Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chateau Meyney Mini-Vertical

Although I have not fully recovered from the head cold that has afflicted me this week, I thought it would be a good idea to begin to get back in shape for our exciting weekend of gastronomic joy with our friends. To that end, I braised a beef pot roast for four hours and served it with new potatoes. Stephanie produced another enjoyable green salad for a side.

We had consumed all of the wine we purchased last week, so I dropped by one of the local wine shops on my way to pick up Stephanie from work. They had a variety of solid Bordeaux wines from the mid-nineties at nice prices (especially considering what many of those wineries' new releases go for these days). I chose a bottle of Chateau Meyney St. Estephe 1995 and a half bottle of the same winery's 1996. These two vintages are both highly regarded among Bordeaux drinkers and highly debated. While to most tasters they don't have the style or concentration of 1990 or 2000, they are generally well liked. Often tasters do not agree on which vintage produced the better wines.

Chateau Meyney is a "cru bourgeois" estate on the left bank of the Gironde River. The "cru bourgeois" appelation means that in 1855, its wines were not highly enough regarded to merit classification among the best wines of the region. Nonetheless, it regularly produces wines of excellent quality and value. Like its neighbors in the Medoc, it is made from mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with smaller amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

The 1995 was very nice. It was still dark plum colored, with a medium-full body and lots of nice fruits remaining on the nose. While some signs of maturity were setting in, they made for a pleasantly balanced wine ready for current consumption. It was a delicious, classic Bordeaux for a great value (~$26).

The 1996 was not holding up as well. Because half bottles allow in the same amount of oxygen as whole bottles but distribute it over only half as much wine, they tend to mature much more rapidly. This seemed to be the case for our bottle. Its color was tinged with more rust than was the 95, but it still appeared to be healthy. The aroma and flavor, however, indicated otherwise. The wine smelled and tasted of truffles, earth, and malted barley syrup. Stephanie described it as molasses. While I wouldn't normally find these characteristics objectionable, they completely masked whatever fruit the wine may still have had to offer. Although the 96 Meyney might still be delicious in whole bottles (or better yet, magnums), this half bottle was not doing well.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Stephanie's Sunday Dinner

I was feeling a little under the weather on Sunday, so Stephanie offered to prepare another multi-course feast to cheer me up. Again, I was barred from entering the kitchen after about four o'clock. I spent the afternoon watching football and trying not to notice the enormous amount of noise coming from the kitchen. For all her beauty and talent, Stephanie can be a bit clumsy.

When the first course arrived, I completely forgot the sound of clanging pots. She presented shrimps steamed in parchment with parsley-garlic-smoked paprika sauce and a roasted orange pepper sauce. The sauces married perfectly, and the shrimp were tender and delicious (not to mention artistically plated).

Stephanie's main course offering was seared lamb loin chops with a wine and cream pan gravy served with a puree of potatoes and white beans. The lamb was perfectly cooked and delicious in its own right, but when paired with the rich sauce, it was truly outstanding. This was Stephanie's first attempt at a pan sauce, and it was a resounding success.

Dessert, a course that we don't often take, was a delightful chocolate-raspberry-oreo "truffle." Stephanie prepared oreo crusts, upon which were placed raspberries and a covering of chocolate ganache. They were simply scrumptious (and they have continued to be for the past couple of days).

Due to my cold, I took it easy on the wine, although we did pour a nice value Cab Franc from the Touraine region of the Loire Valley. While my illness prevented me from appreciating half of the taste of the food, Stephanie's fine cooking made that half really wonderful. I only wish I had been healthy enough to taste the other half.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Dom. Jean-Marc Bouley Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chenes 1996

I must begin this post by apologizing for the lack of blogging on my part recently. It's of course not due to any decreased wine consumption, but rather increased post-meal laziness.

This Bouley is a nice one to get back on track with. Stephanie and I found this nine year old wine from one of Burgundy's southern regions for only $10 at the House of Glunz. I guess they were trying to unload some old stock. Normally, this wine would have sold for $20-30. Ninety-six was a great vintage for red Burgundy, so I expected that even a wine from a lesser vineyard would still be holding up pretty well. I was mostly right.

As red wines will tend to do, this one had lightened significantly in its color, turning a pleasant rust color along the edges. Older wines also lose much of their fruit flavors and aromas, as these are morphed into mature notes of earth and leather. Such was the case for this pinot. What must have been bright bing cherry flavors had now become dried fruit and damp earth. Only a medium-bodied wine to begin with, this one as mellowed considerably, with little remaining tannins and reasonable acidity.

I was a bit surprised by how mature this wine seemed. Other 96s have not tasted so old, but I don't think it's anything to worry about. Probably just the producer's style. Nonetheless, it proved an enjoyable match with Stephanie's finger sandwiches, made to mimic the ones we'd had at High Tea that afternoon at the Peninsula Hotel. I'd also recommend it with coq au vin or braised pork.