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Montrachet: 2011 Ramonet, 2008 Drouhin; Emmanuel Rouget V-R Cros Parantoux 1er: 2003, 2005 & 2006

August 26, 2018

No prizes for guessing who came up with the idea of drinking one of the rarest wines of Burgundy. For the longest time, Dr Ngoi has dreamt of organising a dinner centered on a mini-vertical of Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux 1er. The problem, of course, lay in sourcing the wine, itself rare and very expensive. The 1.01 ha of Cros Parantoux 1er at the westerly boundary of Vosne-Romanee produces only about 4000-5000 bottles annually, split between Domaine Emmanuel Rouget (0.7 ha) and Domaine Meo Camuzet (just a shade under 0.3 ha). Apart from its rarity, the romance about this wine lay in its synonymous association with the late Henri Jayer who had single-handedly resurrected this tiny patch that once grew only artichokes in the 1950s.

20180822_194314.jpgThe great master had also been instrumental, at one stage, in helping these two domaines in the vinification of Cros Parantoux 1er. Our past experience with Cros Parantoux 1er had only been a 2008 at Lameloise in Chagny (thoroughly wasteful) and a 2005 (from Dr Ngoi) that was still elusive. For this event at Nicolas on 22 Aug 2018, MH, Eddy, Dr Ngoi and Grace had generously popped some precious bottles from their respective cellars. Knowing that these wines need a very long time to be at their best, these bottles had been aired under temperature control since morning, something absolutely imperative if anyone is considering drinking these wines. And if one is drinking Cros Parantoux 1er, what ought to be the supporting act? Montrachet, naturally, and d’Yquem for whites, while only Richebourg would be deserving for red. As a digression, LF had two bottles of Armand Rousseau that needed to be drunk urgently as a malfunctioning wine chiller had almost frozen the wines just days prior. With Nicolas and his outstanding team on hand to prepare dinner and serve us the wines, we were set for a most memorable evening though, I must say, the greatness of Cros Parantoux 1er, save for the 2003, remained elusive that evening. Nevertheless, my heartfelt thanks gentlemen, and Grace, for your wonderful generosity.

2000 Philipponnat Clos des Goisses, courtesy of LF. Shy on the nose though the palate is open with zesty yellow citrus, rather dry, underscored by subtle ferrous minerals with gentle yeasty tones and toast. Became fuller and more minerally, gaining an unprecedented level of richness once the very fine bubbles had dissipated, the wine becoming quite indistinguishable from a Puligny-Montrachet. Excellent.

2003 Dom Perignon Rose, courtesy of Hsiang Sui. Closed as well on the nose, proffering mainly grapefruit on the palate with very good depth of gentle red fruits, fleshy but dry with traces of sweet, staying somewhat stern before it eventually blossomed with tight blazing intensity.

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2011 Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet Montrachet Grand Cru, courtesy of Jonathan Chan. This wine exuded a most delicate colour and bouquet with a soft glow of floral fragrance, infused with a gleaming tone of white fruits and gentle minerals on the full palate, quite ethereal and seamless as it sat in the glass with quiet intensity, eventually displaying its signature minerally glow that lingered with lengthy persistence. Wonderful stuff.

2008 Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru, courtesy of Vic. Closed even after being double decanted since morning though the palate offered very fine detail of floral characters, white fruits and minerals, tonally rich with excellent purity. It took its time to open up further with an emerging hint of tropical fruits before blossoming into a full-bodied wine, layered with rich minerality, becoming more poised and ethereal over time. Lovely but essentially far from ready.

2011 Domaine Leflaive Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru. White fruits dominate with subdued minerals and recessed chalk that exuded a soft gentle glow with early complexity, gaining in creamy richness and fullness that culminated eventually in a gleaming rich chromatic tone, utterly seamless and open.

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2004 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Dark rose petals and cherries dominate on the nose and palate, beautifully ripe and succulent with beguiling freshness, quite sublime in acidity with soft refined tannins that hinted at traces of black pepper, displaying excellent definition and linearity throughout its length. Not the most profound of wines from this famous estate though this is probably a function of the vintage. Excellent, by any standards.

