deVine Wine Club accepts a Mission Impossible


Do you remember the original TV series Mission Impossible?  It began each week with “Your mission, Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept it, is…”  Last week, instead of Peter Graves starring as Jim Phelps, the deVine Wine Club president Ranjith Chandrasiri introduced Joseph Phelps wines to a packed wine club gala dinner at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort’s Grill Room and Wine Cellar.

This wine dinner was notable for many reasons, the first being the new name for the wine club itself.  After 10 years, Ranjith felt a fresher new image was needed, and this led to the name the deVine Wine Club, with such a lovely play on words.

The second notable reason was the introduction of the Joseph Phelps Vineyard to the members.  This vineyard is known as the “Grand Cru of the Napa Valley”, with its Insignia label wine of 2002 voted by both Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator as being one of the world’s greatest wines that year.

Ranjith explained just how this New World vineyard, which only began operation in 1974, produces Old World style wines, relying on the ‘terroire’ and climate to provide the subtle differences in the vintages.  The Insignia label wines were ones that should be laid down for 20 to 30 years, and treated as precious commodities.

The dinner itself was presented by deVine in association with Joseph Phelps (represented by its export consultant Robert Baxter) and Bangkok Beer and Beverage (represented by its president Ron Batori).  With the Royal Cliff Beach Resort’s executive chef, Walter Thenisch, in charge of the kitchens, the members and guests knew they were going to experience something supreme.

Much talk ensued at the reception about the wines that would be forthcoming, but I found that the Chamdeville Pinot Noir Rose was a very refreshing drop.

The dinner began with a jumbo prawn and tomato-avocado timbale on pomegranate and mango salsa, accompanied by a Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc 2009.  A very pleasant start to the evening.

For the second course of maple syrup marinated snowfish with Tasmanian salmon trout, there were two whites to savor.  A Freestone Chardonnay 2007 and a Fogdog Chardonnay 2007.  Robert Baxter explained the label of the latter wine, stating that the vineyard came from a cooler climatic region, with fog in the mornings.  Most of the diners seemed to prefer the Fogdog, though personally I found the Freestone more to my taste – but as always, wine appreciation is a personal matter.

A boneless rack of lamb was the next course, taken with a Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.  These were followed by a duck leg confit and another duo, the Freestone Pinot Noir 2006 and a Fogdog Pinot Noir 2006.  Again I preferred the Freestone, but by this stage in the evening’s dinner, everyone was waiting for the cheese soufflé course and the Joseph Phelps Insignia 2006, a wine that was being offered for the deVine members at the wholesale price of only 17,000 THB per bottle.

There was some debate over this wine, and I believe that some members were confusing this 2006 vintage with the 2002 vintage, which was the one that had won the awards.  With these being Bordeaux blend Old World style wines, the ‘terroire’ and the climate dictate the taste, and the deVine President Ranjith had already explained that these wines (and I believe this 2006 one in particular, was still very young) require laying down for some years.  The four year separation between 2002 and 2006 can make these very different wines.  This was a wine with ‘potential’, and I do not believe that the members who purchased these bottles at the wholesale price will be disappointed with their investment in 20-30 years.

The final wine, the Joseph Phelps Eisrebe 2008, was billed as a sweet wine from a hybrid grape, picked and then frozen at minus five degrees.  It was a sweet dessert wine to go with the Catalan Crème Brulee, coffee caramel mousse log and praline ice cream.

Ranjith Chandrasiri in his closing address did accept his “mission” as being “to produce exceptional wine dinners at affordable prices”.  This he most certainly has done.