My wife and I took the crew of the Orlando store to Blue Bistro for dinner last night as a way to say thank you for another great year and fantastic holiday season. This also gave me the chance to break into the deep parts of the wine cellar and pull out a few wines to see how they are aging.
It has been a while since I have eaten at Blue and owner Jephanie Foster has made a lot of changes since my last visit. The old dining room is being remodeled and the new, main dining area is an older room that has been expanded and remodeled already. The menu is similar, with several tempting appetizers and entrees. A new twist, which I think is very intelligent, is they now offer half portions of almost every entree. This allows for a lighter dinner or in our case, a lot of mix and matching of proteins on the plate. Everything I sampled was delicious and well prepared; it is good to see that some things never change.
So we started the evening with two whites off their list, a Sekt (German sparkling wine) from Wegler and a Marsanne from the Krupp Brothers, who market under the name Black Bart. The Sekt was everything I expected from such a high quality producer, delicate and refreshing, a great way to start a meal. The Marsanne started a little clunky, which is not uncommon for the grape, but evolved and ended up being quite nice an hour after opening. The combination of honeyed pears and rose petals provided a nice balance the pork tenderloin dish.
I pulled a number of reds out of my cellar to see how they are progressing. The first was my last bottle of 1998 Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon from Diamond Mountain. I have always been a fan of Rudy’s wines and this one did not disappoint. It has developed a lot of aromatic complexity, with notes of espresso, dried cherry and pencil graphite dominating the nose. On the palate the wine was smooth with most of the tannins now recessed in the wine. I wish I had decanted the wine but space did not allow. If you have any of that wine left, drink in the next year or two.
Next I opened a bottle of Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee Vieille Vignes” 2000. This was probably my wine of the night and it was singing as soon as I pulled the cork. The color is still deep purple although some hints of garnet are starting to appear. The nose is a complex blend of blueberries, lavender, tea olive and bay leaf; with a faint note of molasses on the back side. Texturally this wine is still young, with big fruit popping forward before the tannins appear on the finish. Good now but it will probably improve for another five years.
At this point we enter the Italian portion of the program. As many of you know I think these are the finest food wines made and my cellar is stocked with old wines from Tuscany and the Piedmont. My first wine was a 2000 La Spinetta Barbaresco “Vigneto Starderi” from a bottle that showed a little old leakage. Thankfully the 55mm cork held back the effects of air as this bottle showed nothing but deep fruit and the notes of minerality that mark Barbaresco to me. This is a wine that needs to age for several more years but showed some nice evolution to date.
I was excited to open the next bottle, a 1996 Clerico Barolo “Pajana” although I was a little concerned it was too young. As it turns out, without decanting, the wine stayed a bit reticent throughout the meal. One end of the table suggested the wine may be slightly corked but I disagreed, knowing the leathery side of Barolo can show that flaw on the nose. To me it was not on the palate although the wine was definitely muted. Since the tannins were still strong I think it is safe to say this wine may need a few more years, after all it is only 11.
By now I had exhausted my older stocks so we picked a couple of final bottles off the eclectic list of Blue. The first is a 2002 Terre Nere, an exotic wine produced on Mount Etna in Sicily. Made from the indigenous Nerello Mascalese, this wine reminds me a lot of old Cote du Beaune wines from Aloxe Corton. Although not a great vintage, this wine displayed a fantastic leather and damp pine bark aroma, complicated with the notes of fresh raspberries. This wine is a steal for those who dine at Blue, as the wine was less than $40 on the list. (We sell the more current 2003 vintage for $45!) Finally we finished with one final oddity, a Duoro red table wine from JM Fonseca, of Portugal. By this time it was late and I was suffering some palate fatigue so the wine came off somewhat blocky and one dimensional. It could be the wine, it could be me, but the memory is lost to the night.