Randy McFarlane’s feast of wine at 1789

Haut Brion, Climens, Dom Ruinart, Dauvissat, Barolo – and so much more

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

4 January 2017

Leave it to Randy McFarlane to organize such a great event. I have known Randy and his wife Caroline for over 10 years now, and we get together annually on several occasions to drink and eat. Drink great wine, eat great food. Life is too short. Yes indeed.

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A gorgeous private room and setting, thanks to Randy McFarlane (right side, third from the front) and wife Caroline (right side, second from the front).

And thanks to Randy, I re-discovered 1789: a traditional American restaurant which takes you back in time, with decor that seems 18th century like indeed.

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Colonial theme, just before the dinner.

Full of colonial imagery. We were 12 diners and enjoyed a private room, sumptuously decorated still for the Christmas holiday season, with a giant wreath at one end. The wood panelling and candlelight made for a warm and cozy ambiance.

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Still in a holiday spirit: early January 2017

The table setting was perfect, as was the stemware – and service. Decanters were provided and extra glasses when needed.

Oh, and the food? Excellent.

Just check out the January menu here: http://1789restaurant.com/menus

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Simply excellent Champagne!

In any case, I accepted Randy’s generous invitation to attend, as the other guests included Randy and Caroline’s older friends and former colleagues. Of course some of us talked politics – it is Washington D.C. for Pete’s Sake.

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Fine mousse, color and taste

Needless to say, one guest was not planning to stick around for the Trump inauguration. But enough of that! Let’s get to the notes….

Wines I liked in particular are in bold. For those red and bold, even more. And when underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana. 

  • NV Ulysse Collin Champagne Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs Les Maillons – France, Champagne
    A certain high toned aspect and sharpness dissipated with time in glass, revealing bright candied red berry aspects, with a touch of floral, yeastiness and burgeoning nutty nuances perhaps indicating the age (this was disgorged in 2011). Smooth texture and feel. Just lacking the “wow” aspect for a 90s level wine, I suppose. Medium finish. (89 pts.)
  • 2002 Ruinart Champagne Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé – France, Champagne
    Well, the vintage is fabulous and the producer lives up to the vintage potential here. Precise, yet toasty and youthful, wild strawberry and some notions of pomegranate as well, yet opulent on the mid palate, with very fine mousse and a long finish. Bravo! (94 pts.)
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Tender refined tuna

  • 2005 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Here the brand outguns the vintage. Perhaps 2005 has a bad wrap as a rich vintage for white Burgundy. Of course Chablis is further north so relatively cooler temperatures could temper the general vintage nature. Les Clos enjoys optimal exposure so we got loads of sun here, and there is a somewhat thicker aspect than usual. But – as our generous host Randy McFarlane said – “this is like what would happen to a California Chardonnay that was really good and went to Heaven” …. Indeed Randy! I did get lovely wet stone aspects, along with the rich and opulent feel, and long finish. Perhaps it overpowered just a bit the tuna crudo along with black perilla, charred red onion, black garlic, hon shimeji mushrooms, pickled daikon and squid ink rice puff. In any case, delicious! (93 pts.)
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Although the Chablis 2005 clocked in at 13% alcohol, you felt it more than in the 13.5% Chevalier Montrachet from 2014

  • 2014 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
    A fabulous vintage and it showed. Not from the get go, even though we left it open for about 45 minutes. It could have used a decant. Anyway, it displayed vivid notions of pear white stone fruits, very fresh and vibrant on the palate, but for some diners, it was too tightly wound – and I could understand the reaction. But boy is this a fabulous wine in the making. Indeed, its 13.5% alcohol was far less noticeable than the 13% alcohol in the preceding Chablis. The natural high acidity of the vintage balanced out the alcohol very well. Smooth texture and a very long and fresh vintage – and in glass it got better and proved a fine match to the tuna. (95 pts.)
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Terrific halibut!

