Friday, June 15, 2012

Options on What to Bring

We’ve had The Peeler and The Worthy One around a couple of times, and they felt the need to reciprocate.  Who were we to turn down the offer of a night with food and wine?  We were told to bring ourselves, and we did.  But we just had to bring a bottle or two along to test the other palates.  The AC Electric Man was on his last outing too, and he did the same, bring a wine to play with.  Half the fun is deciding what to bring. There are always too many options.  Without going into all the wines, it was good fun.  Here are a couple of highlights:

Two European whites came up.  A 2010 Marc Bredif ‘Classic’ Vouvray.  Classic no doubt as it has a little sweetness.  I just think back to a couple of decades ago, and these wines were stifled with sulphur.  Even just one decade ago, they lagged behind others.  But they’ve cleaned up their act, and are now models of the appellation.  Beautiful spring flowers fruit, zingy and zesty, but that trace of sweetness bringing a sense of deliciousness that true Chenin Blanc can show.  And a 2005 Trimbach Alsace Riesling.  You’d think that with Clos Ste Hune as the pinnacle, this basic model would get it right.  It did.  Clean and pure.  Pristine and varietal, but if making a complaint, just not quite enough character.  Trading off the big name?  No, you just get what you pay for…

Two Aussie reds a world apart.  Firstly a 2010 Samuels Gorge McLaren Tempranillo.  Ultra-ripe and sweet, it could have been a modern, hot red from anywhere.  Puglia, Jumilla, McLaren Vale, all feasible.  Certainly no dead fruit, but a lack of varietal distinction.  Mr Parker would like this?  A crowd-pleasing sweet and jammy number with plenty of extraction, power and oak.  A modern-day classic?  Then a 1983 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.  Bricking, and elegant with clear-cut, clean, non-funky black and red curranty flavours.  Maybe a hint of leafiness.  Resolving tannins and still acid and bright and lively. Textbook claret-like elegance.  Sweet to drink and a revalation to those the wine was older than.  A classic in the past.        

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ducking Out

We often have to take ourselves away from it all for the sake of sanity or relaxation.  And that was an underlying reason for assembling at the A-Prentices to enjoy some fowl fare matched with Pinot Noir.  The A-Prentices know how to host a dinner and their Over-The-Hill hospitality is second to none, thus the incentive was to make it a memorable night.  With the P-Prince on hand, there was a good reason to put on a good show on the wine front.  We’ve had some time with the AC Electric Man before he heads o’seas, ducking out of the local scene for a while.  And The Eventress and her New Man have been ducking and diving with work, so the capture their presence was a treat.  And the Ever-Demure Di had been ducking behind the parapets lately too. All the conditions were right for a good time.

Setting the scene was the 2009 Spade Oak Gisborne Methode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs.  Not Pinot Noir, I know, but Chardonnay bubbles has the right demeanour for a start.  This was a gruntier style for sure, but it had all the ingredients it should have – citrus and white florals and just the right amount of bready autolysis.  This had a sternness which suited the occasion.  It led onto the 2009 Spade Oak Gisborne Methode Traditionnelle Blanc de Noirs.  Gisborne and Pinot Noir doesn’t quite ring true, but this was perfect.  Broader, richer, darker fruit with weight, but possessing brilliant vitality.  Much more built into it, and the yeastiness seamlessly interwoven as another layer.  It was a gorgeous match with the duck liver parfait and Calvados jelly.

An interlude brought out a 2010 Waimea Nelson Viognier.  Trophy winner, but on initial opening somewhat reduced and a bit smelly.  But as Viognier does, some air time saw it come out.  The fruit showed its purity and subtle exoticism.  A little on the cooler side and a tad of sweetness meant it didn’t quite come up to par, but its change in glass very intriguing.

Onto the first serious food course, P-Prince making a risotto with mushroomy, ducky flavours galore.  Here we had three red burgundies, all 2009, all premier cru Beaunes.  The 2009 Bellene Beaune 1er ‘Clos du Rois’ an ultra-modernist style with bold, sweet, ripe dark berry fruits, up-front oaking and a luscious easiness.  The 2009 Drouhin Beaune 1er ‘Clos des Mouches’ far more gentle, quite light and elegant.  Yes, feminine too.  Yet this had an underlying refined structure and a building richness.  Softer red fruits and beauty were its hallmarks, making it my favourite.  The 2009 Montille Beaune 1er ‘Greves’ was a winemakers’ wine with time required for it to settle down.  Complex gamey dark red fruits, the inclusion of stems(?) making it a little wild, near-funky, and with tannin-acidity to meld together.  Definitely European in style.  There was no consensus as to the best wine, but P-Prince pronounced them all ‘typical’.

Next was the main meal, duck confit with its richness and saltiness, requiring a powerful and enveloping wine match.  We gave it a go with another trio.  First up was a rare and individual 2009 ‘Sangreal’ by Farr.  This is Aussie Pinot Noir pushed to limits, with 100% whole bunch and 100% new oak.  Certainly an powerful and penetrating wine, but the stalk and oak components all in balance.  The dark berry fruits all tied up at first, but slowly releasing and showing how much wine was there.  All the makings of a great wine.  Next was the ultra smooth and ultra-suave 2005 Peregrine ‘Pinnacle’ Central Otago Pinot Noir.  Soft, lush, and in-your-face, but utterly seamless.  Drinking superbly now, and it will do so on its plateau for time to go.  The Ever-Demure Di thought this the best.  The third was the pick for me, a 2003 Martinborough Vineyard ‘Marie Zelie’ Pinot Noir.  Big and rich with masses of black fruits, dense and well-structured and a heap of oak to go with the ripeness.  This did the enveloping of the food for me, and it was a statement wine too.  Again, Pinot Noir, pushed too far, but absolutely delicious in this context.

