Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liquid gold from Alsace

I realize I have been quite remiss in posting here, but life has been so busy in the last month or so that I have lacked the time and energy to do so. Much has happened and continues to happen. However, given the pleasantness of an outing Susan and I had last night, I felt compeled to share.

We've been doing a brisk business with Heights Chateau, a wine shop just down the block from our apartment. It is proving more convenient that our usual vendor, Montague Wine and Spirits, which will always be near and dear to our hearts regardless. We've gotten to know the staff at Heights much like we've gotten to know the staff at Montague and as such are privy to certain information prior to it being released to the public. Case in point, an early invititation to a wonderful wine tasting they held last night.

Our main Heights Chateau contact, Ariel, had introduced us to several wines from Domaine Agape, a tiny producer from Alsace. Suffice to say we were instant fans and were therefore overjoyed to hear that the tasting would feature only wines from Agape. Additionally, one of the producers would actually be attending. The promo materials for the tasting read as follows.

"Domaine Agape is a story of a match made in wine lover's heaven. Isabelle Boxler & Vincent Sipp both hail from traditional families in Alsace, each with a fascinating history of wine and war that goes back hundreds of years. Together they produce stunning wines that are lively, elegant, pure and trul delicious. Producing in three villages including Riquewihr, Hunawihr and Ribeauville, one third of the winery is classified as Grand Cru, with the average age of a vine no less than 25 years. Each plot has distinctive soil qualities and grapes are tended carefully by hand, producing wines that are intensely aromatic and expressive. Isabelle and Vincent continue a tradition of organic farming set forth by their families and focus their efforts on producing a smaller crop and thus supremely concentrated grapes. Production is limited to 5000 cases per year."

That's right. 5000 case on wine per year from 25+ year old vines, 33% of which are Grand Cru.

Yummy doesn't even being to cover it.

Anyway, the event was held at Bacchus (how appropriate) in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, a pleasant 15 minute walk from our home. We arrived about 5 minutes early, but due to some planning errors on the part of the restaurant we were forced to wait for another 35 minutes before finally being seated and served.

We began with a delcious bruschetta made with pickled red onion and a bit of tarragon, paired with a NV Brut Cremant d'Alsace Emotion. Delicious. The acidity of the wine really accentuated the bite of the tarragon and the sweetness of the pickled onion. An excellent start.

Next up was sea scallops with lemon sage butter sauce paired with Agape's 2007 Pinot Blanc. Again, a complete home run. The sage and lemon simply exploded around this medium bodied stunner and the scallops themselves were done to perfection, the sauce delicate and not at all cloying.

Midway through our culinary exploration, we hit our first snag.

Our third course was pork tenderloin with pears and cranberries poached in white wine with thyme paired with their 2007 Muscat. The pears and cranberries were stellar, their fruitiness and sweetness brought far foward by the wine. The pork, however, was overdone and tough, which was a disappointment.

We faired no better foodwise for the fourth course, Cajun-spice tuna medallion with zucchini paired with Agape's 2007 Gewurtztraminer. Again, the side dish was scrumptious and succulent, but the tuna itself was overdone. Also, the Cajun spice proved to overwhelm the wine a bit. However, when imbided with just the zucchini, a complete winner. A turkey apple sausage with caramelized onions was also served, but I had to pass on this given my apple allergy. Susan informed me, however, that I didn't miss much. As one of our tablemates opined, "If you're going to eat sausage, eat sausage. Why bother with tasteless turkey?"

We were treated to a surprise at this point, as the hosts distributed a rough red wine from Laguedoc. This wine was extremely vegetal and, honest, had a bit of sewage in the nose. Not a huge fan of this particular sipper, but it wasn't a total loss.

Foodwise, Bacchus managed to recover with the final course, a lobster saffron risotto paried with the shining star of the evening, Agape's 2007 Riesling Grand Cru Osterberg. Astoundingly good. Again, the lobster was slightly overcooked, but the risotto was stellar and the wine a complete slamdunk. This is a wine I would happily drink every day, which is quite something to say, given that it's a white. Lots of vanilla and floral accents, especially lavendar. Some powdered sugar tastes as well. Absolutely delicious.

Most of the attendees began to exit the venue around midnight, but Ariel stayed behind and plied us with some refills of the Riesling and an off-the-menu red which quite made up for the so-so Languedoc from earlier in the evening. We also were fortunate enough to have some wonderful tablemates that we chatted with until well into the morning. A quick walk home and we were in bed by 1:30. Not bad.

So, all in all, a pleasant evening. I'm actually anxious to return to Bacchus and see what their fare is like when they are not under the gun of a 30 person, 7 course tasting. Goodness knows that the high points were quite high and the low points were not completely unacceptable. My mouth's mind wonders...

Audio tasting menu:

Various - Three Stripes One Love
(mo dub love from DJ Quendi)

Charlie Parker - Birth Of The Bebop
(a scratchy and catchy recording from Bird)

Blackmouth - Blackness Bleeding
(monster mixes from Jarboe and friends)

This Mortal Coil - Blood
(a bit of a mess that I'm still trying to get my head around)

Dettinger - Intershop
(bleep bleep bloop bloop doop doop)


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