Easter Sunday was an excuse to invite over a couple of friends, eat well, and drink well. Our menu looked like this:
Deconstructed lobster roll
Arugula, bleu cheese, and poached pear salad
Halibut in red wine onion sauce
Scallion Potato Cakes
Fennel and Leek Gratinee
Dark Chocolate Amaretto Fondue with Homemade Bourbon Marshmallows and Fresh Fruit
Going in, I knew that our friends Neal and Jim were going to bring something for the first two courses, so all we had to focus on was the main and dessert.
The default choice for lobster seems to be champagne, so I was pleased when they showed up with a nice 2007 Zinck Pinot Blanc from the Alsace. I expected a level of minerality to go with the celery root remoulade under the lobster (not to mention the lobster itself) and was not disappointed. The attack wasn’t particularly aggressive, and the peach-dominated fruit with a hint of lemon provided a fine pairing.
For course two, they wanted to do a little taste test. They brought 2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier and 2009 St Hallett Poachers Blend (Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling), and we poured them side-by-side with the salad. Given that the salad had a significant fruit component to it, I was pretty sure the Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend was going to go relatively well. It was even better than I thought. The nose of sweet banana and tropical fruit led to a crisp, honeyed grapefruit and floral palate that was perfect. Unfortunately for the St. Hallett, the Pine Ridge was a clearly superior wine. We’re both fans of the complexity that blends bring, but I thought that the three grapes clashed instead of blended, and especially compared to the Pine Ridge, it felt quite disjointed. It wasn’t unpleasant, just clearly second best.
Often when we cook, we generally have everything prepped beforehand and ready to serve. Perhaps there’s a last minute this-or-that, but generally, we like to arrange meals that maximize time with our friends. This time, however, both the fish and the scallion potato cakes had to be prepped and cooked in short order. That meant we needed some wine to have while we were back in the kitchen.
Neal and Jim had also carried along two ones, one with a warning. It was a 1989 Château La Grolet which they had had for quite some time. They didn’t know if it still any good or not. We decided to take the chance, since it probably wasn’t going to get any better at this point. I held out some hope since 1989 was a pretty good year in Bordeaux. I knew that I wanted to be quite gentle with the cork here given the wine’s age. When it started to slide out rather easily, I was hopeful—but then the top third of the cork simply tore away from the rest like a piece of wet cardboard. I got the rest of the cork out rather easily and without pushing any fragments into the bottle. Pouring it, we noted quite a bricky color to it. On the nose, it had a dark, port-like characteristic. On the palate, it was simply dead. We shrugged and moved on.
We popped 2005 Château La Croix de L’Espérance for enjoying while shredding potatoes and cooking fish. Great color (perhaps especially in comparison to the La Grolet), and a rich nose of black raspberry and enough oak to make you notice. Good fruit, excellence structure and balance, some cocoa, dark fruit, licorice and spice on the palate. Well more complex than I had expected when they told me it was “a great value.” Pretty sure it’s 100% Merlot. A pleasant drink while we were cooking and chatting. It somehow all disappeared before the meal was ready.
The choice of the 2000 Cos d’Estournel came from looking at the cellar and deciding which trophy wine was drinking well right now. We intentionally cooked the fish in wine sauce as opposed to something lemony so as to not clash with the wine. I carefully decanted due to a significant amount of sediment showing in the neck. Nice aromas of herb and anise, black cherry and currant, and a touch of leather. Medium bodied, modest tannins. Elegant and sleek. I noted at the time “this is wine should taste like,” but I think I say that whenever Bordeaux is decent. Beautiful, if a little understated. Additionally, it feels like this is developing more quickly than I had hoped given the relative mellowness of the tannins. I can’t see holding the rest of them more than another 5 years or so, although I’ll concede that I could be wrong about that.
Having a 2009 Martinelli Vellutini Ranch Zinfandel with the fondue wasn’t part of the plan. Neal and Jim had been over for a larger gathering before but had to leave early and hadn’t had any of the 1927 Pedro Ximenez Solera that we poured, so I wanted them to have some of that. Somewhere in between, we got chatting about taste-testing some Zins the previous week, one thing led to another, and the Vellutini Ranch got opened. We never got around to the Solera.
The recipes for what we made on Easter Sunday will come during the rest of the week.