2001 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Similar to the 2004 in bouquet and palatal tone where dark cherries and raspberries dominate, highly supple and fleshy and inviting though it loses out in definition and detail. But I guess no one will ever complain when given the chance to taste any Armand Rousseau for free. Drinking well but unlikely to get better.

2003 Domaine A F Gros Richebourg Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Delicious dark cherries and currants on the nose and palate, beautifully layered with plush textures that conferred great presence and suppleness though a tad short.

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2003 Domaine Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux 1er, two separate bottles from the same batch, courtesy of MH and Eddy. Opague purple. Generous bouquet of complex red fruits that exuded an exciting exuberant glow, matched by a rich opulent palate of dark currants and warm ripe fruit still imbued with a hint of vanilla, fairly extracted and undoubtedly full though never threatening to overwhelm, structured with great sophistication and subtlety that imparted elegance and poise. Still youthful and a little tight but what a successful wine this is considering the immense heat stress of this vintage. Outstanding.

2006 Domaine Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux 1er, courtesy of Dr Ngoi. Brighter in tone, similarly rich in its concentration and depth of fruit, structured with sublime acidity and unobtrusive tannins, mellowing quite quickly to reveal good definition and detail, becoming more delicious over time though it seemed to lack the last ounce of sophistication that one would expect from its pedigree, a tad short as well at the finish.

2005 Domaine Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanee Cros Parantoux 1er, courtesy of Grace. Dark. Much more reserved on the nose, definitely less expressive, in spite of the abundance of fleshy warm ripe fruit that suggested red plums and red apples still cloaked in enamel, its steely acidity and brazen intensity adding to its bold masculine structure, though never abrasive. But, on the whole, there’s no escaping the feeling that this wine is still a little unsettled on the palate. Needs better resolution but may be great in time to come.

1989 Ch d’Yquem, courtesy of Sanjay. Apricot, nectarine and aged honey dominate on the nose, stuffed with fabulous concentration of fruit, layering and intensity, still full and astonishingly fresh in its ageless acidity.

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1995 & 1996 Pichon Lalande, 1975 Palmer, 1996 Lynch-Bages

August 21, 2018

Kieron threw a surprise party at the Shang Palace of the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, on 16 Aug 2018 for reasons best known to himself and a few close friends. As usual with Kieron, the arrangements were absolutely impeccable and he had also generously supplied most of the wine (unless otherwise specified) in large bottle format whenever possible. The Shang Palace knew perfectly well Kieron’s exact needs, ensuring that a fresh glass was produced for each wine. As we waited for everyone to arrive, a magnum of 2007 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs was liberally poured, a champagne that is unfairly under-rated, no thanks to it being forever in the shadow of its famous sister estate Salon. 20180816_193046.jpgOn this occasion, the Delamotte displayed an abundance of green fruits and zesty citrus within a body of chiselled minerality, dry but not too brazen, softening a little over time with further notes of bitter lemon at the finish.

As we sat down to for dinner, the 2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs was served. Compared with the Delamotte, the Taittinger was rather shy and reserved though it proffers a lovely density of white fruits and citrus on the palate, superbly balanced, made gentle by its very fine bubbles topped with icing and vanillin with just a trace of sweetness at the sides. Very elegant.

We carried on with a pair from Domaine Leflaive. The 2005 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Clavoillon 1er exuded a superb complexity of aged chalk and creme de la crème on the nose with a lifted floral bloom, very lovely in depth and acidity though the fruit is set a little backward, more minerally and minty with a fair bit of oiliness on the mid-palate, finishing with great persistence at its long glowing finish. In contrast, the 2000 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, courtesy of David Tan, was expectedly denser in color but the nose was still quite effusive, typically burgundian with a good deal of earthiness, aged chalk and floral notes, still boasting fine concentration and presence upon its superb entry though it simply cannot muster the complexity and layering of a premier cru.

