I do not have a fetishism for food or wine. Rather, I have a deep appreciation for both without the need to shove it down your throat. But when my brother asked if I wanted to cook for a magnum of Petrus 1953, my enthusiasm knew no bounds. I am talking about a very old and very expensive bottle of wine. I immediately shared the news with my wife. After her lackluster response (she is not one to jump at cooking opportunities), I called Nick and finally got a worthy reaction (he works at Wine Spectator after all). He was a great help as I discussed my thoughts on the menu. The first menu I thought of was too complicated, probably would have taken me all day and would not have been an enjoyable process. After further debate, we settled on simple was better.
In the meantime, my sister in law did some research. We did not go into this blind. The game plan, according the wine experts at the Wall Street Journal was to open and drink immediately – do not pass go and collect 200 bucks. The big fear was whether we had vinegar or an exceptional wine waiting for us.
On game day, to my initial shock and horror, the cork slipped into the bottle as I tried to open it. Trust me, I put no pressure on the cork at all. I have no idea what was keeping that dry brittle cork in place. As I started pouring, the odor instantly enveloped the room. It was a funky smell that led everybody to think that we had a loser on our hands. Thankfully, no – we had a winner. It had a true bouquet of death – wet wood, mushrooms explosion. It mellowed beautifully with just a little time and food. It went down smooth and it was unlike any wine experience I ever had.
So what the hell did I serve? I went with steak – simple. I grilled it to a medium rare and topped it with a large pat of tarragon compound butter. I rested it and let the butter melt. The idea was to give a slight sense of a Bearnaise sauce with out making a creamy sauce. Along side of it, I served a mushroom risotto and a side of grilled squash from the farmers market. When serving the plate I thought the risotto was a huge mistake, but it worked really well. I did not finish it with cream, just a touch of Greek yogurt. The mushrooms stood out and complimented the earthiness of the wine.
I am sure that there are a lot of dishes that pair well with a 1953 Petrus, but the dish I made worked just fine. I would not trade the experience.