December 11, 2013
I had attended this annual gathering the year before with our good friend Elizabeth while Gail was away and so this was Elizabeth and my second time at this event while it was Gail's first time.
This is an event that I always enjoy, as what is better than Christmas, good wine, good company and the beautiful old-world style of the Casa Loma Estate in Toronto. This event gives us the opportunity to sample wines that have been aged to perfection that we would otherwise never have had a chance to taste.
Also, because the cellared wines belong to the club, we get to taste them at the prices they were bought for decades ago, which is much cheaper than their value today, a definite bonus.
Many wines were sampled from around the world, including Bordeaux first growths, Burgundy Grand Crus, Chateau-Neuf du Pape, Brunello Reserva as well as new world wines from California and elsewhere.
All in all, a great evening.
February 18, 2012 - Singapore
The theme of this get-together was to focus on the smaller and more artisanal makers of Champagne as opposed to the larger and more well-known Champagne brands. Due to the difficulty and expense of producing champagne, the economics tended to favour the emergence of large houses, who would contract to buy grapes from many of the approximately 19,000 small growers who own almost 90% of the land that qualifies to be labelled Champagne in order to make wines that reflect a consistent style year after year.
Recently a paradigm of sorts has gripped the world of Champagne with the emergence of a new wave of small-scale Champagne makers. These artisanal winemakers go against the established norm by making wines not to taste the same every year but to taste the terroir where the grapes come from, i.e. just like the rest of the French wine world. Their champagnes would be sourced from the same vineyard or cluster of vineyards from the same village, with the emphasis being on terroir rather than uniformity — and the outcome is a new wave of champagnes that taste decidedly different.
Menu Amuse Bouche Gazpacho of Petite Pois, Emulsion of Alsatian Bacon Lallier Grand Cru Brut NV Salt-baked Beets and Oysters Beignet Compression of Legumes, Raspberry Vinaigrette Alain Soutiran Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV Alain Soutiran Brut Grand Cru NV Roasted Hokkaido Scallops Smoothie of Cauliflower, Caramelized Almonds, Emulsion of Piedmont Hazelnut Egly-Ouriet Tradition Grand Cru NV Atlantic Sea Bass ala Plancha Fricasse of Seafood, Cremeux of Fennel, Chateau Estoublon Olive Oil Henri Giraud, Hommage à François Hémart, Aÿ Grand Cru NV Paul Bara Special Club 2002 Roasted Angus Ribeye Fondant of Ratte Potato, Glazed Shallot Confit, Sauce Bordelaise Chateau Liversan 1989 Warm Banana Brioche, Confiture of Raspberry, Nutella Ice Cream Freixenet Carta Nevada (Sweet) NV
Our esteemed cellarmaster put together a list of artisonal champagnes that were pretty impressive. All six champagnes were Grand Cru, which means they come from the best 9% of vineyards in Champagne. Matching the delicacy and uniqueness of these champagnes needed a cuisine with an equally sophisticated and precise touch. As such, the IWFS selected the Boathouse, where chef Jonathan Koh, who had trained under a classical French chef in a three-star Michelin restaurant in Montpellier, specialized in modern French cuisine featuring seasonal produce and a lot of panache. The intimate setting within the heritage 1919 Waterboat House opposite the Fullerton Hotel definitely added to the charm of this gathering.
This was one of my favourite IWFS events of all time, as not only was the the selection of wine and dishes superb, but I also learned a lot from the organizers of this event about one of my favourite subjects, Champagne!
December 3, 2011 - Singapore
We held our third Champagne evening in Singapore spanning over a decade. A lot had changed over that ten year period, however the conviviality of the members of this wine group in Singapore never changed - fun-loving, curious, witty and with the uncommon ability to not take things too seriously and to be able to laugh at ourselves and our foibles. Enclosed are my notes from this great evening of good food, good wine and most important of all, good company.
