Bruno Menard and Don Melchor Wine Dinner at Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel recently hosted a wine dinner with winemaker Enrique Tirado of Don Melchor from Concho y Toro. Don Melchor has partnered with Michelin 3-star chef Bruno Menard for a series of wine dinners in Asia. What a treat it would be to taste the wines paired with chef Bruno’s cuisine in different countries. Tokyoites were happy to welcome back chef Menard who was most recently at Ginza L’Osier.

The evening opened with an aromatic and refreshing 2013 Terrrunyo Sauvignon Blanc. Strong notes of citrus on the nose and the bright acidity sings of cool climate vineyards. Perfect start for a hot summer evening.

The first course was a beet tartare with geranium essence and cocoa. Paired with the 2013 Don Melchor that has 9% Cabernet Franc and 93% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Franc floral aromas danced above the wine and shined as the geranium essence brought the two together. The wine also had intense dark fruits of cassis and blackberries with some pencil lead. It was a well-balanced wine.

Enrique stopped by my table during this wine. He is charming and talks passionately about the wines and the vineyards. He said that he put 9% of Cabernet Franc in this vintage as the fruit was so beautiful in that harvest.

The second dish was a buckwheat (soba) risotto topped with smoked eel and foie gras and garnished with, sansho leaves, yukari (dried red shiso) and soba-cha. I could see chef Bruno’s influence of his long time in Japan in this dish.

This was paired with a 1988 Don Melchor, from before Enrique’s time. This had a nice acidity and a pleasant bitterness. The tannins were still quite rich for a wine almost 20 years old. The wine reminded me of Gene Wilder, who had recently passed away, refreshing and bitter. The food pairing was nice as the smoky notes from the eel and sansho stood up to the wine.

The main course was roast duck and mushrooms with a verjus sauce with a carrot mouse. I believe the duck was marinated in miso. This was paired with a 2005 Don Melchor that had intense tannins, dark fruit and chocolate. It was calling out for meat and this was a nice pairing. The sauce brought a nice acidity, with the verjus, to round out the pairing.

Even dessert was paired with a 2010 Don Melchor. I was skeptical, but not surprised when it did come together. Bruno’s father is a chocolatier so he grew up around a kitchen and sweets. The wine sung of intense fruit, spice, and ripe tannins. Dessert was a granité of griotte cherries and red wine, chocolate biscuit, and a five-spice chantilly. This was a great match, one as a sommelier I never would have been brave enough to pair. My eyes have been opened.

Chef Bruno came to speak to the diners. I was so impressed as he is fluent in Japanese! He said that he spent 14 years working in Japan, and that they were very important years in his career. He obviously knows the Japanese palate well. The menu was not too heavy and the dishes were created with a nod towards simplicity. He was easy to speak to and obviously loves his work.

The wines paired with the cuisine made for a memorable evening.

Chef Bruno mentioned that he has worked with the Imperial Hotel’s Les Saison chef, Thierry Voisin, since 1983 in France. The two have a long history and apparently also have played together in a band – now that is something I would LOVE to see.

Chef Bruno will be returning to Les Saison in October for a collaboration dinner with chef Thierry. Details for Bruno Menard week, October 17-23, lunch and dinner, here (in Japanese):

http://www.imperialhotel.co.jp/j/tokyo/restaurant/les_saisons/plan/bruno_menard_week.html

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