  • 2002 Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Pommard 1er Cru
    I may like this more than most. Why? It has sheer elegance and bright red fruit. So much so that I liked it more than the Clos de Tart of the same vintage. Sure Clos de Tart has more density, but it lacked the charm and lifting brightness of this exquisite Pommard, which, by the way, was quite Volnay like. The palate felt fine dentelle, or lace. Smooth and pure and lifting. Highly recommended and perhaps a better match as well for the seared Norwegian halibut. (93 pts.)
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Both fine 2002 red Burgs, but I give the edge to the Pommard

  • 2002 Domaine du Clos de Tart Clos de Tart – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos de Tart Grand Cru
    I recall serving this wine back in August 2008, while being a wine steward for Chanticleer Restaurant on Nantucket Island. And it contributed to my increasing love for all things Burgundy. Impressive density and with ultra-ripe (bordering on over-ripe) fruit, which was what the aromatics first revealed. The palate was substantial and quite opulent but I got a slight burly aspect as well as a touch of drying on the finish. Served side by side with the de Montille Pommard Les Rugiens of the same vintage, I gave the edge to the latter. (92 pts.)
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Glorious lamb chop

  • 1982 Château Cos d’Estournel – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Randy appeared almost heartbroken, with this bottle. But one corked out of 11. Not too shabby. Of course we have enjoyed this 1982 over the past 10 years at our group tastings in Washington D.C. and it is indeed a fine wine, but corked happens… NR (flawed)
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Say no more!

  • 1998 Château Haut-Brion – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    A somewhat conservative score (!) given the fact that the wine is still too young at this stage and could have used perhaps a longer decanting period. It was in a carafe for about 90 minutes before service – and would have been better for double that time in the carafe. In any case, it got better in glass and as many dinner guests agreed, this was easily a candidate for wine of the night, at least red of the night. Why? Well, finesse, elegance, density, ripe dark fruit, fresh red fruit. All that is needed is time for a certain tightly wound aspect to loosen up. I would guess at least another five years in the cellar before optimal drinking. And if you must open today, double decant, and then let sit in a carafe for about 90 minutes as well. (96 pts.)
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Ah, Barolo!

  • 1999 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto di Serralunga d’Alba – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    Floral is the word to use here, even dry flowers. The palate is smooth and exhibits both cherry and raspberry as well as more white flower aspects. Very cool and pure, with a certain depth and richness that only ends with a somewhat less impressive length (than that promised from the get go). Still, I really liked this wine! And it paired well with the cheese. (93 pts.)
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Porter 5 Spoke Creamery (Goshen, NY) four-month-aged, semi-firm, cow milk

  • 1999 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
    A very different style from the Falletto. This seemed, as Randy said, “more modern” and by that I suppose we meant the more evident alcohol and warmth overall. There was more sap as well confected fruit that made it not quite heady but certainly voluptuous. I even got just a touch of raisined fruit on the finish, but overall, I give this the edge in the Barolo matchup. Just because it was so much easier to appreciate at this stage. (94 pts.)
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Ob La Di, Ob La Da

  • 2001 Château Climens – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Barsac
    A gorgeous wine, but of course. Hard to expect less from Climens. When I visit the estate, they sometimes offer me mini verticals and it shows the high quality of wine produced here, year in and year out. 2001 is considered to be one of the very best vintages ever for Sauternes and Barsac and this does not disappoint. Such finesse overall, with distinct notes of white peach, along with pear, white flower and orange rind. The palate is elegant throughout, and while lacking the density of Yquem, the medium bodied aspect is a perfect style for the elegance. The finish is very long and ends on white floral notes with touches of orange blossom nougat. Just delicious! And a very good match for the appealingly titled “White Album” dessert (the chef is a Beatles fan), which included coconut tapioca, tropical ganache and a coconut sorbet. Give it an extra point for the pairing! (95 pts.)
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This was my favorite dish overall: Bucatini & Nantucket Bay Scallops garlic, pepperoncini, Buddha’s hand, parsley, Périgord truffles

Thanks again to Randy for providing the 11 wines for the dinner. The cost amounted to $150, including a generous tip for the six-course meal and 10 great wines (one was corked). This goes down as a superb evening of fine food and wine – and a terrific way to start 2017.

Dear readers, more coming – and real soon!

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