February 25, 2011

10 years on

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I attended a dinner tonight organized by Christie's, which brought me back to Tim's Kitchen (桃花源) for the second time in three days.  I use the expression "organized by" because this is a BYO dinner, where the diners paid for their food, brought their own wine, and were invited to taste some bottles provided by Christie's wine specialists.

The dinner was hosted by Charles Curtis, MW, the Head of Wine Sales for the Americas and Asia.  Paul Pontallier, Director of Château Margaux, stopped by briefly with his son Thibault before boarding his flight.  I took the opportunity to thank Paul for graciously hosting us for lunch on our trip two years ago.

Chilled marinated goose meat roll (冰鎮鵝肉卷) - I was furious that I didn't get to have this.  Either the kitchen didn't send out enough of them, or somebody had two pieces.  Either way it was very poor form.

Chilled tossed cucumber (手拍青瓜) - chose not to have this as the chili would have screwed with my palate.

Crystal king prawn (玻璃明蝦球) - not bad, and my friend agreed with me that this is something we wouldn't order on our own.  After the first couple of times, the novelty of eating a giant prawn wears off and you start wondering if it's really that special...

Deep-fried whole fresh crab claw with peppercorn salt (椒鹽炸原隻鮮蟹鉗) - my least favorite of the three preparations for crab claw, and we joked that this was ordered just for the gweilos...  Having said that, I do have to admit that the crab meat was very sweet and succulent, and a lot better than I expected.

Double-boiled pig lung soup with almond (杏汁豬肺湯) - OK, so this isn't a very gweilo soup, although if the party were totally Chinese we might have gone for the wonderful snake soup.  This was the first time I had pig's lung soup here, and we were all surprised at how much almond cream they used... It ended up being very, very strong and fragrant - which covered up any unpleasant smell from the lungs - and really thick and viscous.  While I thought the flavor was OK, other guests complained that they thought they were drinking almond cream (杏仁茶) for dessert... which actually would be our dessert at the end!

Braised pomelo skin with shrimp roes (蝦籽炆柚皮) - still very good and one of the best in town.

Sautéed fresh sliced garoupa fillet with celery (西芹炒海青斑球) - this was OK.

Crispy chicken (脆皮炸子雞) - pretty good and I had it two days ago.

Sautéed rice rolls with minced beef, bean sprouts in satay sauce (沙爹牛肉炒腸粉) - satay sauce is usually pretty yummy and I wished for a bigger bowl of this...

Choy sum (菜心)

Almond cream (杏仁茶) - very nice.  Fragrant, viscous but not too thick.

The focus, of course, was on wine.  Christie's gave us a list of the wines that they'd be bringing, and upon seeing the first 3 entries, I was sold.  I told Charles that the Rieslings from his collection were the main reasons I came, since they're not easy to find in Hong Kong.  The theme was 2001 and we were all asked to bring something from this vintage.

The wines from Christie's - some from Charles's personal collection:

Krug Grande Cuvée en magnum - toasty and lovely.

2001 Carl von Schubert Maximin Grünhauser Riesling Spätlese - I looooove this Riesling and have some older vintages at home.  Nose of urethane, plastic, a bit floral and mineral.  A little sweet on the palate.

2001 Weegmuller Haardter Bürgergarten Riesling Spätlese - more minerals in the big and open nose.  Leaner on the palate.

2001 Domdechant Werner Hichheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Spätlese Trocken - this was the biggest surprise for me.  The nose was beautifully honeyed with marmalade, and one would immediately conjure up images of luscious, sweet dessert wines.  But in reality the palate was completely dry, with flavors and notes of straw.  Thank you, Charles!

2001 Leroy Chambertin - I had to pour myself a glass early on because the rest of the crowd was going for this, and the bottle would be empty had I waited a little longer.  Beautiful nose of leather, smoky with farmy notes.  Very open and lovely, and more on the animal side instead of clean, pure fruit.

