Thursday, October 11, 2012

#302 - Anniversary Roasted Chicken With '03 Dom Pérignon

Every once in awhile, my curiosity piques over the ridiculously extravagant.

Over the stupid stuff, the silly things in life made strictly to say, "I am lavish. I am ornate. I harken back to the spirit of rococo, the baroque. By possessing me, you are saying something about what you are, how you live and most importantly, what you're not. And you're going to pay a hefty sum for keep out the riff-raff."

Wine is not immune. Not even close. In fact, the wine world may be one of the last of the supposed luxury worlds that, in some circles, is still meticulously protecting their exclusivity with ever-increasing gateway prices that would feed a Guatemalan village for a month.

For juice. I don't become curious over the status-chasing stupidity of it all. I just sometimes wonder, "What does it taste like?"

With all that said, that's not really Dom Pérignon. Their release prices have held rather steady and, in a relative high-end wine sense, reasonable over the years. You can get a cuvée for about a C-note and a half upon release. It starts to go up from there as demand begins to outpace supply and $150 is nothing to sneeze at for sure.

But we'd never had a Dom Pérignon and an anniversary dinner to celebrate number eight was coming up. We could go out into the world and continue our streak of being let down by anniversary/birthday-type dinners (long, uninterrupted stretch there - and my Thanksgiving crappy movie streak is prodigious) or we could stay in, eat a favorite meal and drink fancy-pants wine for half the price. Even think about following said fancy-pants wine every anniversary and watch it evolve.

The end result was delicious, enormous, chickeny chicken, fancy French Basque cheese (hey, we were just on the other side of that border) and a Champagne that tasted of fancy vanilla bean, butter and not much else.

This Dom Pérignon (I refuse to call it Dom) is just a baby but that was the idea. Start it out early and see where it goes over the years. After having it, we were left with a palpable sense of "keep it." Nice to have, now know what it is in a sense, beautiful texture worth every bit of its price tag but we'd take an Egly-Ouriet at half the price any day of the week.

Food: Michael Symon chicken, Ossau-Iraty cheese, baguette, butter, white cherry jam and mâche salad to finish

Another five-pound chicken roasted in the Michael Symon way (stuff lemon and bay under the skin, stick it in the oven at 450 degrees and don't touch it for an hour - full recipe here). Chickeny. More chickeny than recent offerings. Don't know why but delicious stuff, especially with a baguette soak.

Ossau-Iraty cheese. Semi-soft sheep's milk cheese that leads with a creaminess but is defined by its wonderfully subtle smoky funkiness with right and proper grassy hits. Big winner here. Huge depth. Eating it with baguette seemed wrong as it clouded the complexity offered by itself.

Baguette, butter and white cherry jam to round things out. White cherry jam because the good rose petal jam has mysteriously dried up in Chicago (white people problems). Good jam. Not rose petal jam.

Mâche salad mixed with parsley, pomegranate seeds and white balsamic to finish.

A favorite worthy of an anniversary meal because it's That Good. A mix-and-match wonder. Plop a bunch of good food down and go to town. Dip and dunk. Top and pop. Eat and sip.

And golly we wanted this wine to open up and contribute to the pairing conversation.

It didn't.

Wine: 2003 Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne Dom Pérignon ($130 - Binny's)

2003 was a scorcher all over Europe. Record heat. Most regions salvaged the harvest, even turning their wine into something of an overripe but intriguing exploration into bigness. Champagne had a rougher time with many of the critical-types seeing it as difficult at best. Chardonnay decimated by an April frost. Summer-long heat leading to one of the earliest harvests ever. Big Problems.

Tons of fancy vanilla on the nose. More vanilla on the tongue with a nice savory rosemary and planty note to follow. Vague middle, short finish. This one needs so much more time. We knew that coming in  but were still surprised by the extent of its tightness. Very little fruit to speak of, only showing teeny-tiny peeks of smoky pear fruit after two hours being open along with an earth that tasted of a specific place (due to the chardonnay frost debacle, much more pinot noir than usual was used with this vintage). Intense has been the descriptor for this Dom Pérignon vintage, even leading Richard Geoffroy, the chef de cave, to say, "I wish every single vintage could be as strong as 2003."

And this is strong; a big and bold wine with huge life that tells you it's more than just a nice bubbly quaffer by its oh-so silky texture. The mouthfeel on this one is what fancy and lavish truly is. Stupid-impressive stuff. After that, I can't speak of being offered up. This was more of an enjoyable homework assignment but a homework assignment nonetheless.

Or maybe better put, because is going to be something very pretty someday, this wine was like a Monet, something undeniably pretty but, when it comes down to one's own taste and thinking of having endless amounts of money to pick such things to put in your life, would you really want it in your house? When it comes to pure taste and thought-provoking rumination and, well, enjoyment, we can't say we need Dom Pérignon when, at this point, so much joy is found in the Egly-Ouriet, Pierre Gimonnet, Ayala, Larmandier-Bernier and Gaston Chiquet world.

With what we DID get with this wine and projecting what we might get in the future, taking into account its price, it doesn't lead us to desire continuing to watch its evolvement. Mostly because this is going to take a few years to even begin to show a true expression. I bet it's going to be something quite good, but the rough cut we experienced doesn't make me want to invest in such an anniversary project in the near future.

And it sort of felt like dipping our toe into a high level of extravagance only to find the pool we'd always loved was just fine.

Pairing:  85  As middle of the road as it gets

Golly this wine wanted to pry open its joy box (ha!) but never got there. Just too young. Even if it had opened up to a place of true and full expression, I can't say it would have found a pairing place of perfection anyway. So much movement, so much transition, so much shedding of its current skin would have to happen to even judge such a thing.

This should have moved, excelled with the chicken skin. It didn't. Should have changed with the cheese (though a triple cream may have been a better match). It didn't. So much should have happened yet didn't.

This meal was merely nice with great food and a wine that didn't want to play ball.

A Quick Note: Beef Bourguignon with a 2006 Domaine de la Mordorée "La Reine Des Bois" Lirac ($43 - Knightsbridge). Good stew made with cheap beef neck and bone marrow. We liked this once-a-year concoction of French stewy tastiness that's become a cold weather signifier. Seems to always pop up as the crisp air blows through in October.

And the wine was a force of nature. A strict 33%-each blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, gobs of deep and dark plum and blackberry fruit wrapped in tobacco, charred toast, earth and iron. Great length and fine-grained tannins everywhere but never ruining the party in the least, leading us to believe this has much more life than many write-ups thought. Domaine de la Mordorée plays in the mid-level Rhône world so well with wine drinking consistently above its price tag. This one was the best of that in our world. This could have been an $80 Châteauneuf-du-Pape and we would have been okay with such a purchase. Great stuff.

The pairing? Good with a few bites, not with the vast majority. Just didn't gel. Bordeaux was the play here. We needed a textural match to the sauce.  Pairing Score: 84

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