Best Wines of Your Life Dinner

Posted on Sep 7, 2022


The best wines of your life dinner

What wines would you choose?

Earlier this year AdVINEtures was asked to help some very generous friends put together a list of wines to have at a very special, intimate gathering at a local restaurant. We were given just a theme to guide us in our selections: choose wines that will be the best wines the guests will have in their lives. It was a pretty daunting task, but we couldn’t resist so…challenge accepted.

Naturally, we asked about the budget, so we could make sure that our recommendations came in appropriately. The terse reply we were given was “no budget”. The only constraint was the wines had to be available for purchase in Vancouver, BC.

BC has a liquor board that controls the sale of all alcoholic beverages.

Fishworks north Vnacouver

Setting the table for a most memorable meal.

There are private stores and government stores, but the private stores have to buy from the government stores (at a reasonable discount). The BC Liquor Board does all of the buying and consequently is a huge purchaser. As a result, the amount of selection we get is pretty broad. But the liquor board only buys from producers and their distributors which means pretty much current release only; back vintages are a rarity. The other downside is that there are some serious taxes levied on all forms of alcohol so we can pay quite dearly for the privilege of drinking.

We thought that you, dear readers, would enjoy the initial letter we sent to our hosts, explaining our thoughts around “best” as well as why we were recommending what we did.

Fishworks

The best wines of your life dinner.

You will see our slight discomfort with the “no budget” concept and so we made a number of recommendations of truly excellent wines, at much lower prices than the others, but our hosts’ generosity prevailed and none of those relative bargains were accepted. But they are in fact amazing value in the world of fine wines. Bargain hunters, take note!

We hope you enjoy reading about this AdVINEture and it should provide you with a little of our perspective on the fine wine world and how we went about choosing “The Best Wines of Your Life”.

Recommended wines, to be served in this order:

Wine                                                              Region

Champagne                                                  Champagne

Riesling                                                          Mosel/Alsace

Chardonnay                                                  Burgundy/California

Pinot Noir                                                      Burgundy/Oregon

Cabernet Sauvignon                                    Bordeaux/Napa

Syrah                                                              Rhone/Australia

Dessert                                                          Sauternes/Port

1. Quality is both subjective and objective

One of the bigger debates that rages in all things to do with the arts is whether quality is subjective or objective. We think it is both.

Fishworks

Enjoying the pleasures of the table.

The first thing that needs to be understood is the purpose of wine. Wine is a drink made to bring its consumer pleasure. If a wine brings a consumer pleasure, then it has done its job. If a wine brings a consumer great pleasure, much more than most of the wines that consumer has tried, then it is a great wine. To that consumer. It may or may not elicit the same reaction from the next consumer, and that is okay. No one can tell another what they should like. Each of us get to decide that for ourselves. So, in that sense, quality in wine is subjective.

mendoza wine

Quality in wine is both subjective and objective.

But in another sense, quality in wine is objective. As with other forms of appreciation, be it art, food, music, literature, or anything else, there are generally accepted standards for quality. Appreciation of an art form can appear in three different ways, subjective, popular, and objective. Subjective is what an individual happens to like. An individual may like the wine his grandfather made in the basement because that is what they grew up on. There can be no question that you like it if that is what you say, but that doesn’t necessarily make it great wine.

Meomi became a wildly popular Pinot Noir from California’s Central Coast. Sold at a fair price point with a soft, round and textured mouthfeel, it appealed to all sorts of palates and has been a resounding commercial success. Though popular, few would say it was one of the world’s great wines. In the automotive world, the same thing could be said about the Toyota Camry. Popular no doubt, but not the finest example of automotive engineering.

Bordeaux wine

The 1982 Château Haut-Brion

The 1982 Château Haut-Brion would objectively be said to be a great wine. That is not just our opinion. It is made in too small of a quantity and is far too expensive to be popular. But informed persons who have made a lifetime of tasting wines have similarly concluded that 1982 Haut-Brion is a profoundly great wine. Regardless of our own opinion, we have to acknowledge a body of experts who uniformly acknowledge the wines greatness. This is the same as experts in the art world who converge upon the greatness of the works of Da Vinci or Michelangelo or music critics who acknowledge the extraordinary talent in the works of Mozart, the Beatles, or John Coltrane.

Fishworks

One of seven outstanding courses paired with the wines.

All of which is just to say that the wines suggested for this dinner might not be the greatest wines that everyone has ever tasted. That is the subjective part of it. And popularity certainly does not come into the selection criteria. We have chosen a set of wines that any expert or wine aficionado would acknowledge are among the best the wine world has to offer. No doubt different people knowledgeable about wine might wish to include different wines or styles, but I doubt anyone would say any of the choices here does not belong on such a list.

 

2. These wine are only among the best known; there are others

We wanted to choose wines that were well-known for being great wines. We think there is a greater connection between the wines and guests if they are treated to wines they might possibly see again and not some obscure, recherché micro-producer that never gets beyond the greedy clutches of the wealthiest collectors.

Willamette valley oregon

Pinot Noir grapes.

These are the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the wine world. Yes, there are other Koenigsegg’s out there, which we might find, but it is unlikely we would ever see them again.

The wines were organized by grape variety first, then region second. This is because we believe the grape variety is the biggest differentiator when tasting a wine. We somewhat arbitrarily chose 6 wines to suggest that might be the right quantity. We could do more or less, but this number gives good diversity and if you do a 3-ounce pour, that means 18 ounces per person or about 2/3 of a bottle. With food, over several hours, that is likely to result in most getting slightly tipsy, but no one really drunk.

