It has been a long time since I had shared beautiful bottles with my friend Tomo. We missed it. So when there is a lack, you have to catch up with prestigious bottles. We’ll be two and here’s the program: Cheval Blanc 1947, Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1994, Hermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Senior 1938. There are only red wines, but we also need to explore unconventional tracks.
I arrive at 11 am at the restaurant Michel Rostang to open the two wines in my possession, the wine of Henri Jayer from my cellar and the Hermitage that we bought together, Tomo and me. The cork of Cros Parantoux is no problem and the nose of the wine has a rare youth. The Hermitage capsule is difficult to remove entirely because the tin is very fragile and stuck to the top of the cork. The cork seems to me to have the same problems as that of the Montrose 1964: cork incredibly friable and soaked, plug stuck to the walls, and « sherry on the cake », extra thickness on part of the neck, which prevents it from going out without tearing. The cork comes in a thousand pieces but I can come out without a crumb falling into the wine.
Jasmin, a young assistant sommelier from Baptiste, the excellent sommelier who follows Alain Ronzatti, the restaurant’s historic sommelier, filmed the opening of this wine.
The perfume of the Rhône wine seems solid and promising. I write these lines while waiting Tomo who will come with a Cheval Blanc 1947 bottled by Calvet who had received this wine in barrels. This is the first time I see this mythical wine in Calvet bottling.
In the meantime, waiting for Tomo, I’m putting the menu together with Michel Rostang himself. He had asked by Baptiste which dish would advise the estate for this Hermitage 1938. The estate has no archive before 1945 and the advice given is veal rather than red meat.
It turns out that Michel Rostang and his wife have lunch before the service in the room next to the kitchen and I see a nice piece of beef that is sliced to them. I do not hesitate, it will be beef and not veal.
Tomo arrives a little after the twelve strokes of noon and I open the bottle. The capsule is neutral which is amazing and the cap is neutral and very short. It is a cork of modest quality. Tomo wonders if the bottle is genuine. I have not the slightest doubt because a forger who wants to make a Cheval Blanc 1947 would do otherwise. To give the Bordeaux time to breathe, we will change the order of the wines and Cros Parantoux will be served before the Cheval Blanc. The Bordeaux nose seems logical to me with the year or at least the period and with the appellation.
The delicious small appetizers would be better suited to a champagne than a burgundy as noble but we taste it anyway and we are amazed. The nose of the Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1994 is expressive and intense and the mouth combines with great elegance an absolute delicacy and a beautiful power. This wine tunes its complexities in all directions and never a sip is like the previous one. The wine is welcoming us and we feel that we are facing a great wine of Henri Jayer. We are happy.
We are now served the truffle sandwiches that have contributed to the reputation of Michel Rostang. They are divine and it seems to me that it would be a shame to eat them with the so subtle Cros Parantoux. I therefore ask that we serve the Château Cheval Blanc 1947. The color in the glass is very dark compared to the color particularly light of the Burgundy. The nose is authentic but discreet. The mouth is lacking in size. It is a beautiful wine but it is not the legend. But you have to know how to wait. The Saint-Emilion is very consistent with the heavily truffled sandwiches and expands with them.
The sweetbread that comes almost naked on the plate, which I love, will make shine the Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1994. The wine finds in the agreement a beautiful energy. He keeps the delicacy and the subtlety, gains in power, and its complexities are of a rare nobility. The intense taste does not stop to mark the palate. We are thrilled.
For Château Cheval Blanc 1947, I asked Michel Rostang to prepare fillets of red mullet just pan-fried with a small sauce. The dish is served with a simplicity that delights me, with a cannelloni of Jerusalem artichoke. The red mullet plays a role of flavor enhancer for the wine that takes a width beyond measure what it showed until then. We begin to lift the veil of a possible great wine. There is no doubt that this is a real Cheval Blanc 1947, but we only have 80% of what is this legendary wine. We feast, but not the seventh heaven he should offer us.
The beef is served in slices with a truffle puree and a leaded sauce of truffle chips excites its taste. With a particular generosity the butler will cover the meat with thin slices of truffles as if a Pinatubo of truffle wanted to drown the meat. The Hermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Aîné 1938 is a bottle of rare beauty. The level is very suitable for a bottle of this age to about 5 cm. The wine that is served is quite cloudy and I do not like its earthy color so much. But the nose of the wine is pure and its taste is rich and generous. The domain Jaboulet had told Baptiste that it is likely that this 1938 looks like a 1962 which is very Burgundian and it is true that it has a beautiful delicacy but the wine is resolutely Rhone. There is indeed in the final evocations of terroir that are more Rhône than Burgundy. Meat and truffle transport this wine to beautiful heights. The rich and spontaneous wine, very straight, is of high quality. There is enough wine left for us to ask for the cheese. It will be only the Saint-Nectaire, which is the only cheese that is sufficiently sweet for these subtle wines.
I brought with me the Marc de Rosé domaine d’Ott 1929. I’m sure this Marc will be the winner of this meal. We order a soufflé Grand Marnier which, not flambé, will be suitable for alcohol. I have not to pray Tomo to confirm that the marc is by far the winner of the meal because on a very dry and strong nose it offers in the mouth an incredible sweetness. It’s happiness in liquid.
The room has slowly but surely emptied so let us invite Baptiste and Jasmin to join us. Tomo offers a Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1992. It is interesting to think that 1994 which is not a great year gave us an exceptional Cros Parantoux and that 1992 which is not a great year gives us a Clos du Mesnil of a very high quality. The passing years change the situation for the great wines. We continued chatting while drinking this very young, lively champagne, which combines green notes of beautiful acidity with the nobility of a champagne of perfection.
If we have to rank what we drank which is very disparate; it will be 1: Marc de rosé of Ott 1929, 2 – Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux Henri Jayer 1994, 3 ex aequo Hermitage La Chapelle Paul Jaboulet Aîné 1938 and Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil 1992, 5 – Château Cheval Blanc 1947. If a Cheval Blanc 1947 is fifth in a meal, it is that the quality of other wines is exceptional.
The restaurant Michel Rostang has all the nice features of a family home. Before the service, Michel and his wife have lunch while the whole team is struggling all around. The menu was developed with Michel, Baptiste but also with Nicolas Beaumann the chef who could not be present and I had warned that we were opening the Hermitage 1938. All the service was involved for us to have a perfect meal. Each dish highlighted the wine with which it was associated. Everyone fulfilled our wishes. It was one of the best meals we shared, Tomo and me.
(the pictures of this lunch are in the next article just below)