Bordeaux, Birds and Barolo
Notes from a wine dinner.
I meet a few times a year with a small group (five people with an
occasional guest to make up a party of six) with the express purpose
of creating occasions to warrant pulling corks on some of the older
bottles in your cellar that you never quite find the proper time to
open. This time around, I was hosting.
We started with boiled quail eggs three ways with Champagne. (Don’t
ask my wife, who wasn’t a dinner attendee, how she likes peeling a
couple of dozen quail eggs!) The eggs were served halved with a dab
of truffle spread, halved with a dab of black olive paste, both topped
with a single caper for an added tiny salty kiss, and whole quail eggs
rolled in za’atar, a middle eastern spice blend that includes (in my
rendition, anyway) sumac, thyme, toasted sesame, marjoram, oregano and
1989 Lasalle Blanc de Blancs Brut – my last bottle of this and I can
now say that every single bottle over the dozen years I enjoyed this
wine offered pleasure. A nice toasty nose with a bit of nuttiness, and
a definite hint of butterscotch, clean on palate and lengthy finish.
I do enjoy mature Champagne!
The next course was something I created from whole cloth (and my
limited imagination) featuring a sauce with chanterelles, morels and
crimini mushrooms briefly sautéed with bits of bacon and shallots, and
then slow cooked with chicken stock, Madeira, Port, Amontillado and a
hint of Sherry wine vinegar, a bit of thyme, and finished with a small
addition of heavy cream (really, only a couple of tbsp or so) with
slices of crispy sweetbread on top.
I had originally thought to pair this course with the Nebbiolos, but
changed my mind and put it with the mature clarets. Burgundy would
have been a superb match with it as well.
1989 Ch. d’Armailhac – although this wine is reaching the end of days,
it offered a decent mature claret nose, elegant in the mouth and
1989 Ch. Clerc Milon – (we thought we might as well match the two
Mouton owned properties) a better nose with marked cedar wood presence
and fairly good currant fruit. Smooth across the tongue with soft
tannin and medium length, this wine has a few more kilometres left in
Next up was a course that featured the omega portion of the alpha and
omega high ‘quaility’ part of the meal. I rubbed quail with herbes de
Provence (I didn’t make this as I had picked it up at a street market
when in Provence, but it usually includes marjoram, thyme, savory,
dried basil, rosemary, sage, fennel seeds and something often omitted
by home cooks, some dried lavender blossoms.
I spatchcocked them for easier eating (quail are a bit fussy at the
best of times without prolonging the dissection phase at table).
They were then seared in a pan and banged into the oven for a few
minutes to finish. I served them with a sauce of garlic, onions and
juniper berries, reduced to a thick sauce that I opted to serve
alongside, rather than over the birds (which would have obscured the
nice gerbil glaze on them).
As sides, I grilled some asparagus and served it with a sundried
tomato vinaigrette, and a potato gratin dish I will definitely repeat,
layers of potato with slow cooked dark golden onions, bacon bits and
thyme between that was very flavourful.
1996 Marengo Barolo Brunate – dark edges, quite good nose with some
floral component, and some tar, and smooth on palate with moderate
tannin and decent length.
1996 Allesandro Brero Barolo Poderi Roset – rose and violet in this
nose as well as the obligatory tar, more tannin in the mouth and good
length, but at this point not as interesting as the Marengo. Maybe in
five years….. I tend to like my Nebbiolo very well aged, and really
haven’t started in on the later 90s vintages yet, enjoying 1989 and
1990, as well as the less touted but worthwhile 1993 and 1994
For a finale, I always do cheese, not a sweet dessert, and in this
instance, we had the opportunity to collect together seven different
versions of Roquefort cheese. We visited the producers of this well
known sheep’s milk cheese a few years ago, and were interested to be
able to find more than the usual Societe cheese (the largest producer,
sort of like the Kraft of Roquefort) locally. I have always sworn that
export Roquefort gets more salt than home market, and so far have seen
little to dissuade me of that impression, as these cheeses eaten in
France seem nowhere near as salty.
My notes are as follows:
Legend – typical export Roquefort, excessively salty
Societe – ditto
Papillon – pungent and acidic – more age on this one?
Papillon Noir – fairly smooth – eaten alone this would suffice
Papillon Revelation – also fairly smooth but with a sharpness not
present in the Noir
Carles – one of the smaller producers and a cheese that was very tasty
without the typical saltiness
Gabriel Coulet – a medium sized producer and the best cheese – creamy
198 Ch. Guiraud (Sauternes) – dark amber wine with a goodly amount of
botrytis in the nose as well as honey and hints of apricot. in
midpalate and crème brulee at the end. Best Bordeaux of the night!