The 217th dinner is held at the restaurant Michel Rostang. The development of the menu was made with the chef Nicolas Beaumann in a very pleasant atmosphere of mutual understanding. We looked for the consistency of the dishes, not to disturb with additions that would contradict the main message and we decided that the sauces, whenever possible, would be served separately, in a small container for each guest, to side of the dish plate.
The wines were delivered a week ago, reassembled at 17 hours for the opening of the wines. Baptiste, the intelligent and competent sommelier, accompanied me throughout this crucial operation. A phenomenon occurred that surprised me: almost all the corks were extremely difficult to remove, as if they were blistered by a climatic event such as, probably, a change in atmospheric pressure. An unusually high number of corks tore or crumbled on the ascent. I took a lot longer than usual to remove the corks. The odors of the wines are encouraging, the most beautiful being that of the 1961 Yquem, perfume of a rare sensuality, followed by that of a moving bottle to open because it is 121 years old, a Sigalas-Rabaud 1896. The only wine which worries me is the Musigny de Vogüé 1978. At the opening the nose is deliciously Burgundian, with a rough and earthy character. But feeling the bottleneck again, I wonder if there is not a risk of cork. I pour some wine in a glass and there is no cork nose but an imprecise nose. The wine I taste is bland and flat. I will have to monitor its evolution. All other wines do not bother me.
We are ten, including two women, and there is a professional relationship between all, the table having been formed at the initiative of a friend used to my dinners. Michel Rostang and his wife whom my friend Stéphane knows well welcome us with wide smiles.
We take the aperitif standing with a Champagne Mumm Cuvée Rene Lalou magnum 1973. The bottle is very beautiful and marked on a small golden label of the words « Tribute to Madame Point » the wife of the famous chef of Vienne in Isere . The opening made by Baptiste in cellar more than an hour ago had delivered no pschitt. The champagne has no bubble but the sparkling is there. The champagne is very round, welcoming, open and sweet. It is a champagne of pleasure, comfortable. Small canapes with sardines give it a spectacular length.
I give the usual instructions to enjoy the dinner and we go to the table. The Mumm continues to be drunk on other small preparations that do not have as much effect as sardines. The one that represents an onion soup in a cromesquis on the contrary shortens the champagne which is nevertheless very pleasant. It opens a pleasant door on the world of old wines by being reassuring and coherent.
The menu made by Nicolas Beaumann with his team that we see through the glass that separates our room from the kitchen is: Artichoke soup with white truffle flavor / Minced raw porcini and langoustines, Daurenki caviar and shellfish consommé / Selle of lamb’s breast, death trumpets and roasted artichokes / king hare (lièvre à la royale) / stilton cheese / pickled mango ‘lime vanilla’, almond shortbread and light foam opaline.
While in the program there are two champagnes, the first will be followed by white wine to ensure the consistency of the menu, because inverting the dishes would not have been possible. The Bâtard-Montrachet Chanson Father & Son 1959 is especially distinguished by an absolutely exemplary perfume. We could be content to smell this wine forever without drinking it. What begins to shake the certainty of many of the guests is that a white wine of 58 years old may seem so young. Storm under the skulls! The wine is merry, with a calm and serene fruit and a gourmand chew. It forms with the white truffle a very nice agreement. I found the white truffle a little earthy and relatively un-sunny, but the agreement is a great gastronomic pleasure with this wine full of plenitude.
I went to see Baptiste at around 7:30 pm when he was going to open in cellar Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 1966 and I clearly heard the strength of the bubble when it explodes when the cap releases it. It was a beautiful sign. When I am served, I am dazed. The 1966 that I have already drunk twenty times is for my taste one of the greatest Dom Pérignon and I’m in front of the biggest 1966 and probably one of the biggest Dom Pérignon I’ve been given to drink. He is simply extraordinary and carries an infinite emotion. Everything about him is perfect. He is vibrant, his bubble is conquering, he is charming but also a warrior, taking possession of the palate and taming it I cannot believe it and I lock myself in my bubble (dare I say) to enjoy it. The conjugation cepes and caviar gives champagne a glory that delights me. I have just experienced a great moment with a sharp champagne, scathing, infinite length.
The saddle of lamb accompanies the two Bordeaux very dissimilar. The Château Mouton Rothschild 1971 has a very pretty light red-blood color. All in this wine is graceful. His speech is a gourmet madrigal.
Beside, the Château Haut-Brion 1926 is almost black in color. On the palate, this conquering wine is heavy with truffles and charcoal. This wine is like a worker whose face became black, the proud worker working in his Coal mine. But the wine is also noble and profound. It is rich and full and here too the certainties fall because this wine of 91 years has an extreme liveliness. I have long considered 1926 as the greatest High-Brion. This one is part of this line of excellence but it is not the biggest 1926 of the seven that I had the opportunity to drink. He holds his rank as we will see in the votes.
