Monday, January 11, 2016

Vintage St Julien trio highlight Hemmingway's Bistro Dinner

Vintage St Julien trio - Château Beychevelle and Gruaud Larose highlight Hemmingway's Bistro Dinner

For a Saturday night dinner at Hemmingway's Bistro in Oak Park, a French inspired cuisine, the site of several of our wine dinners including our gala wine dinner last fall.

I took BYOB three vintage left bank Bordeaux from the St Julien appellation. The combination of two bottles from one producer and two bottles from one vintage, provided the chance for a mini-horizontal and mini-vertical comparison tasting in one.

I pulled two bottles from the 1988 vintage since I feel its less age-worthy and starting to enter the latter stages of its drinking profile, while the 1986 is known for long life so I was less concerned about consuming those bottles soon. All three showed well this evening demonstrating the longevity of quality Bordeaux in a good vintage.

These and some other St Julien wines are some of our favorite holdings in our wine cellar collection. We hold more than a dozen vintages of the Château Gruaud Larose label going back to the eighties. We have enjoyed meeting David Launay, winemaker, during his visits to Chicago as part of the Union Grand Cru Producers of Bordeaux' (UGCB) North American release tour in 2013 and again in 2014. We had the privilege of pouring both of these wine at some of those events when their representatives were detained in New York by snowstorms last year and the year before.

With the UGCB tasting event coming up again in two weeks, we look forward to hosting the producers in Chicago again and tasting their 2013 release. Having had two grand-children in that year, I'll be paying special attention towards acquiring birth-year wines for the grandkids.

These wines were the perfect accompaniment to the Pan Seared Foie Gras with grilled onion and pear (shown left).

It is said that the French are masters at pairing wine with food. This would be a great benchmark as the complement between all these wines and this starter was spectacular.

The wines were also great when paired with the peppercorn crusted beef tenderloin au pouvre and the duck confit with sweet potato gnochi in a brown sauce (shown below) courses with the au gratin potatoes and the creamed spinach.

As would be expected, all there wines evolved over the course of the evening, especially during the first thirty, sixty and ninety minutes. None were opened prior to the meal nor decanted.

While they were basically pop and poured, tonight was a realistic evaluation of these wines' state and provided a meaningful comparison and enjoyable tasting experience.

Château Beychevelle 1986

Amazingly, at thirty years of age, this is probably at the apex of its drinking window - such was the longevity of the 1986 vintage. We still hold a couple cases of various Bordeaux from this vintage that we've been holding as we consume lesser (ageworthy) vintages, which is most.

Like the other two, the cork was slightly saturated and the bottom half crumbled on opening. This one was the most stable and consistent from opening through the course of the evening. 

Bright garnet colored, medium bodied, this was complex bright cherry, dark berry fruits with layers of cigar box, tobacco leaf, earthy forest floor and herbal tones, turning to tongue coating tannins on the lingering tangy finish.

RM 89 points.

Château Beychevelle 1988

I bought this case of this wine upon release back at the time. This is the fifth of the last remaining bottles. This blew me away as I was concerned it would be further diminished from age from the previous tasting when it was starting to show diminution ... it was still drinking well.

This was the showing its age more than the other two, but still holding showing consistency with my last published tasting note back in 11/2010.

"Medium bodied, slighly brickish color, nicely balanced soft earthy leather and tobacco tones predominating over the black cherry fruit on moderate, smooth tannin finish. Time to drink." Tonight this was showing a bit of barnyard funkiness on opening that burned off over the course of an hour, but still showing tangy tongue coating notes on the cherry fruit.

RM 88 points.

Château Gruaud Larose 1988

At close to thirty years of age, this is holding up the best of several other St Julien Bordeaux that I hold from this vintage.

Tonight, this cork was slightly partially saturated on the bottom third which separated from the top half on opening.

As written in this blog, tonight's tasting was consistent with my last tasting two years ago when I published this tasting note.

Medium - "full bodied, dark garnet colored, lively acidity with firm core of black berry fruits accented by tobacco, leather and hints of cassis with moderate tannins on the finish."

The bright cherry fruit and a layer of earthy black truffle and smoky meats were offset by the bright floral tones on the tangy lingering smooth tannin finish.

RM 89 points. 

With the dessert course of Mango Grand Marnier Souffles and Creme Brulee, Dan selected from the wine list the Taylor Fladgate Twenty Year Old Tawny Port.

Taylor Fladgate Twenty Year Old Tawny Port NV

This was great with the creme brulee as well as the souffle dessert course.

Essence of sweet Cognac accented by a layer of dried sweet figs, dates, tones of smoky nuts with raisiny fruits and a layer of carmelized nuts on the finish.

RM 91 points.

After dinner, back at our house with fresh fruits, select cheeses and dried fruits we opened this zesty tasty Tokaji (below). 

Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú Eszencia 2000

Great for a soothing nightcap.

Amber orange colored, thick chewy full bodied, zesty unctuous apricot and hint of tangerine fruits accented by and give way to smoky tobacco laced caramelized almond, walnut with hints of fig and toast on a slightly tangy acidic sweet citrus finish.

RM 93 points.

More to come.