Monday, April 21, 2008

Goodbye Old Friend

Wilfred smiles in anticipation of the bottles...

Last week we sadly said goodbye to our dear friend, fellow wine-lover, bon vivant, and true gastronome, Wilfred Van Gorp. I have had the good fortune to be friends with Wilfred for several years now, often benefitting from his amazing generosity and grace. Our little wine group was enriched by his presence, and he will be sorely missed as he moves away from the Big Apple to the Windy City.

We decided to host a little wine dinner at Peking Duck House in Midtown, which is rapidly becoming a favorite due to its delicious ducks and friendly prices and open BYO policy. Happily, not much goes better with duck than Burgundy. Even more happily, one of the better food/wine matchings is Champagne with Asian food, so I was really looking forward to this. The wines were for the most part delicious, though there were a few clunkers. But the most important thing was enjoying Wilfred's company before he left us.

Josh pours the 1981 Lanson while Drew struggles with a bottle and Rob observes

We were also lucky enough to have a Champagne guru join us, Josh Raynolds, a wine critic who works with Steve Tanzer. Always generous and hilarious, he had us both loving the bottles he brought and laughing out loud.

Bill and Paul enjoy the duck

We started with a magnum of the 1981 Champagne Lanson, a steely and crisp bubbly that was more like drinking liquid bubbling steel. Perfect with the fatty duck and some of the oilier dishes. Next came a 1985 Charles Heidseick Champagne Charlie thanks to Josh, a truffly and thick-bodied bubbly that was fantastic. Sadly, this is no longer made, replaced by the Blanc des Millénaires in the past decade. Bill then insisted we open his white, a delicious 2001 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. This white Burgundy showed its class and pedigree right from the get-go. It smelled so good I didn't know whether I should snort it or drink it. Full of minerals and chalk and lemon on a dense and fat frame that somehow remained superbly delineated, I couldn't keep my hands off of it. Yum!

The famous duck arrives

Rob then presented us with a blind red: tons of strawberry and crisp cranberries met my nose, making me think of a cool-climate New World Pinot Noir. There was some oak hidden in there, and as it warmed up the wood began to show more and more, but it was still a lovely example of how New World Pinots should be, with a striking acidity at the back of the palate. It was the 2006 Rhys Alesia Falstaff Road Pinot Noir. Now if only more CA Pinots could take their cue from Kevin Harvey and his work...

Drew tries to restrain Rob from leaving

Now the main course was before us and the Burgs began popping. I have mentioned that I like Burgundy, right? We started with a Pommard, the 1996 Coste-Caumartin Pommard 1er Cru Les Boucherottes. Amazingly open for business, this just sang with an elegant yet powerful note, delineating its origins with surprising ease and grace, all dark Pinot fruit and minerals. The 1999 Joseph Drouhin Chambertin was a monster, young yet also deliciously open for business, with a surprising ripeness on the palate that seemed to blossom as it breathed. Next came the 1990 Faiveley Chambertin Clos de Bèze, which despite its age was also a youngster and should have been decanted: earthy minerals and fruits played hide and go seek, making me long for more time to enjoy it. Josh poured his bottle now, a 1988 Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin Estournelles St. Jacques, a wine that showed its age with grace and power at the same time, with spicy plums and lovely acidity. Drew proffered one of his bottles, a 1985 Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton-Bressandes, which made me swoon at first with that funky old Burgundy smell but eventually began to fall apart. There was also a 1976 Camille Giroud Latricières Chambertin, but it was not to be: corked! Damn!

Wilfred with his going-away gift

As the dinner would down, Rob handed Wilfred his going-away gift, a bottle of 2007 Baron Herzog Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon, something I am sure he'll enjoy cooking with...

We moved on to the dessert wines, starting with a 2000 Philippe Delesvaux Coteaux du Layon Clos de la Guiberderie redolent of lychees, honeyed apricots and mango on a deliciously sweet and fat frame. This was followed by a 2001 La Tour Blanche Sauternes, superbly balanced, with sweet lemons, hazelnuts and some flowery aspects, ending with a burst of refreshing acidity to balance out the sweetness. Still way too young but delicious nonetheless.

As the night wound down we said our goodbyes and wished Wilfred a Bon Voyage. The Big Apple's loss is the Windy City's gain, as Wilfred was a good friend and a wonderful person.

Goodbye old friend and thanks for all the memories.

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