It's an extremely rare occurrence when the planets align astronomically in the heavens. It can be just an equally rare occurrence when the Bacchanalian and Gastronomical stars align in perfect order. Just such a rarefied event took place last night at Peter Pratt’s Inn in suburban Yorktown Heights, New York. The event was set in motion last month at my wine tasting groups’ monthly meeting in January. Lance Cerutti and restaurant owner Jon Pratt were discussing the pros and cons of prime beef. When I heard Bryan Flannery’s name mentioned, my ears and interest were piqued. Lance was explaining how wonderful the meat he had ordered recently from Bryan was and how it was the best he’s had. Jon retorted that “prime is prime”. This statement was the spark put to tinder that resulted in the feast that ensued last night. The idea was simple; Jon Pratt would get a prime rib cap from his favorite distributor (Master Purveyors – supplier to Peter Luger’s Steakhouse) and Lance would order a cap from Bryan Flannery. Both would be prepared simply and identically by Chef Nicholas of Pratt’s Inn and we would see if Jon’s statement held water.
We set the date. Lance contacted Bryan Flannery who, generously donated a pork rib cap to the fray and sent a gorgeous beef rib cap via overnight air. Jon took the cap to Masters and had them cut the exact same piece of prime beef.
What ensued was purely and simply put; bliss. First off, the pork rib cap was divine; simply melt in your mouth good. It was prepared with a mango chutney and over a black bean puree I believe. Lance took pictures and with his permission and once he’s put them online, I’ll reproduce them here. Next we moved onto the beef showdown. There was a distinctive difference to the meats. Both were absolutely delicious, but the Flannery had more depth, and earthiness that made it stand out. You could cut both by merely using the side of your fork, but the Flannery was like cutting butter. I’ve never had such a wonderfully tasty piece of beef in my life. It was truly an epiphany of culinary proportions. Lance looked at me and I knew he shared my thoughts on the Flannery beef. Most of the others did too. You couldn’t put the Masters beef down though, not by a long shot. Once you knew the cost of both pieces of meat; the Masters had the qpr dial cranked to “11”. But for special occasions and when only the best will do, clearly Bryan Flannery is the man to call.
We had some excellent wine to go along with this luxurious meal and everyone stepped up and brought some really good wine to accompany the beef.
•2007 Alban Vineyards Viognier Alban Estate Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
A big and full bodied wine with an oily texture. A good amount of oak and vanilla spice. Fairly deep citrus fruit flavors. I think it's a bit tightly wound and needs to age a bit more. (90 pts.)
•1994 Henri Bonneau Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Not served blind. Lovely nose of wet cedar, lavender, pine cones and fresh cloves. A well made, medium bodied wine that is probably at or just a hint past peak. Notes of earth, mushrooms and cherry tarts. Very enjoyable. (91 pts.)
•1982 Château Talbot - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Served double blind - popped and poured at the table. Earthy, really good core of red fruit, pretty deep concentration, still drinking young, I figure it to be 10yrs old or so due to the color. Pencil shavings and some tobacco leaf, I'm now thinking left bank Bordeaux and guess a 10yr old Pauillac. Not too far off considering my lack of experience with Bordeaux. (94 pts.)
•1982 Château Gruaud Larose - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
Served double blind - decanted several hours. - Subtle cherry fruit, good concentration, wet earth, lots of vanilla laden tobacco, some spice. A bit more high toned than the Talbot and less expressive. Still pretty nice. (90 pts.)
•1998 Giuseppe Quintarelli Cà del Merlo Veneto IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
Served double blind - This was impossible to nail down, it was a big, flamboyant wine, no heat whatsoever, very little oak, but a great deal of lush black fruit, crushed olives, sage, and hints of caramel. I loved it, but couldn't come up with a clue as to what I was drinking. Some guessed Amarone. This was a wonderful wine. (94 pts.)
•2003 Pax Syrah Obsidian Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
Served double blind - this screamed "Hermitage", notes of beef blood, iodine, grilled meat, dark berry. It wasn't too tannic or too hot but did carry some heat. A very deep and well made wine. The only problem I had was the short finish. (91 pts.)
•2007 Cayuse Tempranillo Impulsivo En Chamberlin Vineyard - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Served double blind - Impenetrable black color. This is a complete 180 degree turn from previous wines. Huge fruit, oak, viscous and thick. Most votes went out as some sort of huge Parkerized Spanish wine, with guesses of Termanthia or El Nido. I couldn't disagree with them as I couldn't come up with anything else. As big and muscular as it was, it was well balanced and not out of place at all. A very, very well crafted wine. Delicious and still a babe. (96 pts.)
•1997 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
Served double blind - this was pure finesse and elegance in a glass, velvety and feminine, yet voluptuous and sexy. Lovely fruit, cassis, creme de cocoa all swirling around in a silken embrace. I guessed a Cal Cab made by an old name, someone around for a while. It was pure essence of California Cab and made in a way that the Europhiles whole heartedly loved. A pure delight to drink. (95 pts.)
•2003 Robert Foley Claret - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
Served double blind - This was full bore, in your face flashy fruit. Very Foleyesque. Distinctive fruit profile, it settled down nicely with airtime and balanced itself out. I really loved it. (94 pts.)
•2003 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select - USA, California, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District
My contribution for the evening - Totally different in every aspect to the Foley, not in your face or "over the top", elegant and more Bordeaux like, yet big and very full bodied. I popped and decanted this at the table, but wish I could have given it several hours of airtime. Every sip added a new dimension and flavor profile. I revisited this several times and it kept getting better. Very nice wine. (94 pts.)
•2006 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley
Served double blind - This was MASSIVE! Loaded with deep, dark fruit, gobs of vanilla oak, lots of heat, spices, truffles and black licorice. It poured black and inky, sticking to the sides of the glass. Not for the feint of heart. I really liked it, but could only have a glass or two before my palate was fatigued. (94 pts.)
So like a rare solar eclipse or the alignment of some planets this wonderful event was over way too quickly and not soon to be repeated. But, when it is, I'll be there with fork in hand ready to join the battle. – Mark Franks