The royal hare (lièvre à la royale) of Michel Rostang is an institution. It is eaten with a spoon and despite its strength it seems « light ». Before the arrival of the guests, I went to the cellar with a glass to taste once again the Red Musigny Comte Georges de Vogüé 1978 and I found it flat, almost as at the opening. I warned the guests. But at the moment of serving it, Baptiste tells me: « you will see » and the miracle occurs, the Musigny has found its grace, its delicious Burgundy message made of subtlety. It is a very beautiful elegant Musigny that we drink now, without the shadow of a defect. What always amazes me is that in case of return to life, the resurrection is most often total, that is to say that the miracle doctor which is slow oxygenation, plays its role at 100% .
The second Musigny of the dinner, the Musigny Duvergey-Taboureau 1949 is very different from the Vogüé. He is rich, round and greedy. One could say that it is a little less noble than the 1978, but the year 1949 is so generous that it gives a gluttony to this wine of négociant and a generosity which delight me. We are with a round and happy wine, happy to live.
I had already had the experience of putting a wine from the Romanée Conti estate at the end of the meal and pairing it with a poached foie gras to a place on the menu of the meal that it had in the 19th century. The agreement between the poached foie gras and the Romanée Saint-Vivant Domaine Romanée Conti 1983 is simply masterful. The agreement is with the liver alone but also with the liver and its broth. And I like that we have the opportunity to taste both versions. The wine of Romanée Conti has a distinction, charm and complexity that make it elegant and subtle. He is pure grace, like a ballerina walking on the stage of the Opera Garnier. The wine is long, Burgundian. Its color is nicely clear. The markers of the domain, the rose and the salt, are there but rather discreet. We are in the presence of a wine of grace.
The stilton is perfect, slightly salty, slightly unctuous. It’s exactly what’s needed for Château d’Yquem 1961. This wine is Fred Astaire, it’s Gene Kelly in « Singing in the Rain », it’s the ultimate talent of talent. It’s the absolute Yquem, without too much force or too much sweetness. This is the one we would invite to each dinner if we had the opportunity. It is so comfortable and so much above anything sweet. There are Yquem more typical, heavier, more percussive, but this one is a Yquem of happiness.
But my heart will lean towards an exceptional wine. The Château Sigalas Rabaud 1896 had its original cork on which was clearly read the year, as on the label very tired and attacked by time. The nose of this wine is deep and subtle. It is a rich but calm sauternes. In the mouth he is noble. It is Sissi Empress presenting herself at the ball with a dress with infinite crinolines. The length in the mouth is extreme, with fat and silky. There is an affirmation, followed immediately by grace and charm. The wine is very dark, mahogany brown, but it does not have any sign of fatigue or age. He is tall and the dessert with mango suits him perfectly highlighting its beautiful acidity. I concentrate and forget the external world to enjoy this wine as I did for Dom Pérignon and even more the day we just learned the death of Danielle Darrieux a French actress at 100 years of age. She was loved by everyone. To have in hand a wine of 121 years which has no age but on the contrary has all of a young handsome prima dona, it moves me.
We will now vote for four wines out of the ten of the meal. We are ten to vote. What is always a reward for me is that the ten wines had at least one vote. None were discarded. Even stronger, six of the ten wines were named first. Haut-Brion 1926 was nominated three times first, Romanée Saint-Vivant 1983 and Yquem 1961 were named twice first and Dom Pérignon 1966, Musigny 1949 and Sigalas Rabaud 1896 were named once first.
The consensus vote would be: 1 – Romanée Saint-Vivant Domaine de la Romanee Conti 1983, 2 – Château Haut-Brion 1926, 3 – Château d’Yquem 1961, 4 – Musigny Duvergey-Taboureau 1949, 5 – Château Mouton Rothschild 1971, 6 – Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 1966.
My vote, very different from the one that compiles the votes of all, is: 1 – Château Sigalas Rabaud 1896, 2 – Champagne Dom Pérignon Vintage 1966, 3 – Château Haut-Brion 1926, 4 – Musigny Duvergey-Taboureau 1949.
The cook has been remarkable, very readable, very adapted to the wines. The service of wines by Baptiste was perfect. The service of the dishes was discreet and airy. We even had the chance to taste, offered by the restaurant, a Green Chartreuse of the early 40s, masterful and very strong, with a degree of alcohol imposing the diabolic sweetness.
In a happy and laughing atmosphere, we had a remarkable dinner in every way.