Charity Gala Dinner
I have been fortunate enough to attend a lot of extraordinary dinners where some of the world’s top rated wines have been served. However, I don’t think I have ever been to an event where the wines were as consistently superb as they were at this charity gala dinner sponsored by the Fullerton Hotel that benefitted indigent families in Singapore. I thank Mr. Soo Hoo and his partner Arnault Compas as well as Lisa Perrotti-Brown for putting together this extraordinary menu and wine pairings.
I had only a quick look at the two Champagnes, with the 1998 Krug being very tight, but displaying that distinctive, full-bodied, oxidative, nutty style. It is never my favorite in terms of personal enjoyment, but one has to admire its structure and intensity. The non-vintage Krug Rosé is a big, beefy rosé with a lot of framboise characteristics, but also more body than most rosé champagnes.
The meal began with an absolutely exquisite wine that represents the essence of white Hermitage, Chapoutier’s 2006 Ermitage l’Ermite, which comes from the top of the dome of Hermitage Hill from 80+-year old vines planted in pure granite. Made from 100% Marsanne, it is an extraordinary wine offering a liqueur of white flowers and rocks. While extremely full-bodied, it is very delicate, incredibly pure, rich, and intense. It was a mind-blowing eye-opener for all the guests because only 1,500 bottles are made. We then moved to an extraordinary dish prepared by the Fullerton Hotel’s Chinese chef, Leong Chee Yeng, who cooks for the Jade restaurant (superb Chinese food and great dim sum, by the way). A braised roasted pork belly with Bai Ling mushrooms in a Huatiao wine sauce was an exquisite dish that ranks alongside the finest braised pork belly I have had from the likes of Daniel Boulud in New York City or Michel Richard in Washington, DC. With this we had a pair of legendary wines in pristine condition. The 1989 Haut Brion is unquestionably one of the greatest wines made in the 20th century. It was the first vintage that wine manager Jean Delmas crop-thinned the Haut Brion vineyard, which has given the wine more unctuosity and density than normal, as well as an incredibly silky texture and extraordinary pure notes. This wine is still a youngster, but it represents a monumental expression of this great terroir and of a first-growth. I wonder if the 1959 tasted like this at age 21? Paired with that was a wine that has probably been one of the most consistent Bordeaux I have ever tasted, the 1982 Pichon Lalande. It is a great example of how perfect balance can make a wine delicious young, in mid-age, and even in its post-adolescent stage of development. It is no where near the end of its life. An incredible nose of cedar, chocolate, black currants, and plums emerge from this full-bodied, opulent, timeless classic. It showed great classicism and delineation at this tasting.
I warned the guests to put on their seatbelts as we were changing gears completely and moving into an absolutely exquisite lamb shoulder slowly roasted with Nasu purée and piquillos, served alongside a small helping of ratatouille from the Belgian chef, Emmanuel Stroobant, who has a restaurant in Singapore called Saint Pierre. The fresh (not frozen) lamb came from New Zealand and was absolutely delicious, offering some of the most intense lamb flavor I have ever had. It was matched with a monumental northern Rhône, Paul Jaboulet’s 1990 Hermitage La Chapelle. A dead ringer for the 1961, it is one of the greatest La Chapelles I have ever tasted. At twenty years of age, it still reveals an inky/ruby/purple color to the rim, and exhibits lots of crème de cassis, tar, pepper, and meat juice characteristics as well as unbelievable unctuosity, thickness, and richness. It remains fresh and lively, with another 30+ years of life ahead of it. A tour de force, it was a fabulous match with the food.
We then moved to two of the most compelling Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines ever produced. Combined with Chef Stroobant’s beef short ribs with bone marrow, we had the Shafer Hillside Select 2002 and the 2002 Harlan Estate Proprietary Red. From a flamboyant, even ostentatious, but great vintage for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, both wines were displaying their full potential. It was an incredible pleasure to see the Singaporeans go ga-ga over these very rare wines. The more elegant, the 2002 Shafer Hillside Select, exhibited abundant notes of flowers, crème de cassis, and spice in its full-bodied, rich personality. While it will age for three decades or more, I do not believe it will ever go through a closed period given its flamboyant style. The 2002 Harlan Estate ranks beside the greatest Harlans ever made (1994, 1995, 1997, 2001, and 2007). Unusually drinkable for a young Harlan wine, it boasts an inky/black color, an unctuous texture, and thick notes of espresso roast, blackberries, charcoal, camphor, truffles, and cedar. This extraordinary Napa Cabernet mimics a first-growth Pauillac – just bigger and more powerful.
By this time, I was blown away by both the wine and food, but more greatness was to come. The 2001 Château d’Yquem is the greatest young Yquem I have ever tasted, and again it proved its mettle with the dish of apricots in a balsamic yogurt. What makes this wine so great is that it is not one of the fat, unctuous vintages of Yquems, but one with extraordinary intensity and definition. Acids buttress this enormously endowed wine, and it can be drunk now, although it will last 100+ years. We finished with the rarest wine of the entire evening, the Quinta Do Noval 1997 Vintage Port Nacional. Perfectly balanced with the tannins beautifully enrobed by a thick, rich, graphite-infused, charcoal, camphor, scorched earth, and cassis-scented bouquet, I would have loved to have had a second glass of this exquisite port, but I had an early flight to Cairo the next morning, and a second glass of port is probably never a good idea unless you can sleep in. It’s an amazing port, and probably monumental in terms of longevity.
This was one of the most memorable nights of compelling wines and prodigious cuisine I have ever experienced. And it was all for a wonderful charity in Singapore.
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