I was one of the founding members of the Court of Master Sommeliers and served as its President for over 20 years. I couldn't let the occasion go by without a celebration and a toast to the group. We decided to celebrate by inviting a few close friends for dinner. The dress code for the celebration was Florida casual, not black tie!
We had just spent three weeks in beautiful Provence in the French countryside so memories of lavender were fresh in our minds. The menu grew from the idea of using lavender in our meal and lingering over the meal the way the French people do. There was to be no hurrying through the meal and each course was meant to be savored and enjoyed with the wines being served. Karen developed our food menu and I chose the wine,
Smoked Trout and Egg Pie paired with Champagne - Nicolas Feuillatte - France
Endive Salad w/Cherry Tomatoes paired with Sauvignon Blanc from Whitehaven New Zealand (the salad was accompanied by lavender goat cheese on a crostini)
Roasted Pork Loin w/Vegetables paired with Pinot Noir - Elouan - Oregon, Tempranillo - Juan Gil - Jumilla Spain, and the Chateau Pichon Longueville - France
(the pork was roasted with rosemary, garlic, onion & lemon
Assorted Cheeses w/Baguette paired with Dow's 20 Year Old Tawny Port - Portugal
Honey & Lemon Posset w/Lavender paired withIce Wine from Inniskillin - Niagara Falls, Canada
The French Wine
Last summer Karen invited our friends from France to a "typical" American meal in our home while they were visiting Naples: fried chicken, corn on the cob, baked beans, cornbread, and banana pudding. To say thank you, they had brought us some freshly caught fish from our local bay and a bottle of wine. Hmmmm - not just any bottle of wine, but Chateau Pichon Longueville 2011 Comtesse de Lalande, a second growth and very special. It comes from a vineyard in the Medoc area of Bordeaux.
Second Growth is a designation acquired in 1855 when the top wines of Bordeaux were graded at an exhibition in Paris. There are five designations for growths. To qualify, it had to be pretty good then, and even better now.
For more information on growths:
The average age of the vines on which these grapes are grown is 65 years. The grapes are a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot. They are picked by hand and gently pressed before maturing in oak casks. They are then bottled two years later. Maturing takes place in the Chateaus' cellars and usually lasts for five years. By using this time to mature, it avoids the wines being drunk too young and protects the wine from forgery.
The first time I tasted this wine was in 1967 at a high end wine tasting held in a cellar under the Waterloo Bridge in London. I was hooked! That experience helped lead me to a study of wine.
I opened the bottle four hours before serving and paired it with Karen's roast pork, and some Dutch cheese. It tasted like velvet. That's not just any bottle of wine!
Thank you Max & Muriel de Paz and family for the gift of 🍷 is not forgotten.
Prosecco from Italy is the rage right now, but this was a special occasion and the best sparkling wine really does come from the Champagne Region in northern France. Although white, most Champagne is made from the Pinot Noir grape which is red. The grapes are crushed and the skins (which give wine its color) are removed. About $40 is the average price of a bottle.
The Sauvignon Blanc
The Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc was from Marlborough which is in the northern section of the South Island of New Zealand. It is the same price as most well known wines from this area which is around $17.
The Pinot Noir
Elouan - the Pinot Noir we drank is from the brains behind one of the biggest selling California wines: Meomi,. This brand was sold for $135,000,000 to the mega beverage company, Constellation Brands. They moved the company to Oregon and this is their new product. $20 a bottle.
Juan Gil - the Spanish wine, has a personal story behind it. Five years ago, we went to a wine bar in Naples and saw a Spanish wine on the list called Juan Gil. It was a 2007 vintage and was really beautiful. Karen described it as a taste explosion in her mouth. We tried to buy it locally and could only get the 2011 vintage. We bought a few bottles, tried one when we bought it and it was not even close to the 2017, so we kept the rest for later dates. It was well worth the wait. The cost is $15 to $20 plus the patience of waiting a few years.
The Ice Wine
This wine is from just over the border in Canada and made from the Vidal grape. The grapes are left on the vines until a cold spell causes them to freeze. They are then picked early in the morning and pressed. The juice is released and the frozen water remains. This ice wine costs $45 for a small bottle.
Dow"s 20 Tawny Port
A Tawny port from the Douro River in Portugal. These ports are matured in a different way than Vintage ports which are made in a particular year and aged for two years before bottling. Tawny ports are aged in wood for 10, 20, 30 and 40 years. In my view, twenty year old ports are the best value. Tawny Ports are much lighter than the very, very expensive vintage ports, some wine experts serve them chilled as we did. $60 for a standard bottle.
Wine and Food Combinations
The canapé was a delicious egg and onion trout pie. The original recipe called for caviar and was given to Karen by Norwegian friends years ago when she worked for Norwegian Cruise Line. We adapted it to use smoked trout instead of the caviar. Champagne always goes well with eggs. Fifty years ago when the staff of exclusive London clubs finished their shifts around 4:00 am, they had eggs and bacon before going home, and to drink - left over Champagne - usually the very good stuff.
The endive usually gives an earthy taste, add tomatoes which are acid, and then a pungent cheese. The lavender was very subtle. We tried to work out the many different flavor profiles, and bang! The crispy grapefruit/mango/peach/slightly fruity Sauvignon Blanc hit the spot.
Three wines with the pork probably needs an explanation. The reader may be thinking six and a half bottles of wine for six people is excessive. Only two wines were completely finished: the bottle of superb Bordeaux, and the half bottle of Iniskillin. These wines also mingled with the Port as the cheese was being served.
Here we go. . .the Juan Gil Tempranillo was outstanding with the pork as it was well matured and the flavor that came from the powerful Malbec grape was sustained by the sweetness of the carrots. Strawberry is said to be the flavor of USA Pinots and that flavor coming from the Oregon Elouan perfectly hit the fattiness from the pork loin. As the plates were cleared, the remaining star wine from Bordeaux was poured, and drunk on its own for about twenty minutes. It was superb: black currant nuances, slightly controlled earthiness, smooth with a mouth flavor of almost 30 seconds. Then along came the cheese and what little was left in the glass was paired with the matured cheddar and triple cream cheese.
The cheese tray had four cheese varieties: Cheddar, Triple Cream, Aged Gouda and Blue Gorgonzola. They were served with warm crusty baguettes and the Port, which was light, smooth and sweet. The Port had a nutty bouquet and a honeyed flavor, with a
chocolate / cinnamon finish.
The Dow's Port is in my view another great value, because you only need a couple of ounces. When the celebration is over, simply put it in the refrigerator for as long as six months.
At the end of the evening we had the lemon Posset, an old English dessert, easily made by mixing hot milk, honey and lemon. Karen flavored the Posset with lavender from Provence. The flavor was subtle and wonderful. One of our guests, took a bite and closed her eyes to enjoy the sensation! She said that she just wanted "to enjoy it". This medieval dish is often called Syllabub these days.
The Vidal grape (Ice Wine) we served with the Posset is often grafted with other varietals and is famous on the USA and Canadian border.
Many, many thanks to our guests for sharing the evening with us, the Court of Master Sommeliers for giving us a reason to celebrate and my wife Karen for producing this memorable meal.
Barrie Larvin, MS since 10-20-1970