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Fine dining

November 12, 2009

Great palsWhat a hilarious night. The ex-professorial group gathered enthusiastically, at short notice, at Les Artistes Bistrot (by Nicolas) for a regular meet-up. As nothing about wine had been planned, it was interesting to see what everyone would bring.

Interestingly, a pair of pinot noirs showed up. The 1990 Domaine Faiveley Echezeaux Grand Cru (courtesy KP) was drunk alongside a 1997 Giaconda pinot noir (courtesy Hiok). The Faiveley displayed the typical dusty red, giving off a very deep fabulous bouquet that was superbly fragrant, hinting strongly of rich red fruits and sweet cherries and raspberry. On the palate, however, the wine seemed curiously under-developed for a 1990, still remaining quite full and monolithic. Sure enough, it had great presence and a very correct “salty” pinot character, but there was none of the layers of richness, depth, and concentration – breed – that I had expected from this source. It loosened up after some time, but that was it.

In contrast, the Giaconda, a tad lighter in color, had a huge nose of red berries with sharper definition, but sacrificing depth and complexity. Full-bodied, much more extracted with thick textures, and again rather monolithic, yet to develop further, ending with a long salty finish. It opened up a little after an hour, revealing some notes of banana (I can’t think of anything else), but again not much else. A definite New World pinot. Neither of these two wines seemed entirely satisfactory, their relative deficiencies highlighted by the superb 2002 Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanee”Les Suchots” 1er Cru that I had that same afternoon (see November Notes in Brief).

A motley bunchWe moved on to more familiar stuff: a 1975 Ch Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande paired with a 2000 Caymus Special Selection (courtesy Ed). The Comtesse has an interesting history. I remembered buying a couple from Oaks Cellars for under SGD300 couple of years back. What had struck me then was that the fill level was unbelievably full, the label appeared totally pristine, and it sported the words Vin de Pichon Longueville de Lalande, which is different from the usual. Fearing that it may be a fake, I’d emailed the chateau directly, which replied back after some considerable delay saying that a significant number of bottles of that vintage had been recorked at the chateau in 1993, with a change in label. Indeed this was true, as a closer examination showed that the cork bore a tiny inscription indicating that re-corking had taken place. This was my last bottle, which was also the best of 3 that I had tasted over the past 2 years. Obviously showing an evolved mature dusky red, it offered a fully developed bouquet of mature dark fruits that was surprisingly deep yet mellow. Still quite full-bodied on the palate, yet retaining very good levels of freshness, exotic notes of aged Bordeaux, very rounded and smooth, dominated by plum and raisins, chocolate, and tobacco. This is definitely the best showing of a ’75 Comtesse, coming across as fresher and more lively than before, and likely to hang on for a while more. The re-corking definitely had a part to play. But at 34 years of age, it’ll clearly not improve any further, and I’m glad to have shared this with wonderful company.It's genuine!

The Caymus was, predictably, the complete opposite, but it was very attractive nonetheless. Deep red, exuding a powerful bouquet of fresh vanilla oak, not excessive though, full of gorgeous ripe fruit, revealing great depth. Huge and dense, but surprisingly soft on the entry, very open and accessible, not monolithic, great mouthfeel with loads of liquorice and menthol laced with sweet tropical fruit, finishing long without any trace of heat. Delicious. A superb Napa wine. We rounded off with a 2002 J J Christoffel Erben Urziger Wurzgarten riesling eiswein (courtesy Vic), which was very lovely – lifted aromas of honey, nectar, peach, pineapple and apricot held in delicate balance with just the right level of acidity and freshness, with a bit of sizzling intensity beneath all that.

But that wasn’t the end. When we’d opted for the SGD70++ 5-course set menu that included a 200-day grain-fed beef tenderloin, we thought that would fill our tummies nicely. But the portions all turned out to be miniscule (the beef tenderloin only one-third the size of the kurobuta pork that Jade Palace serves as appetiser), plus one course that turned out to be just a tiny cupful of soup – actually more to cleanse our palates before the beef. True, the food was really excellent, it was truly fine dining, with fine portions. We’re still hungry. Hence, for the first time ever, we trooped across the road to Kok Sen Coffee Shop, ordered a huge plate of dry beef horfun and a huge bowl of sliced-fish noodles, and wolfed it all down in less than 10 minutes. I swear that was one of the most satisfying suppers ever. In fact, the beef horfun would have gone very nicely with a red. Five stars to Kok Sen coffee shop.

Waiting to tuck in at Kok Sen Coffee Shop

After 10 minutes...

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