The 245th dinner is today. It is a survivor of curfews and lockdowns. Everything was opposed to its outfit but it takes place. When we hear that the curfew is at 9 p.m., how do I hold one of my dinners that last at least four hours? The friendly bond I have with the Pages restaurant team has helped find the solution. The laws being changing in our beautiful country, I will not deliver the wines until the day of the dinner. To respect the curfew, we needed a dinner that will be held from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. So that I could open my wines four hours in advance, I had to come to Pages around noon. So I booked a lunch table at the Pages restaurant, so I could discreetly open my wines while the lunch service was provided.
Setting the time of the dinner at 4 p.m. caused two guests to withdraw who couldn’t make it so early. As a result, I was able to invite my two daughters, to have the pleasure of sharing this dinner with them but also not to change the wine program. I even went further. Having found that the Château Margaux 1952 had a low level, I decided to add a Château Ausone 1959 itself rather low. And having noticed that the Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1962 had a low level, I applied the same treatment by adding a Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1953 itself at a low level. I took two more bottles from the cellar in case there would be any problems and added a final surprise gift that will be drunk without anyone knowing what it is.
It is obvious that the announcement of the lockdown, which would be made during our dinner, played a role in my putting forward a broad program. We will drink twelve bottles and a magnum for nine diners. My guests deserve it. I placed the thirteen bottles plus the two reserves in three flexible bags where the bottles are vertical. So the bags will be placed on the ground near my place in the restaurant and I will be able to open the bottles one by one discreetly during the lunch service.
What is funny is that at the table next to mine a couple are having lunch and have never watched for a single moment what I was doing, which normally should not go unnoticed since at other tables further away they threw from time to time a look at my actions.
By a coincidence that only happens in novels, all the corks came out whole when they were opened. I didn’t need any curettage. Some corks broke into two or three pieces, but no cork came in crumbs. Whether there were suitable weather conditions for maintaining the integrity of the corks, I could not say.
Stranger still, all the scents of all the wines were beautiful promises. No scent betrayed the low levels of four of the bottles. Was the sky on my side, I don’t know. The most captivating and sublime perfume is that of Château Chalon 1908, explosive of nuts and grandeur. The next in the fragrance scale is the 1959 Chablis Fourchaume with a cheerful petulance. The most distinguished in the nobleness is the fragrance of Pétrus 1971.
I can therefore have lunch in peace and soberly, because dinner is at 4 pm !!! The appetizers are light and delicious, and the dish I am served is monkfish with a few cockles and a divinely light sauce. It’s so light I’ll ask for a cheese plate to last the few hours that remain. Matthieu, the very competent sommelier, brings me a glass of Chambolle Musigny Les Cabottes domaine Cécile Tremblay 2017 offered by a table quite far from mine. The wine is very fresh, delicious. My reciprocity for this generosity will be a small glass of Château Chalon 1908 that I will place at the table of a young, sympathetic couple. All the bottles are open; I have time to decompress. I’m going to chat with a few people who are intrigued by my wines. The isolation of the table next to mine fascinates me. They were the last to leave the restaurant. They probably had a lot to say to each other.
An hour before the arrival of the guests, I open the two champagnes and the two corks shear, the bottom of the cork being pulled out with a corkscrew.
There are nine of us, two of whom are new, a son who wants to offer his father one of my dinners, for his birthday, but also for his. The other guests are regulars, mostly lawyers. I invited my two daughters. We are divided into two tables since we are more than six. The Pavillon de Breteuil, collection of standards for weights and measures, would not necessarily recognize the value of the meter which must separate the two neighboring tables. Let’s say that the meter had shrunk a bit. We have a seated aperitif, Covid obliges.
The menu created by chef Teshi and his assistant Ken is: cream of celery root and parmesan tartlet / Aburi of wagyu from Kagoshima / sashimi of gilthead sea bream from Vendée / carpaccio of Saint-Jacques, radish Bue Meat and Daurenki caviar / red mullet from Saint -Jean de Luz, red wine sauce / sweetbread and veal jus / pigeon salmis and Jerusalem artichoke sauce / pan-fried chanterelles and grated Comté / citrus fruit cake / sweets, financiers, ganache and fruit paste.
Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge magnum 1952 has an almost nonexistent bubble, but the sparkling is noticeable. The color is quite dark. What turns off some diners at first is the pronounced acidity of the champagne, which disappears as soon as we eat one of the appetizers, especially the sea bream, but also the wagyu carpaccio. Being more used than others to old champagnes, I enjoy this excellent champagne with a taste that evokes old parchment. It is refined, courteous, iodizing well in the mouth.
Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964 is also planned for the aperitif. It is with wagyu that he expresses himself wonderfully. Its bubble is real, its sparkling is joyful and this champagne is glorious, broad, loaded with delicate fruit. It is racy and of great complexity. We understand with him what « a great champagne » means.
On the scallops, wonderfully highlighted by the crunchiness of the radishes, two whites are associated, one from Bordeaux, the other from Burgundy. The 1967 Château Haut Brion white is a great white Haut Brion, lively, noble and distinctive, which would be magnificent if it was drunk alone, but the Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume A. Regnard & Fils 1959 will overshadow it because there is nothing more joyful, full, smiling and fruity than this great Chablis, very much above what one would expect. For new participants, preconceived ideas waver. How can 53-year-old and 61-year-old whites be so dashing? Both are a good demonstration of the longevity of white wines.
