Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Tonight dinner at Culinariane in Montclair (Walnut and Pine Streets) - Joe Bembry's neighborhood restaurant - lucky guy! Tonight we took advantage of his standing bi-weekly reservation, and it was as great as ever. I love this restaurant, not just for the food, but always great service, beautiful glassware, and they don't even blush when we come in with twice as many wines as diners!

First wine was the '95 Rodez Empriente de Chardonnay 1995, a family owned small grower who have been in Ambonnay for nine generations. The wines are now made by Eric Rodez, who before coming full time to the family business went off to make his mistakes on someone elses' dime. In this case, it was the prestigious house of Krug. Well Eric learned a thing or two and brought this knowledge back to his own property and proceeded to adapt what he had learned with special regard to making the highest possible quality wines from his holdings in the Ambonnay terroir. The wine was superb; creamy, lovely and mature, moderate to fairly quiet bead, some brioche, toast and even a hint of yellow fruits. Perfect! Joe says he used to go with smaller bubbles intentionally prior to '96, after he looked for a more pronounced mousse, but not too much. I stayed with the bubbly through a corn fritter amuse bouche, in a mild onion cream sauce - sweetish, fried, needed after long day of tasting, and half a main course portion for an appetizer (cheerfully accommodated) of Shrimp, heads on, over baby bok choy, fried rice, plus one of Bill Adams' fried oysters, crispy and light, horseradish creme, micro greens, shredded celery root maybe in the sauce? All very good.

Next wine was Volnay 2002 Les Chevrets, Jean Boillot et fils - medium ruby color, lovely, smoky sweet red cherry nose, still a little primary; supple, good flavors and aromatics, and fairly accessible, but ideally needs time to fully unfold as the nose is leading the palate, maybe 4-6 yrs more? Still grippy in mid palate, but so fine boned!

Cos d'Estournel 1970 - good color, ruby garnet red, very mushroomy, dark heavy earth tone, some oxy muddled notes on nose and palate with some dark cocoa powder bitterness and dried porcini notes. Just a little past in my opinion, but still worthy! Solid and dark if a touch tired - Thanks Bill!

Next course a huge double cut pork chop (yabadabadoo!) rubbed with coriander, with cabot cheddar cheese grits , broccoli rabe, pork jus. Perfectly cooked - so many get
pork wrong, especially this thick. Had it with perhaps THE perfect wine for this dish, Grange des Pere 2005 - elegant, fine, layered, balanced with exotic north African spices, cardamom, coriander, plus a hint of herault garriuge, subtle, and a whiff of Bordeaux cedar/cigar box again subtle, some noted a hint of eucalyptus, I didn't get it, more like herbs de Provence? What a wine - had opened significantly since we tasted it in the afternoon. I have to get some mags of this! Long, complex, absolutely singin' in harmony with this dish!

Climens 1971, Sauternes - Barsac: Wow! Medium deep gold, perfectly evolved and still fresh; off dry, fine, hint of creme brulee, what can I say, simply great - goes on forever! Layered tangerine, nectarine, lime, orange blossom, vanilla, spices. Palate is clean, persistent, sure it has plenty of sugar but is "off sweet" on the palate and not cloying at all, re-corked 1994 at the Chateau. Beautiful wine, thanks Gino! Lots of life left here, glad you have a few more bottles - call me when you open them! We all loved this wine, a little research shows we aren't alone, with this quote from Michael Broadbent: "Ambrosial, in the class of '29 and '49, grapes with perfect pourriture noble harvested in four tries between 8 October and 3 November....last tasted Oct 2001 at the Chateau, will continue to age for another quarter century. *****" Michael Broadbents' Vintage Wine, p. 193, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

For more info on Culinariane, click click here

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