As a side trip to our Loire vineyards last week, Mister L and I had dinner at Macéo au Palais Royal @restaurantmaceo, the next door and sister restaurant to Mark Williamson’s iconic Willi’s Wine Bar (15 and 13 Rue des Petits Champs, 75001 Paris). A visit to either of these restaurants is normally an event in itself, but we were thrilled to join some old and new friends and icons in the world of wine for a special celebration.
We had a fantastic night at Macéo to mark Steven Spurrier being named 2017 Decanter Man of the Year @decanter. I was honoured to sit next to Steven and hear his many stories. As one of Britain’s greatest wine experts, champions of French wine, merchant, educator and journalist, (even once portrayed rather fictitiously by Alan Rickman on celluloid,) you can imagine he was a fascinating dinner companion.
Our host, Mark Williamson @williswinebar.paris, has a long friendship with David. They first met when Mark worked close by at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair. David has been long humbled that his l’Metro at The Capital inspired Mark to open Willi’s Wine Bar. There was an Australian connection with our friend, Michael Hill Smith AM MW joining the party, too. Michael is part of a great wine dynasty, Australia’s first MW, MD of Shaw+Smith @shawandsmith and Tolpuddle Vineyard, Regional Chairman of the Decanter World Wine Awards and awarded an Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to the Australian Wine Industry. David and Michael met many times during winery trips to South Australia but struck up a great friendship when Michael came to stay at the hotel during his London trips for his Master of Wine exams.
I was also so pleased to meet the fascinating Stephanie Toole, owner and winemaker of Mount Horrocks @mounthorrocks. This year is her 25th vintage, and Stephanie’s organic, Clare Valley winery has long been considered an Australian wine icon. Stephanie has won accolades from Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year, Wine Companion Five Star Red Rating, UK’s Decanter and International Wine Challenge Trophies and made the only Australian wine served at the Lord Mayor’s Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday celebration: Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut Riesling. I’ve always adored her Cordon Cut – the canes are cut and left to hang and raisin naturally – and we talked at length about the challenges of frost in the vineyard and replanting to adapt to changing conditions.
We sat opposite Telmo Rodriguez who has been called one of Spain’s greatest winemakers. His return to his country’s wine traditions has made him as much a cultural historian as a negociant winemaker, coaxing regionally typical characters from forgotten vineyards, indigenous varieties, bush trained vines and naturally occurring yeasts. Telmo generously donated many wines of the night including an amazing, voluptuous Rioja from 2,000-year-old vines, the 2014 Tabuérniga’ Rioja which was beautifully structured, earthy, meaty, red berry with thyme. And, 2014 Falcoeira ‘A Capilla’ Valdeorras, a Mencía (60%) blend with a fine, floral, spicy and mineral structure over ripe red fruit. As well as, what is renowned as Spain’s best sweet wine, 2012 Molina Real ‘Mountain Wine’ Malaga, so named because the bush vines are grown at 550 m, on very steep, stony, calcareous terraces, in a once abandoned vineyard rescued by Telmo. What pure, high altitude flavours!
Our main course was a delicious Pigeon de Pornic aux cerise matched to an amazing Brouilly 1979 Chateau des Tours in Imperial. At 38 years old, this Beaujolais was quite something, still displaying such wonderful vibrancy. It was earthy, textural and such a fine benchmark for the ageability of quality Gamay that we’re excited to see our Madame L Gamay develop well into the future.
It was such a special night; we can’t wait to visit Paris and Willi’s again and were so pleased to be there to commemorate Steven Spurrier, 2017 Decanter Man of the Year.