After two years of Covid provoked isolation from anything but small and usually al fresco wine gatherings we thought it was time to once again test out our presumably atrophied creative and organizational abilities to create a small wine dinner and do some fairly deep cellar diving for candidates. These are the notes from that event, which we somehow managed to schedule during the first lengthy power outage in several years. The power went off at 10 pm the night before and stayed out until around 9 pm on the evening of the dinner. Fortunately we have a hybrid stove with electric oven and gas cooktop, so it only affected one dish that would have required the oven.

First off were two Champagnes with a couple of different nibbles. The first was a simple dish of cubed seedless watermelon, with a small divot scooped in the top of each cube where a good sized drop of balsamic vinegar was deposited by eyedropper. I’ve found that to be an interesting contrast to wines with the sweetness of the melon playing against the acidity of the vinegar. The second nibble was intended to be small rectangles of phyllo pastry with a dollop of onion jam topped with a slender strip of anchovy and a couple of black olive halves – also a dish intended to play tastes off each other, the sweet onion against the umami of the fish and olive. It was morphed into a cracker with the onion and an olive, to suit prevailing conditions.

1995 Drappier Champagne Cuvée de Millenaire 2000 – this wine is one I have followed since the change of millennium as the year 2001 was ushered in. It was a light gold colour and had a slightly sweet nose that showed slightly more oxidation than the last one I opened, but still quite presentable.

1990 Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Cuvée Rare – this wine was fresher despite being older and showed some lovely sweet fruit with only slight hints of oxidation. Amazing given the age. My only difficulty with this wine was the bottle – it has an unusually small diameter neck and cork and for the second time that cork was so tight that the head twisted off and we had to go at it with a Durand, a regular corkscrew and anything else we could find to try and dislodge the apparently immovable cork (I as eyeing a sword I keep as decoration and wondering if the glass would all go outward if I tried sabering it). Finally someone managed to relieve it of the hrd little cork and we then enjoyed it – really, really nice.

Next up was a combination I had been wanting to try for some time, as I love Alsatian wines but am sorry to see them so seldom included in anything but regional Alsatian meals. I chose to accompany it with a ceviche of scallops and prawns ‘cooked’ in fresh orange and lime juices with some jalapeno, served with a salsa of fine chopped white onion, tomatillo, cilantro, tomato, and more jalapeno.

2008 Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg – I chose this particular grand cru because it has some nice sweet notes but also lots of acidity. The nose was lemon and some sweet apple fruit aromas and on palate it came across as almost crisp, with very good length. Reaction was mixed as to whether they would rather drink this sort of wine with or without this sort of food.

I love mushrooms – the aromas, and the taste. I decided to do a mushroom and barley soup (just to show what a fungi I am) which was almost thick enough to be called a light stew, using a half dozen different mushrooms both fresh and dried (the drying and rehydration introduces significantly different umami flavours and aromas. I have found that this sort of dish works against pinot noir superbly well, so the wines, which we tasted blind, were:

2011 Domaine Joliet Fixin 1er Cru Clos de la Perrière – both wines were good, and this one showed some nice floral notes and was fully developed with some nutmeg and cherry developing. Fully mature but should hold awhile.

2011 Foxtrot Pinot Noir Foxtrot Vineyard – this wine was made by a small winery that at the beginning had no sales from the winery, nor tasting room – rumour spread by wrd of mouth that one of the best Pinot Noirs in BC was being made but that it was hard to find. I had to find out the address and go and knock on their door to ask if I could possibly buy some wine from them.
The wine was considerably darker than the Fixin, and the nose was more raspberry than cherry. When young, it was somewhat monolithic, but the additional years since I had last opened a bottle had smoothed it out and it no longer seemed overly concentrated – it was the hands down unanimous winner of choice by everyone, over the Burgundy.

Next course was lamb shanks with white beans, anchovy, garlic, onions and thyme, with cherry tomatoes and cashews added near the last minute – I have a very cooperative Persian butcher locally that brings in two lambs a week – I monopolized the shank supply for one weeks.worth.

1970 Ch. Montrose – I have followed this wine since the early 90s and was able to compare it to the superb 1990 on several occasions. I preferred the smooth development of it to the potential of the 1990 for many years but am happy to say that the places have now reversed. It was still alive with not much browning and still had tannins, though now silky rather than gritty, and a fair bit of acidity and it was in amazing condition given the age (blind tastings of 1970 claret has often fooled me into thinking a wine is five or ten years younger than it is). Loved it.

1990 Ch. Montrose – this wine was awarded 100 points back when I still respected his assessments – before he the ‘fruit-is-everything’ brigade. This is a classic claret, with very dark colour and an entrancing nose of forest floor melded with a cornucopia of fruit elements. Everyone there was silent after the first taste, uttering a sotto voce ‘wow!’ or just reflecting without saying anything. I am not a point person, so I will describe this wine by saying that there were many, many facets to it in nose, taste, and aftertaste, and in no aspect of all that could I honestly say that I wished it was...more of anything. One rarely gets to drink a wine that you couldn’t improve in some fashion as a mental exercise, but the only aspect I could think of to criticize was that I hadn’t bought twice as much on release. This is the real deal!

We had a cheese platter as we finished these wines (I had sidelined the Port I had intended to pour, a 77 Warres, when we lost a couple of attendees at the last minute) and we segued into dessert, a pumpkin and almond tart, with the last wine:

1996 Ch. D’Yquem – a half from a full bottle opened the night before and then pumped. I love Yquem and have been fortunate enough to taste quite a bit of it back to 1967 over the years, including an unforgettable dinner arranged by the now departed Albert Givton, of an entire multicourse catered dinner with Yquem with every course (anyone interested can look at my notes at )

Some of the apricot and marzipan notes nicely mirrored the tart, and honey and marmalade. Very long finish. Very glad that I was tasting this with time to open up, as one would miss a bunch of things if it were popped and poured. Great way to end a dinner and the lights came back on around the time too!

Pic at