October 31, 2010

Les Forts de Latour dinner

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Dinner tonight was at Pierre with a range of Les Forts de Latour.  Altaya Wines organized one of only a handful of tastings of Les Forts ever held, with the help of Frédéric Engerer and Florence Rogers-Pinault who were in attendance.

Latour had always emphasized that Les Forts de Latour is not really a "second wine", since the grapes come from its own, designated vineyard and not made with grapes that didn't make it into the grand vin.  Tonight Frédéric wanted to make sure that message got across to us.  The initial goal had been to make a wine that is as good as the Second Growths, and he felt the quality of the wines is certainly at least worthy of Third Growth status.

The party was larger than I expected, and took up the entire restaurant.  I was glad to be seated next to a couple of friends... But next time I must remember to request a seat with more light... There wasn't enough light for a proper exposure for my pics.

Restaurants around town have been shifting to their winter menus, and one could certainly see that tonight.

Jellied beef consommé with cassis : celeriac cream, horseradish, lettuce stuffed with oxtail and mushrooms - not having read the menu, I thought the chunk in the middle was foie until I cut into it.  The mushroom was not bad, but the real treat was the oxtail stuffed inside the lettuce.  Very yummy.

1999 Les Forts de Latour - this was drinking beautifully, and took me by surprise.  Nose of smoke, saddle, pine needle, game meat, black pepper...and even a little bit of sweetness on the nose. 

Whole roasted/baked turbot : red turnip and sweet butter - I have to say that the sweet butter, with its seafood flavors, distracted me from tasting the wines.  The turbot itself had nice flavors, although slightly drier than I would have preferred.  The shredded red turnip was a nice touch, as was the shiitake mushroom at the bottom.

2006 Les Forts de Latour - nose of herbal medicine, smoked duck with a hint of sharpness that reflects its youth.  Complex and exotic nose of nutmeg, coconut, mint, toffee and spices.  Almost a hint of sandalwood.  Pretty awesome and I would love to taste this wine again in 10 years.

2004 Les Forts de Latour - nose of mint and smoke, very open and fragrant.  Very round and balanced.

Gâteau de foie gras, caramelized eggplant marmalade and fried squid - the steamed foie gras custard was very delicious.  Eggplant is always welcome, and the little rings of fried squid... Oh my!  I just looooove those.  I had a flashback to a memorable lunch here two years ago, where I was wowed by the menu Pierre Gagnaire put together while he was in town.  My neighbor and I both agreed that Pierre is one of the few chefs in the world who really can get it right when it comes to so-called "fusion".

2003 Les Forts de Latour - what a wine!  Minty, open and fragrant, exotic with lots of spices, along with the sweetness I expect from such a ripe vintage.  Such a pleasure to drink now.

2001 Les Forts de Latour - smoky, minty with good amount of fruit, but not as sweet as other vintages.  A hint of grass.  Pretty smooth on the palate.  Lovely.

Loin and kidneys, braised endive, pearl onions seasoned with gingerbread - I'm usually not a fan of loin, but I found this particular piece to be pretty nice and tender.  It is a little dry compared to other cuts of meat, but that's the cut of meat itself, not an execution problem.  The chopped pieces of kidney were hidden underneath the braised endive.  The taste of gingerbread was particular interesting.  Definitely a hearty winter dish.

1990 Les Forts de Latour - sweet, exotic and ripe with notes of smoke, pain grillé and a bit of grilled meats.

1970 Les Forts de Latour en magnum - vegetal and green, smoky, leathery with prominent soy sauce notes.  Not much fruit left here.  Light and smooth on the palate.  Honestly a little disappointed, although it could have been the bottle variation.  I've had the '70 Latour on numerous occasions, including a magnum tasted last year at the château itself thanks to Frédéric's generosity.  There is a huge difference here between the grand vin and Les Forts. No doubt a big part of the difference comes from the age of the vines - the vines were only planted in the early '60s, and would have been less than 10 years old when this vintage was made.  In any case the wine is pretty much over the hill.

Pamericelli of Beaufort, fruit marmalade and saffron.  Brebis parfait, Roquefort velouté - pretty interesting, especially the Roquefort velouté.

2005 Les Forts de Latour - a huge wine.  Nose was sweet and exotic with caramel, toffee and spices.  I could see that after being double-decanted for more than 3½ hours, it still wasn't completely open.  Another wine I would love to taste in another 10 years...and compare with the 2006.  Frédéric's money is on the 2006...

2000 Les Forts de Latour - minty, smoky, leather and fruity.  Actually a very well-balanced wine on the palate, with enough acidity.  Certainly drinking very well tonight.

Orange bavaroise, passion fruit and creamy pear - very nice and fruity... a perfect symphony of flavors to tease the tastebuds for the finale.

Biscuit chocolat Pierre Gagnaire automne 2010 - I can't take a lot of chocolate these days, especially after a big meal.  This was just the perfect size. 

It was a wonderful evening.  I was glad to return to Pierre after a prolonged absence, and even happier to do it while tasting such a fantastic range of wines. 

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