50-year-old Wines at the 5th Floor to Celebrate a 5th Decade

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Fifth Floor Executive Chef David Bazirgan center

50TH BIRTHDAY, 5TH FLOOR, 50-YEAR-OLD WINES – Fifth Floor Restaurant, San Francisco, California (8/27/2011)

We celebrated the close of Sandy’s fifth decade at the Fifth Floor with a special menu that Executive Chef David Bazirgan came up with to pair with our wines. The food was creative and outstanding. Our wines were very good overall, and nothing was corked or faulty. As 1961 was not only a good year for people, but also an excellent year in Bordeaux, Barolo and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, it was a treat to have a bottle of that vintage from each of those appellations, all of which were in remarkably good shape. In short, it was a memorable night, and a great celebration.

We started with Champagne at Robert’s suite at the St. Regis. We continued with more Champagne, including some older rarities, with our first course at the Fifth Floor. We turned to some mature Rieslings for the second course, and enjoyed a flight of white Burg and Raveneau Chablis with our third course. We turned to reds for our pork shoulder and belly dish, going with our lighter reds: two Pommards and the 1961 Giacomo Conterno Barolo. For me, and at least a few others, the latter was the WOTN. Our next red flight, with our beef short rib and truffle dish, was two more ’61s–Ducru-Beaucaillou and Mont-Redon–and a 1991 Ridge Monte Bello. We continued with a couple more great reds, a ’91 Clape Cornas and the 1982 Gruaud Larose, before moving to sweet wines and desserts. We finished up wiith a very tasty and youthful 1977 Dow Port.

For more details on the flights and my tasting notes, see below.

Pre-Dinner Reception Champagnes

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This was a tasty start. I’m a big fan of both Vilmart and Cédric Bouchard. The Bouchard Blanc de Noirs Les Ursules was particularly impressive.

Champagne Flight

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Kobe beef tartare, with red yuzu kosho, fresh wasabi, aged shoyu and quail egg
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Robert collects Champagne, and these were delightful ones with age on them. I don’t think our ’71 Lanson Red Label was in pristine shape–the cork came out much too easily–but there was still some good wine there. The opening of a Salon is always a special occasion, and this one was delicious, if a little restrained and austere. The Taittinger Comtes de Champagne was also magnificent. I thought our tasty first course went particularly well with the savory quality of the ’71 Lanson.

  • 1971 Lanson Champagne Red Label – France, Champagne
    Light medium orange color with no bubbles; mature, oxidized, sherried, tart orange, caramel, yeasty, lifted nose; mature, tart red grapefruit, citrus, tart orange palate with medium acidity that’s a little sherried, but cleans up quite a bit with 15-20 minutes of air; long finish (a very intriguing 40 yr old Champagne, but the bottle wasn’t in the best condition, hence the lack of bubbles) (92 pts.)
  • 1988 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    Light medium yellow color; maturing, bee pollen, yeasty, baked lemon, baked citrus, tart orange, wax nose; delicious, poised, waxy textured, baked lemon, baked apple, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne – France, Champagne
    Light yellow color with relatively few bubbles; very tart citrus, grapefruit rind, tart lemon, light coffee nose; tasty, poised, fresh, tart apple, light coffee, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Riesling Flight

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Mendocino uni flan with dungeness crab fondue, aged kaffir lime and sichuan pepper
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So our uni flan had some kaffir lime in it, and our Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten had a kaffir lime note as well. How lucky is that? Both of these mature Spätlesen worked well with this clever and marvelous dish. We were all ready to have at least a dozen more of these.

Chablis and White Burgundy Flight

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Duck fat poached halibut, with padron pepper, chorizo, corn milk and piment d’espelette
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Most of our crowd can never get enough Raveneau Chablis, so it was great to have these two vintages included in our celebration. The ’02 was one of my WOTN. The Henri Boillot Clos de la Mouchère is also a terrific wine, with years ahead of it.

  • 2002 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Light golden yellow color; rich, intriguing, tart apple, white flower, anise nose; tight, tart lemon, lime, oyster jus, saline, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 2006 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Light yellow color; reticent, tart lemon, white flower, tart apple nose; tight, medium bodied, tart apple, tart peach oyster jus, mineral palate; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Henri Boillot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Light yellow color; little reduction, tart citrus nose; rich but restrained, tart lemon, mineral, white flower palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Burgundy and Barolo Flight

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Berkshire pork shoulder and belly, with calypso beans, bourbon, peach, peanut, and douglas firm ham hock jus
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The Comte Armand Clos des Epeneaux was easily the best of our two Pommards–it had a wonderful nose and was silky and delicious. I got lost in the 1961 Giacomo Conterno though. It showed even better than the last time I had it, with a deeply evocative nose and youthful and complex palate. It definitely benefited from the four hours or more of decanting I gave it, following Mannie Berk’s sage advice.

