Simply irresistible: Dinner & tasting at Ch. Palmer
Post by John Perry | Monday, March 29th
Ah, Monday. Officially the beginning of en primeurs, and as per our usual M.O. we hit the ground running. Appointments were stacked back to back to back to back and a hectic pace was kept all day (complicated by horribly wrong directions as well as excruciatingly slow restaurant service, but that's an entirely different story). After careening at break-neck speeds up and down the Left Bank, I can't begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to sitting down to a long, pleasant dinner. That our meal would be enjoyed at Chateau Palmer, a fantastic bastion of high-quality wine in Margaux, made it even sweeter.
I had the pleasure of visiting Palmer last year and was quite impressed with their 2008 efforts. At this point in the trip, I've had a handful of Margaux wines (mostly terrific I might add) and I was definitely looking forward to what Palmer would pull off for 2009. My fellow sales team members Alex Lallos and John Sweeney as well as the president of JJ Buckley, Shaun Bishop, accompanied me at the Chateau. Our tasting was conducted by Bernard de Laage de Meux, a director at the Chateau who would also be our very charming host for the remainder of the evening. The two wines, 2009 Alter Ego and 2009 Palmer, were outstanding and a real step up from the 2008s that I had enjoyed so much last year. Bernard informed us that they experienced an easy vintage at Palmer- no extreme fluctuations in weather during the growing season that allowed for a slow and steady ripening of the grapes and the result was optimum maturity.
As we arrived, Bernard kindly offered us some Champagne to refresh our palates. The NV Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle that was poured was just what the doctor ordered - seriously kick-ass Champagne! With cleansed palates and a full appetite, we moved into the adjacent dining room. The first wine of the flight was one of the more unique wines that I've had during this trip. Bernard called the wine "a history of the late 19th century" and it was a blend of Syrah from Hermitage in the northern Rhone with some of the wine from Palmer's 2007 vintage. Apparently, this was a regular practice before it became illegal to do so under the strict appellation control system. Although now this wine can only be labeled with the generic 'table wine' designation, during the 1800s you could frequently find wine designated as Hermitage-Bordeaux. Palmer continues the practice today, though makes a ridiculously small number of cases that are sparingly doled out. Fascinating to say the least, and a wonderful complement to the mushroom and garlic risotto first course.
As we waited for the second course to be served, Bernard poured us blind on another wine and asked us to guess the vintage. We narrowed it down to the mid 1990s ('95 as it was later revealed) and it was amazing how fresh and vibrant the wine looked. Another wine was poured blind a few minutes later and at first I thought that maybe Bernard had grabbed the same decanter because the wine looked remarkably similar in color. Upon further inspection, it was slightly less dense and saturated with some lighter ruby showing up on the rim and it was time again to guess the vintage. Alex nailed it like a pro- the 1990! From a decidedly riper vintage, the '90 was stunning on all levels. The aromas were enchanting and complex (in fact, Bernard mentioned that he even picks up notes of aged Sauternes in this wine, and with my eyes closed the slight whiff of citrus made that easily apparent). On the palate, this was silky smooth, voluptuous and rich- an absolute pleasure. hen more was offered it was impossible to say no!
Alas, the evening had to come to an end. After a round of espresso and some more engaging discussion, we made the short stroll to our car as the full moon shone down from above. It's nice to know that despite the insane schedule that we keep it's still possible to slow down for a moment and enjoy some of the finer things in life.
PS: Check out this...interesting musical interpretation of the 2009 vintage at Ch. Palmer.