Wine Vault: Brooklyn Wine Weekend 4/14/96

The idea was simple: put together enough spectacular wines to bribe the wine-passionate, superstar chef Scott Bryan (Luma Restaurant; Indigo) to give up his one day off and cook five courses for the posse in Brooklyn. The lineup was assembled and Scott consented and created a menu to match the wines. The owner of Luma and Indigo, Gino Diaferia even broke out his last bottle of 1986 Ramonet Montrachet to add to the fireworks; the cards were starting to fall into place! What could go wrong? Plenty, but not today. The result was one of the finest meals I have ever had the pleasure to attend. If there is a better chef in New York, I would like to taste his or her food. Firmly based in the great French techniques and traditions, Scott's cuisine is willing to borrow flavors and ideas from the far corners of the culinary landscape without a misstep. His food remains impeccably French in its emphasis, while ranging throughout the kitchens of Italy, Thailand, and China for inspiration. In a recent interview Scott was asked to classify his food. For lack of a better name, he called it "Contemporary American". Somehow, this label (like so many) seems inadequate. His foundation is the great techniques developed by the masters of French Haut Cuisine. With the freedom of cooking in New York, he has taken this base and applied it to the wide variety of cultural cuisines to be found in modern day America. The result is what I would term "French-International" cuisine. Scott Bryan may not have the "deep pockets" budget of a L'Espinasse, a Le Bernardin or a Restaurant Daniel with which to work, but his food is some of the most creative and delicious to be found in the United States. On a Sunday in Brooklyn, a tradition was born.

Sevruga Caviar
1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil
1983 Salon (served from Magnum)

Crab and Avocado Salad
with tomato, vanilla and chive
1982 Montrachet- Louis Jadot

Seared Red Snapper
with Corn, Fava Beans, Haricots Verts
and Fifty Year-Old Balsamic Vinegar
1983 Montrachet- Marc Colin
1986 Montrachet- Ramonet

Squab and Foie Gras Purse
on a bed of Truffle and Herb Risotto
1969 Chambertin Clos de Beze- Rousseau
1969 Chambertin- Rousseau

Taste Break
1973 Krug

Roast Rack of Pepper-Crusted Venison
with Glazed Carrots, Roasted Shallots and Red Wine
1949 Corton ìBressandesî- Charles Vienot
1947 Clos des Lambrays
1978 Chave Hermitage

Creme Brulee
1975 Chateau de Fargues

The Food:

Crab and Avocado Salad with tomato, vanilla and chive:

This was one of the finest food and wine pairings I have ever encountered. The 1982 Jadot Montrachet had a lovely touch of new vanillin oak that was cunningly paired with the vanilla/chive mayonnaise with which Scott made the crab salad. A scoop of sweet crab set on a couple of slices of avocado and a sprinkling of tomato concasse. A very cool, delicate melange of flavors that married perfectly with the very elegant 1982 Montrachet.

Seared Red Snapper with Corn, Fava Beans, Haricots Verts and Fifty Year-Old Balsamic Vinegar

Scott has as fine a touch with fish as any chef in America. His career began at Legal Seafood in Boston, and has included stays at Le Bernardin an Bouley amongst others. Perfectly cooked red snapper, drizzled with a sweet old balsamic vinegar and served on a complementary bed of corn, fava beans and haricot verts. I could eat this dish twice a week in the summer and call myself a very lucky man.

Squab and Foie Gras Purse on a bed of Truffle and Herb Risotto

This dish harkens back to a signature dish of Joel Robuchonís three star restaurant in Paris. Robuchon created this surreal melange of a tender breast of squab set on a similarly-sized piece of foie gras. Pinches of salt, pepper and thyme are sandwiched between the squab and the foie gras, and the dish is wrapped very tightly in a couple of par-boiled cabbage leaves, and then steamed. Scott has further enhanced the dish by serving it on a bed of herb and vegetable risotto infused with truffle oil. The cabbage ìsausagesî are cut in half to create a stunning presentation of rose-colored squab, creamy foie gras, and bright green cabbage set in the truffley risotto. The flavors are intense, yet simple, and in beautiful harmony. A spectacular dish in every respect. In fact, this is the single finest dish I have tasted outside of one of Franceís three star restaurants. The venerable Rousseaus had met their match, to the satisfaction of all.

