The Palme d’Or restaurant at Coral Gables’ luxurious Biltmore Hotel played host to Hervés Déschamps, Celler-master for Perrier-Jouët Champagne for a wine dinner pairing dishes by Chef Arnaud Berthelier with wines made by Mr. Déschamps.
The evening began with a champagne reception in the bar adjacent to the restaurant, featuring small bites and pours of Perrier-Jouët’s Gran Brut. The wine, which was also featured with the first course of the meal, has a fresh, crisp, and lively nose with a faint yeasty aroma, along with a hint of floral notes, apricots, and white pear. On the palate it’s has hints of citrus and white peaches. It’s slightly tart, with a medium-long finish that is slightly sweet with hints of white fruit. It’s a great aperitif wine.
The dinner consisted of four courses, each paired with a different wine. I had the honor of sitting at the table with Mr. Déschamps, and was able to learn a bit about his craft, and some insight into each of the wines.
The first course was Oysters, with salsify, orange, and borage, on a bed of rock salt. This was paired with the Gran Brut, non-vintage. The flavor of the dish was pleasant and tasty. The flavor was not intense (salsify is a root vegetable that tastes a bit like oysters, while borage tends towards cucumbers). The dish paired fairly well with the wine, bringing out more of the citrusy notes of the wine while it (the dish) faded into the background.
The second course was Maine Lobster, butter-poached with smoked brioche, toasted almonds, and orange risotto. This was paired with Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque, 2002. The wine was delicious, with flavors of citrus, a hint of orange pith, and white peaches. The nose was light but complex, and offered hints of white fruits, apricot, and a very faint vegetal note. The finish was long, and quite pleasant. The pairing worked; I thought that the lobster was slightly under-done, and found that a combination of the lobster and the risotto worked the best. It brought out the citrus notes in both quite nicely.
According to Mr. Déschamps, the Belle Epoque was his first creation at Perrier-Jouët. Mr. Déschamps is only the seventh cellermaster in the 200 year history of the winery. He served a 10-year apprenticeship under the previous winemaker, learning how to blend the wines to achieve Perrier-Jouët’s flavor profiles and quality. He said that this was his first taste of this particular vintage outside of France. The table toasted his skills and his vision.
The third, and main, course was Braised Veal Breast with guava glaze, served with hazelnut crust and fregola sardi. This was paired with Perrier-Jouët’s Blanc de Blancs, 2002. A Blanc de Blanc champagne is 100% Chardonnay, so I was curious to see how it worked with the veal; even though veal is a lighter meat, it’s usually paired with reds or full-bodied whites. With the hazelnut crust, I felt that the wine took on a bitter profile with a slightly metallic taste, but with the veal and the glaze alone, it worked very well. I think that the braising, together with the sweetness of the guava glaze, really supported the wine.
The final course was dessert, a delightful combination of the chef’s riffs on Peche Melba (he titled it ‘Peche Melba 2012, A Modern Version). Peche (or peach) melba was invented by famed chef Auguste Escoffier in the late 1800’s, and consists of peaches and raspberry sauce over vanilla ice cream. I am not certain exactly what was on the dish, but in my opinion, Chef Escoffier would have been quite happy with the result. The pairing was Belle Epoque Rosé 2004, and in my opinion, the best pairing of the evening. I am partial to sparkling Rosé’s. This wine had a slight sweetness with rose, light red fruits, some pear and even a little honey. It’s great on the palate, and with the dessert, the wine really shone. It was not overly sweet, so its flavors, and the flavors and sweetness of the food complimented each other very nicely.
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