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 souffl√©?  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….  

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