Roast Rack of Pepper-Crusted Venison with Glazed Carrots, Roasted Shallots and Red Wine

New Zealand venison crusted with a mix of black pepper, coriander and juniper, seared, roasted and served with three profound old wines- whatís not to like? Granted, the assembly had been pretty softened up by this time, but this was a perfectly cooked dish to signal the imminent close of this stunning evening. The venison was juicy, succulent, and perfectly crusted, with all three ingredients perfectly balanced. A red wine jus and some simple vegetables adroitly accented the plate. The wines went marvelously with this flexible dish. The two old Burgundies were quite full still, with lovely ìgameyî notes and plenty of forest floor tones. The profound 1978 Chave Hermitage picked up the pepper in the crust, and thundered out into the evening with us in tow. To eat this well, one has to go to a three star in France... and how many of us can afford to drink this well off the list?

The Wines:

1985 Clos du Mesnil- Krug

Just another near perfect showing: a spectacularly fresh nose of lemon, apple, minerals, vanilla, floral tones and hints of wheat toast. Pure, complex and flawless on the palate, with a great core of fruit, bright acids, and a long, snappy, laser-focused finish. Not quite as harmonious as the first showing, this wine deserves another few years in the cellar to really show all its potential. This really got everyoneís palate revved up. 1999-010. 98.

1983 Salon (Magnum)

This beautiful wine was showing more maturity vis a vis the Clos du Mesnil than the two years on the label. The nose was much more developed, with a scents of sweet pears, lemon, papaya, a touch of honey, white chocolate, minerals, toastiness, and spring flowers. This wine is open and quite cuddly, with layers of ripe fruit, good focusing acids, and a long, complex, quite powerful finish. A fine wine that is just hitting its apogee. Things were really starting to heat up. 1996-2005. 94.

1982 Montrachet- Louis Jadot

A very, very fine showing for this wine: a gorgeous, surprisingly unevolved nose of apple, pear, citrus, minerals, and a lovely note of sweet vanillin oak. Full-bodied, fresh, and very youthful on the palate, with the nuance of maturity just beginning to come to the fore; a huge core of clean fruit is buttressed nicely by crisp acidity. The wine is best now on the finish, with layers of crisp fruit rolling over the palate. Great stuff, but hold out another couple of years. 1999-2010. 94+.

1983 Montrachet- Marc Colin

I am not sure this wine was perfectly stored. While there were no obvious signs of abuse, this seemed extraordinarily advanced for a Montrachet at age thirteen. My suspicion is that the wine was ìpushedî a little by stretches at room temperature; not enough to cook the wine, but enough to hasten its evolution. In any event, it was my least favorite wine of the event. An extremely ripe, botrytized nose of apricot, honey, minerals, pineapple, butter, grilled nuts and new oak is complex, but very Sauternes-like. On the palate the wine is big and powerful, with the honeyed botrytis carrying through on the finish, but with surprisingly strong acidity to salvage the wine. Certainly well-made and impressive, this wine is decidedly not for everyone. 1996-2000. 88. (93 if you like this sort of thing!)

1986 Montrachet- Ramonet

Having tasted this profound wine two years ago, I was surprised by how backward this particular bottle showed. The previous example was just hitting its plateau of maturity, but this particular bottle was at least five years away. That said, this wine was equally stupendous, with a signature Ramonet bouquet of apple, peach, lemon, peppermint, hints of bacon fat, spring flowers, tons of minerals, a touch of honey, and sweet vanillin oak. Very primary in both nose and flavors. Full-bodied, tight, laser-like focus, and a huge core of pure fruit on the palate, Tight acids, great length, and a stunning freshness promise to turn this into one of the legendary white Burgs of the last twenty years, but patience is still required. This gorgeous wine shows none of the tropical notes of botrytis that are cropping up with growing frequency in many of the ë86s. A spectacular baby. 2000-2020. 96+.