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We kicked off the reds with a classic pairing. The 1995 Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, poured from magnum, displayed a deep clear crimson, opening with a fabulous bouquet of gentle earthy pungency and Chinese tea leaves, rounded and fleshy, showing great refinement in its fullness, layering and structure, turning just a tad minty as it finished with a flourish of juicy dark plums and cherries. Drinking very well and probably at its very best. Next to it, the 1996 Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, also from magnum, was very similar in style and character to the 1995, its bouquet just a tad deeper and tighter, better defined in its layering of dark cherries and blackcurrants, more minerally as well, imparting some leathery tones amidst velvety tannins. Highly delicious but yet to peak. This little exercise simply confirmed the superiority of the 1996 over the 1995, amply demonstrated by an unplanned 1996 Ch Lynch Bages that Daniel Tan shoved into the line-up. This Pauillac classic ticked all the right boxes, displaying a beautiful complex bouquet with a deep glow of seductive ripe berries whilst the palate oozed with a wonderful concentration of warm succulent ripe fruit layered with great velvety intensity amidst open textures, displaying great linearity and definition as it tapered to a lasting finish with overtones of residual tea leaves. Still far from its peak. Superb.

20180816_223321.jpgFinally, as the piece de resistance, the 1975 Ch Palmer was poured from magnum, still showing well in color and palatal tone of dark cherries and dark plums, superbly proportioned and balanced with soft rounded sweet tannins, gently layered, highly subtle in its nuances. Highly attractive still without any indication of drying out. Excellent. Many thanks, Kieron !!

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May/June 2018: 2012 Montelena Estate, 2002 Gracia, 2014 Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny-Montrachet, 1998 Penley Estate

August 15, 2018

Veuve Clicquot Rose Brut, drunk over dimsum lunch at Asia Grand, 01 May 2018. Deep orangey hue, displaying overtones of grapefruit, tangerines and mandarins with good concentration, freshness and zest on a dense minerally base. Finished with dry blazing intensity.

2008 Rockford Black Shiraz, popped and poured at  Otto Ristorante, 08 May 2018. Exuding effusive tones of rich dark plums and black cherries layered with strong overtones of mocha and licorice, this is a beautiful example of Black Shiraz at its best, displaying excellent concentration of ripe dark Barossa shiraz with great linearity and definition underscored by a deep liquered presence, thoroughly open and engaging with some emerging complexity, finishing with seductive sweetness and intoxicating sophistication. Outstanding

2005 Mount Mary Quintet, popped and poured at  Otto Ristorante, 08 May 2018, courtesy of John Law. Malt, rye and hot stones on the nose that was rather reticent at the start, though the palate oozes with dry subtle sweet tannins coming from an excellent depth of dark fruits and black currants, developing some bright spots with velvety textures and supple acidity. Drinking well. Excellent.

1998 Penley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, popped and poured at Wah Lok, 11 May 2018. Deep garnet red. Powerful bouquet of ripe dark berries, raspberries and blackcurrants amidst earthy tones, cedar and roasted coffee. Still amazingly tight, developing further notes of black fruits tinged with licorice and dark plums. Well extracted. Mellowed quite quickly, opening up with good detail and transparency with mild sandy textures and crisp acidity, turning more expansive and minty at its finish. Excellent, though still seemingly far from its peak.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, tasted at Changi Airport T3 Krisflyer lounge, 26 May 2018. Gentle yeasty and crystalline tones amidst an ample spread of yellow citrus, displaying clear definition, its very fine soft bubbles offering excellent presence and depth on a bed of distinct ferrous minerals. Very fine.

2015 Albert Bichot Saint-Veran, tasted at Changi Airport T3 Krisflyer lounge, 26 May 2018. Distinct grassy elements with traces of nutmeg, medium-bodied. Rather placid though well-rounded with good presence of understated white fruits, chalky tones and acidity, tapering to a gentle finish. Very serviceable.

2009 Ch Le Doyenne, popped and poured at Ka Soh, 29 May 2018. Dark purple. Quite generous in dark fruits violets and blueberries on the nose though this sleeper of a wine is now less flattering on the palate compared with previous tastings. Good concentration, acidity and suppleness but missing in opulence, a little nondescript this time.

2004 Domaine Paul Aine Jaboulet Le Chevalier de Sterimberg, popped and poured at Imperial Treasure Asia Square, 30 May 2018. A luxurious sheen of creme and vanillin flavours dominate on the nose and palate, displaying good complexity with an aged stony glow of caramelized paraffin amidst aromas of glutinous leaves, replete with an opulent mid-body. The best bottle of this wine I’ve ever had. Excellent.