Firstly, thanks to everyone for bringing excellent and wide ranging styles of Champagne for the Champagne WineTime evening. I believe that it proved that although it is sometimes difficult to identify specific tastes/flavours with Champagne when compared to its redheaded friends, there does exist a wide variety of styles and that Champagne also pairs well with many dishes. It is quite serendipitous that we were able to sample a Blanc de Blancs, a Blanc de Noirs, a rose, a vintage Californian Sparkling wine, several reserve Champagnes and Millesime Reserves as well as an aged 15 year old Grand Cru. I do not think that we could have arranged for a better assortment of Champagnes if we had planned it in advance.
To recap the Champagnes of the evening, we started off with a Lhuilier Reserve Rose (aged 5 years), which took on the unfortunate and inglorious role as the starter wine for the evening. This wine was excellent and by all rights should have been in the pantheon right beside its other siblings (I hope I do not come back in another life as a starter wine, Quelle Horreur . . .). This wine was followed by the Duval Leroy Brut which was housed in a party bottle which definitely won the best bottle of the evening award. The next wine was the Laurent Perrier Miilesime Vintage 2002 which I believe paired extremely well with the scallops (with aggressive use of Mango, as one commentator put it). The fourth wine was the Cattier (our pet cat's favourite) Blanc de Noirs Brut which I also believe was paired well with the mushroom soup. The fifth Champagne was the De Lousa & Fils Blanc de Blancs Reserve Grand Cru which was devilishly paired with the eggs. The sixth wine was the only non-Champagne served, the J. Schram 2001 Vintage methode champenoise, which was served with the salmon dish. And finally, what a treat it was to be able to taste the Picart-Thiout Millesime vintage 1996 (Premier Cru) which definitely won the Methuselah award as the longest lived wine of the evening.
Once again, thanks to everyone for such a fantastic evening and such a great start to the festive season.
Gail & Matt
November 15, 2011 - Singapore
This was one of my favourite International Wine & Food Society of Singapore (IWFSS) dinners, as not only was the wine and cuisine up to the normal high standards set by the Society, but I was also able to sit down and discuss the wines with the winemakers and winery owners themselves. As you can see by the pictures above, I was able to meet both Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and James Hall of Patz & Hall, both vey well respected Californian winemakers.
The dinner was held at the very presigious Taste Paradise@Ion restaurant in the Ion building in the heart of Orchard Road in Singapore. As you can see by the menu below, the dishes were exquisite and vey well paired with their California Pinots as well.
Menu Aperitif 2009 Chardonnay, Patz and Hall, Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Combination of Crab Meat Salad and Stuffed Scallop with Squids in Thai Style 2007 Chardonnay, Saintsbury, Brown Ranch, Carneros Double-boiled Morel Mushroom Soup with Chicken Steamed Shanghai Pork Dumpling with Foie Gras 2007 Pinot Noir, Saintsbury, Brown Ranch, Carneros Roasted Peking Duck 2007 Pinot Noir, Au Bon Climat, Knox Alexander, Santa Maria Valley 2007 Pinot Noir, Au Bon Climat, Isabelle, California Combination of Crispy Roasted Chicken, Barbequed Honey Pork and Cheesy Bacon Roll 2009 Pinot Noir, Drew Family, Morning Dew, Anderson Valley 2009 Pinot Noir, Drew Family, Weir Vineyards, Yorkville Highlands Sautéed Minced Duck Meat served on Lettuce (2nd Preparation of Peking Duck) 2008 Pinot Noir, Patz and Hall, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros 2008 Pinot Noir, Patz and Hall, Pisoni Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
My two favourite wines of the evening were the Au Bon Climat Isabelle Pinot Noir 2007 and the Patz & Hall Hyde Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. I was fortunate enough to purchase several bottles of these fine wines for future enjoyment.
