and this would be distracting.  Then there was the whelk... We asked for a menu that would work well with red wines, and we get whelk?!  I accidentally took a sip of  wine after chewing on a piece of the shellfish, and my mouth was filled instantly with that "fishy" taste.  What a disaster!

Pan-fried fillet of tiger garoupa in gravy (燒汁煎老虎斑扒) - WTF?!  Tiger garoupa isn't exactly a cheap fish, and they choose to fillet it and then pan-fried it with batter on the outside?!  Why can't they just steam the damn thing?!  And that sauce... so much sugar I thought it was syrup...  I had joked earlier about my last dinner here being very "gweilo", and here's a perfectly gweilo dish!  I guess this is why the Michelin people like the place...

Braised black mushrooms with seasonal vegetables (北菇扒時蔬) - this was OK.  Mushrooms were nice.

Deep-fried crispy chicken (脆皮炸子雞) - didn't find this memorable, but that might have been thanks to the amount of alcohol I've had by this time...

Braised flat noodles with shredded barbecued pork and ginger (薑蔥叉燒撈粗麵) - we finally blew up, and called the waiter over.  While the scallion and ginger-flavored sauce was tasty, there was no trace of char siu  in any of our bowls...  The waiter subsequently brought us a plate of fatty char siu (半肥瘦叉燒), and the quality of the meat made things even worse...  This pretty much put Summer Palace off our approved list of restaurants.

Forget the food.  The wines this evening were pretty interesting.  We started with a bottle of 2000 Penfolds Yattarna - something I realized I liked a few months ago.  Lots of toasty popcorn, nutty, honey, a little oxidized and some minerals.  The color was kinda deep, and while it wasn't as fresh as some would like it to be, I thought it wasn't bad.

First pair: Pineapple and Dr. Poon

2003 Harlan - Wow!  This was so powerful on the nose.  Lots of minerals, iron/rust, coffee, walnut... Sweet but not overpowering, and a little alcoholic on the nose.  The edges are starting to round out, but it was still tannic on the finish.  Also some exotic spices and tea leaves.  94 points.
Pineapple brought this to woo Dr. Poon, since we all know Dr. Poon to be a (former) enthusiast of top Californian wines.  We think he was trying to send a message for the return of the prodigal son (浪子回頭)...

1982 Le Gay - smoky, definitely more mature than the other wine.  Still kinda alcoholic on the nose with herbs.  Round and delicious on the palate.  93 points.
There was a screwup by Anthony, the so-called "sommelier" of the restaurant.  This wine was brought by Lord Rayas to woo Juliano, and was supposed to be part of the second flight.  When I dropped off my bottle during the day, I suspected that Anthony didn't seem to have a good grip on what we were trying to do here... and sure enough, there was a mix-up.  The gang was pretty livid.  The evening's funniest comment came from Dr. Poon, who remarked that this was likely a message from God, since the Le Gay (a wine we always associated we Pineapple in the past) found its way to him in the end...

Second pair:  Juliano and Lord Rayas

1976 Petrus - notes of plum, spices, sweet with a little soy sauce.  Soft and silky on the palate, and a little floral at the end.  93 points. 
This was the wine Dr. Poon wanted to woo Pineapple with, as it's from his birth year and the only "drinkable" wine from that vintage after trying a few candidates.  Definitely a commendable effort!

1991 Guigal La Landonne - a little "stinky", a little ginseng and medicinal... nose was kinda muted and not really showing much fruit.  Later on there was a little sweetness and toffee.  91 points.  Once again Pineapple and I had completely opposite reactions to a wine.  His wine of the evening was my least favorite...
We all expected Juliano to bring a bottle of Rayas to woo Lord Rayas, but I guess he didn't want to be so predictable...

Last pair: Alexandre and I

1983 Guigal La Mouline - lots of violet, initially a little dusty and dirty.  Nose was a little oxidized and mature, with some ripe fruits.  Really smooth on the palate.  To be honest, this wine performed below my expectations... I thought I'd be blown away by one of my all-time favorite vintages of my favorite wine, but it was not to be...  94 points.
I brought the wine for Alexandre because it was part of the Syrah vs. Shiraz tasting which we did back in 2001.  That dinner saw us pitting the '83 La Mouline against the '83 Grange, and once the La Mouline opened up it completely kicked the behind of the Grange.  That dinner was essentially the start of what would become MNSC...  Even though it's not a Beaucastel, it's still "definitely my shit" as Alexandre said...

1998 Sine Qua Non E-raised - typical of an SQN Syrah, this had tons of iron, minerals and smelled "bloody" on the nose.  Still really alcoholic, with some coffee notes.  Totally up my alley.  Decanted for 8 hours (!) and still going strong...  95 points.
Alexandre brought this for me since the group knows how much I like Californian wines, and Sine Qua Non especially.  He actually bought the bottle from me a few years ago, after our all-Sine Qua Non dinner. 

This was definitely a good evening as far as wines go, and the group thought that the open format was actually a lot of fun.  I actually always felt this format was more fun than our usual "totally blind" tastings...  We'll be doing our next tasting next month, and I am really looking forward to it!

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