1969 Chambertin Clos de Beze- Rousseau

One of the legendary Rousseau vintages, these two 1969s are still at their magical apogees. The nose is extremely open, complex and flamboyant, with scents of raspberry, plum, coffee, spiced meats, forest floor, grilled nuts, herbs, minerals, and cedary, spicy wood. Just exploding from the glass, this is about as quintessential an experience with mature, a point, profound Burgundy as one is likely to come across. On the palate the wine is everything the nose promises: deep, fullish, and packed with sweet, complex fruit. Melting tannins and bouncy acidity give the wine shape and focus from the attack to the long, peacockís tail of a finish. Truly memorable stuff, and with plenty of life ahead of it. 1996-2005. 96+.

1969 Chambertin- Rousseau

Initially, the Chambertin was much more reticent than the Clos de Beze paired up with it. However, over the course of the twenty-five minutes that it was open, the Chambertin opened and overtook the Clos de Beze. The nose is much deeper-pitched and brooding, with intense black fruit notes of blackberry, plum, cassis, chocolate, herbs, grilled meats, violets, black truffles, minerals, and toasty new oak. Deeper, sweeter, and more powerful on the palate than the Clos de Beze, with layer upon layer of sweet fruit, a huge core, a bit of tannin, and a long, complex, nearly flawless finish. One of the greatest red wines I have ever crossed paths with, this beauty has years and years of life ahead of it. 1996-2010. 98+.

1973 Krug

Another superb showing: a crisp, fresh, and surprisingly youthful nose of lemon, apple, wheat toast, minerals, vanilla, floral tones, and moderate toastiness. Full-bodied and a point on the palate, with lovely, lively acidity, a long, creamy palate impression, and beautiful purity and delineation on the finish. A beautiful, shapely Krug that is at its peak, but with years of life ahead of it. 1996-2003. 95.

1949 Corton Bressandes- Charles Vienot

An excellent bottle: the color was surprisingly dark, with a very expressive bouquet of sweet cherry, coriander, Corton orange rind, meaty tones, herbs, forest floor and cedar. Full-bodied, well structured and meaty on the palate, with fine persistence in the mid-palate, soft tannins, and fine acidity to give the wine shape and focus. Held up well in the glass over twenty five minutes. Good stuff. 1996-2002. 92.

1947 Clos des Lambrays

Just a magical showing for this wine: a deep, dark, black fruity nose of superb sweetness: cassis, plums, black truffles, venison, vinesmoke, herbs, sous bois, earth, grilled nuts and a touch of oak. Sweet, full and voluptuous on the palte, with layers of creamy fruit, just enough acidity and tannin to still give the wine structure, and a long, sweet, powerful finish. This wine, again, held up well over thirty minutes in the glass, and shows every indication of being able to continue cruising at its apogee for another five to ten years. Stunning. 1996-2004. 95+.

1978 Chave Hermitage

All I need to know is will the 1990 ever reach this level? God, I hope so. The nose is surreal, exploding from the glass with scents of sweet raspberries, red currants, grilled meats, minerals, coffee, hot stones, Mouton spice, ground pepper, herb tones, minerals, and cedary, spicy wood. Deep, full, and packed to the gills with sweet fruit on the palate; there is still plenty of tannin on the finish, and this wine is still fairly shut down! One of the all-time great Rhones, stand back when this baby starts hitting on all cylinders! 2003-2035. 98.

1975 Chateau de Fargues

Certainly a stunning bouquet, but this wine continues to disappoint in terms of acidity. For snap and freshness, I have a strong preference for the 1976. Interestingly, this is just the opposite of the '75 and '76 Y'Quems! The nose offers up scents of grilled almonds, apricots, creme brulee (paired with the same for dessert!), pineapple, honey, and sweet vanillin oak. Full and lush on the palate, but its unctuous texture is sliding just a bit towards cloying. A big, fat, wave of a finish is impressive, but not as focused as the 1976. Certainly a fine wine, but it should be even better! 1996-2015. 92.