2007 Clos du Marquis, popped and poured at Imperial Treasure Asia Square, 30 May 2018 (courtesy of Ben). Deep purple, displaying excellent depth of blackcurrants, dark cherries and strawberries, highly supple, imbued with graphite minerals that shone with fine detail. Surprisingly good for the vintage.

2015 Maison de Montille Saint Romain, popped and poured at Asia Grand, 03 June 2018. Ample in green fruits and green melons with traces of icing on a delicate chalky base, very well balanced and open with  transparent textures, showing plenty of verve though it is generally rather understated, finishing with a minerally trail. Great value at SGD59.

1986 Ch Leoville Poyferre, popped and poured at  Otto Ristorante, 04 June 2018. This wine opened with quite a bit of bottle stink, distinctly medium-bodied, proffering aged rosy notes, light cherries and raspberries with traces of wood, still possessing intense acidity that imparted some lovely tension across the earthy minerally palate, finishing won a stern note of iron filings. Slightly past its prime.

2006 E Guigal Chateau D’Ampuis, courtesy of Sanjay at  Otto Ristorante, 04 June 2018. Bright with an exuberance of red fruits and cherries that exude a rosy feminine fragrance, medium-bodied, gentle on the palate with detailed tannin structure amidst great suppleness, developing a lighter tone of bright citrus over time. Very lovely.

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2002 Ch Gracia, courtesy of Vic at  Otto Ristorante, 04 June 2018. Endowed with an abundance of dark roses on the nose and palate, exuding a lovely feminine fragrance with great purity of fruit, soft and rounded, layered with excellent depth of dark fruit that grew in intensity over time.

2005 Ch Lynch Bages, courtesy of MH at  Otto Ristorante, 04 June 2018. Rather backward at this stage, exuding an understated bouquet of dark roses, dark cherries and blackcurrants though there’s undoubtedly a generous abundance of fruit beneath the rounded sheen of ash and earthy pungency, very open and gently layered. Unexpectedly feminine. Could do with a bit more focus at its finish. Not ready.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve NV, on board Singapore Airlines premium economy SQ32 SIN-SFO, 10 Jun 2018. Forward balance of light yellow citrus and clear fruits encased within a lovely glow of chalk and yeasty tones. Open with subtle dry intensity, displaying excellent fullness and presence, finishing well. Surprisingly good.

2016 Vina Borgia, on board Singapore Airlines premium economy SQ32 SIN-SFO, 10 Jun 2018. Earthy tones, wild berries, twigs and forest floor dominate with an abundance of dark plums and dark cherries, slightly forward. Agreeable but nondescript.

20180611_190422.jpg2014 Domaine Jean-Louis Chavy Puligny-Montrachet, a half bottle from the list of Michael Mina, San Francisco, on 11 June 2018 to celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. Displaying a beautiful luminous glow, this wine produced quite an arresting bouquet of creme de la creme and chalky minerals matched by a glorious presence of dense white fruits and floral characters on the palate. Utterly refined, rich and elegant, developing some early complexity as it tapered towards a long glowing finish. You simply can’t go wrong with 2014 burgundy white from any producer. Superb.

2012 Ch Montelena Estate, a half bottle from the list of Michael Mina, San Francisco, on 11 June 2018. Violets, dark cherries, exotic spice and a dash of bell pepper dominate on the nose while the palate is richly layered with dark cherries, raspberries and mulberries that conferred great ripeness, detail and lovely intensity, structured by pliant chewy tannins. Highly supple though rather understated in acidity, becoming more dry and earthy over time, finishing on a note of ground pepper and spice. Excellent.

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2016 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay, a half bottle at Fish Hopper’s, Monterey Bay, 16 June 2018. Good presence of green fruits, zesty lime and citrus, its crisp acidity a fresh clean feel, developing further notes of white flowers and vanillin later with pronounced grainy minerals. Not bad at all.

2016 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, a half bottle from the list of John’s Grill, San Francisco, 16 June 2018. This wine offer a good concentration of ripe raspberries and dark cherries, forward in fruit balance with a touch of earthiness amidst its dry intensity, developing further nuances of cedar and sweet incense over time though it never got any further. Serviceable.