March 20, 2004 - Singapore
I Have to say that this was one of the best wine dinners that I have ever attended. The food was up to the usual IWFS standards, the wines however, were incredible. We started the evening off with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne, one of my favourite non-vintage Champagnes. We then went through the single vineyard Syrahs and Grenaches from Clarendon Hills and then on to one of the best expressions of Syrah in the world - Astralis. Let me take a moment to review why according to Robert Parker "Clarendon Hills is one of Australia and the world's greatest wineries".
"Clarendon Hills Astralis (“pertaining to the stars”) derives from 35 to 70 year old dry grown vines planted on a complex mixture of clay, ironstone and gravely soils. A laissez-faire wine making philosophy is central to style allowing the wine to speak of its origins. Fermentation takes place with natural yeasts in an open stainless steel tank. The wine is matured in 100% new French oak barriques for around 18 months before bottling without filtration. This is a contemporary Australian classic with strong regional definition and long term cellaring potential. In recent times it has transcended the cult wine scene bringing extra dimension to the Australian ultra-fine market." Andrew Caillard MW
Wine Highlights Astralis 1995 (96 RP points) Astralis 2002 (98-100 RP points) Syrah Piggott Range 2002 (95-97 RP points) Syrah Moritz Vineyard 2002 (94-96 RP points) Grenache Romas Vineyard 2002 (95-97 RP points) Grenache Kangarilla Vineyard 2002 (93-95 RP points)
We were fortunate to have our good friend from Canada, Elizabeth join us for this evening to complement the ensemble of new acquaintances that we were getting to know at the IWFS. This dinner was hosted by Michael Hadley who was the owner of the newly opened Zambuca Restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hotel. Angelo Sanelli was the chef who paired excellent dishes to match these incredibly powerful wines. Every bottle from the 2002 vintage was opened 24 hours before the start of dinner, with double-decanting performed six hours beforehand.
I was so impressed with these wines that I bought several 1996 Grenache bottles and later on an Astralis which is truly one of the greatest Syrahs in the world.
March 22, 2003 - Four Season's Hotel, Singapore
After the Annual General Meeting we sauntered over to the Windows West room on the 20th Floor with a great view of the city skyline, silhouetted by the amber glow of the disappearing evening sun. Our feast for the night was orchestrated by Executive Chef Martin Aw-Yong and the dinner was enjoyed by all.
Menu Apertizer Mud Crab Cannelloni With Spicy Fresh Tomato Coulis and Chives Emulsion Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2000 William Fevre Chablis ‘Les Preuses’ 1998 Mystery Wine Number One & Two Fish Onion-Crusted Cod Fillet with Seared Foie Gras and Truffle Essence Domaine de la Roche Moreau Coteaux De Layon ‘St Aubin’ 1990 Sanford Pinot Noir 1995 Main Course Slow-Cooked Veal Cheek with Celeriac Puree and Roasted Artichoke Château Calon Ségur 1989 Bodegas Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva 1991 Mystery Wine Number Three & Four Dessert Layer of Milk Chocolate with Hazelnut Fruilletine and Mango Parfait Château D’Arche 1986 Petit Fours Freshly Brewed Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee & Selection of Teas
As a first for a IWFS dinner you will notice the appearance of mystery wines on the menu. A simple question was asked of the audience - "Which single country do these four wines hail from?" To add a bit of excitement, a prize was awaiting to be awarded to the winner. It came as no surprise to me that the only person who came close to answering this was Gail who duly accepted the prize.
As it turned out, all of these mystery wines were made from grape varieties grown in only one country in the world. These local varieties were Xinomavro, Krassato, Starroto and Limnio for the reds and Assyrtiko & Athiri for the whites. The country - Greece of course!
The second annual Cadieux/Shaw Christmas Champagne Fete has come and gone with a flourish. It was a wonderful gathering of people from broad and diverse backgrounds, the perfect combination for a Champagne evening.
Firstly, my apologies for the sparse and tardy notes, as the absence of the master notetaker - Jonathan - has taken its toll and his less than worthy stand-in seemed to be too busy sampling the bubbly rather than actually writing down comments.
