Veritas: The Park B Smith Invitational

  • Robert M. Parker, Jr.

  • 28 Feb 2010 | Events

Veritas is becoming world-renowned for what may be the greatest wine list in not only the United States, but on Planet Earth. Moreover, the food here is as good as anywhere in the world as well. The young (barely 30 years of age) Executive Chef, Grégory Pugin, trained under no other than Joël Robuchon, and his genius comes through in the simplicity, but beautiful, not overly complicated dishes that allow all the fresh ingredients to strut their personality and flavor profiles. Park Smith and I devised the menu. I insisted on having mostly dishes I had before, even though I know the chef detests doing the same thing twice. But I just wanted to have some of them again. There were a few new twists though with his lemon marinated langoustines with osetra caviar as well as Pugin’s beautiful octopus à la grecque, and sea urchin with fennel cream and yuzu gelée, the latter a tour de force for sure. Every dish was great, and if you visit Veritas in the winter, you can often get the truffle paper, which is a perfect dish, as well as the lobster nage, and his Basque codfish with a chorizo crust and piperade. His take on bouillabaisse is also quite remarkable, and the tasting of Wagyu beef, from filet, to oxtail, to mini-burgers was other-worldly.

We started with a fresh, lively 1990 magnum of Dom Pérignon (is there any other producer who can make hundreds of thousands, if not millions of bottles of wine that are so consistent?)

The 2007 Châteauneuf du Papes pretty much performed as I have detailed in The Wine Advocate. I have had all of these wines several times since the official written reviews came out. The first three wines (the Giraud Grenaches de Pierre, Olivier Hillaire’s Les Petits Pieds d’Armand, and Isabel Ferrando’s Colombis) are the most drinkable offerings, and are best consumed over the next 10-15 years. All three are special cuvées from old vine Grenache, mostly planted in sandy soils. They are quintessential, brilliant examples of old vine Grenache made in a naked fashion with fermented grape juice put in neutral wood, stainless steel, or concrete vats prior to being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The most backward wines, all of which will benefit from five more years of cellaring, include the Clos des Papes, Saint Préfert Réserve August Favier, Marcoux Vieilles Vignes, Grand Veneur Vieilles Vignes (maybe ten years on this one), Clos Saint Jean Deus-Ex Machina, Mordorée La Reine des Bois, Janasse Vieilles Vignes, and Usseglio Réserve des Deux Frères. These are all extraordinary wines. The Janasse, Clos Saint Jean, Grand Veneur, Saint Préfert, and Pierre Usseglio are probably the greatest wines they have made to date, and that’s saying something given what they achieved in 2006, 2005, and in some cases, 2003. The gorgeous purity of the Barroche Pure, the intriguing lavender, garriguecrème de cassis, and blackberry notes of the joint venture between Philippe Cambe and Daniel Johnnes, Les Halos de Jupiter, and the extraordinary, rich Grenache character of the Janasse Chaupin also stood out. In fact, it was one of those tastings where every wine had something very special to offer. At this level of quality, it’s splitting hairs in terms of qualitative differences and the excitement of each wine.

The purity of the 2007 vintage, the extraordinary concentration, and the remarkable freshness, despite the fact these are big wines, were on display throughout the meal. An unbelievably fun time was had by all. Special kudos go to Park B. Smith for his generosity and ownership of this extraordinary little treasure, or, as the French would call it, bijoux, of a restaurant, and to Veritas’ talented group of sommeliers, including Wine Director Tim Kopec and  his assistants, Kelli White and Matthew Kreuger. This was a great, great day of wine and food celebrating the glories of old vine, natural, unmanipulated Châteauneuf du Pape.

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