What do you do with an older Pinot Noir that is still firm and textured, maybe a little dry in mouthfeel, but still very alive?  Cheese is the answer.  The board had a runny brie, a stinky Epoisse and a powerful blue.  A magnum bottle of 2001 Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir ensured there was plenty to go around.  And sure enough the burgundian wine and the burgundian-lover’s cheese, the Epoisse was the magical combination.  The wine is certainly at the peak of where it’s going to be.  Lovely dark savoury fruit with plenty of secondary woodsy-forest-fungal nuances unfolding.  Though little more sweetness was going to emerge, I couldn’t see it falling over in the next 5-8 years.  Not a bad effort for Larry McKenna in his then-new venture.  He had the gall and balls to push the style to the limit.

Is there a Pinot Noir to match a lemon soufflĂ©?  Probably not would be the answer.  The AC Electric Man provided some 2009 Johner Gladstone Noble Pinot Noir in an attempt.  Delicate rose red with a tad of garnet to colour, this was essence of red florals with citrussy marmalade flavours and wild honey.  Very lush and sweet.  The sugar of the wine met the acidity of the lemon and merged.  The delicate citrus and rose wine flavours connected with the lemon too.  Very workable in an unexpected way.  Having the sweetness dominate helps.

By this time, our palates and tummies were sated.  But just in case, the A-Prentices brought out their after-dinner spirits and alcohols.  We thought it might be an unveiling of the ‘Nouveau’ Liqueur only, but there followed a procession of grappas, cognac, whisky, brandies and the like.  There’s never any pressure to drink them all, but a little smell and taste is obligatory.  SWMBO faded.  She ducked off to bed.  The Eventress and the New Man ducked off outside.  Then one-by-one we headed away too….  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Departure Club

There’s a growing band of us who are leaving or have departed from the Region of Origin.  We could call it The Departure Club.  Last time we met, I had already made the journey and The Young New Trader was just about to.  Now it’s the time for the AC Electric Man.  It was time to celebrate, and along with She-Shell and SWMBO, we planned a little soiree at the local Asian eatery.  With good humour we reminisced about good times and not so good, how we’d moved to new and better places, and how the future could only be wonderful.

As a progressive feast of duck, chicken pork and prawns was served, we went through a progression of wines, served approximately in pairs.  The opening wines started an NV Villa Marcello Prosecco di Treviso, gently effervescent and full flavoured and friendly in a slightly rustic way.  Yellow stonefruits sweetly expressed, but a dry wine.  Not entirely clean, a little reduction possibly, but more than acceptable to get the taste buds going.  A non-vintage wine, but I’d hazard a guess at least mainly 3 years of age for the fruit base.  Reserved for She-Shell, but which we also partook was a 2010 Astrolabe ‘Voyage’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  Plenty of weight and constituency here, showing the quality of the vintage, and now showing a little green-bean secondary development.  The acidity has mellowed out somewhat, and good for it.

Two Viognier wines made an interesting comparison.  Firstly a 2010 Yves Cuilleron Condrieu ‘Chaillets’, a wine of great beauty with perfumes of exotic flowers and herbs, lavender especially, and a palate of drive and weight in perfect balance.  This will develop over the next 6-8+ years judging by how much depth there is in it.  Not disgraced in any way was a 2009 Spade Oak ‘Reserve’ Viognier.  More developed and even, lovely richness and an unctuousness, and drinking very well now.  This didn’t have the layers of interest, depth and drive, but was arguably more drinkable now.  And it had a touch of the wild, non-pristine nature that put it into a comparable stance with the Cuilleron.  Well-done Mr Voysey!

It’s often said that Gewurztraminer doesn’t really match Asian food, but it can.  We enjoyed the lusciousness of a 2009 Stonecroft ‘Old Vine’ Gewurztraminer with all of the dishes.  Nothing fighting, and all of the food plates having something more than compatible with the wine.  The wine is still young and seemed undeveloped in flavour, with none of the hair-oil character, but definitely floral and honey-spice, hinting ginger. 

Two reds at the opposite end of the spectrum next.  A 2008 Dario Coos Refesco dal Peduncolo Rosso Venezia Giulia first.  Appearing harsh, raw and on the sinewy and cool side, this grew into something substantial in glass.  A robust and rustic number with an underlying sweetness alongside sharp acid, and plenty of grip.  Then a 2007 Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Syrah.  A monster with ripeness, sweetness and the ‘wow’ factor.  But this became far more interesting with breathing.  Layers of complex black fruits and iron-earth, and great structure holding it all together.  This is a wine to go 15+ years easily.

We were humming along and on a roll and decided we needed to have chocolate, sweet things and cheeses, so the Departure Club departed to across the road to a place which was also humming.  Food ordered and about to arrive, a couple of sweeties saw the night off.  A 2010 Torbreck ‘The Bothie’, pale in colour with a distinctive herb and pine edge to the Muscat.  Crisp, tight, and surprisingly lean, clean and cutting for 13.75% alc. and 141 g/L sweetness.  Then finally a 2009 Marisco ‘Kings Series’ ‘A Sticky End’ Noble Semillon.  Richer denser and far more luscious, but showing real varietal bean flavours alongside oak nuttiness and grapefruit marmalade and honey from the botrytis. 

A couple of us, who shall remain nameless departed from the wine on a nostalgia trip and finished the night off with a Baileys Irish Cream on the rocks.  Yum! (Oops, gave it away.)