a 1989 bottle of chateau lagrange, and "taste"

          when jim and i were given the generous gift of a 1989 chateau lagrange i got out our map of bordeaux, and my favorite story about wine, taste by roald dahl. while rereading taste i simultaneously studied the map looking for the saint-julien vineyards of the story's star bottle, and our newly acquired lagrange. slowly, moving my finger from point to point, an exciting realization came together for me like the two rivers that form the point of the gironde estuary on the map: that both bottles were practically from the same hectare of grapes!

         if you haven't read it, you should get a copy of taste from the book, tales of the unexpected. the story is about a sinister and reckless bet between two connoisseurs, mike schofield and richard pratt, over whether pratt can identify the breed and vintage of a claret that is served at dinner. both of the characters are full of themselves with their uppity-boorish-snobbery about wine, and i don't want to spoil it for you, so i'll just say that the suspense is delicious. pratt's process of smelling and tasting is somewhat vulgar, as he tauntingly eliminates bordeaux's districts, communes, vineyards and growths, narrowing down his guess to beychevelle, describing even the arbors that slope down to the river and little harbor.
i keep this photo on my kitchen window sill, taken with my father, joe, on our bordeaux wine tasting trip.
          now, i do not know too much about wine, but i know enough to appreciate certain appellations: saint-julien of the medoc being one of them. so i was effervescent to receive the thoughtful gift of chateau lagrange when david pierce and his wife, becky, joined us for dinner one night. david is the brew-master at bank street brewhouse, and knows more about beer than either of the story's characters know about wine. i asked david to give his account of how he got the lagrange so i could relate it to you in his words:
- - - - - - - - 
          The bottle was part of a trade I made with wine expert Brett Davis. He'd never tasted well aged mead before and I had three different varieties; red raspberry, black raspberry, and straight unberried all around 8 years old. Becky & I have a big love of champagne and had just returned from our luna de miel, spent in part touring the champagne houses of Reims.  Brett offered a one for one swap: mead for champagne. He could only come up with two champagnes and subbed the bordeaux from his private stock. I've cellared the bottle since late 1998 figuring I would find a worthy recipient one day. We're glad Patty and Jim were able to enjoy the bottle and I am glad that this "beer guy" didn't screw it up.
         i posted recipes for my planned menu pairing for our beautiful bottle separately:
• pureed acorn squash soup seasoned with thyme
• whole, roasted garlic chicken and potatoes
• caramelized leeks
• and a morel mushroom reduction in butter, olive oil and chicken stock
         we were impatient with the anticipation to open the wine. jim was in and out of the kitchen at least four or five times to ask me if it was time to decant it. if it had been corked we would have been deflated and we were prepared for that . . . but it wasn't! when jim eased out the intact cork with a two blade opener we were relieved not to smell vinegar or mold. he wiped just a little sediment from the neck, and the wine opened up just like a dark, red rose. here is what we noted:
   • COLOR
       inky, dark burgundy/deep cranberry under a direct light.
   • SMELL
       clean fruit with a little cedar and alcohol.
   • TASTE
        ripe, dark berry fruit and earthy, but pure and smooth.
. . . richard pratt says, "it's gentle and gracious, almost feminine in the after-taste with tannin in the middle taste and the quick astringent squeeze upon the tongue".
          jim and i spent two hours at the table with the wine and food . . . i can just about recall every taste, smell, and word collected between us to define the first memorable meal of 2010 . . . every day is the chance for another one afterall, but this one was remarkable because of the wine. thank you again, david and becky, this one's for you.
• "tales of the unexpected" by roald dahl
• http://www.chateau-lagrange.com
• http://www.newalbanian.com/bankstreetbrewhouse.html
• http://www.wineloverspage.com/
• michelin maps
• "the wine roads of france" by marc and kim millon

1 comment:

webwineman said...

I had the pleasure (along with two friends) to have lunch @ Cht. Lagrange last year. It was one of the highlights of my short (15 yrs) wine career. We had their white wine (most goes to Japan, they are owned by Suntory) with smoked salmon, then the '00 Les Fiefs des Lagrange (2nd label), then the '98 Cht Lagrange w/tenderloin & w/cheese course, the '86 Lagrange. The food & hospitality was 1st rate. I'll never forget it.