3. Age matters

Wine is a living, breathing drink. It changes over time. Many wines improve with time, and some even demand it. Aged wines are very difficult to come by. You must find someone who has collected them and stored them properly and is willing to sell them. Since you must go through the BC Liquor Board to sell any wine and give them their cut, you don’t see collectors widely advertising their collection is for sale. So, for the most part we had to drink relatively young wines. Not a sin, but just to say that we may be catching them before their peak.

 

Vintage Champagne

The 2002 Vintage Dom Perignon

First Wine: Champagne

This drink needs no introduction. It is recognized everywhere as the ideal aperitif (and can be delicious with the meal, too). But making this decision is the easiest of the group. There are two we recommended, based primarily on being recognized for their quality and they are Dom Perignon and Krug. Both can be bought at BC Liquor stores, Dom for about $260 and Krug about $300 (all prices here are before 15% government taxes).

 

Second Wine: Riesling

Best wines of your life dinner

Trimbach Riesling

Riesling is sometimes referred to as the “Somm’s white wine”. Somms love it for its crisp acidity and refreshing character. It can get very complex, especially with age, and can be bone dry to very sweet. Riesling is grown all over the world but the two regions that stand above all others when it comes to this grape are the Mosel in Germany and Alsace in France. From the Mosel there is Dr Loosen Erdener Pralat for $106. It is a sweet wine and would pair wonderfully with rich dishes like fois gras. Or from Alsace there is Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile, a dry Riesling with a fantastic reputation for $89.

Third Wine: Chardonnay

Chardonnay is one of the great, noble grape varieties.

Best Wines of your Life dinner

Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet

And Burgundy is the go-to region for this grape. The greatest Chardonnay growing regions of Burgundy would be Chablis, Meursault, and Montrachet. And while there would be some debate, we think most would give the nod to Montrachet if you wanted to single out a single best region. Montrachet is a small hill with a scrubby forest at the top. It is divided into two sub-regions: Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet. Puligny might have the better reputation. Montrachet can be crazy expensive. Right now, the most expensive at the BC Liquor stores is $1,200. But we have seen Le Montrachet there for $2,100. There is a Grand Cru Batard-Montrachet for $738 and there is a very delicious Puligny Montrachet Referts from the very reliable producer, Jadot. It sells for $133.

But though Burgundy gets the fame, one must not forget California, which produces some stunning Chardonnay. Kistler Les Noisetiers at $102 is a great wine at a fair price.  A favourite California Chardonnay of AdVINEtures can be found at Marquis, the Walter Hansel Cuvee Alyce, for $87.

Fourth Wine: Pinot Noir

Moving into the reds, Pinot Noir would have to be in contention. Again, Burgundy makes the greatest in this variety. And they can be ridiculously expensive. They go as high as $900 at BC Liquor Stores. But relative bargains would be Drouhin Clos de Vougeot or Albert Bichot Clos de la Roche at $416 and $379 respectively.

Fifth Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

Best wines of your life dinner

The 1996 Cos d’Estournel.

Bordeaux is the reference point district for this variety. The region classifies its top wines into growths, from first to fifth. The first growths are over $1,200. Back vintages (they have some 2000 and 2005) are double that. Second Growth Chateau Palmer is a relative bargain at $725 for the 2016 and $600 for the 2017. Cos D’estournel at $475 is a great wine as well.

Don’t forget that Napa bested Bordeaux at the famous Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976. Napa makes great Cab as well and can often be more approachable in its youth. Back vintages of the famous joint venture between Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Opus One, sells for $820. Dominus, one of our favourites, sells for $500, and is owned by the same family that owns Petrus.

Sixth Wine: Syrah

Barossa Valley wine

2001 Torbreck RunRig

This is often the red recommendation of the Somms. Inky black and spicy notes, it grows well in many spots, but the Northern Rhone Valley and Australia might just exceed the others. From the Rhone, the two great regions are Hermitage and Cote Rotie. The two go-to names from Hermitage would be J. L. Chave which we could not find and the other would be Jaboulet’s Hermitage La Chappelle, which is available for $366. From Cote Rotie the clear stand-out is Guigal and his 3 “la Las”, La Landonne, La Turque and La Mouline. La Turque and La Mouline are both available at $476 each.

From Australia there is, of course, the famous Grange which can be acquired for about $1,000 a bottle. Or there is Torbreck Run Rig for $319.

Seventh Wine: Dessert

Dessert wine sauternes

The 2007 Chateau d’Yquem.

There are many dessert wines made throughout the world, but the standard bearers are Sauternes and Port. From Sauterne there is of course d’Yquem, for just $1299 for a 750 ml bottle! Or there is Chateau Climens 2009 for $239 per 750 ml. Port is also a very solid choice. The reference for Port is clearly the Quinta do Noval Nacional. The vineyard is a heritage site and only miniscule amounts are produced. A 750 ml bottle can be had for $1,150. After Quinta do Noval, Taylor’s is probably the most reputed with a 1961 Taylor setting you back about $525. A Taylor 40-year-old tawny is $206.

 

Afterword:

our happy place

Nothing better than great wine, food and friends.

It was finally decided that this bacchanalia would be held over lunch and not dinner. Our hosts selected Fishworks, one of the top restaurants located in North Vancouver, whose cooking and service were both sublime. This was truly a memorable occasion, that one attendee described perfectly as: “an incredible overflow of love, friendship, wine and food”. Below is the menu stating the final wines that were selected and the dishes that accompanied them.

Fishworks

The Best Wines of your Life Menu.

2 Comments

    • A truly special experience that we’re eternally grateful for!

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