1982 Joseph Perrier, 2000 Pichon Baron, 2001 Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche, 2002 Bouchard Montrachet, 1989 d’Yquem

August 7, 2018

20180520_121457.jpgSanjay very generously laid on a lunch party at Cassia, La Capella Resorts at Sentosa, Singapore, on 20 May 2018 where not only has he (or perhaps more likely the wifey?) arranged a full 8-course Cantonese cuisine of the highest order, he had also sponsored the entire line-up of top flight wines. Only God knows the raison d’tre for the occasion but the lucky ones like me who were invited were definitely not complaining. We began with not one, but two champagnes. The 1982 Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale Brut, poured from magnum, displayed a lovely depth of citrus, lime and pomelo, firm and well-delineated with overtones of smoke, gentle yeasty tones and a delicate trace of ember, still amazingly crisp and fresh with a wonderful deftness and transparency, finishing well on a note of bitter lemon amidst dry intensity. Superb. In contrast, the 2004 Champagne Salon Cuvee S, undoubtedly younger, is a different sort of creature, exuding a light luminous glow on the nose that led to darker savoury tones on the earthy palate tinged with yeast and wild flowers, appropriately dry in its intensity of fruit, fleshing out with excellent detail.

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We moved on to a glorious pair of whites. I initially thought the 2001 Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru may have been tinged with traces of oxidation, but this disappeared  after some time to yield light grassy tones on the nose coupled with excellent depth of delicate lime and clear citrus with traces of nutmeg supported by deeper green elements, very cleanly focused, finishing with lovely glowing intensity. The 2002 Bouchard Pere et Fils Montrachet Grand Cru was shy at first, taking its time to open up with a deep complex of crème de la crème and chalk laced with elements of glycerine and agar, all the while restrained and backward, eventually developing silky intensity with glowing plummy tones on a base of distinct saline minerals, finishing with exotic spice and white flowers. Rather ethereal in its elegance and poise, very much the Holy Grail of all whites. Outstanding, but still far from its peak.

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The pair of reds that followed was equally outstanding. The 2001 Domaine Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru, as usual, displayed a deeper tone of ruby, exuding a lovely perfumed fragrance of predominant red fruits, rose petals and red currants, distinctly feminine in its grace and subtle poise, structured with fine acidity, mellowing beautifully in the glass. The 2000 Ch Pichon Longuevlle Baron, poured from magnum, revealed a magnificent abundance of dark cherries and blackcurrants within its glorious depth, producing a lifted deep fragrance whilst the palate is defined by a highly detailed intensity of fruit along with dense minerals and heated stones, rounded with great succulence, finesse and balance just as it was beginning to develop some early secondary nuances, eventually smoothening out with just the distilled essence of dried tea leaves, glowing in a trail of gun smoke long after it’d left the palate. Wonderful stuff.

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2001 Armand Rousseau Clos de la Roche Grand Cru

We rounded off the long afternoon with the obligatory 1989 Ch d’Yquem, a wine that was very good to return to, displaying honeyed tones of dense apricot and aged nectarine, surprisingly light with open textures amidst traces of ember and sweet incense that got better and better with each sip, finishing with a lovely complex glow. Many thanks, Sanjay. This is one great unforgettable afternoon.

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2013 Arnaud Ente Meursault Clos Ambres, 2006 Dom George Roumier Bonnes-Mares, 2001 Marcassin Sonoma, 2002 Clos de Tart, 2004 Chateau Rayas Reserve

August 2, 2018

Some of us from Bacchus met on 15 May 2018 at Origin at the newly-renovated Shangri-La Singapore where, thanks to Kieron, corkage was completely waived. The original theme was to drink monopole grand crus from Burgundy. However, that got twisted and we ended way off theme, but the eventual line-up still turned out to be absolutely smashing as everyone pulled out the stops. Thank you all for your generosity, as always.

Champagne Pierre Peters Cuvee Resérve Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, from the restaurant list. Dull golden. Lovely bloom, evoking characters of smoke, some incense, generous green melons and delicate citrus, showing great freshness, open on the palate with excellent definition and intensity tinged with sweet pomelo and bitter lemon, exuding a lovely yeasty pungency over time, snapping into sharp focus at the finish. Superb.