  • 1961 Giacomo Conterno Barolo – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Light bricked cherry red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; tart cherry, roses, dried berry, sandalwood, bacon fat nose; surprisingly youthful, dried berry, tart cherry, anise, milk chocolate, dried cherry palate; long finish 95+ points (even better showing than last bottle I tried; decanted for 4 hours) (95 pts.)
  • 1993 La Pousse d’Or Pommard 1er Cru Les Jarollieres – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    Medium dark ruby color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; hibiscus, tart red fruit, light camphor nose; tasty, silky textured, hibiscus, tart red fruit, smoky palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 1996 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    Dark ruby color with pale meniscus; sexy, sous bois, tart cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, youthful, silky textured, tart cranberry, sous bois, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Old Reds

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Braised beef short rib, with summer truffle dauphine, chanterelles, spring onion and perigourdine
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What a great flight! I had never tasted the 1961 Ducru before, and I was quite taken with it. We were a little concerned by the shoulder level fill, but had no need to be–the wine was in great shape. The 1991 Monte Bello is still a youngster at 20 years old. I always enjoy this vintage of Monte Bello, and it’s only going to get better over time. The 1961 was the oldest Mont-Redon I’ve tasted, and it was in superior shape and showing better than a 1969 Mont-Redon I had earlier in the year. It was almost as good as the 1961 Château Cabrières I tasted several months ago with Harry Karis, when he was in town. From this bottle, though, I would say it is definitely on its downward slope, compared to the Ducru, which will keep chugging along for at least a couple more decades.

  • 1961 Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Medium red violet color; mature, earthy, horseradish, tart red fruit nose; tasty, earthy, mature, tart red berry, dried berry, ginger cake palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 1961 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Bricking medium dark red violet color; mature, dried herb, tart currant, tart black fruit nose; tasty, mature, silky textured, tart currant, tobacco, pencil lead, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 1991 Ridge Monte Bello – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Very dark red violet color; tart currant, pencil lead, iron, tart black fruit nose; very tasty, tart currant, ripe plum, tart black fruit, pencil lead, creosote palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) (93 pts.)

More Older Reds

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And yet more wonderful wines. This was only the second 1991 Cornas I’ve tasted, but based on this one and the magnificent 1991 Marcel Juge Cuvée SC I tried a few years back, I must hunt for more. Complex and delicious palate, and an impressively long finish. This was the fifth time I have tasted the impressive 1982 Gruaud Larose. This was a very good bottle, but not as good as one I had toward the end of last year. Nonetheless, a very satisfying mature Bordeaux.

  • 1991 Domaine Auguste Clape Cornas – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Cornas
    Dark red violet color; focused, tart currant, violet, tart plum, iodine nose; sexy, tasty, mature but still youthful, bacon fat, tart black fruit, iodine, pencil lead palate; long finish (94 pts.)
  • 1982 Château Gruaud Larose – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
    Bricking opaque red violet color; tobacco, tart red fruit, pencil lead, Padron chile nose; tasty, fully mature, tart currant, pencil lead, tobacco, smoky palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Sweet Wine

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Sandy is from Canada, so we had to have something paying homage to her roots before the night was over. I’ve had some wonderful Canadian ice wines, and a shockingly good older one out of Sandy’s cellar a couple years back, but this one was quite faded, although there were some interesting residual, smoky marmalade flavors.

  • 1987 Reif Estate Vidal Select Harvest – Canada, Ontario, Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake VQA
    Medium orange color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; mature, smoky, orange marmalade nose; smoky, orange marmalade, foxy, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)

Sweet Finish

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I’ve always enjoyed the ’77 Dow, and it showed very well after a good long decant. And how great that our chef came up with such a Port-oriented dessert. Definitely a sweet and satisfying end to a memorable evening.

Honey roasted figs with licorice shortbread, goat cheese mousse, basil and port ice cream
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  • 1977 Dow Porto Vintage – Portugal, Douro, Porto
    Dark garnet red color; rich berry, black cherry, black plum nose; youthful, black cherry, berry, blackberry, tart black fruit, fig, tart berry palate; long finish (94 pts.)

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A sated and happy crew

Our special menu
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2 Responses to 50-year-old Wines at the 5th Floor to Celebrate a 5th Decade

  1. Larry Stein says:

    One correction and one explanatory note. The ’97 Loosen Urz Wurz was an auction bottling. IIRC, it’s all old-vines, at least a century old. This ’99 Loosen Graach is from a separate parcel within Himmelreich called Stablay. It has a different geographical facing (southwest?) than the rest of Himmelreich. The explanation is on a later vintage that I have. I’ll check on that. The AP numbers on that and the “regular” Loosen Himmelreich are different.

    What a super fun evening that was!

  2. Sandy says:

    Wonderful evening and thanks for capturing the memories. I will cherish them for the rest of my life. But did we need to announce it was my 5th decade, although I suppose that was obvious. 😉

Comments are closed.