Plumed Horse Restaurant, Saratoga, California
Tasted Thursday, August 14, 2008 by Richard Jennings with 496 views
Another delightful evening of excellent wines, fine company and tasty food, featuring some remarkable Burgundies and other rarities and delights. This dinner was initially sparked by Jayaram, who, unfortunately, couldn't be with us for the evening. A delightful surprise, however, was the appearance of the peripatetic but recently absent Jonathan Dinh, who flew in specially for the evening all the way from Singapore. Many thanks to David Niederauer for arranging the food (and his own fun flight) and to our wine orchestrator for the evening, Mischa Travers.
Chef Peter Armellino and the Plumed Horse staff did an excellent job on our food, which well matched our wines. A couple of the courses, in particular, really stood out (and I've had the benefit of dining 8 or 9 times at PH so far).
All of our flights with the exception of the two reception wines and the dessert flight at the end were served blind. We did the "Sutherland two-step," serving initially double blind (knowing only the varietal, Pinot or Chard, but not the region, producer or vintage) and then single blind, with the distribution of slips identifying the wines in the flight but not the order. We had no trouble, as a group, identifying California vs. France with respect to the Chards and Pinots, but some of us had trouble on the sweet flight making them all out as French. A few of us did very well at identifying locales and vintages, and Mark triumphed in properly guessing the order of our 2000 Grand Cru flight, thereby winning Jonathan's bet of a bottle of '61 Haut Brion to anyone who could do so (which seemed quite a challenge when Jonathan offered it up).
A delightful surprise for me was the drinkability and deliciousness of our flight of what turned out to be 2000 Chambertins. A few disappointments were the '01 Vogue Bourgogne Blanc (not nearly as good as a bottle I had a few months back), the '05 Fort Ross Reserve and a presumably faulty, in some way, bottle of '02 Leroy "Les Beaux Monts." My other most memorable bottles from the evening were the '97 Doisy-Daene "L'Extravagant" and the '95 DRC Echezeaux.
Chef Peter and Thanos
These were both lovely wines. The Bollinger carried the primary theme of Pinot as an introduction, and is very youthful, but already showing nice complexity. The Henninger was a stunning and delicious example of mature Auslese.
These three wines accompanied a delicious seared foie gras with tomato jam. Many of us were guessing that one or more of the flight were too fruity and luscious to be Sauternes, but Sauternes they all turned out to be, and an older vintage than most guessed. The L'Extravagant was particularly impressive, and easily won the group's WOTF vote.
Our course for this flight was ahi tuna tartare with quail egg, mustard oil and Tsar Nicolas caviar. It was a tasty dish, although the mustard oil was a bit of an unnecessary distraction. The group properly identified the wines' nationalities, but in the 2nd step of the two-step, most of us confused the Meursault with the Vogue. The Kistler was my WOTF, as I think it was for most of the group.
Again, we all properly identified the nationalities of these wines, and several guessed the Vosne-Romanee slant of the flight. The DRC Echezeaux was my WOTF, but the whole flight was enjoyable. Our dish for this flight was wild Columbia River sturgeon with veal cheek ravioli in tomato water with cornichons and walnuts, and a confit of green Zebra tomatoes.
Clearly a theme going on here, but maybe one of us properly guessed the vintage (most guessed older), and only a few guessed Chambertin. As mentioned above, Mark properly guessed the order when we got to the single blind stage. Our dish for this flight was my favorite of the night: a stunning veal filet with ricotta gnocchi and chanterelles. As mentioned in my intro, the fact that these Chambertins were already drinking so well, at only 8 years old, was a nice surprise for me.
The ultimate theme of this flight turned out to be Pinots with large and small discrepancies in their scores between the Advocate and Burghound. The Marcassin, for example, received 98 pts. from WA and 85 from BH, while the Kistler received 95-97 WA and 86 BH. The Rochioli rating was a little closer--95-97 WA vs. 91 BH--while the ratings on the other three wines were quite similar between the two publications. I believe the group consensus was correct about the respective nationalities of the wines, but I don't remember much consensus beyond that. I liked the Marcassin and DRC G-E in this flight, but was generally underwhelmed by those that had received very high ratings. In my experience over the last couple years, however, '02 Burgs are still very shut down, so that may help explain why our two '02 Burgs didn't show particularly well. I'm guessing the Leroy was a flawed bottle, as I've had a very tasty example in the past. David's characteristic generosity (and mischeviousness) with this flight is, of course, very much appreciated.
Our dish for this flight was our beloved Plumed Horse slider. This time we got two versions: the usual tasty filet dip, along with an oxtail jam dip. Yum!
For our next two dishes--peach and olive souffle with olive oil ice cream, followed by a warm chocolate fondant with fleur de sel--we had two tasty fortified wines that matched the dishes pretty well. Massandras are always a great, rare treat, and this was one of the youngest I'd tried. I thought the '82 Dow's Single Year Tawny went particularly well with the chocolate fondant.
David and our surprise special guest:
Splendidly wretched excess as usual when this gang gets together. There was something particularly satisfying about our few themed flights and the chance to compare wines of the same locale and/or vintage, for which I particularly thank Mischa and all his advanced communications with everyone. The 2000 Chambertins have particularly stayed with me.