2013 Domaine Arnaud Ente Meursault Clos des Ambres, courtesy of LF. What a gorgeous bouquet, effusive in honeyed toast and heated stones with superb lift, most mesmerising. Highly delicate and supple on the palate in spite of its ample fullness, distinctly minerally and rounded, very focused with fine definition, gently layered at first before going on to develop wonderful depth, glowing with traces iron ore at its persistent finish. Truly outstanding. What a privilege to have tasted this rarity, ranked on par with Coche-Dury for Meursault for both quality and pricing. Merci !!

2009 Domaine Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, courtesy of Vic, poured from magnum. Rich in concentration of fruit with a clean lift of early aged crème and cool characters of vanillin chalk, slightly reticent at first, eventually developing glorious depth and intensity that produced a superb stinging mouthfeel. Excellent now, and will be outstanding in time to come.

2008 Domaine Ponsot Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru, courtesy of Pipin. Deep ruby, exuding intense notes of red fruits and dark cherries tinged with earth, very ripe, amidst a lovely glow of heated stones, open and fleshy with traces of dark undertones. Absolutely superb in concentration and acidity, finishing with great persistence. Excellent.

2005 Domaine Prieure-Roch Chambertin Clos de Beze Grand Cru, courtesy of LF. Deep opague dusty red, as is quite usual for this domaine. The bouquet is superb, forward in camphor and fresh red fruits, conveying great excitement and verve, matched by an abundance of delicious dark currants and ripe dark berries on the highly supple palate, taut with superb focus and linearity as it drew to an intense rounded finish with slight medicinal tones, still remarkably youthful. Outstanding.

2001 Marcassin Sonoma Coast, courtesy of Andre. Dark in color, exuding a superb earthy pungency with tremendous lift, leading to darker but supple tones of raspberries and dark cherries on the palate, gently layered, underscored by a base of ferrous minerals. Highly focused with vivid detail, opening up with a lovely tangerine glow over time, superbly balanced with great elegance and refinement. Outstanding.

2002 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart Grand Cru. Deep clear ruby. Absolutely superb in its wonderful bouquet, displaying a deep effusive glow of dark cherries and red fruits, exuding great purity of warm ripe fruit with a deep core of tangerine, structured with exciting tannins on a bed of velvety intensity, utterly seamless. Outstanding.

2006 Domaine George Roumier Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, courtesy of Kieron. Glorious in color and bouquet, just slightly forward, delivering bold darker tones of ripe raspberries and dark currants on a cedary floor with certain intensity that immediately conveys the classic terroir of Bonnes-Mares. Racy, open, extroverted and supple, carrying just a bare vegetal tinge. Excellent.

2004 Ch Rayas Reserve, courtesy of Andre. Showing some evolution towards vermilion, this wine proffers a superb bouquet of predominant red fruits and tangerines, very lovely in depth, concentration and intensity, yet never heavy on the palate, displaying a certain deftness with great linearity and focus, tightly controlled. Excellent.

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Iggy’s: 2011 Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet, 2012 Domaine Arlaud Bonnes-Mares, Chateau Haut-Brion 1995 & 1996

July 30, 2018

20180725_200941.jpgOn the day that the Third Edition of the Singapore Michelin Guide announced that Iggy’s has retained its star, Iggy himself chose to spend the evening at his restaurant with his loyal friends and customers where he had customised a dinner degustation at a friendly tag of SGD 175++, paired with a specially curated list of wines to go with, all priced to sell. For those who have followed its fortunes since its time at The Regent, Iggy’s has always stood for unpretentious food prepared with thought and imagination but, like all successful dining establishments, staff retention is always an issue and Iggy’s has had to put up with its share of troubles. However, Iggy’s has persevered well with its new Spanish-Australian chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive to engineer a new Renaissance and it is gratifying to note that, for its efforts, Iggy’s has been awarded a Michelin star since 2017. The real winners though are lucky consumers like ourselves who are spoilt for choice nowadays and we must thank Iggy for flying the Singapore flag high in the culinary world.

