Jane's [nom de plume: JC(NC)] visit to the Bay Area afforded me the opportunity to put a group of friends together to head over to Bar Agricole in San Francisco to share some bottles, enjoy some food, and engage in all sorts of interesting conversation. I cajoled everyone into a bottle of sparkling wine to start things off, and only later found out that the two wines I was trying to decide between were actually connected. We ended up choosing the 2007 Királyudvar Henye Pezsgő over the 2005 Huet péttilant, but I only later found out that both wineries are under Anthony Hwang's control and the sparkling wine from tokaji was indeed a nod to Huet's fab sparkler. The 55 percent furmint and 45 percent hárslevelű come from the biodynamically-farmed lower slopes of the Henye vineyard, with Pezsgő being the name of the wine. The nose started off waxy and rich, with some hints of blueberry, reminiscent of sparkling chenin blanc, but richer. Alas the wine undoubtedly hit its peak well after most had already finished their glasses, as 12 to 15 minutes after it was poured the aromas had turned more floral and the wine had opened up beautifully on the palate. Initially I thought the wine interesting and intellectual, but my last couple of sips were pure pleasure. A wine that needs time to open. This was Erik's wine of the night, and I don't think he even had it at its peak.
As we worked to figure out food options, I pushed Jason toward picking a chenin and his choice of 2008 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Clos de Breuil was, I believe, Jane's wine of the evening. The nose was crisp, stony and quite precise but very giving. The fruit in the taste was plush with great pear and quince notes, fantastic tangy spice. Fun and playful. A great deal. Dishes started to arrive: fried anchovies with charmoula, squash fritters with chévre, dill and beets, chicken galantine and an egg, and my two favorites of the initial dishes—the grilled sturgeon with peppers, (phenomenal super-seasonal) tomatoes, and salsa verde, and the rich homey spaghetti with spiny lobster, yum!
I lightened my load slightly of the wines I was schlepping around by opening the 2003 Luis Pato Baga Beiras Primeira Escolha Quinta do Ribeirinho, a blend of 50 percent baga (chalky-clay soil) and 50 percent touriga nacional (sandy soil). Wine of the evening for four of us, including myself. The nose was faint smokey and wonderfully subtle, suggestive at times of game flavors and flowers. The taste was rich, delicious, well-developed complexity. Intellectually interesting while the aroma was just plain entrancing. It performed particularly well with the absolutely stunning pork sausage with polenta and grilled treviso. Some felt it really showed its stuff with food, though I was so taken with the nose, I could have danced all night. Perhaps a bit too heavy to pair with the more delicate braised rabbit leg with curly endive and okra. But yet another example of why I love having Portuguese reds as my standby guilty pleasure.
The time for dessert had come and along with some pumpkin pumpkin tart and apple upside down cake and a cheese plate (generously provided with compliments) Jane's fantastic contribution of a 2003 Suduiraut Sauternes was opened. The winedoctor Chris Kissack called this one of his wines of the vintage and I could see why. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful rich and complex nose and tasting precise and balanced. Very clean, which I really appreciated as the chunkier or more botrytis-influenced examples of Sauternes are less to my liking. This was refined and elegant. Jane was interested to see how the wine was doing and the universal acclamation was that it is still sailing along beautifully along the horizon. This was Eric's wine of the night. A pretty good night for 2003, I'd say. As folks parted and we all offered our best wishes to Jane for the rest of her trip, a few of us eastbaysters headed back to Jason's pad to pop open the bottle of the 2006 La Pialade de Rayas Côtes du Rhône as a late-night nightcap to the evening. Wayyyyy different than the typical Côtes du Rhône, this was lighter-bodied with firmly defined lines in terms of structure. Spicy, tangy, lots of fun and a far more linear and direct version Côtes du Rhône than I think I've ever had before. Thanks, Jane, for the opportunity to get these friends together and it was wonderful to meet you in person after all the great conversations you've contributed to online. A wonderful evening!