January 29, 2015

Hell week day 4: dessine-moi un Mouton

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Much like Tuesday, tonight was supposed to be my one free night in between all my nights of eating out this week.  I was already cringing about eating out 5 nights this week when I got a call from the Specialist: would I be free to attend the pre-auction dinner for the upcoming Château Mouton Rothschild ex-château sale?

Now, my first reaction was pretty similar to the one that Hugh Grant's character had in Four Weddings and a Funeral when Carrie showed up at the church moments before he was to be married - "Bugger!  Bugger!  Bugger!"  Why, oh why did this dinner have to be on the one night that I had hoped to be free, when my body would be allowed to take a break from all the excessive eating (and drinking) I was going to do this week?!  I had already turned down an invitation to another wine gathering.

But one does not turn down an invitation like this one.  It may not be gold dust, but pretty darn close.  It was a privilege to be invited and I was most certainly undeserving, so I gratefully accepted the kind invitation.  I was very much looking forward to a second chance to taste a legendary vintage, only this time the wines would come directly from the château!

I arrived at the appointed time, and spent a little time chatting with everyone from Sotheby's Wine Department.  The drink of the cocktail session?  Why, Champagne Barons de Rothschild Brut, in magnums of course!

We took our assigned seats at the different tables, and I was assigned to Miguel Barceló - named after the artist whose work adorns the 2012 vintage.  I found myself seated next to Aline Baly, who happens to be one of the co-owners of Château Coutet.  I was eagerly waiting for the food catered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and of course the wines!

Trio of Hokkaido scallop with orange beurre blanc - mmmm... when you say "trio of" something, people kinda expect three different versions of something...  Here's it's just three of the same scallops.  Not very impressed.  The scallops were blanched then chilled, and I found the texture to be so-so.  Flavor-wise the scallops were kinda bland, and were only saved by the orange sauce.

2011 Aile d'Argent - toasty oak on the nose.  Nice balance on the palate at first, slightly ripe but not too sweet.  Long finish with punchiness.

Porcini mushroom vol au vent with rosemary beurre noisette - I loooove vol au vent!  Just look at all those layers of flaky pastry!  Mushroom, of course, is a natural partner, and this was very, very tasty.  I definitely tasted the rosemary.

2006 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.  Nose of coffee, mint, sweet fruit, cedar, and tobacco.  Drinking really well.

2003 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.  Smoky, cigar smoke, nice and sweet fruit, a little meaty, a little coconut butter.  More tannic on the palate than the 2006.  Beautiful and opulent.

Iberico suckling pig, peas, red wine reduction - what's not to love about a cube of fatty, pork belly with a layer of crispy crakling?  Inhaled.  Nice potato mash and pea mash, too...

2001 Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 3½ hours prior to serving. Very minty, woodsy, some sweet fruit here, and a little exotic.

1996 Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.  Probably my favorite wine of the evening as it was drinking beautifully.  Heavy nose of tobacco smoke and pencil lead, with some cedar wood.  More powerful than I expected.  Classic Pauillac and exactly what I think a Mouton should be.

Braised wagyu beef cheek with French winter truffle jus - of course this was very tender, since there was plenty of collagen that has been softened after braising.  Black winter truffle didn't hurt, either... I even ate the fingerling potatoes.

1986 Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 3½ hours prior to serving.  This didn't show very well, as a friend and I discussed before dinner started, and I was told that some tables had new pours from different bottles.  Definitely possible that ex-château stock was simply too young.  Nose was a little earthy, smoky, a little meaty, and pretty lean.  The palate was very lovely and smooth, but the nose just wasn't as opulent and showy as I had hoped for.

1961 Mouton Rothschild - double-decanted 1 hour prior to serving.  Well, for me this wine wasn't showing, either.  Which may be just that I am somehow off tonight... because everyone else I spoke to tonight raved about this wine.  After all, this is ex-château stock of a legendary vintage.  One of my friends remarked that this wine alone was worth putting on a suit and tie for.  Nose showed a little animal, meaty, minty notes.  Very silky and beautifully smooth on the palate, which showed slight savory notes.  A beautiful and elegant wine for sure, but a little too restrained and lacking that sexy opulence.  Of course, this was only the second time I've had this vintage, so what the hell do I know?!

Classic French apple tart - well... I wouldn't exactly call it "classic", because the top looked like it belonged on a tarte au citron.  I still inhaled it, though...

1989 La Cuvée Madame de Château Coutet - given the small production, what a privilege it was to be drinking this wine!  Beautiful and stunning, with honey, apricot, marmalade, acetone, and honeydew melon notes.  Soooo rich and unctuous, but with good acidity balance here.

Liqueur de Cassis de Mouton Rothschild - the upside surprise of the evening.  Lots of ripe berries, a little violet, some herbal notes that reminds me a little of chartreuse, and also displayed the same savory notes as tomato juice.  So alcoholic that it started to singe the hairs in my nostrils...  A very limited production of maximum 1,600 bottles a year, so it's amazing that I got the chance to taste this.  Winemaker Philippe Dhalluin told me that only two bottlings are more rare - both made exclusively for the family - a Cognac (eau-de-vie?) and an eau-de-vie made from prunes.

It was truly a privilege to have been present at this dinner tonight, as the family came out to show their support - including the late Baroness' husband and her three children.  Their generosity was stunning - evidenced by the fact that they brought a whole case of the '61 with them.  I must also thank Aline Baly for her generosity in bringing the '89 Coutet Cuvée Madame - another rarity.  And of course I can't thank Sotheby's enough...

P.S.  The following evening saw the auction achieve stellar results - with 93% of lots sold above their high estimates, and a total of USD 4.1 million including premium.  The bulk of the proceeds are to be used to endow the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild Foundation for the Arts, since as a former actress herself, the performing arts are one of the late Baroness' great passions.  In that sense this auction is a little similar to the twin auctions raising funds to help set up the elBullifoundation a couple of years ago.

I figured prices would be high for this auction so I wasn't expecting to get anything, but fortunately I did manage to win one lot from mom's vintage.  I look forward to drinking that with mom...

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