Monday, November 24, 2003
Chicago's Grand Wine Dinner at Caliterra
There was an unexpected vignette at the unveiling of the Chicago Chapter’s new Wine Committee, when Caliterra’s Restaurant Manager, Georges Elbekai and Vice-Charge de Missions Mon Roldan had trouble becoming uncorked… In the middle of the frenetic yet exciting wine preparations, the Laurent-Perrier Brut Champagne en Salmanazar would just not give it up! This November dinner was designed to introduce the new Chicago Chapter Wine Committee and to showcase some of the Chapter’s fine cellar wines – a resource that has come about because of the careful structuring of the cellar inventory over the years – bringing to our glasses with pride, the finest wines in the world. Executive Chef Rick Gresh proposed dishes to make the wines the stars of the evening as well as exploiting the artistic freedom necessary to serve a talented series of dishes. The event truly was a combination that the finest a Chaîne dinner has to offer together with the characteristic tension and thrill an Ordre Mondial affair with special wines brings.
The introduction of the Wine Committee took the form of each member being responsible for the care, decanting and commentary of one or more of the wines. As Chaîne members and their guests arrived, there was a natural gravitation towards the Wine Room, where lines of bottles, decanters, glasses and funnels were occupying the length of the table. Enthusiasm mounted as each bottle of red wine had its cork removed culminating with the anticipation, fear and worry that the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche en Methuselah 1979, would be corked! This aristocratic living element came through with flying colors and the visible relief on the faces of those responsible for its recent care was palpable. Now the party was in full swing. You can imagine how, with refined hors d’oeuvres circulating, Bernard de Nonancourt’s flagship Laurent-Perrier Brut N.V. en Salmanazar, Methuselah and Jeroboam proffered an eloquent introduction.
Chevalier Bruce Coleman gave the Toast with the unspoilt prestige cuvée of Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne La Grande Dame 1990. An introductory set of explanations by Vice-Echanson Manfred Raiser followed including a positive wealth of information about the wines to be consumed. All was put into clear perspective by his announcement that today’s purchase price of the 1979 La Tâche would be $8000. Little wonder there was apprehension in the Wine Room!
He also addressed the Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan Blanc 1988 that accompanied the first course. Dinner continued with unparalleled zeal - and Chevalier Jim Greenberger efficiently gave an exposé of the Corton-Charlemagne 1987 and its pairing with the Scallop with Foie Gras. Chevalier Jeff Berry had the responsibility for the preparation and interpretation of the Domain Leroy Auxey-Duresses 1976, indicating its characteristics and the historical background of the legendary Lalou Leroy Bize - owner and négociant of Dom. Leroy Auxey-Duresses. Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tâche 1979 created inevitable discussion. The comparison was made between the Methuselah and the Magnum “version” and which Chevalier Bruce Foudree declared was one of the best, and most elegant and fabled wines on the earth. Vice-Chargé de Mission Mon Roldan addressed the remaining wines leading and guiding our thoughts as to the interaction between the Moreira Port Bolheita 1966 and the selection of artisan blue cheeses. An exquisite poached pear dessert paired with a Château Rieussec Sauternes 1988 certainly packed the palate full of motion too.
The rhetorical question was asked “How do you get the perfect experience when each interpretation is so personal?” Each diner/taster’s palate has its own personality but in the words of Lalou Leroy Bize - the wines and the menu that accompanied it were ‘EXTRA!’