Gala Black Tie Dinner Number 1
Those of you who have read about my previous gala dinners at the Hotel Shilla prepared by their master, classically trained, Korean chef, Seo Song Ho, should realize this guy is pure genius. If he were working in New York City, Chicago, New Orleans or San Francisco, he would be considered a Michelin three-star quality chef. What he is doing with Korean ingredients, using classic French techniques, is remarkable. Both of the dinners he prepared that I attended on this trip blew me away. At this meal, we started with an intriguing combination of Norwegian Salmon Gravlax with Iberico Bellato ham and a micro salad from Korean vegetables. To take the Korean/French connection further, the foie-gras terrine with minced chorizo chips was to die for, as was the double beef consommé with morels, which was very Asian in presentation and flavors. Korean beef is every bit as good as the great Waygu beef that comes from the district of Kobi in Japan, but there is very little of it given the fact that Korea is largely mountainous. The Korean beef tenderloin with a balsamic onion purée and smoked marsala sauce was stunning. It was a perfect match with Italy’s 2000 Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Rosso del Conte and Australia’s 2004 Massena The Eleventh Hour. It was less successful with the 1994 Château Latour.
As for the wines, we started with one of the standbys that I find frequently on Korean wine lists, the artisanal small estate-bottled Champagne from Jean-Paul Hébrart. This family owns 35 acres and this Blanc de Blancs was showing beautiful, crisp Chardonnay fruit with hints of orange rind and citrus oil. That was followed by a spectacular 2007 Malartic LaGravière blanc. A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon from a Belgian-owned Château with 17 acres dedicated to white varietals, it offers wonderful notes of lemon/lime oil along with hints of nectarines, pineapples and smoke. Beautifully textured, rich, and capable of lasting another 20 years, this sensational white Bordeaux deserves more attention from consumers. One of Rioja’s great bodegas is Artadi, and their least expensive Rioja, the 2005 Vinas de Gain, was superb. Exhibiting toasty oak, this 100% Tempranillo made from 40- to 60-year-old vines revealed beautiful notes of kirsch, raspberries, black currants, wood spice and smoke. Medium to full-bodied with supple tannins and a long finish, it should continue to age nicely for another decade. I rarely see the Tasca d’Almerita Regaleali Rosso del Conte, but their 2000, which is made from two indigenous grape varietals and aged in French oak at this noble family’s Sicilian vineyards. Composed of 85% Nero d’Avola and 15% Perricone, it is a full-bodied red displaying lots of tar, damp earth, roasted herb, black fruit and meaty characteristics reminiscent of a southern Rhône. A sumptuous wine, it was spectacular with the Korean beef tenderloin. It was even more well-received than the famous first-growth, the 1994 Château Latour. The 1994 vintage was good, but not great, and this cuvée revealed some rugged tannins along with attractive dark fruits, medium body and good acidity. It should drink well for another 10-15 years, but I do not see this effort ever being one of the great Château Latours. A terrific performance by an Australian Shiraz, the 2004 Massena The Eleventh Hour was produced from 60-year old vines planted in the Greenock Creek area of Barossa and 90-year old vines in the Nurioopta area of Barossa. The name comes from the fact that this vineyard was scheduled to be torn up for real estate development, but it was saved at the eleventh hour by several farmers who could not bear to see these two iconic vineyards destroyed. They were able to purchase the property right before the bulldozers moved in. Aged 16 months in French oak, this wine exhibits tremendous blackberry, leather, meat juice, pepper and spice notes. Lastly, the huge 2002 Château Suduiraut is a blend of 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. It offers abundant notes of crème brûlée, pineapple, butter and brioche in a young, vibrant, full-bodied style that still needs plenty of cellaring.