Working in the wine business the months leading up to Christmas are the most frantic of the year. Due to this Bin 905 Wine and Spirits, where I spend the majority of my working hours, is forced to have its staff Christmas party after the big guy in the red suit has already made his rounds. This isn’t such a bad thing as the good things in life are worth waiting for…and I’m not sure he could fit such a large amount of excess and gluttony in his sleigh.
The terms “moderation” and “restraint” are not normally found in the vocabularies of our staff at the best of times, but this once a year blowout is legendary for its levels of hedonism and consumption of other-worldly wine and food. Last years staff party included a number of memorable speeches (which degraded into senseless rants by the conclusion of the evening), a half-shirtless push-up contest, singing and a drunken Frenchman shouting out references to the male reproductive anatomy. Although a memorable evening, my ability to perform basic functions such as speaking was cut short by a still legendary 6 ounce shot of 30 year old cask strength Whisky ($260.00 per bottle retail price) I consumed while a room-full of my co-workers chanted my name…peer-pressure is a bitch.
Needless to say expectations were high as we made the journey to Velvet at the Grande (http://www.crmr.com/velvet/) restaurant last Sunday for the 2010 edition of the Bin 905 staff Christmas party. What follows is an account of the borderline disgusting consumption that ensued.
The food was great, starting with some of the best oysters I have had to date and moving on to a three course meal with the highlight being a delicious braised short-rib entree. The real story however lies in the wine. What follows is an account to the best of my recollection of the wine consumed that fateful and memorable eve.
2000 Dom Perignon – We all met at Jeff’s house before heading out to kick-off the festivities. Our good friend Bryan (aka Panda) gave us a heads up letting us know he was bringing a bottle to drink…only to arrive with one of the world’s greatest Champagnes. Revered by hip-hop artists and celebrities alike, this is outstanding Champagne that is delicious now and will continue to improve for decades. Aroma’s of fresh bread, honey, dried nuts, toast and crisp apple wafted from the glass. On the palate layers of richness and depth were delivered in an elegant and seemingly weightless package powered by precise, focused acidity and delicious effervescence. A true treat and a great start to the evening.
Bellavista Cuvee Brut NV Franciacorta (Magnums) – Everything tastes better out of a magnum and this delicious sparkling wine from province of Lombardy in northern Italy was no exception. Made in the traditional method and produced from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco, this fresh, crisp offering is always a crowd pleaser. One of the highlights of the evening was delivered when our local French import Sylvain decided to mount the table, stepping around the glassware and food, to consume this out of the bottle in front of the general manager…a Napoleon complex of the best kind.
Bruno Paillard Champagne NV – One of Champagne’s most revered artisan producers, this was pure heaven with the oysters!
Larmandier-Bernier Saignee Rose NV – If there was an award for the Rose wine with the deepest colour this would certainly win. Made from 100% Pinot Noir from relatively old vines, the traditional “Saignee” method is used to extract the unreal colour of this wine. This drinks like an excellent red Burgundy that just happens to have bubbles. This is technically an extra-brut Champagne, but the richness and depth of the fruit give it plenty of body. A truly unique and exceptional Champagne from one of my favourite producers.
Francois Raveneau Chablis Foret Premier Cru 2005 – Now we’re getting really serious. From arguably the greatest producer of Chablis, this is like the love child of Zeus and Angelina Jolie…an infant with amazing potential. Although this was opened a full day in advance, the nuances and complexity of this world-class wine are still largely masked by its bracing acidity. These wines are legendary for their ability to age and I am confident in time the now muted notes of wet stone, apple-skin, spice, wool and fresh earth will step out from the shadows to be bathed in the spotlight.
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault Charmes 2007 – I’m going to go out and say it…this was the wine of the night. Unreal. Perfect. This is everything that I love about wine. This is a perfect example of a wine transcending its grape varietal to deliver a pure expression of place. This is one of those wines that invariably brings the question “How the hell can grapes produce THIS?”. This has the delicacy of cashmere with the luscious-richness of a fine pastry all at once. Deep notes of hazelnut, baked apple, creme-brulee, flambéed pear, banana and a tingling spine of minerality lead to a finish that keeps going and going. This was captivating; leaving a haunting memory long after the glass was empty. Due to the tasting sized pour, and much like my first sexual encounter, this was over more quickly than I would have liked. But however brief the experience I will remember this wine for years to come.
Meo-Camuzet Chambolle-Musigny 2004 – Wow, what a way to segue into the reds for the evening. The wines of Meo-Camuzet are much sought after and fairly expensive and this wine was perfect justification for that fact. Textbook Burgundian Pinot Noir, this featured vivid notes of bing cherry, fresh soil, cranberry, clove and much more. Delicious.
Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2004 – Textbook Napa Valley Cabernet from this historic producer. My favourite red wine of the evening, this showcased super-fine tannins along with notes of cassis, cedar, moist tobacco and blackberry. Outstanding! Drinking well now but will continue to improve over the next 5-10 years or more.
Woodward Canyon Artists Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – Although a little riper and flashier than I would have expected, this was delicious none-the-less. Ripe blueberry pie filling, vanilla and chocolate notes made this a great pairing with the short-rib.
Descendientes de Jose Palacios Corullon 2004 – Awesome. Produced from the obscure Mencia grape from the equally obscure region of Bierzo, this wine shows why Alvaro Palacios is one of Spain’s greatest wine makers. Sourced from very old hillside vines from around the town of Corullon, this showed Northern-Rhone like notes of pepper and cured meats along with bright red fruits. This has a long-life ahead of it and is an excellent value for the cellar (relative value that is).
Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino 2003 – A great example of why this is one of the great wine regions of the world. A nose rife with fresh earth leads to a soft palate boasting black cherry notes and a lingering finish. Delicious.
Vina Sastre Pesus 2004 – Those who were close enough to catch my tipsy rant would attest to the fact I shouldn’t get started on this wine. This is the entire argument against cult, homogenized, over-blown wines summed up in one bottle. This was dominated by syrupy fruit, high alcohol and over-blown oak treatment (effectively 400% new oak). This wine spit in the face of the things I value most in wine…balance and typicity. Any sense of place was almost completely obliterated by over-manipulation. And $600.00 a bottle? Give me a break. While my ranting does not change the fact that people will continue to purchase, covet and collect these kinds of wine, I would rather shove my hand into a bucket full of dirty needles collected from downtown gutters than to purchase this wine…if I could afford it. Thank you to Bin 905 for such a generous contribution but Pesus can bite me.
Grahams Vintage Port 2003 (Magnum) – What’s the best way to enjoy an excellent offering from one of Portugal’s greatest producers from an outstanding vintage? The answer, as I found out, is not to drink the equivalent of three glasses straight from the bottle…which also happens to be a magnum. I guess it’s still a better way to end the night than a 6 oz shot of Whisky…but only barely. Did I mention the terms excess and gluttony? I think I did.
Although the rest of the evening was a haze and the following day was spent recovering in the fetal position on the couch, this was an epic evening that lived up to its billing. Only 50 weeks until the next addition…