Charity Event to Benefit the Telfair Museum
This may have been the finest meal I had during the calendar year of 2014, coming at the very end of the year. More unlikely, it was at an upscale private club, The Chatham Club in Savannah, Georgia. I provided the wines for the event, which was a benefit for the beautiful Telfair Museum in Savannah.
The food was exquisite, from an array of sumptuous appetizers to a gorgeous number of courses, and just about everything was exceptional. What stood out in particular to me was the squid-ink pasta with tomatoes, Italian sausage and smoked local shrimp. Also fantastic were the chicken with foie gras, an amazing rendition of Peking Duck and a great Colorado rack of lamb. The wines, with the exception of the Champagne, were all from my cellar. I had them shipped down six weeks in advance.
We started with the barrel-aged Henri Giraud top cuvées, the 2002 and 2004 Brut Argonne. This is a fabulous Champagne. It's sad that it's very limited in availability, but I actually like it as much as the top cuvées from Krug, which is what it resembles. But I think Giraud gets more freshness and less of the caramelized oxidized character that often appears in the top cuvées of Krug. If you like that aged character, you probably prefer Krug to Giraud, but I think Giraud has the full-bodied power, richness and complexity, without the oxidative nuances.
Flight Two was a showcase of French Burgundy, made from 100% Chardonnay, with some of the finest boutique Chardonnays from Northern California. I had Niellon's premier cru, the Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers, which is often of grand cru quality, and this was a beauty, as was the 2006 Remoissenet Bienvenue Bâtard Montrachet. But the stars of the night were not that surprising in a way. The 2004 Aubert Ritchie Chardonnay, the 2004 Peter Michael Mon Plaisir and the 2006 Marcassin Estate Chardonnay were all very Burgundian in their own right, but with more depth, fruit and compelling interest.
We then moved to a flight of Châteauneuf du Pape. I'm always an enthusiastic advocate for these great wines. Made from generally old-vine Grenache blended with Mourvèdre and other varietals, and rarely ever aged in any new oak, they are about as natural and unmanipulated as any wines in the world. We had three 2001s, all of which showed exceptionally well. In fact, one of my three favorites of the flight was the 2001 Mordorée Reine de Bois, closely followed by the 2001 Vieille Julienne Vieilles Vignes (the last vintage they made this special cuvée) and of course, the 100% old-vine Grenache, the 2001 Janasse Chaupin. We had a great showing for Pégaü's 2003 Cuvée Reservée and a totally perfect, absolutely prodigious showing of the 2003 Pégaü da Capo.
After that, we could have probably stopped, but anything worth doing is worth doing excessively in my opinion, so we did a fabulous flight of Cabernet Sauvignon, for the most part from Northern California, with one wine from Washington State - their best Cabernet Sauvignon from Quilceda Creek. The two surprises were the 2006 Kapcsandy Roberta's Reserve, which is nearly 100% Merlot from the State Lane Vineyard in Yountville, and the magnificent Peter Michael 1997 Les Pavots. This is a Bordeaux blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, but this wine rarely gets the attention that some of the other small estates do and the wine is remarkable. All these wines were young, vigorous and rich, as one would expect. Even the 1997 Les Pavots seems to be just short of becoming a full-fledged adolescent.
We then moved into a flight of Rhône Rangers from three of the top producers of this style of wines: John Alban's vineyard in Arroyo Seco, the Sonoma winery Pax (renamed the Donelan Family Estate), and the famous Sine Qua Non from farther south in California's Central Coast (operating out of Ojai). First, the Grenache cuvées. The 2010 Five Shooter Grenache, 2001 Ventriloquist and the 2000 Alban Pandora (a Rhône Ranger blend with a good dosage of Grenache) were all just brilliant. The Sine Qua Nons were all in the upper 90s, with the Ventriloquist giving its finest showing ever for this wine for me, while the Five Shooter Grenache seems to get stronger and stronger every time I have it. All of them were in great shape. Even the oldest cuvée, the 2000 In Flagrante, was still youthful, dense as a moonless night, pure, rich and crowd-pleasing. The 1998 Alban Seymour Syrah, named after John Alban's father, was big and beefy, with notes of grilled meats, blood, Provençal herbs and tar. The lightest was the 2000 Alban Pandora, which is the only wine that was fully mature and needs to be drunk up. Again, flirting with perfection was the 2003 Cuvée Keltie, a selection of some of the best barrels in the cellars and aged longer prior to being bottled without fining or filtration. Most of these wines, with the exception of the Pandora, could be drunk ten years from now and would still be strutting their enviable and impressive credentials.
We finished with a 1987 Quinta Noval Vintage Port. This special, very limited cuvée Nacional was impressive. But at this point you could say I basically destroyed most of the people in the room with the abundance of wine combined with such great cuisine.
This was a fabulous night of great Southern hospitality, a wonderful crowd, and a brilliant showing of the Chatham Club's chef and staff of sommeliers.
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