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We began with a glass of complimentary Laurent-Perrier Brut Reserve NV that boasts toasty oak with a generous spread of lifted yellow citrus, open and highly inviting with a rich creamy lovely expanse, excellent in concentration and detail that left a lasting impression.

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We chose two wines from the list, all courtesy of Pipin. The 2011 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru lived up to our lofty expectations, shy and reticent at first though it developed rapidly enough to proffer lifted tones of concentrated clear citrus amidst a powerful minerally glow on an open palate that displayed rich chalky detail, oozing with sweet intensity and depth of fruit that recalled caramel and honeysuckle, eventually coiling up with exquisite tension and acidity like a shy debutante overwhelmed by the occasion. Highly enticing and excellent in every way with so much more to offer.

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The 2012 Domaine Arlaud Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru boasts a fabulous deep bouquet of dark cherries, raspberries and dark roses tinged with earthy minerals, highly supple and fleshy, becoming slightly darker in tone with greater earthiness over time before blossoming beautifully with an explosion of bright flavours amidst overtones of smoky incense, displaying great linearity in its intensity of fruit. Little wonder that Domaine Arlaud is now on the radar of burgundy lovers.

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Iggy thanking his team headed by chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive when news of his Michelin-star reached us

Kieron and I must really share some sort of oenophilic telepathy, for we’d brought two other reds of our own coincidentally from the same estate. The 1995 Ch Haut Brion (courtesy of Kieron) displayed a lovely deep bouquet of tea leaves and earth with traces of dried tobacco; very juicy, fleshy and supple on the palate imbued with ripe dark berries, blackcurrants and ferrous elements, subtly structured with gentle intensity, eventually exuding some of the Pessac signature of pungent earthiness. Drinking well, perhaps just a tad short. In comparison, the 1996 Ch Haut Brion, though younger, came across like a bigger sibling, far denser and darker in tone with greater depth and structure, more minerally as well as it exuded a deep hallowed glow with an abundance of ripe dark fruit held in reserve. Very much like a clone of the 1986 caught at its peak, bringing an evening of very fine dining to a wonderful conclusion.

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Ric visits Harlan Estate

July 17, 2018

DSC_1988It has been long overdue, on my part, to reciprocate with a visit to Harlan Estate in Napa Valley for Don Weaver, Director, has always made it a point to fly all the way to Singapore annually just to meet up with his old friends. It finally came through on 13 June 2018 through the kind courtesy of Don and his associate Francois Vignaud. Making your way to Harlan Estate, on the other hand, isn’t that simple. I ought to have heeded Don’s advice not to rely on GPS. Due to mobile signals that are almost non-existent in the open Napa country, the GPS trail simply fades off and disappears as you think you are almost nearing Harlan Estate, leaving you high and dry on a dirt trail. Happening to chance upon a car driving down the hill, we were told Harlan Estate was just up yonder. True enough, right at the hill top was a rustic-looking building that would have suited my impression of Harlan Estate. As we happily got down from the car, the groundkeeper informed us we had arrived instead at BOND Estates, a winery set up by Harlan in 1997 on the grounds of the old Harlan Estate (focusing on single varietal cabernet sauvignon from very select plots). A representative from BOND pointed across to the next hill where Harlan Estate was just within sight and, most helpfully, drove us across to our intended destination which is totally unmarked along the dirt road. But I suppose that’s the way it has to be. If you make one of the most highly sought-after wines in the world, your address has to be just as difficult to locate.

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The pioneering vines in the foreground overlooking the floor of Napa Valley

After generously tipping off our Uber driver for joining us in our pursuit, I was warmly greeted by Francois as I stepped into Harlan’s verandah that peered downed on the floor of Napa Valley, facing east and south-east. Francois still recalled our recent meeting back in Singapore in April and he wasted no time bringing out a bottle of Krug Grand Annee, already sitting on ice. This is what I really call a welcome drink particularly after a long and stressful search for the property, its lifted bouquet of almonds and honeyed toast well matched with a lovely complex of dense clear citrus and crystalline minerals that refreshed the palate with great vigour and detail, replete with traces of bitter lemon and yeasty undertones, not too dry. As we sipped this excellent champagne, Francois proceeded to fill me in on the estate.

