Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon `89 **** ; (`88 ****!)

The Night of Two Dinner Parties (part deux)
continued from part one:  I stopped at Waldbaum's for some heavy cream on my way home from Glen Cove.  We had discussed wine for the night's dinner, and it was decided that as it was a special night, there may be a trip to the cellar involved.  (that can only mean bringing out the good stuff!)

I pulled in, parked the car, and the dog greeted me with wagging of tail and sniffing of leg.  (Yes, it is true, I did walk another dog, but seriously, it is just platonic...)  Then I caught the scent of woodsmoke wafting from the back of the house... my heart skipped a beat...the fire pit was lit!  (I am a pyromaniac... ok, that may be drastic, but open fires are euphoric for me).  As I stepped up to the patio, I saw a dusty wine bottle just waiting.  The door slammed and wine glasses appeared. I had to take a picture!

This is great wine with a story...  back in the early `90's, JPH & S  traveled their way through Napa sipping all along the route (Of course @MH still denies being in Napa, using some sound logic: "If I don't remember it, it didn't happen" - note to self: sound logic for future use) .  Their favorite wine of that trip was the `88 Chateau Montelena, a few cases made their way back east and were safely tucked away in the cellar. I have to agree with them - it is a fantastic wine and the `88 is even more amazing than the `89. A few bottles are usually hauled out for festive occasions, and since I see it going for up to $149.00 per bottle ($60-80 is more realistic), tonight was very festive!

I sat on the patio, gazed at the fire and sipped wine. Well, that was after I broke the cork in the bottle and JPH had to save the day.  Thanks to me, we still had to strain it before drinking, but the wine was a treat and a surprise. I had the first pour, and it was a big red taste that was evanescent - really, it disappeared.  No finish at all.  It was very easy to drink. We sat nibbling on Parmesan squares and truffled almonds, the fire pit cracking in front of us, and the steak grilling just to the side, it was a perfect Fall evening.
S joined us at the table and tried a glass - and hers was nothing like my glass.   Hers was the third glass poured and it had a bigger taste and a bold, deep oak finish.  WOW.  Who knew? How can the dynamics of a wine change even when being poured from the bottle.  This wine has been gently aging fairly undisturbed in the cellar for 21 years, yet from the moment we opened it, it was a dynamic living wine that was stratified (for lack of a better descriptor),  was great to start with and  it became even better with each glass we poured. (too bad we didn't have a chemist in the crowd to explain the phenomenon.)  I do think that this wine peaked a few years ago, but even slightly past it's prizewinning peak, this wine is fantastic. Kinda like "70 is the new 40" (or maybe George Clooney still being dreamy when he is collecting his pension and still has a 25 year old on his arm).

There was no vinturi for this wine, it did not need the agitation of an aerator, this is a wine to be poured and savored, there will be sediment at the bottom of your glass, just dump out the last teaspoon before you refill (or not) and enjoy it while the bottle is open.  We just sat and sipped, then carried our glasses to the table and opened up another bottle from 1988 (an even better year that I swear I have already reviewed, but I can't find the review anywhere!).

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, cooking and assembling was happening at a casually frantic pace. Steak and tomatoes were sliced, I lent a hand in tossing the pasta with pesto.  Bread from Leonetti's was unbagged, JPH's famous Eggplant Parmesan was crusted in the oven, Pies were set on the counter. Sorry,  there are no pie pictures, JPH made the crusts and S. made pumpkin pies (from scratch - really, she roasted a French pumpkins - seriously, who roasts pumpkins for pie?? now that is dedication (and delicious dedication at that!)) I didn't think to grab a picture and the crowd was already hungrily milling about.

We all lined up buffet style and dug in, with the over 20's in the dining room, and the next generation having a raucous time in the kitchen (for which they interrupted their raucous Monopoly game).
Heirloom Tomatoes (in season and delicious)
Gemelli Pasta with homemade Pesto
Eggplant Parmesan
Grilled Fillet of Beef
French Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Cream

About the `88:  As with most great dinner parties, an even better party can be the day after for a lunch of leftovers, cheeses, fresh bread and good wine, properly stored. The bottle of the `88 was still good (having vacuumed* it the night before), so we had a GREAT informal lunch. As decadent as truffled pecorino Romano cheese may sound, eating a hunk of it and then sipping the `88 Chateau Montelena Cabernet will be one of the culinary highlights of my life.  You don't need a lot of food, you just need a simple bite, a sip of good wine and the meal can be transcendent.  I know that I sound like I am going on and on, but you should try it some day. It doesn't have to be a 22 year old bottle of fine wine (although that helps) but it could also be a $4.99 bottle of Villa Cerina.  Find the right match, and it could be magical.

*I have bowed to the pressure of Amazon Affiliates, this is what I am using as a wine keeper.

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