Bastille Day 2011: Château Coutet Dinner At Range Restaurant

On July 14, all the cosmic tumblers aligned themselves as 55+ diners packed themselves into Range Restaurant for a very special evening. The concept was unusual; can you enjoy Bordeaux’s Gold wines (Barsac/Sauternes) throughout an entire dinner? Back in January, we had a very successful dinner doing just that at Bruce Hill’s Restaurant Picco in Marin. Well, now it was Bastille Day, it was warm and sunny in San Francisco, and Range Restaurant’s Chef Phil West concocted a tour de force of flavor and texture to accompany three vintages of Château Coutet. Aline Baly, who joined us all the way from Château Coutet in Barsac, was there to present the wines (I told you; we had ALL the cosmic tumblers in place). Ms. Baly made time to visit with everyone and she surprised us all with a taste of an older vintage. It was truly an unforgettable evening with smiles and praise bursting from both of the dining rooms. Aline mentioned that one minute she remembered sitting down and the next thing she knew, it was time to leave! Time flies when you’re having fun, eh? Even 4 weeks after the dinner, I received an email from one attendee calling the event, “Stupendous”, and continue to receive phone calls from others thanking us again and asking to be kept in the loop regarding any future Gold Wine dinners! A smashing time for all, myself included. Here’s how it went down:
Guests were treated to a fizzy, raspberry infused cocktail upon arrival in addition to roasted padron peppers that made their way around Range’s reception area. As the reception area filled up, we headed for the tables. Coordinating a pairing dinner for over 55 guests is a difficult task. Hats off to our friends Cameron and Phil West and their staff at Range Restaurant for their impeccable eye for detail. Every facet of the dinner was perfect. Diners were first served a pour of 2007 Château Coutet with an amuse bouche, which in this case consisted of plain custard topped with caviar. Smash hit #1. The flavor of the caviar and texture of the custard created a finish line tape that the 2007 Coutet cut right through with stunning harmony. Staying with the 2007, out came an English Pea stuffed pasta with black truffles and trumpet mushrooms. Again, the depth, earthiness and texture of the pea stuffed pasta and fungi provided the hanging curve ball that the 2007 Coutet slammed out of the ballpark with its freshness, depth and complexity. Spirits were high in anticipation of what was to come.
Fresh glasses came out closely followed by bottles of the 2006 Coutet. A very underrated Sauternes vintage in my opinion. It’s a precocious wine of great balance, citrus and spice-like complexity, and fresh bright acidity. Chef’s idea for the 2006? Oysters Diablo. That would be two baked oysters in a creamy sauce with a hint of cayenne pepper to be eaten upon wafer-thin crispy toast. Flavors and textures; the pairing was so perfect that the thought of a bite of Oysters Diablo without a sip of 2006 Coutet was unthinkable. More praise from both dining rooms. Hitting high gear now, we were presented with the main course: Grilled quail on a bed of hominy with broccoli rabe and pancetta in a green peppercorn sauce. What a perfect set up for the profoundly botrytised 2005 Coutet! Its texture, depth and richness clearly demonstrated how versatile Gold wine can be. Most successful food/wine pairings are either complementary or contrasting, and this one was a little of both. The wine shined in complementary fashion with the flavors of the quail and hominy while simultaneously contrasting the nuances of the rabe, pancetta and green peppercorns. Talk about a lot going on! If that wasn’t enough, Aline then surprised everyone with a taste of Coutet 1989! In a word, the wine was stunning. 20 years has been good to this wine as the amalgam of complexity stretches the palate. Buoyed by its quintessential Barsac fresh acidity, the 1989 grabbed dinner guests much like early Technicolor films grabbed audiences used to black and white. What a treat. Thanks Aline!
Yes, the cosmic tumblers were aligned. It was pure harmonic convergence for foodies and wine people. The overwhelmingly obvious answer to the question is YES – YOU CAN DRINK SWEET WINES WITH YOUR DINNER! At least, along with Aline Baly of Château Coutet, we’re 2 for 2 in 2011.

By the way, there were some huge fans of the Château there too. Believe it or not, a couple of diners were responsible for bringing (and sharing a little) 1971, 1949, and get this, 1926 Coutet!  The 1926 being the oldest vintage that Aline herself has tasted. It was indeed a very memorable evening leaving all parties involved satisfied and happy.

Once again, we’d like to thank Aline Baly of Château Coutet for all of her efforts in addition to taking the time to join us and for providing the surprise vintage. Thanks go out to Jon Sillcocks from Range Restaurant for helping get this from fantasy to reality. To Cameron and Chef Phil West of Range Restaurant for their professionalism and for hosting such a fantastic dinner party. To the staff of Range Restaurant for their unparalleled level of service. To Monty Sander and Tom Fuller of Fuller & Sander Communications for their part in coordinating (and Tom for the above photos). And most of all, thanks to all of you who attended the event. Your participation and appreciation made it all worth it! – Peter Zavialoff, The Wine House San Francisco
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Filed under Barsac, Bordeaux, Gold Wine, Peter Zavialoff, Sauternes, Winemaker Dinners

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