The League of Gentle Men, an invitation-only wine group of which I am a proud member, held their latest dinner at Restaurant Nice Matin. The restaurant, located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the base of the Lucerne Hotel, is a 25-year-old French bistro. Eric Starkman, the Chef, came on board last fall after many years of experience at top kitchens around the country, including Alinea in Chicago and Townsend in Philadelphia. Eric prepared the Spring Tasting Menu for our group and the club members brought bottles of their own choosing.
The first course was Alsatian White Asparagus Soup, Ramp Cappelletti, Charred Ramps, and Chive Oil. After tasting it, I knew we were going to have an exceptional dinner, but I was so engrossed in eating it, I forgot to take a photo. Eric came out and spoke about each course.
We started with Champagne. Note that a few of the club members made comments in this report.
Philipponnat “Les Cintres” 2008 Extra Brut made from 100% Pinot Noir. First press juice from the central plots: Les Grands Cinders and Les Petits Cintres in Clos des Goisses, Mareuil-sur-Ay. Vinification using traditional methods to avoid premature oxidation, with no malolactic formation. All the wines are fermented in casks. Extra brut dosage of 4.5g/litre.
The wine is aged for more than 9 years at a controlled temperature of 12C to develop maximum complexity and to highlight the wine’s secondary and tertiary aromas which is the hallmark of extended aging on the lees. This is a powerful and elegant Champagne with hints of citrus fruit, white peach a touch of red fruit, a note of brioche and a very long finish.
Chateau Haut-Brion 2005 made from 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Sémillon from a little less than 3 hectare plot. 2005 was a great vintage similar to the legendary vintage of 1949. Conditions were so perfect that the vines were able to produce small grapes of an extraordinary concentration that were harvested in perfect condition. Fermentation is done in oak barrels for a period of 9 to 12 months of which 50% of the barrels are new. This is a complex, layered and intense wine with hints of grapefruit, peach, orange blossom, a touch of chamomile and a note of dried flowers. It is a wine of pure richness and depth, finishing with incredible length. This is the first time I have tasted this wine and I was totally impressed!!
Volnay 1er Cru 2013 Hospices de Beaune made from 100% Pinot Noir from Cuvée Général-Muteau. This is an elegant wine with hints of wild berries, cherries and dark fruit. It was drinking very nicely now but it will age for many years. Two of the members had purchased the barrel at the Hospices de Beaune auction.
Member Frank Butler said, “My contributions were the 1970 Haut Brion (red) which drank well, and the 2013 Volnay (brought by my compatriot Joseph) which was from a barrel that we purchased from the auction at the Hospice de Beaune. It drank “okay” – as in very acceptable but nothing stellar.”
Local Green Asparagus & Coppa dressed with lemon, black pepper, Parmesan, and olive oil
Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 2001 Domaine Fougeray de Beauclair from 25 to 75 year old vines in clay and limestone soil. There is 3 days cold maceration followed by alcoholic fermentation at a controlled temperature. The vatting time is between 2 and 3 weeks. The wine is aged in new barrels for 18 months. This is a wine that has great length with hints of blackcurrant, blackberries, violets and a note of red berries.
Spaghetti à la Marseilles — pasta with a sauce of crab, mussels, prawns, tomato, saffron and white wine
Chambertin 2002 Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils made from 100% Pinot Noir. Manual harvest in small crates followed by an intense sorting of the grapes. There is a total or partial destemming depending on the vintage. After a gentle pressing fermentation is in small containers. Vatting is for 12 to 15 days and aging for 10 to 18 months in French oak barrels with 60 to 85% new.
Duet of Lamb–grilled marinated lamb tack, Merguez, carrot puree, chanterelles, favas, lamb jus.
Chateau Haut-Brion 1970 made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a lesser amount of Cabernet Franc. This is a full bodied elegant wine with hints of black fruit, black cherries, plum, tobacco, cedar and a long finish. It was drinking very nicely for a 52-year-old wine.
Duca Enrico IGT 1986 Duca di Salaparuta (Corvo) made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes grown in South Central Sicily. Soil is a mixture of calcareous-siliceous composition. The vineyard is at 200/300 meters and the vines are bush trained. There are at least 5,000 plants per hectare. Grapes are hand picked at full ripening and then destemmed. Maceration at 28/30 degrees for 8/10 hours followed by malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in oak casks for 18 months and then 18 months in bottle before release. First vintage was 1984 and it was the first 100% Nero d’Avola to be bottled in Sicily. The wine has hints of ripe dark-skinned fruit, blackberry jam, ripe black cherry, a hint of leather and a note of licorice. For a wine 36-years-old, it was not showing any real signs of age. This was my contribution.
Napa Valley 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Robert Mondavi– there was a discussion about this wine and for some reason I did not get to taste it.
Recioto della Amarone 1971 Bertani – Bertani is one of my favorite producers but this bottle was off and I believe it was corked.
Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg 2001 Auslese 8.5% abv One of the best vineyards in the world and in sole possession of one of the best wine estates in the world is the Karthäuserhofberg. The imposing vineyard, once farmed by the Carthusian monks, has an outstanding terroir and was already classified in the old Prussian tax maps as a particularly high-quality vineyard. The Devonian gray slate, often colored red, already points to the high iron content of the soil at first glance. The Karthäuserhofberg is about 20 ha in size and rises up to 254 meters above sea level. The unique microclimate, just before the confluence of the Ruwer in the Mosel, along with the slate soil, make it a paradise for the production of top Rieslings.
Very soft, heat-storing slate release ferrous, salty minerals through constant weathering. In addition, the topsoil has both finely weathered slate and loess for retaining water in periods of drought. The south- to southwest-facing slope with an incline of up to 45 percent is ideal for an optimal ripening of Riesling grapes. Each year, the wines show a very refreshing minerality and an enormous aging potential.
The class of the wines from this great Riesling vineyard has been proven by numerous awards over centuries and its large international fan base.
At the instigation of the Prussian government, the vineyard sites of the Saar and Mosel (the latter included the Ruwer) were classified as early as 1868. Even at this time, Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg was ranked in the top category. Written and contributed by Joseph D’ Ambrosio
Blackberry Sorbet with toasted honey oats
Rhubarb Gateau, Vanilla Creme Anglaise, Cherry ice cream
All of the wines all in a row with some of the members.
The meal was superb and so were the wines. I look forward to returning to Nice Matin again with Michele.