My dear friend, the Vicomte André de Toulouse, likes to celebrate Bastille day each year with the sort of feast that would surely have landed all participants in the guillotine.
This particular vintage of Yquem (which I have tasted on only one other occasion, after far too much Champagne to have formed a coherent note) was served at the end of this year's meal with a pan-seared foie gras of most singular provenance. The name and location of the farm from which it had been procured were kept steadfastly secret by my host and his butler. I was told only that it was not AOC classified, owing to the fact that its fowl had been raised exclusively on a diet of black truffles. One can imagine, but can scarcely describe, the richness and complexity such feed imparts. "Qu'ils mangent du foie gras!" bellowed the incorrigible Vicomte, and silver plates of this magnificent preparation were brought round with glasses of the amber Sauternes.
The wine: Well, it too was magnificent, caressing the palate as fine silk sheets do the body—deliciously, richly, and yet rather coolly. While mature, it remains taut—even severe. I was reminded of a stern, aging matron of French who used to come to the manor for my weekly lesson; age had softened her, but not very much; she wore scarves and smoked long and thin cigarettes; unused to nonsense she employed a firm touch. Well, you can imagine...
A final note: for all the whimsy of this particular feast, there was also admirable care taken in its preparation and design. The final dish, described here, brought full circle a progression of almost architectural intricacy, and echoed earlier courses of duck a l'orange (served with a '45 La Romanée) and a consommé of juvenile truffle hog.
I am most grateful to my host for arranging this event. He really is a most remarkable sybarite. What a happy miracle that his noble line should have escaped the proletariat's blade!
The Eleventh Annual Stonefields Dinner (Guelph, ON, Canada): This bottle certainly provided a lot of intrigue to the evening.... Very dark, looking almost like molasses it certainly had the look of a very old sauternes. The nose certainly confirmed this....it exploded with notes of orange rind, marmalade, nutmeg, burnt sugar, fig, dried flowers, and dried chinese tea. The palate was equally as precocious with flavours of burnt creme brulee, molasses, orange marmalade, dried orange rind, nutmeg, dried apple other exotic spices. These flavours were augmented by gorgeously fresh acid that really balanced the palate well. The finish was very long and complex with layers of flavours. Just amazing depth and intensity all around.....what a treat.
Once in Lifetime...: The cork was rather stubborn on this one and had to be forced in to the bottle. Fully saturated, however, it had dried to a tight seal between the capsule and the bottle. This had a deep cola like colour in the glass. Still very much alive, with an exotic nose of molasses, burnt sugar, marmalade, orange bitters, dried fruit, dried flowers and tea leaves. On the palate, this was still very rich and round, with that molasses coming through again, accompanied by nice dried fruit and spice notes, with almost a touch of sarsaparilla. Still in great balance, with a very long, lingering finish. This improved for the first hour in the glass, but started to gracefully decline thereafter.
The Fine Wine Experience Classic Claret II (Restaurant The Square **, London): Colour like Bual vintage madeira. An immense wine. Nose with salted caramel, honeycomb, molasses, wax and still a touch of yellow Sémillon-fruit, unfathomable depth; semi-sweet, drying out slightly but incredibly concentrated, power similar to a truly great old TBA, candied fruits, lovely acidity and lively bitters; very, very long. Magnificent.
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