One of our favourite customers was in last night, after a break of nearly three months. They're a lovely couple who dine out and about in some of the best restaurants in the UK. They know what they like and they are quite happy to spend to get it. Add that to the fact they are really pleasant to chat to, and they dont demand our attention and you have as close to the perfect customer as you can get. I like it when they come, because they have great taste in wine, but they are also kind of adventurous and often allow me to chose the red for them. This means I can get to try out a new wine on them, or go for an old classic, but every once in a while, I let Mr choose the wine. At the back of my mind is the fear that one day I will overstep the mark and choose a wine that is not right or worse too expensive. So often I err on the side of caution, so I can relax a bit when they choose both wines themselves as the pressure is off a bit.
So tonight they choose the gastonomic menu, Mr looks really chuffed with himself as he closes the wine-list and tells me his choice. A bottle of Jean-Noel Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet les Masures 2002 and...................
a bottle of 1999 Henschke Hill of Grace. The mack daddy of Aussie shiraz. Forget grange, Hill of Grace is the pinnacle of deep brooding shiraz. Produced from fruit grown on 140 year old vines in the heart of the Eden Valley, this is a big and bold as it gets.
On the nose it gave off very intense aromas of black plums, blackberries, with hints of prune and a blend of mint, anise, cinnamon and earthy spices. There was also an aroma that put me in mind of a rib of beef roasted with an english mustar rub. Absolutely amazing nose that just gave me something different everytime I went back to it. After half an hour in the glass the aromas melted into each other and the meaty/minty thing was still quite dominant, but with strong flavours of black jammy fruits. I also thought I could get a scent of good quality dark chocolate - kind of like a bar of Lindt 70% cocao. This was the first time I had tried the 99 Hill of Grace and it makes the third vintage that Ive tried. The first was a bottle of 1990 that one of the sommeliers at Amaryllis had opened by mistake, confusing it for the Mt Edelstone. Some lucky sod got to drink a bottle of Hill of Grace but paid for Mt Edelstone. I dont remember much about that one, except thinking that it was incredibly complex for a new world wine.
The next vintage was the 1996 which we poured at the second gourmet evening that I organised here. Oh my god what an amazing wine. Intense jammy fruit, menthol and eucalyptus with spicy undertones, exceptionally smooth on the palate with a crescendo finish that just lasted and lasted. If I was compiling my list of top ten wines, then the Hill of Grace would sit somewhere in the top five.