Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Chateau Cantemerle wine dinner Sage - not bad, had better

The Cantemerle dinner is slipping into faded memory. Well, slipped. Can't remember much about it now. Which might suggest that there was not a lot to remember. Which is not true - the following bears wintess to the fact that memory is an odd thing. Just when you think you have forgotten, by writing a stream of words some of the memories come back. Not much in the way of conversation, as seems to be a skill that most writers have in abundance. But sensations, shared moments, laughter. 

The dinner was organised by newcomers to the wineselling block S&W Wines. Seems it is a subsidiary of the Sunway group and friends have been pleasantly impressed with the operation in Plaza Damansara. Old Nam Lee Cheong worker Jacky found my email and sent details of the new setup and the dinner they were organising. On paper, Chef Daniel's menu looked a bit thin in comparative terms to what we'd get with the IWFS for RM250, but with the wines included it it seemed a fair proposition. The usual gang had little problem in signing up, with ten takers confirming within two days. 

Cantemerle Director Phillipe Dambrine was in town, which seemed a bit close after the unveiling over in Bordeaux for a classified growth. We knew this because we had just returned from Bordeaux and the week prior to our visit had seen the wine world descending to taste the new babies. We also tasted the new babies. Yes. But that is another story.

Cantemerle Director Philippe Dambrine
Mr Dambrine gave a brief talk about Bordeaux and Cantemerle. Standing at the gateway to the Medoc, the 94 hectare estate is now in the hands of a large French insurance company which is in the process of upgrading the vineyard's equipment and replanting the vineyard.The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc and 4% Petit Verdot matured in oak and bottled at the Chateau. Cantemerle is not one of those vineyards that leap to mind when Bordeaux is mentioned, though it does seem to have some fair penetration in a range of markets. We have dranki it on occasion during our time in Kuala Lumpur and it came across as not stellar but far from low end. It was served at various Godfamily birthday celebrations which suggests to me that it is good value. The Godfamily tend toward the careful. Very Eng Choon and Scotslike. 

We were to try three vintages of the Cantemerle offerings. First out of the blocks though was the second label Les Allees De Cantemerle 2007. Like many of its competitors, Chateau Cantemerle offers a second label alongside its first. Second label wines are made alongside the First labels using the same fermentation and production techniques but often retail at a snip of the price of the First. The ethos is to let punters get a taste of the style and sense of the main wine but who find it difficult to stump up for the main.  It is not the same wine, but it is similar in style and approach - the difference is in the quality of the grape which is still good but not quite good enough to make the cut for the first label. 

The notes say the 2007 was not an easy vintage but that this offering is "a supple wine with finesse and elegance, showing aromas of wood, leather and black fruit." We liked this one. Drinking quite well, with somewhat bold cassis, it came across as a good solid full bodied Bordeaux wine with sufficient tannic teeth to warrant a couple more years in the bottle. Went nicely with the appetizers though paled a bit with the carpaccio. 

The carpaccio seemed to have a lot of truffle, though beef and egg is always a god mix. It made for a refreshing gooey and gunky chew in the mouth with the arugula adding a tang to cut through the goo and give the insides of the cheeks a friendly pinch. 

We had the Cantemerle 2010 to pair. The notes say it is complex, concentrated and structured. Elegance without heaviness, lively and fresh, and with a finish that doesn't finish. Well, it did for me, and quite quickly at that. This garnet purple number was deep and dense, showing rich full fruit in the mouth with good balance though somewhat light on the finish. Alcohol felt a bit on the high side. Not quite as tannic as I would have expected from a three year old, which suggests there might not be a lot longer in the bottle for this one. 

In pairing terms it was a fair match, but raw egg is always going to kill wine. The best it could do was to swish the cheeks clean of the gunk, which it did.  

Normally the foie gras at Sage is top end. For some reason, tonight's felt a shade gamey. There was an artichoke sauce which came over as sweetly sour with a hint of mustard or horseradish - when paired with the foie gras is was massive - the sweetness of the gooseliver getting jazzed by the sour cream artichoke to create a wiz of a whizz on the tongue. If ever a whizz there wuz. The duck felt a bit on the firm side and somewhat lost in the gamey foie gras blitz, but the notes say it was okay. 

Paired with the Cantemerle 2006, the notes say it is one of the most beautiful Cantemerles of the decade. Powerful, black and with great aromatic complexity. Opulent, with a clean lively and fresh finish. It was certainly a lot smoother and less intense than the 2010. Nicely balanced, with a chocolate nose and good firm damson and plum fruit leading to an elegant lengthy finish. A lovely drop, drinking nicely, though again given this not sure how much longer left in the bottle. 

No notes on the match of the food and the wine. 

The Granny Smith sorbet was crunchy and zippy and quickly zapped the tongue clean of all that had gone before in preparation for the Wagyu. Chef Daniel had decided to do it Pane style, by which the meat gets coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and presumably pan seared. It had the texture of a fishcake, the taste of salted sweetbread that was bit through to release the liquid fat of the Wagyu Karubi beef within. It was a somehow odd yet not unpleasant mouthful, crunchy sweet and fat but ultimately missing something. Certainly not karubi beef as we know it. Our normal style is to marinade in barbecue sauce and quickly pan fry and serve with the barbecue sauce poured over the lovely bits of beef. The egg and breadcrumb crust somehow neutralised the meat into meek submission. The Doc and I poured some wine over it which did improve matters somewhat. But not really enough to save it. Sorry Chef, missed the mark a bit with this one. But the crust had a longer finish than most of the wines - I was still tasting it ten minutes after. Where is the sorbet when you need it?
Lenglui with favourite nephew

This got paired with the 1996 which on its own still had great balance and enough tannins to let it cellar for a few years longer. Good standard mid range Bordeaux wine, a workmanlike journeyman wine - lacking the degree of aristocracy that gets associated with much of the product from Bordeaux, it nevertheless held its own as a very approachable and drinkable wine.  It was totally wasted on the wagyu croquette. We happily quaffed it till closing time. No notes on the dessert. 

Lenglui with the Hustler
So...  okay, I guess. Wines were fair, food was a bit strange, ultimately not so memorable. What was memorable was bumping into our friend the Hustler. He had forgotten it was smart casual and had turned up in white shorts. Such is his standing there that they let him sit down on condition he would be the last to leave so no one would see his legs. Naturally he ignored this instruction. His friend had nicer legs.


Mushrooms on Toast with Mixed Herbs
Croquette of Black Truffle

Carpaccio of Wagyu Rump 
with Eggs Molet, Truffle Aioli and Black Truffle

Chateau Cantemerle 2010

Second Course
Confit of Cured Duck Leg
with Foie Gras and jerusalem Artichoke Cream

Chateau Cantemerle 2006

Granny Smith Granite

Etuvee of Chliean Black Cod with Wasabi and Cress
Pane of Wagyu Karubi with Yuzu Citrus Sauce

Chateau Cantemerle 1996

Crepe Suzette
with Home Made Blueberry Ice Cream

Coffee and Petit Fours

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