Thursday, October 29, 2009

And a Bordeaux Dinner!

Tuesday morning, I received a call from Randy at the office asking if I could help at a Bordeaux Dinner Wednesday night at The Mansion on Turtle Creek. This question came as quite a surprise. I was not even aware of the event. But I wasn't too surprised to decline. The dinner was with a small group of customers honoring the proprietors of two estates that have become cornerstones of Sigel's Bordeaux portfolio, Alfred Tesseron of Chateau Pontet-Canet from Pauillac and Alexandre and Francois Thienpoint of Vieux Chateau Certan and Wings from Pomerol.

The evening began with Krug Champagne and passed Hors d'Oeuvres. The Krug was delicious as always with delicate hazelnuts infused with citrus and lemon oils leading to a long finish of lightly toasted brioche and honey. 

Crusted Monkfish in Lobster Minestrone was the first course. It was paired with Chateau les Carmes Godard Blanc 2007 from Cotes de Franc, owned by the Thienpoints and located near Chateau Puygueraud. The rich tomato broth was complemented by the wine, which gets its richness from its unusual blend 75% Semillon, 25% Sauvignon Gris, and 10% Muscadelle.

Then the dinner took a serious turn as attention was turned to the red wines. Each course was paired with a wine from each estate and the wines were progressively older with each course. As we delved into the recent history of these two legendary estates, the dramatic theme of the evening emerged. Both of the estates had in the past enjoyed excellent reputations but had fallen into periods of relative decline. Both estates have now been taken over and driven to new heights of excellence by their current owners.

Mr. Tesseron and Mr. Thienpoint both spoke to the passions necessary to drive the course to quality. In the words of Mr. Tesseron, "The soil is our gift, our job is to learn to understand it." To that end he is moving from tractors to horses. His expectation is that the vines will live longer in the looser soils. "Horses stop when they are about to damage the vine-tree, tractors do not." The older vines should produce more intense fruit yielding more intense wines. Although it is hard to imagine his wines becoming more intense. 

Roasted Squab on Butternut Squash Risotto was paired with the younger reds. The 2004 Pontet-Canet showed aromas of vibrant black fruit and a initial bright juiciness on the palate followed by waves of dark fruits and fine, gripping tannins on the finish. The wine is quite young and the mid-palate will gain weight as the wine matures. The 2001 Vieux-Chateau-Certan was dark, rich and spicy with layers of red and black berries and plums leading to depths of licorice, chocolate and espresso. Both vintages presented challenges and both were adjacent to vintages considered classic, but both wines were delicious and were well paired with the food.

Petite Filet with Roasted Porcini Mushroom on Parsnip Puree.  The complex flavors of the tender beef, earthy mushroom and creamy parsnips were paired with wines from the classic 2000 vintage. Quick floral notes surrounded the deep cassis aromas of the Pontet-Canet. Massive black fruits integrated seamlessly into a sea of melted tannins. The Vieux-Chateau-Certan moved straight into pools of deep velvety black fruits of unperceived depths with very dark undercurrents. Both wines were spectacular and both spoke of their individual and common origins. Pontet Canet was definitely Pauillac, Vieux-Certan was definitely Pomerol. Both were definitely Bordeaux.

A spectacular trio of cheeses: 5 yr Gouda, Perail de Brebis, Delice de Bourgone were accompanied by the older wines. The Pontet-Canet was from 1994. Though considered an off year, 1994 was the first year Mr. Tesseron began to operate the estate with his aggressive dedication to quality.  The dark wine showed no sign of age in the color. The fruit was beginning to recede from primary to dried fruits but any subtlety was lost in the intense, dark brooding flavors. I thought the wine was magnificent. 1998 was a banner year for the Right Bank and the Vieux-Certan verified the acclaim for the vintage as the wine took us deep into spectacular velvet pools of infinitely dark fruits.

Dessert was a deconstructed Tarte Tatin with a delicious Barsac, Chateau Coutet 1996 and it was almost a disaster from my end. For the first time at one of these affairs, I was given the job of opening the wines unsupervised during the meal. The corks were moist and tender and one totally crumbled. I managed to extract the very bottom of the cork intact averting total disaster, though there were a few floaties, which I was able to fish out. I do mean to tell, I was sweating!

Before their involvement in Bordeaux, the Tesseron family has long been in the Cognac business and have tremendous reserves of old stocks. Tonight he served the Lot 53, which was silky and smooth with more chocolate, praline, caramel and dried fruit flavors and aromatics than I could count. What a treat.

It's difficult to write about the last toasts of the evening. John turned the floor over to Dr. Goran Klintmalm, who started the Baylor Organ Transplant Program 25 years ago. He spoke softly and eloquently of the 'double blessing' made possible by organ transplants. He finished by turning and offering me a toast on the first anniversary of my transplant. I was totally overwhelmed. And he is right. Organ donation and transplantation is a gift of life and I have been doubly blessed to be a recipient. The knowledge and awareness of this gift grows deeper with every passing day.

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