My Brother-in-law called us to invite us to a special birthday party with a request to bring all of my wine decanters. His wife (my Bride’s sister) was having her fortieth birthday party and there would be a total of ten people to celebrate this event. Since she was born in 1961, the third greatest vintage of the last century, he had been acquiring the proper wines for this dinner. That is why he needed to extra decanters and he gave me the honor of decanting these forty year old classics. There was no way we would miss this event.
He had hired a favorite chef of theirs to prepare the food at their house. The chef brought with him a Sous-Chef de Cuisine, a waiter, and an extra kitchen aide. While the food was being prepared, I was busy decanting the wines for this extraordinary birthday dinner.
I will go through the menu, as it was memorable and since I had to shrink it for space, it may not be totally readable. We started off with “Passed Horses d’oeuvres” ((sic) which may have been homage to the horses of Louisville’s fame). The waiter passed a fine assortment of appetizers and glasses of 1989 Krug Brut Champagne. This happened to be one of the best tasting Champagnes that I had ever tried, with a luscious buttery flavor.
The next course of plates, and they were all full courses as compared to a tasting course ensued, with a wine properly paired. We started with Sea Bass on Greens with Lemon White Wine Sauce. This dish was paired with a 1977 Corton-Charlemagne Joseph Drouhin. This is the only Grand Cru from Charlemagne. There is just something about a classic White Burgundy that takes your breath away with its smooth and lush taste.
We then had a Coffee Marinated Duck with Sun-Dried Cherry Marsala Wine Sauce, and as I have stated many times already in these pages I enjoy any meal of that had duck in it. Duck is such a rich dish and it was paired with the first of the 1961 vintage wines; a Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. In 1961 Mouton was still upset from the 1855 Classification of the Medoc, when they were not included in the Premiers Crus (First Growths) but were listed as the first of the Deuxiemes Crus (Second Growths). So as you look at the label, you will notice that there is no mention of the classification system on their label, where all of the other wineries proudly proclaim their designation. Also every year Mouton commissions a different artist to create a special banner at the top of the label, in 1961 it was by Mathieu. This wine was at its peak of perfection and everyone was talking about how flavorful it was and how it was perfectly paired with the duck.
We then had a Grilled Pork Tenderloin with a Blackberry Reduction, and this was paired with a 1961 Chateau Margaux, one of the Premiers Crus. Chateau Margaux is the one win from this classification that I have tried more vintages of than any other and I have enjoyed them all. This forty year old was perfection as well, and the talk around the table was how great it was, and to have two 1961 vintages that were at their prime.
A Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Green Peppercorn Marsala Wine Sauce followed and this was paired with a 1961 Chateau Latour. This is also a Premiers Crus (unfortunately I have to show this hallowed wine with a different vintage label as my Brother-in-law wanted to keep this bottle as a memento of the evening). Now this glass of wine was the show stopper. To this day, I and I are sure everyone at the table was amazed that this wine was still feisty and proclaiming to the world that it had been opened too early. The tannins had not mellowed after forty years, and what a discussion this created. Everybody nursed this glass of wine and just kept enjoying the moment. As a side note, my Brother-in-law took his wife out for her fiftieth birthday and had his other bottle of the 1961 Chateau Latour served. He said that it had finally mellowed and was at its peak of perfection. They both enthused on the quality and finesse of that wine.
We then were treated with a fine collection of artisan cheeses and this was accompanied with a 1961 Chateau d’Yquem. This wine has been a favorite of wine lovers for centuries. A couple of bottles were auctioned off about twenty years ago from Thomas Jefferson’s estate and the gentleman that won the auction, after paying for them proceeded to open one bottle immediately and announced that it was the Nectar of the Gods. In the 1855 Classification for Sauternes and Barsac, Chateau d’Yquem was even then in a rank by itself with the designation of Grand Premier Cru (First Great Growth) and it has held that distinction ever since and deservedly so. Its golden color had darkened to a wonderful deep dark amber shade and it had a nuance of sweetness (not cloying) that is not found in most dessert wines. Another wine served that was a table pleaser among this group of ardent wine lovers.
Death by Chocolate Cake with Fig Ice Cream ended this birthday dinner with a rich coffee. Of course it wouldn’t have been a birthday party with a cake.