Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Legendary 1967 Pomerol

It's been about seven years since my dinner at March in New York City. Mistress Botrytis (name changed to protect the innocent) and I dined there on a comp and had the meal of our lives. There are bites of food that I will always remember like the amazing two-bite lobster purses or the seared foie gras accompanied by a Sherry that was specifically made to go with the dish. The Swiss white wine was another first, understated, delicate, and perfect with our first courses. The word "excess" comes to mind, but I suppose that's really what made the meal special for me. There will never be another meal at March since the restaurant closed it doors a couple of years back, but I'd like to recount my experience for you here. I hope we didn't personally put them out of business! j/k

The centerpiece of the evening was a bottle of wine. MB and I were and are huge fans of wine, and neither of us had really splurged on a bottle like that in a restaurant setting before. We decided to go for it - the 1967 Chateau Trotanoy Pomerol - $400! It seemed like an unattainable once in a lifetime holy grail of wine that we would never again experience for the rest of our lives. Don't get me wrong - I won't be having wine like this once a week, or even once a year, but working in a high end dining atmosphere has made me realize that there are much bigger fish to fry - and someday, those fish are going to be fried.

In any case, we approached the bottle with reverence and excitement. We didn't know what to order with a bottle of wine like that, so we left it up to the chef, Wayne Nish, and he did not disappoint. Course after course of exquisite food arrived, and they even conjured up a cheese plate at our request! We laughed as we thought about some poor bus boy sent out into the night on a bicycle to buy cheese for the greedy customers that we were. I don't feel too bad about it since I've had to do worse and more for guests in my job and we felt like we were on the top of the world. The restaurant was spoiling us and we gladly let them. Ah, to be young and dumb all over again!

The Pomerol was a glorious contradiction of smells and flavors. The sommelier commented on it's "Port-like" nose before we even tasted it. It did indeed smell like a luscious dessert wine - I remember candied wild raspberries, maple syrup, fall leaves, leather, and damp earth. After taking a sip I discovered a wine that was dry, still quite alive, and well-structured on the palate. It had plenty of fruit, acidity, and a long silky finish with a good backbone of tannin. It was incredible with the sumptuous feast that was set before us. When MB and I get together, we fondly refer to it as Aunt Jemima on horseback. I've come to the conclusion that nothing will ever be as good as the memory of that wine, but I'm awfully glad to have had the experience. It fuels my love of all things culinary, even when I become jaded and grumpy about my work.

I remember a lot about March, the restaurant. There was a small unmanned bar near the kitchen door that our Tanqueray and Tonics came from - not the usual 20 bar stool type that I was used to. The waiters and sommelier spoke eloquently and concisely about the food and were dressed in expensive suits. The room that we dined in was small with eight or so tables. There was a large party dining across from us that night, but we still felt like the center of attention. Things seemed to arrive and disappear on wings without our realizing someone had even been to the table. The conversation (and wine) flowed freely. The only bump in the night was due to my own fiscal irresponsibility - my credit card was declined for my half of the alcohol (the food was comped - thank goodness). Of course, I was mortified, but in too good of a mood to care too much at that moment. I'm just glad MB had the funds so that we could avoid washing the dishes that night - and yes I paid MB back! No meal is perfect and lesson learned.

I came away from the evening not only feeling like I had been living on a cloud for 6 hours, but with a renewed love for food and wine. It drove my passion and I began to study by reading any book I could get my hands on, taking classes about wine, and I spent what little money I had lavishly to see what other restaurants had to offer that could possibly compare. I justified it as product research in my head. I've had some pretty great meals along the way, but I've also discovered that great meals don't always cost a lot of money. However, it sure is easier to guarantee if you are willing to spend. In any case, I will always have my evening with MB, the 1967 Chateau Trotanoy, and my momentous meal at March as a very fond memory.

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