2001 Dujac Charmes-Chambertin - very open, fruity and kinda sweet.

2001 Palmer - really big nose of forest, potpourri, smoke with some fruit.  Good acidity balance here, and a very beautiful claret.

2001 Dalla Valle Maya - very open and lovely nose of forest, pine, fragrant wood and a bit of smoke.  A little ripe and slightly sweet on the palate.  Very uncharacteristic for a Cali Cab.

2001 Doisy-Daëne - plastic, botrytis, pomelo skin, a little minerals and green on the nose.  Obviously sweet on the palate.

2001 Haut-Brion - the bottle was empty by the time I got to it.

2001 Yquem - the bottle was empty by the time I got to it.

Wines from the gweilo table:

2001 Drouhin-Laroze Chambertin Clos de Beze - very fruity, minty and fragrant, kinda sweet, lovely and elegant.  Sweet on the nose but not on the palate.  Seemingly on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Leroy Chambertin.

2001 Branaire-Ducru - smoky, brett, a little savory minerals and soy sauce.  A classic claret.

Wines from the Chinese table:

2001 Leewuin Estate Art Series Chardonnay - I brought this bottle to make an interesting pairing of two Chardonnays, but I wondered if this was a little corked.  Very strong nose of straw, a bit mossy and green.  A little banana and perhaps some chalk.  A hint of minerals. Very ripe and oxidized on the palate.  I love Leeuwin Chardonnays when they have been aged, and I always thought they could go head-to-head against white Burgundy, but I was disappointed by this bottle.

2001 Ramonet Bienvenue-Bâtard-Montrachet - ripe and a little oxidized, and ripe on the palate.  Citrus rind notes with a little bitter finish, and a little alcoholic.  I love Ramonets but I was slightly disappointed in this bottle that I brought.  My friends seemed to have liked it, though...

2001 Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - surprisingly honeyed and sweet in the nose, with urethane notes.  Pretty nice and open.

2001 Bouchard Corton Renardes - minty with herbs.  Soft and pretty decent.

2001 R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia - lots of herbs and forest, a bit sweet with some ripeness.

2001 Latour - minty with sandalwood, fragrant, open and beautiful.

2001 Sassicaia - smoky, a bit mineral, toasty oak and sweet on the nose.  Open, fragrant and beautiful.  Wow!

2001 Musar - very open and sweet, a bit oxidized.  Beautiful.

2001 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz - fragrant wood, sweet, oxidized, smoky and alcoholic.

2001 Col d'Orcia Riserva Poggio al Vento - a bit acidic on the nose with some smoke.  Not bad.

2001 Vergenoegd Old Cape Colony Port - nose of minerals, alcoholic and sweet.

2001 Gloria - totally forgot to taste this...

I'm obviously glad that Christie's organized this dinner, as I got to taste of a lot of wines.  But the evening did work out the way I had suspected it would...  

The two tables turned out to be segregated: one of all (save one) Chinese guests, who tended to arrive early and ended up being at the same table; while all of the Christie's people sat at the other table with their friends, and the composition was mostly Caucasian.  That, I thought, could have been arranged to ensure a better mix.

At an event that is BYO, it's also important for the guests to bring wines at an "appropriate" level.  While I enjoyed tasting all the wines this evening, I couldn't help feeling that some of the bottles just weren't in the same league as the rest.  I feel pretty strongly that when Christie's has taken the trouble to let the guests know that they're bringing bottles like Leroy Chambertin, Haut-Brion, Maya, Palmer...etc, the guests should have the courtesy to bring wines which are at least on a comparable level.  I stopped myself from bringing bottles like 2001 Masseto because I knew that people would just bring the cheap stuff.  And I was right.  Thankfully there were a couple of exceptions.

Anyway... there was a lot of wine, and whenever it's an evening with a lot of wine, I ended up very inebriated... to put it mildly....

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