Friday night was our 4th anniversary. Back in 2006 I decided (unilaterally, I’ll admit) that a great way to celebrate our marriage would be to buy a bunch of 2005 Bordeaux futures and enjoy a bottle each year on our anniversary for as many years as we have bottles. I didn’t break the news to my wife until we were through our first bottle of wine at our ridiculously memorable dinner at Babbo in New York last summer; two years after I’d paid for it all, which was one of the comments I used to excuse myself. For all you non-winos, 2005 was a killer vintage in Bordeaux; one of the best in the last half century. Producers large and small, at every price point, made some of the best wine in their history.
So when the futures offering came out, I jumped in with both feet. I bought a case of Chateau de Fonbel, a very modestly priced St. Emilion Grand Cru, as well as a case of less modestly-priced Chateau Fleur-Cardinale and a case of the least modestly-priced Pontet Canet. These wines were all rated very highly by a number of critics, featured prices I could swallow, and based on how they showed at barrel tasting, seemed to be able to age 20 years or more.
I received my wine this past winter, therefore we were able to crack our first bottle of Fonbel yesterday. My tasting note is as follows:
Clear rim; pink quickly deepens into bottomless abyss of brilliant purple. The nose features bright plum, raspberry and strawberry, plus some interesting and unforeseen barnyard, and underlying tar and asphalt. After some time in glass, notes of roses and cherries come forward. The palate is shocking. The wine is very rich and very tight. Tannins are round, dense and sandy. Palate consists mostly of graphite, tobacco and tar. Very tight (worth mentioning twice) and closed. Unpronounced flavor profile, yet enormous weight and body. For now, super rich, super concentrated, almost unapproachable. Intriguing and frustratingly so; playing hard to get. Let’s not forget this is a $22 wine.
My wife noted a number of these elements, but in addition picked out blue plums (a small variant of plum that I’ve never tasted) and ocean brine on the nose.
The 2005 Chateau de Fonbel is absolutely not ready to drink yet. I think there’s a lot of promise though; some great fruit, intriguing balance and structure, and a finesse that is trying to break out of the dense, almost explosive cloak of tannin and mass. I eagerly await the next bottle next year, and the ten following it! It almost worked with a homemade bison shepherd’s pie, but again, just too heavy.
Tonight, that being the day after our anniversary, we had my father and his longtime friend over for dinner while my mother and his wife are out in Golden at a ladies’ golf tournament. My wife loves hosting people and being cuisine-creative for guests. The meal we enjoyed rivals anything you’d ever find in a restaurant – save for perhaps only the finest of dining experiences. She served up a fresh spinach salad with sliced strawberries, goat cheese and a lemon poppyseed dressing, followed by fresh halibut fillets perfectly poached in dill and wine, topped with an intriguing stewed zucchini and tomato salsa, and accompanied by fresh baby potatoes with a chive and yoghurt dressing. We capped the dinner with a rhubarb and strawberry pie. Wines included a 2004 Burrowing Owl chardonnay, a 2004 Blue Mountain striped label Pinot Noir (that was showing tremendously) and the remaining half bottle of the Fonbel.
The meal was to die for. The wines showed very well, with the Blue Mountain leaving an exceptional statement. Surprisingly, a day later the Fonbel didn’t open up any, reassuring me that this wine needs a lot more time to figure itself out. Our guests left very happy, and we, too.
This weekend is only half over, but wow, have we eaten well so far! Tomorrow night we’re celebrating our anniversary ‘for real’ with dinner at Calgary’s River Café, our unequivocal favorite restaurant in this city. It is very similar in philosophy and style to the Sooke Harbour House – another favorite of ours. A big emphasis on local, fresh and simple, with a nod to slow food. Sunday is free corkage night, and we’re going to take a bottle of 1999 Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque to celebrate. Should be marvelous, though tonight’s meal will be tough to beat.
Happy weekend everyone!