December 9, 2010

Conseillantes and Colgins

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I was invited by the Specialist to join a wine tasting tonight.  Hong Kong Wine Vault invited Jean-Michel Laporte, Director of Château La Conseillante, to host a vertical tasting.  I had met Jean-Michel on the trip to Bordeaux last year, and I introduced myself and chatted with him for a little while.

The line-up tonight was:

2009 Duo de Conseillante - very ripe and sweet, a bit of sandalwood, alcoholic, tangerine, a bit of toffee and a little tropical.

2009 La Conseillante - a lot more blackcurrant, minty, coffee, sweet and tropical, almost coconut, a bit of smoke and stewed dates.  

2008 La Conseillante - initially nose of rubber, relatively closed with some smoke.  Gradually opened up with some sweet fruit.  I had tasted this wine at the château last year and liked it a lot better.

2006 La Conseillante - very fruity, ripe and upfront, quite enjoyable.  Almost jammy with a little smoked meats.

2005 La Conseillante - so ripe and sweet, minty, tangerine, smoke, very concentrated but tannins are starting to soften.  Some blackcurrant jam.  Very lovely.

2001 La Conseillante - nose was a bit stewed, more smoky, and amazingly there was plenty of sweetness underneath the smoky cloak.  Smoked game meats, too.  Not bad at all.

1998 La Conseillante - a very pleasant wine.  Nose of spices and herbs, green bell peppers, and a little smoky.  Velvety and sweet on the palate.

1990 La Conseillante - a very lovely wine.  Elegant, sweet, fruity with pine needle.  Very complex and nicely woven together.  On palate it is obvious that the wine has aged.  Notes of black pepper and a hint of brett.  Palate was definitely tired, and the wine died horribly at the end.  It was like falling off a cliff...

Dinner time rolled around and we adjourned to the Hong Kong Golf Club in nearby Deep Water Bay.  The deal I struck with the Specialist was that I'd bring the wines and she'd buy dinner, and I had originally requested to have dinner at places like Caprice and Pierre.  Oh well...

Speaking of wines... I was pretty shocked when the Specialist requested that I bring out some of my Colgins, given her general abhorrence for Californian wines.  Apparently she had a chance to meet Ann Colgin and wanted to learn more about Ann's wines.  So I obliged, knowing full-well how the evening would end up...

I placed the two bottles on the table and took out my long-forgotten wine thermometer to check the temperature.  The Specialist and her friend joked that the wines were feverish and I was playing doctor.  Well, as Jeannie Cho Lee pointed out in an article in the South China Morning Post today - which I whole-heartedly agree with - red wines at room temperature in Asia is simply too warm.  Sure enough, the thermometer read 26 degrees Celsius - a whole 10 degrees warmer than the suggested serving temperature!  

I poured the first wine into our glasses, and lifted mine to take a whiff.  Whoa!  Nothing but bleach in the nose, like I was smelling Chlorox!  After smelling the other glasses I felt sure it wasn't the wine, but the detergent or whatever cleaning agent left in my glass.  I was pretty bummed about wasting that first pour as they gave me a new glass.

I still thought the wines were too warm, so I dunked the bottles into an ice bucket for a few minutes, and they drank a little better.  The Specialist agreed that the wines got better on the palate, but felt that the nose became more "restrained" at the lower temperature.  I respectfully disagreed but, hey, what do I know anyway... She's the one with the famous boss!

2001 Colgin Cabernet Sauvignon Herb Lamb Vineyard - alcoholic, smoky, almost like burnt candle wick and wax.  Pretty sweet on the palate, but burns as it goes down the back of the throat.  Also coffee grinds and toffee notes.  Drinking pretty nicely.

2003 Colgin IX Estate - really explosively sweet nose, full of strawberries.  Very typical Cali nose, with minerals and caramel notes.  Hot and burns the back of the throat.  Would be lovely after a few more years of cellaring.

Now for someone who normally can drink me under the table just by lifting her pinky, what happened tonight was completely out of the ordinary.  It's true that the Specialist drank a little more at the pre-dinner tasting than I did, but after about 2 sips of the Colgins she declared that she was getting drunk!  She declared herself defeated by the alcoholic Californians - which weighed in at 15.4% and 15.6% alcohol... She found the Herb Lamb a little more palatable, so we finished about 60% of the bottle.  The IX Estate didn't fare as well, as there was easily 2/3 of the bottle left...  Guess I'll try to finish the wines tomorrow.

Spaghetti carbonara - this was kinda eggy and less creamy than I expected.  The sauce wasn't too watery, which wasn't bad.  

The Spanish pork chop was a complete disaster.  I had thought about asking the kitchen to cook it a bit on the rare side, but bit my tongue.  As it turns out I should have, since the pork chop was soooo overdone.  My friends were amazed as the table shook violently each time I tried to cut the meat, and they ended up waiting for me to put down my knife before it became their turn to cut their steaks...  There were still some juices inside, but the texture was really hard.  They also gave me spinach instead of the broccoli I asked for, and the water from the spinach was all over the plate...  I didn't want to waste the piece of meat so I ate it as is, instead of sending it back and getting a new piece.

I opined that the club's members are mostly old fogies and they prefer their meats a little more well-done.  Pretty glad I'm not a member, as I'm not inclined to come back anytime soon...

I realized tonight that it didn't matter whether the Californian wine I brought cost $40 a bottle or $400 a bottle - the Specialist would end up drinking a few sips and I'd end up taking half the bottle home.  Guess I'll be bringing $40 bottles for her in the future...

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