A friend of mine sent me an email proposing that I attend a dinner of 6 including me. When I received it I looked at the program and I nearly fainted. It was impossible that I miss it, so I said yes and I proposed to add a wine.
Frederic the co-organizer of the dinner arrived in restaurant Michel Rostang at 6 pm to meet me. He told me :you open all the wines, but I want to open the La Chapelle as it is my input. I said OK.
At a table near the place where I opened the bottles, Michel Rostang was dining with his wife and he offered us a glass of a Jura white, very simple, but good to clear the palate. Frederic had brought a Champagne Le Mesnil Pierre Moncuit not vintage and we drank it with the sommelier while I was working. It is probably from the 70ies, and the taste confirmed. A lovely mature champagne, delicate and charming, even if the message is a little monolithic.
I saw Frederic opening the Montrachet and when he saw how pleased I was to open wines, he said : "you will open La Chapelle". I was happy. I had no real problem with the corks. The smell of the Cheval Blanc was a little muddy, but I was confident. The smell of La Chapelle was not very powerful which I found curious. Will it be what it should ? We will see.
The two perfumes which were fantastic are the Riesling and Yquem 1959 which I had brought, of a fantastic brown gold.
Around the table in a private salon, Frederic co-organizer, who sells wine as a profession, Laurent, working in the travel business, Peter an Irish man who lives in London and sells wine, Freddy Vifian who owns a restaurant with his brother Robert (Tan Dinh), Iqbal, co-organizer, who lives in Mauritius, and me.
The menu created by Michel Rostang is : la soupe d'artichauts violets aux truffes noires / le foie gras de canard rôti, velours de panais et jeunes carottes glacées, jus acidulé / le gratin de homard en cassolette / le sanwich tiède à la truffe fraîche, pain de campagne grillé et beurre salé / la canette Miéral servie saignante, sauce au vin rouge liée de son sang au foie gras, le véritable gratin dauphinois / les petits chèvres et fromages affinés / la tarte Tatin / la tarte chocolat amer servie moelleuse, sauce faite d'une décoction de café et son sorbet chocolat, tuile au Grué / mignardises.
We begin with Champagne Dom Pérignon 1985 and Champagne Dom Pérignon 1962 served together. The two colors form a piece of art, with a yellow gold and a light mahogany gold. The two are in a perfect condition and I prefer this 1962 to the 1962 that I had drunk in the cellars of Dom Pérignon. It is a perfect champagne, largely above the Montcuit, in its expression of maturity. It is more romantic than 1964 and 1966 two great years of Dom Pérignon. In its youth, the 1985 has no age, and is a child despite its 26 years. I adore this form of balance, power and charm.
The Château Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc 1978 has a color seen through the glass of the bottle which is too brown for its age. So, we know that a risk exists. This wine evokes almond, nut, vin jaune of Jura, and for me, the smoke of a chimney. It is extremely original, enigmatic, appreciable, but it has nothing to do with what it could be. We have been indulgent towards this wine which has not a great interest.
The Montrachet domaine Jacques Prieur 1996 is a Pullman.It is the right man in the right place. All what you expect from a Montrachet is there, with no surprise. Perfect, it is a secure Montrachet.
The Château Cheval Blanc 1947 is lovely. The perfume is full of grace. The wine is delicious, balanced, elegant and charming. It is definitely a Saint-Emilion, but I do not recognize the Port taste, so classical for the 1947 that I have drunk several times. The bottle is not a fake, as I have examined it and the taste is so good that it is surely a great Cheval Blanc. Has someone replaced the original small label with the millesime ? It is not impossible, but no one of us suggested such an idea as we were pleased by this very great wine. I do not exclude that it is a true one, less "burnt" than a traditional 1947.
The Bonnes-Mares Domaine G. Roumier et ses fils 1971 is a pure marvel.All the soul of Burgundy is within this wine. Great Burgundies never try to seduce. They are rigorous, showing the hard work in the vines, and I have in front of me one of purest expressions of great Burgundy. By traces I feel salt and dried roses.
TheHermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Aîné 1961creates on me a physical reaction. Ten times or more, I hide my face with my two hands. I want to isolate me from the rest of the world. I want to feel the maximum of one of the most intense emotions of my life of wine lover. I know that I am in front of perfection. This wine is unique. Every sip is like walking on the moon. When I was a kid, I went to Lourdes where Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. In a hole in the rocks there is a statue of Mary. I have been incredibly impressed by the religious atmosphere of the place. I have the same feeling right now. The moment is extremely intense, and Laurent, who is in front of me sees my physical shock. The wine is purity, balance, but is impossible to describe. There is an English expression which is : "this is it". This wine is : "this is it". I can certainly imagine that it could take the place of number 1 in my personal Pantheon in which some legendary wines have their place. If it is not number 1, it could deserve to be.
I usually say that when a wine is great, it is a wine which pushes you to say "wow". I love the "wow" wines. But with this wine, there is no place for a "wow". I have a religious silence, because I do not want to lose a single word of the miraculous message to my brain and to my heart. If someone asks me to describe this wine, I would be unable, as it is magnetic, electric, exciting all my senses. It was ecstasy.
I needed some minutes to come back on Earth.
The Coulée de Serrant Madame A. Joly 1964 is another marvel. My best ever was the 1967. This one is in the same league. It is brilliant and it shows with evidence that nobody should be allowed to drink a Coulee de Serrant before it has a minimum of 30 years of age.
The Riesling Dom Scharzhofberger Beerenauslese Hohe Domkirche 1971 is, as it happens often with German Riesling, a monument of precision. This wine is a "wow" wine. Loveable, it has a unique charm and a balance which forces respect.
I think that Château d'Yquem 1959 is at a level of perfection which is the top of Yquem. Yquem offers perfection at nearly every age. I would say that 1861, 1893, 1929, 1945, 1959, 1967, 2001 -among others - are peaks of perfection of Yquem (of course some other years can pretend to be at the top). And this 1959 is miraculous. It has everything and it would be impossible to find anything which would not be perfect in this wine.
After all these wonders, I had not much care for the Porto Single Vintage Colheita Whitwams Millénium 1880 bottled in 2002. It was nice, but had not the maturity of a Port of 1880.
And I had the same impression of youth with a Whisky Highland Single Malt 18 years old Macallan 1965 which did not reach my memory.
What is to say after all that ? The cook of Michel Rostang is brilliant, extremely efficient, but sometimes, the cook took the front place, giving a little shadow to the wines.
The champagnes were perfect, the Montrachet was solid warrior. The summit is with the red and with the liquorous.
My ranking is :
1 : Hermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Aîné 1961,absolute star,
2 - Château d'Yquem 1959,
3 - Bonnes-Mares Domaine G. Roumier et ses fils 1971,
4 - Château Cheval Blanc 1947,
5 - Riesling Dom Scharzhofberger Beerenauslese 1971.
I could have exchanged the votes of the 2 and 3.
The atmosphere was very friendly, which lets think that other such dinners could happen again.
The Hermitage has made of this dinner a great moment in my life.