Tuesday, December 1, 2009

#9 - Dry-Aged New York Strip & 1962 Clos Fourtet

I've been waiting for this one for about two months.

After getting seriously cheap deal on a 47 year-old wine from one of my favorite vineyards, it was Christmas tree and '62 Clos Fourtet night here at the Ney house.

Clos Fourtet is probably why I like wine. Before going to Schwa a few years ago, we stopped at Wine Discount Center to pick up some wine for the BYO spot. We didn't really know French wine at all but a 375 ml of the 2003 Clos Fourtet came highly recommended by one of the clerks. We had no expectations at all.

While it was still too young, something we also didn't really know at the time, it was a bit of a revelation for me. For the first time, I got a glimpse into how good wine can become a memorable moment. There was a earthiness and spice with pure creamy fruit that tasted...exquisite, I guess. Or fancy. It had a complexity I never experienced up to that point.

While it has a solid and historical reputation, I'll never have any illusions that Clos Fourtet is some sort of paragon of great wine, but I'll always remember it for opening me up to good wine and, in a lot of ways, for allowing my brain to not being afraid of wine. It was at that meal where the cost of a wine hobby became worth it. Honestly, I still remember everything about that wine. And I'll always follow it.

So, for $90, I ordered a 1962 Clos Fourtet. It came from a retailer in California through a recent private collection sell-off with assurances that it was kept in a temperature-controlled environment. Also, it had a high shoulder fill which, for the age of the wine, is considered to be a good thing. Anything lower and it might not have been worth it. Still, there was a 50-50 chance the wine was undrinkable.

But hey, it's a wine made 10 years before I was born. Why not?

What food do you serve with such things? We didn't really know so we went with a typical Right Bank Bordeaux pairing: Simply-prepared beef with potatoes.

Food: Dry-Aged NY Strip with Gruyere Scalloped Potatoes on a bed of Raw Spinach

We're new the dry-aged beef world. Mrs. Ney heard that Fox & Obel did it right so we took a trip to the overpriced specialty of specialty stores to give it a try. Two quite beautifully marbled strips were cast-iron skilleted in bacon fat with salt, pepper and oil.

Outside of wagyu, it's the best beef I've ever had. The flavor is so distinctive it makes it difficult to describe. Extraordinarily tender, almost buttery with a taste both mellow and a bit intense.

Basically, it sits in its own juices for a period of time (this was 21 days) in a temperature and humidity-controlled cooler with air circulating around it. For me, it almost tastes like it's been sitting in salt for months yet it doesn't taste salty. Every natural beef flavor is drawn out.

Hats off as usual to Mrs. Ney for getting these babies a perfect medium-rare. They looked freakin' gorgeous.

Gruyere pairs with merlot by most cheese pairing charts so she did a gruyere scalloped potatoes as a side.

Wine: 1962 Clos Fourtet Saint-Emilion - $90 K&L Wine Merchants

In the bottle, it smelled like black olives.

Right after pouring, it was all faint cherry and a lot of dust on the nose. In the glass, I expected some orange around the edges for a wine this old but it wasn't there. Some fading red but it looked like a wine that had held up well over the years.

First sip brought a bit of a surprise with the amount of heat it showed. After that, all musty basement with tart cherry. That was the story for the first 30 minutes. Not unpleasant in the least. Just one-dimensional while we waited for the dust to blow off. After 30-40 minutes, the plummy characteristics of merlot began to open up with earth, a little cinnamon and maybe a bit of mushroom, making for a wine that tasted almost balanced. After 60-70 minutes, it became a bit thin and was done.

For the actual merlot time window, the plum/earth/cinnamon tasted faintly creamy, like the wine might have been really good 25 -30 years ago.

Mostly though, it was for the experience of drinking a wine that old. 1978 Heredia was the oldest wine we've had until this one. On pure taste, there were many comparisons to the Heredia. While the Heredia was better, held up longer and never seemed to stop changing, the Clos Fourtet showed many of the same flavors (cherry, mushroom, cinnamon, dust) even if its progress throughout the meal was a bit more predictable and much shorter.

Pairing: Nothing clashed but nothing was enhanced

And I think that's the best we could ask for given the age and the good, but not great vintage of the wine. Wine Spectator gave the vintage an 88 coming off a 1961 year that's considered by many to be one of the top three vintages of the century.

The dry-aged beef was the undisputed star of the meal.

As for the wine, I wouldn't buy this particular year again but another year...for under $100...heck yeah.

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