The early arrivals were treated to a familiar orange robed friend (no, not the Burmese Monk portrait in the entrance way), but the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin - Brut Cuvee sPb. Although this past winner continues to be a favourite, some believed that the sweet finish, undoubtedly responsible for the commercial success of the Champagne, was not to everyone's taste. Some even referred to it as "Party Champagne". "Let the widow party on" I say!
Unfortunately the part time scribe was too distracted to write notes on the next two wines, the Louis Roederer - Brut Premier and the red sashed MUM - Cordon Rouge, although it was wisely noted that these bottles should not be wasted launching any ocean-going vessels.
We were all pleasantly surprised by the story behind the highlight of the evening, the Salon Champagne Brut 1990 - Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil. Apparently, this vintage Champagne is only produced when it is deemed a good year, resulting in only 33 vintages since 1911. This Champagne was visibly different then its other fridge-mates. This wine received many compliments, including, "A wine you could drink all night", "Fantastic, crispy and very fruity", "Nice and crisp, however I miss the smell of yeast and freshly baked bread", "Love the colour", "No discernable bubbles". We had one dissenter who thought there was "not enough substance". This last comment was interesting in that being a "Blanc de Blancs", this wine is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes. Perhaps the lack of Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier is responsible for this perceived lack of depth. The final comment on this wine "A wine you should not share with friends, but keep all to yourself" sums up the very positive response to this wine and we thank our new Primetime members for not heeding this advice.
Our favourite sommelier and recent returnee to Singapore daringly supplied us with non-Champagne from down under - Croser 99 from the Piccadilly Valley, Petaluma. This sparkling wine is composed of 54% Pinot Noir and 46% Chardonnay. This wine was universally well liked and was described as "fresh, smooth and bubbly".
The most visibly different wine of the evening was the Drappier - Val des Demoiselles - Rose Brut. If you'll pardon the pun, this Champagne was no blushing damsel - even though it was brought to us by a man showing serious leg. One observer noted that the "small bubbles" combined with "the taste of bread" made this a winning selection.
The next selection and the only other wine not to have the Champagne designation, was the Iron Horse Brut 1990 - Sparkling Wine from the Sonoma Valley. This wine has adorned the tables of Past Presidents of the United States (the status of the current President's taste in Champagne was not divulged and comments made in this matter will be left to posterity). This golden elixir was well received and there were comments such as "Very bubbly", "Very strong and woody" and "perhaps too woody". One parting comment was "don't invite me to the White House" - I am not sure if this is in reference to the current occupant of the White House or the bubbly.
The next wine sampled was the Charles Heidsieck - Brut Reserve, which divulged a lot of detail on the bottle itself, including: Mis en cave en 1997; Degorgement 1er Semestre 2002 and continues with "This non vintage Champagne has distinctive light notes of fresh vanilla and summer fruits." One comment that I believe summed up this wine especially well, was "A very good and dry Champagne with the structure of a well made wine . . . mouth filling length, without the sweetness of the Cliquot (the Champagne, not the widow)." I concur on the merits of this fine Champagne.
The next wine was the very respectable Drappier, Andre et Michel - Brut Nature Zero Dosage. This Champagne is distinctive in that it is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes. This Champagne also received positive comments including "Excellent", "Would go well with fish and roe".
Last and certainly not least were the Drappier - Cuvee du Millenaire 2000 - Cuvee Speciale; Chassenay d'Arce - Cuvee Privilege and Pol Roget - Extra Cuve de Reserve. Unfortunately, any comments about these final three Champagnes have been lost to posterity, however, the empty bottles are a testament to their popularity and to Primetime's ability to consume vast amounts of the bubbly. If my arithmetic is correct that makes 13 bottles of Champagne enjoyed in a single sitting. Not a bad result.
Thanks to everyone for a fine evening and although we didn't launch any ocean going vessels, we did christen our new wine fridge in fine style.