The moment comes for what I call « one of my coquetries. » Every time I put Pétrus in one of my dinners, I pair it with red mullet. Chef Ken has unearthed large red mullet which he treats very intelligently so that there is no feeling of heaviness, and the sauce was prepared with a 1982 Chateau Haut-Bailly which gives it a beautiful elegance. The pairing of red mullet with Pétrus Pomerol 1971 is sublime and all friends agree. The 1971 Pétrus is one of the largest Pétrus there is. This one is masterful, a lord. It has notes of truffles, charcoal, and its wealth competes with its nobility. What a great wine! He will have votes that will confirm his incredible perfection.
For the sweetbread are associated two bordeaux whose levels were low. None can trace it. Château Margaux 1952 is charming and gentle. Extremely feminine, it is subtle. Next to it, Château Ausone 1959 is quite the opposite. Black in color, while the Margaux is a pale red, it has accents of Pomerol, more than of Saint-Emilion, a strength that could compete with Pétrus. But the Pétrus has reached a level of perfection that this very great Ausone does not have. The two so different wines go well together with the delicious sweetbread.
For the pigeon we will have three wines since I added a Richebourg. The 1962 Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti, which was on the program, has been a year of immense success at the Domaine de la Romanée Conti. And I find in this wine all that I love about Romanée Conti, salt and rose, magnificently suggested.
The Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1953 is very different. Denser and richer, he is a fighter. He is the conquering Richebourg. While what separates the two tables does not exceed the width of a small gully, one table will acclaim the 1953, while the table where I am will crown the 1962. And the two tables camp on their positions, not including the choice of the other table, with full tolerance of course. These two Richebourgs are particularly brilliant, each in their own style and have not suffered from the low levels. What star watched over our dinner?
The third wine is a 1961 Chambertin G. Roumier, a wine that the estate no longer makes today. What strikes me instantly is that this wine is of the most beautiful consistency of construction of the six reds that we drank. It is round and perfect. It may not have the charm of this or that other wine, but it is a lesson of balance. This is a very fine Chambertin, but our attention is keener for the wines of Romanée Conti.
Now appears an absolute curiosity, a Château-Chalon 1908. It is in an extremely old Burgundy bottle, blown, which gives a capacity that is never found for Château-Chalon. No domain name is mentioned. So he’s a stranger. It was the liveliest scent of any wine I’ve opened and it still is. Incredibly powerful, this wine is eternal. You would think that if it were open in two hundred years, it would be exactly the same. Its vigor, its charm, its typicity of nuts make it an extraordinary wine. Faced with this extremely rare wine, I wanted to break away from the usual pairings with the Comté and I asked for seared chanterelles, however with hints of grated Comté. And I made the originally planned sauce lightened. The pairing is superb and the wine is royal.
Yuki, the restaurant’s talented pastry chef, composed a lemon cake which is the ideal companion for a 1933 Château d’Yquem which has « eaten its sugar ». It is resolutely dry, which is explained because the decade of the thirties was of a very cold climate, and moreover, in this decade the domaine picked the grains with a botrytis which had not reached a stage very advanced. This fairly light Yquem is not very flamboyant and I have had better 1933s than this one.
As time went by it was necessary to come to the votes, so that my final gift was not part of the votes. It is a Sherry du Cap 1862 which has all of a sherry, with this dry side, combined with a delicate sweetness, wine at the end of a meal sufficiently light not to weigh down the palate, a wine of grace gently preparing us for the future confinement.
It’s time for the votes. Of the twelve wines rated eleven appear in at least one vote, which is magnificent. The only one without a vote is a great wine, but in the shadow of Chablis, it is Haut-Brion blanc. Four wines were named first, the Pétrus 1971 four times, the two Richebourgs, 1953 and 1962 each twice and the Château Chalon 1908 once first. I am so angry that I did not include this 1908 in my vote because it should have been included.
The consensus vote would be: 1 – Pétrus Pomerol 1971, 2 – Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1953, 3 – Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1962, 4 – Château Ausone 1959, 5 – Chambertin G. Roumier 1961, 6 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964.
My vote is: 1 – Richebourg Domaine de la Romanée Conti 1962, 2 – Pétrus Pomerol 1971, 3 – Chambertin G. Roumier 1961, 4 – Champagne Dom Pérignon 1964, 5 – Château Ausone 1959.
The atmosphere at dinner was magical, smiling, teasing. We had the restaurant to ourselves and the Pages team was able to taste several of the wines for dinner. This atmosphere was wonderful. The two most original pairings are red mullet with Pétrus and chanterelles with Château Chalon. The most comfortable pairing was that of pigeon with the three red burgundies and the most feminine that of cake with Yquem.
It is very rare that we have experienced such a warm and moving dinner. The stressful context of government decisions has certainly played a role, because we want to enjoy life when we risk being prevented from doing so. I consider this dinner to be one of the greatest. Without the involvement of the Pages restaurant team, we would never have achieved such quality.
When is the next one?