Written By Gary Faust
Photographed By AaronMoreyPhotography.com
Styled By Melissa Souza
Wine & Accessories Provided By Hi-Time Wine Cellars | www.hitimewine.net
nticipation filled the small room as the hushed ensemble anxiously awaited the arrival of the leaders who would conduct the proceeding. After what seemed an eternity, a door opened to admit several men and a woman. All were resplendent, adorned in long flowing, crimson-colored robes trimmed in white. One, with particularly regal bearing, strode with purpose carrying a golden scepter past the gathered throng.
The room was silent until he spoke. What followed was ritual, repetition of pledges in more than one language, song and ceremony. Next, in groups of ten, we were brought forward to introduce ourselves and announce our intentions publicly. The presiding gentleman intoned us to take a glass, raise it to our lips and savor fine claret. Each of us did as instructed and sipped from a glass of fine Bordeaux. We then swore an oath of conduct and allegiance to the group and its goals.
By sheer happenstance, I was the first prospective member to be approached. The Grand Maitre was thanked by the other distinguished leaders as he faced me and spoke in a mixture of French and English before touching the scepter to my shoulders three times. He then placed a medallion around my neck. After obligatory European-style kisses on both of my cheeks and a handshake, I was officially inducted into the society. The others, in turn, were similarly feted and welcomed into the group.
A secret religious order, cult or worse? No, nothing so ominous or threatening. Instead, this pomp and circumstance were to inaugurate the Newport Beach Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux and the induction of its leaders and members. This invitation-only society of wine lovers includes successful individuals who have amassed impressive collections of wine as well as sommeliers and several from the wine trade.
The organization is cloaked in mystery as are many private clubs by virtue of their exclusivity. Peeling back the layers, the roots of the Commanderie were planted in France when an organization called the Commanderie du Bontemps was formed for the purpose of promoting the wines of Bordeaux — this eventually led several men to establish the Commanderie de Bordeaux in New York in the late 1950’s. Continued success has led to additional chapters throughout the world with Newport Beach becoming the 34th chapter.
The Newport Beach Chapter has established the Pacific Club as its home and is the largest group of the Commanderie ever formed at just under forty members. This should not be a surprise as Orange County boasts many well-heeled collectors of fine wine. In fact, these oenophiles are a group of like-minded men and women who share a common passion – a love of the fermented grape which is produced in one of the most storied wine regions of the world.
In Bordeaux, the art of blending has reached its pinnacle with the primary grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc coming together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Bordeaux blends have been emulated around the world, but these wines emanating from southwest France are the standard by which others are judged. At their best, they are a mixture of power and grace with amazing complexity, depth and length capable of awakening the senses and stir the imagination.
Outgoing Grand Maitre Angus Smith was the aforementioned gentleman who presided over the ceremonies. His experience and poise were evident as he led the proceedings and installed the Maitre and Regent who are to lead this local chapter.
What followed was an evening filled with food, wine and camaraderie. The wines served were impressive. A huge 15-Liter bottle of Taittinger Champagne so large it needed to be served with a special decanter, which cradled the bottle and is equipped with a crank to lower the bottle into pouring position. Also very impressive was a 6-Liter bottle of 2000 Pichon Lalande, which was absolutely delicious and a 3-Liter Chateau Lascombes from
Margaux, which impressed with its aromatics and finesse.
An amazing menu of tray-passed hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed with the Champagne. After being seated in U-shaped formation, we were served the first course which consisted of Dover Sole, Lobster with Hollandaise sauce, fine herbs and sunchoke chips. This was paired with a nice Bordeaux Blanc.
The second course consisted of Duck Con t topped by foie gras, with parsnip-potato rosti and truffle-dried cherry glace. Two vintages (2009 and 2010) of Chateau Mirebeau were served.
The third course included Kobe ribeye cap meat with marrow, braised shallots, wild mushrooms, confit potatoes and red wine glace. Two wines from the epic 2000 vintage were the accompaniment. Chateau Lascombes from the appellation of Margaux was served from a 3-Liter bottle, and a delicious Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was poured from a 6-Liter bottle! This was undoubtedly the wine of the night.
Finally, dessert was a persimmon upside down cake with hazelnut ice cream paired with a delicious dessert wine from Sauternes, Chateau Rieussec. Pacific Club’s chef executed a brilliant menu to perfection while the preparation and service of the sommelier were flawless. It was truly a fantastic inaugural event for the Newport Beach Chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux.
Going forward, we will meet four times a year. At times hosting a representative from Bordeaux who will inform and share wines from their Chateau. Other times we will pour wines which have been curated from our member’s donations.
Idiosyncratic, chock full of traditions and cloaked in mystery, perhaps. A fun-filled evening replete with fine food, drink, laughter and storytelling, definitely! I’m thrilled to be a part of the Commanderie de Bordeaux and look forward to our future events!
The Pacific Club
4110 MacArthur Blvd, Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949)955-1123 | www.pacificclub.org