January 26, 2014

Lil' ol' chapels

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We usually do our MNSC annual dinner in January, and I'm thankful yet again that I don't have to play the role of organizer.  Given the boys' recent experience with a bottle of ex-château La Chapelle from an older vintage, the gang decided to do a vertical of the famed wine.  However, due to budget constraints we weren't able to include the legendary 1961 Jaboulet La Chapelle in the lineup.  My attempts to persuade Altaya Wines to give the MNSC members a 50% discount fell on deaf ears...

As the budget seemed a little tight - and I'm not about to get into an argument on this topic - we decided to forgo dining at a fancy restaurant.  Instead we gathered in the Grill Room at the Hong Kong Country Club, which I guess isn't bad as far as club food goes.

Vichyssoise of cauliflower with honey, steamed langoustines and buckwheat pancake - I never see vichyssoise on the menus at places I frequent, as I guess it's too low-brow... So I jumped at the chance to have this even though it's not exactly warm weather.  LOVED IT.  Creamy, rich and smooth.  Wonderful texture that was thick enough without being in overkill territory.  Chunks of langoustines were hidden in the bowl, and they were naturally savory with that sweetness which can only be from fresh seafood.

The only complaint I have is that I wasn't given any utensils with which to crack the claws, so I couldn't get to the meat inside.

Roasted French Bresse pigeon with ceps mushroom cannelloni, spinach purée and sautéed potatoes cocotte - Syrah and pigeon just make the perfect combination, as was evident from this dinner 3 years ago.  This was pretty nicely done... as the flesh was still somewhat pink and not too well done.  A little more rare and you'd start seeing blood oozing out.  Very yum.  That cannelloni stuffed with ceps was pretty tasty, too.

Dry aged USDA Prime rib eye steak - we shared 2 servings of this, which still came out to be a reasonable-sized piece of meat for each of us.  Yes, it was done pretty rare, but I thought it was just about perfect.

Crêpes Suzette and almond pancake - I would have chosen far breton myself, but we ended up sharing these.  Not bad.

Before getting to the vertical of La Chapelle, we started with a couple of extra bottles.  The bubbly was donated by our incoming secretary, while the "mystery wine" was generously donated by our champion.

1996 Moët et Chandon Cuvée Dom Pérignon - really fresh and vibrant, delicious, ripe on the palate with great acidity balance, with a nice, long finish.

1959 Vogüé Bonnes-Mares - obviously very old with tons of sediment, but color is still deep with no visible amber at the rims.  Lots of leather, still powerful on the palate.  Very savory nose with black olives and minerals.  Amazing condition for a wine of this age.

First flight:  opened just before serving
1962 Jaboulet La Chapelle - really lovely.  A little farmy, grilled meats, bacon, blackcurrant, along with a hint of dustiness.  After 2 hours lots of coffee came out in the nose.  96 points.

1964 Jaboulet La Chapelle - really beautiful.  Wonderful and open nose, with plenty of bacon fat, really sweet fruit, lots of forest and potpourri.  After 2 hours there were also coffee notes.  98 points.  Wine of the evening.

1976 Jaboulet La Chapelle - really sweet, vanilla, a hint of star anise, forest, ripe fruit.  Lots of concentration here on the palate.  95 points.

Second flight:  decanted for 2 3/4 hours before serving
1983 Jaboulet La Chapelle - beautiful floral nose with violet, bacon fat, lots of sweet fruit, leather, mint, pine needle, forest and dried herbs.  After 3 3/4 hours lots of pine needle in the nose.  A stunning wine to drink tonight.  98 points.

1989 Jaboulet La Chapelle - drank after 4 hours.  Very ripe and concentrated, a little chalky and a little sharp.

1990 Jaboulet La Chapelle - nose was pretty closed.  Chalky, forest notes.  Very concentrated.

Much like my experience from the La Chapelle dinner hosted by Sotheby's last time, my favorite wine of the evening was the 1964, which was just incredibly beautiful.  Likewise the 1990 was once again shut and inaccessible, and both times the wine had spent extended periods of time in the decanter.  I guess I'll need to wait another 5 to 10 years before drinking the bottles in my collection...

A fantastic evening just before going on holiday during the Lunar New Year.  Here's to more good food and good wine in the Year of the Horse!

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