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Newer plantings of Harlan Estate

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Harlan Estate stands truly at the pinnacle of all Californian cabernet, not just because of its very limited production made available only to those on its mailing list but, more importantly, the grand vin of Harlan Estate is really a wine of great sophistication, precision, elegance and power all sheathed within the proverbial velvet glove. Its founder William Harlan had been sufficiently impressed by the Cote d’Or of Burgundy such that when the first vines were planted at Harlan back in 1984, he had insisted on the same basics: vines planted at altitude on slopes facing the morning sun (whereas much of Napa is grown on the flat valley floor). In those days, the slopes were covered in dense vegetation which had to be de-forested before the vines could be planted. The pioneer plots still exist and, in fact, are now at their prime close to 35 years of age, planted at a low density of 4,000 vines per hectare across the slope in accordance with state laws (primarily to prevent soil erosion) rather than the preferred downslope orientation which would facilitate drainage in wet conditions. The first vintage that was declared and bottled was the 1990. Since then, Harlan Estate has expanded with more plots on the hills, now totalling 17 hectares planted at a higher density of about 10,000 vines per hectare in downslope fashion. Thankfully, the devastating wildfire of December 2017 did not touch Harlan at all. Severe grape selection criteria ensure that only a third of the grapes harvested make it into the prestigious grand vin while another third is designated for its so-called second label “The Maiden”. The remainder is declassified and sold off as ordinary Napa cabernet on condition that the name Harlan Estate would not appear anywhere on its eventual bottling.

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Francois aspirating the 2016 Harlan Estate from barrel

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Given such low yields, it is not surprising that the chai of Harlan Estate is rather modest with just two rows of wooden vats, each of which is filled with hot water for about two weeks prior to vinification in order to expand the wood to ensure perfect seal. I was reminded of Chateau Petrus which is similarly-sized and employs the same technique as well. The cellar, passively-cooled deep with the rocky hills, is fairly sizeable, within which the 2017 and 2016 wines are resting quietly in 50% new French oak with variable aging periods depending on vintage quality and the character of specific plots. Some of the wine is also aged in larger-than-usual barrels to enhance its freshness as the large volume further reduces the extent of oxygen contact, much akin to the advantage of magnum versus standard bottling. The same people who made the first vintages of Harlan, namely Bill Harlan and Bob Levy, are still around to ensure that the wines of Harlan Estate are consistent in every aspect of craftsmanship: wines of concentration, depth, layering and linearity with reined-in power, cushioned in velvety tones of great sophistication and detail. These qualities were easily apparent in the two vintages of Harlan grand vin that we enjoyed as we adjourned to the drawing room:

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Clean, immaculate, stylish and appealing: the chai of Harlan Estate reflects the wine within

 2016 Harlan Estate, tasted from barrel. Displaying a deep garnet red, this wine is already highly seamless and precocious even at its infantile stage, boasting a developing bouquet of Asian spices, nutmeg, ash and herbs, dryish in texture with very good concentration and quiet intensity that produced excellent precision and linearity, very fresh and succulent, structured with very finely-grained tannins at its gentle minty finish. Clearly a wine of huge potential.

2014 Harlan Estate, decanted from bottle. Glorious deep inky red, expectedly more developed on the nose with forest characters and a forward balance of dark cherries, dark plums and rye, rather bright and fleshy. Distinctly rounded, softer and more transparent, developing characters of pencil shavings that imparted a slightly dryish backdrop on a cedary floor, structured with very fine seamless tannins that shaped up to a gentle glowing finish. Excellent, a wine that should grow from strength to strength.

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The 2014 Harlan Estate being decanted and poured

That concludes our morning at Harlan Estate on a most satisfactory note. When Francois enquired about our plans for lunch and I replied, somewhat sheepishly, that I’d booked this place called Mustards Grill, he said that was the de facto lunch destination for himself and the big boys from Harlan! Francois was kind enough to drop us off at the diner where, indeed, half bottles of Harlan Estate grand vin are available on the list! Thank you very much, Francois and Don, for taking such great care of us. We shall meet again soon.

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