Those were the parameters established for the dinner at Norman's to celebrate Juan David Valencia's first day on the job as Assistant General Manager at that prestigious Orlando restaurant.
Juan is one of the bright young Somms on the Orlando wine scene and, until a few weeks back, had been the Somm at Luma on Park, a Winter Park culinary stalwart. He recently passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Sommelier exam and, in his message so informing me, also indicated that he was moving over to Norman's as AGM. I was extremely pleased with both of these developments as I have played the role of mentor to Juan. I told him that we would be there on his first night of work to lend support and enlisted Ron for this effort. At our lunch last Wednesday, Ron suggested that we bring along the wines mentioned in the title of this post as dinner accompaniments. Done.
Ron and Bev arrived at the restaurant before we did and had been seated at a table with a lovely view of the beautifully manicured grounds outside. Juan was at the table speaking to them and I was proud to see him in his grey suit, blue shirt, and tie, a sartorial splendor that could not be practiced at his place of former employment. After welcomes and congratulations, we settled in for what would prove to be a fun night.
Ron began the proceedings by opening a bottle of Jacques Selosse Substance. Substance always impresses me with its vibrancy. On the nose, honey, orange rind, nuttiness, and creme brulée. Weighty on the palate with burnt orange, bitter lemon, walnut, a syrupy tangerine, and a rich creaminess. As the wine matured in the glass, the sensation of floating on a tangerine sea. The 1999 Cristal that I took was yeasty on the nose with notes of golden apple. On the palate, rich and fresh with great acidity. Two radically different Champagne styles.
The Champagnes were accompanied by Wianno Oysters and Hackleback Caviar.
We quickly realized that we had both brought the same bottle, a 2007 Remoissenet Le Montrachet. There is a background story here that is worth a tell. I first met Ron six years ago at a Pierre-Antoine Rovani tasting held at The Wine Barn here in Orlando. Rovani had just been appointed President of Remoissenet, after its purchase by THEM, LLC., and was barnstorming the the US carrying the message of the "new" Remoissenet while trying to sell some of the stock in its cellars.
Ron and I got to talking at the event after it became clear that we would be the only ones buying the Le Montrachet that night. We bought three bottles each and was now each down to our last, the ones we had brought this evening (We had drunk all of the other bottles at joint dinners in the past but had never before brought our bottles to the same event.). We decided that we would only drink one of the bottles that night. Ron suggested that we flip a coin and the "loser's" bottle would be drunk that night and the "winner's" the next time we met. Juan produced a coin, flipped it, I called, and we drunk Ron's wine.
This wine was sublime. It was pale gold in color and restrained on the nose with elegant, classic apple-pear notes and hints of baking spices. Lemon, orange, pineapple, faded lemon rind, and a hint of smokiness on the palate. Perfect weight. Perfect texture. Perfect balance. Tight focus. Elegant, lengthy finish.
I paired this wine with a Brazilian Styled Creamy Cracked Conch Chowder which was rounded out with Saffron, Orange, Star Anise, and a Coconut Cloud.
The red Burgundy flight consisted of two DRCs: a 1988 Echezeaux (Ron) and a 1994 La Tache (me). We started with the La Tache and the aromatics were welcoming. A red fruit slurry on the nose along with nutmeg and smoke. Not very expressive on the palate initially, an issue we attributed to the vintage (1994 had been a difficult year for Burgundy). With time, faded red fruit, tamarind, and blackpepper with a dilute finish. The wine became a little more robust in the glass with the passage of time.
The 1988 Echezeaux was rich and creamy on the nose with red fruits, smoke, baking spices, tobacco, thyme, and beeswax. Savory on the palate with a balsamic note. Balanced with a long finish.
This flight was paired with a Yuzu Mojo Roasted Breast of Organic Chicken accompanied by Pad Thai Rice Noodles, Snap Peas, and a Ginger Carrot Purée.
Ron brought a 1982 Pichon-Lalande and I a 1995 Latour. The Pichon exhibited green bean-bell pepper notes along with sweet spices, dried herbs, cedar, and mocha chocolate. On the palate mature black fruit, dark chocolate, and smoke. Drinks younger than its age. A producer and vintage that Ron does not mind trotting out because it always shows well.
The Latour showed earth, soy, spice, nutmeg, squid ink, dried tree bark, graphite, roasted coffee, and black fruits. On the palate saltwater taffy, butterscotch, black olives, soy, dark fruit, and a savoriness. Focused. Balanced. Long finish.
The flight was accompanied by a Dry-Aged, Bone-In, 22 Oz Ribeye Steak with Spanish Potato Torta, Thumbellina Roasted Carrots, and Malbec Essence.
All in all a wonderful evening: Juan saw friendly faces for the duration of his first night at work in his new restaurant (and drank some pretty good stuff to boot); Ron, Bev, Parlo, and I got to enjoy each others company in a great local setting; the food was of an extremely high quality; and the wines were exceptional. We all remarked as to the consistently high quality within and across the flights.
A very satisfying evening on all fronts.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme