There is nothing like fine champagne to start off any fun evening. When it is a light bodied, fruity and mineral flavoured Laurent Perrier with millions of tiny bubbles tingling your tongue, a long time into the glass, the pleasure is immense. Add to that the excellent mouth watering snacks that include lamb toast sesame seeds and seafood dumplings, you've got the picture of a perfect start to this evening at Sampan Restaurant, Hotel Crowne Plaza on Wednesday, March 1, 2006.
People forgot the pain of traffic jam and the efforts to locate the hotel (not everyone realized that Crowne Plaza is the new avatar of the good ‘ol Surya Sofitel, where one enjoyed the Chinese food with the panoramic view of ‘saaddi dilli' and shook a leg with one of the best bands in town, Black Slade).
Coming back to the Champagne, it was dry, crisp- a bit on the acidic side. This is what made it so attractive to the fried spring rolls and the lamb which would normally overpower a lesser mortal aperitif white wine. Thanks to the collaborative gesture of the importers, Global, one could enjoy the world's best-selling Champagne which also dictated the start our dinner service. The moment we polished off all we had, we had no option but to sit down for the next course.
Casillero del Diablo has been a popular feature at our dinners in the past-but only for the Merlot and Cabernets. So we had decided to try the Sauvignon Blanc with the starters. I must say the 2005 vintage did not impress much. It barely passed the muster in terms of its freshness and crispness though it scored well with its typical citrus aromas. Perhaps, it was too soon after the excellent LP and the palate was not forgiving.
In any case, it set the stage for the second wine served with the snacks, Amelia Chardonnay 2004 from Concha y Toro, to shine with the fuller bodied snacks like chilly ginger fish and lamb cakes. A complex wine with tropical flavours, it was slightly oaky but not enough to interfere with food. Well balanced acidity also subdued the high level of alcohol at 14%, normally not conducive with food. Only after we had moved to the next course after polishing off this wine did I choose to announce that this is one of the Top Chilean white wines.
For the main course, we had selected US wines-a white and a medium red. Pepperwood Grove Chardonnay 2003 and Smoking Loon Pinot Noir 2003 were both from Don Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma, California. This winery had won the 'U.S.Winery Year 2005' Award from Wine Enthusiast. So we wanted to taste some of their wines. I found the Chardonnay barely quaffable. The heavy Oak attack with not many aromas or flavour, the simple wine was drinkable because it pared well with food.