A Dream Dinner At The Japanese Consulate

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - October 20, 2010
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I have been privileged to attend many wonderful wine dinners and events in my life, but I was particularly honored to be invited to a wine dinner by the Consul General of Japan, Mr. Yoshihiko Kamo, and his wife, Etsuko, along with six other guests at their official residence in Honolulu. The Kamos are wine lovers, and hosted a wonderful dinner with wines paired by a friend of mine, who also was a guest. He did an outstanding job, as did the consul general’s chef Takahiro Uematsu.

We began with a bottle of 2000 Vilmart et Cie Coeur de Cuvee Champagne, which boasted a wonderfully toasty and rich nose, replete with citrus, ginger root, minerals and a hint of brioche. Despite the rich nose, it was superbly elegant with a velvet glove-like texture and a long and zesty finish. This is a lovely wine that is still in its youth, but should round out more over the next eight to 10 years. I found out that Mrs. Kamo is a Champagne lover, as am I. With Champagnes like this, who isn’t?

Appetizers began with some freshly cut vegetables and anchovy dipping oil. This seems quite simple, but it’s a great example of a dish that is heart-warming and perfect as a starter. It is not heavy or filling, and is quite healthy. It was paired with 2009 Chateau d’Esclan Whispering Angel Cotes de Provence Rose. This Provencale dry rose was perfect for its pairing with the anchovy sauce.

It carried itself through the bitterness of the vegetables admirably with a host of ripe citrus, tart, red-berry fruit and light acidity. It was just right for a warm and humid evening.

We then moved onto snapper carpaccio with a tri-colored paprika dressing and fresh herbs. The presentation was beautiful and reminded me of a lovely flower with the carpaccio representing the petals. The flavors were elegant, delicate and creamy. We washed down the fatty fish with 2003 Robert Weil Halbtrocken Riesling from the Rheingau. The wine is reminiscent of pineapples, poached apricots and pears with a laser-like acid streak and off-dry sweetness. It cleansed the palate so nicely without being overly sweet or cloying. The Riesling is still a baby and will still improve with another eight to 10 years in the bottle - quite admirable for such a hot growing season.

Ahedonistic and decadent Foie Gras Daikon with truffle sauce followed. This was the first time I had daikon with foie gras, and was completely impressed by how the flavors married so well, which was done flawlessly. Speaking of marriages, it would be hard to imagine a better pair with this dish than the 1999 Chateau Rieussec. Gorgeous aromatics of candied fruits, fruitcake, apple pie, sweet baking spices galore and tropical fruit smoothies greeted my nose. It is already showing some development in the color and the palate, with marmalade and sweet candy all in a wonderfully glycerin texture. Delicious already, but it will certainly add even more over the next 12 to 15 years.

Next came Parmigiano Reggiano risotto with fresh porcini mushrooms. This is one of my favorite classically Italian dishes, so I was already salivating when I saw it on the menu. Done just right - al dente, that is - I wonder where he was able to procure fresh porcinis? The flavor was impeccable. This was accompanied by 2003 William & Selyem Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir, which boasts an intense nose of blackberry, black cherry, vanillin spice and a deep, dark hue. It is quite a masculine and edgy Pinot Noir, styled a bit like Syrah with plenty of power and quite viscous. Wonderfully tasty, if not really my style, the wine is still showing a lot of primary flavors and aromas, suggesting a long life still ahead of it.

Asplendid smoked rack of lamb with roasted seasonal vegetables was the final entrée, which was met by 1997 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The smoked lamb flavors were terrific with the quite earthy and penetrating aromas of the wine. Blackberries, peppers, graphite and cedar in copious quantities are to be found in the truly explosive nose. The palate is powerful but effortless. This is a dramatic wine that proves why Napa Valley is truly one of the great regions for growing Cabernet Sauvignon in the world. I thought this wine was world-class. It will enjoy at least another dozen years of upward progress.

Dessert was a pumpkin mousse with chocolate, presented inside different pumpkins to each person so that when you opened the top you see the beautiful swirl of mousse within. Together we had a Port-style wine from California, 2003 Williams & Selyem Mistral Port. It was sweet and luscious with caramel and baba au rhum brimming from the glass.

My most humble thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Kamo for their hospitality and generosity. And to Wes, who generously supplied all the wines.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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