Sunday, November 9, 2008

Veteran's Day

The official U.S. celebration of Veterans' Day is not until Tuesday, November 11, but this post moves the apostrophe one character to the left. That makes it a singular veteran.

The veteran in this case was opened and consumed yesterday. It was a 1983 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Aine. It was the oldest wine in the cellar at 25 years of age and it's time had come. We sampled a couple of 2005 Bordeaux while cooking. Best of the two was the Ch. Paviel de Luze from Margaux. Bright and fruity fresh with good color and acid, it was still closed up. Lots of swirling finally got enough of a nose of fruit and flowers to make it an enjoyable wine.

The cork stayed in the Hermitage while we cooked. Dinner was a small rack of Icelandic lamb which is back in the local market. With all the economic problems Iceland is having it was nice to help out their economy, or at least to use that as an excuse. The Icelandic lamb is very young, totally grass and pasture fed throughout the summer and sent to market in the fall. I buzzed some fresh garlic with rosemary, lemon thyme, white peppercorns, and red sea salt until it formed a heavy paste. The paste was thinned with Dijon mustard and then spread over the rack about an hour before cooking.

It was pan seared and popped into a very hot oven for ten minutes. There were rosemary roasted potatoes to go with the lamb and some steamed green beans on the side.

When the lamb went in the oven the cork came out of the Hermitage. There was heavy sediment in the bottle so we used a funnel strainer for pouring, but with a wine of senior age we did not decant. The wine was a remarkable color - not brooding and dark like a typical young syrah, but brick red and more Burgundy like in its depth of color. After a swirl it was obvious that the wine not young as there was nose of dry forest floor mixed in with some dried fruit flavors, mostly plums running to prunes. The taste was about the same as I had to struggle to identify the sensations. Dry pine forest floor, tart red plums, cinnamon, and perhaps some berry fruit mixed with some dry herbs to give the wine a not unpleasant taste, but not a taste that I am used to. Of the two other folks helping with the meal, one thought it was great and one thought it was old and tired.

We poured another glass and sat down with the lamb and potatoes. The lamb was tremendous as it had the natural gaminess of grass fed animals without overpowering the senses. Tender and delicious. I took a sip of the wine after a bite of lamb and the red plums jumped out of the glass and they brought some dark cherries with them. The wine tasted ten years younger. The fruit was in full flavor, there was still good acid and enough tannin to gently clear the palate. The finish was extremely long. The others agreed that the lamb made the wine better.

Bottom line, it was a fantastic experience and a delicious meal. This was not the best wine I've ever drunk, and it isn't in the running for the best of the year. But given its age and how it had changed and evolved from what I expect a Rhone syrah to be it gets a good grade and a standing ovation. Truth be told, it should have been opened about five years ago and I think it would have been magnificent at that point in time.

The oldest wines now in the cellar are some 1986 Bordeaux, chief among them a couple bottles of Ch, Leoville Las Cases. One of those is shaping up to be the New Year's Eve bottle.

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