I spent Saturday dashing between work and buying Betsy a new car, by dinner time I was too tired to think of cooking (Betsy was working), and went with takeout pizza. I opened a 2004 Mezzogiorno Negromaro
. Soft red fruit, a little tar and tobacco, but a bit short and lacking concentration. Negromaro imitiating cheap Cal Merlot. Saved the majority to join some VdP and a bottle of Cotes du Rhone in a double recipe of brasato the following night. C+/B-
Yesterday was number 46 for me, and we had invited 8 good old friends to help celebrate. None were geeks, but all enjoy wine, and indulged my geekiness. Betsy and I had discussions about menu options, but realized a bit late that our menu was a celebration of animal fats, especially pork. So we decided to go with theme and hung a sign by porch to greet guests that said "welcome to the Cardiologist's Nightmare."
We had smoked whitefish and slices of lomo (a birthday gift from Betsy) as munchies while we gathered (one guest was unavoidedly delayed one hour). Starter wine was the NV Pinon Vouvray Brut
. Light and easy, lemon-apple fruit with a hint of biscuity yeastiness. Fun and frisky, B+
The only hot hors d'oeuvres were pancetta crisps (pancetta baked, and then topped with goat cheese,pear, and thyme). Some stuck with the Vouvray, but I added the 2005 Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc
to the mix due to the chevre. Pleasant $10 SB with gooseberry fruit, a little grass, and good acidity. B
Once the final guest had arrived and the dogs (she brought her 6 month old Dachshund) had marrow bones to play with, we sat down to the first course, a creamy garlic soup with proscuitto (Jeremiah Tower recipe). I served two Chardonnays as our first sitdown wines:
1999 Domaine Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet
This village level wine showed quite well right off the bat. Deep pear and apple fruit surrounded by accents of butterscotch and toast. Nice mineral finish. though without the length that the '99 Caillerets exhibited a few months ago. Excellent for the level. B +
1997 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay (Napa Valley)
This was all oak and lemony acids at first, just blown away by the Burg. But it actually rounded and integrated with a little time, with the oak seeming more subdued and the acids more refined. Not my favorite Montelena Chard of all time,but nice enough. B
Main course was a Judy Rodgers (Zuni Cafe) brasato (she did two recipes, each with a bottle of red wine first reduced to a cup, and with a pigs foot for broth richness), mashed potatoes (with butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and milk), and green beans with sesame oil. Burp.
As the recipe suggested a Barolo, and the brasato is essentially the same dish as beef in Barolo, wine choices were easy:
1995 Marcarini "La Serra" Barolo
Both Barolos were opened but not decanted several hours before dinner. There's tar, leather, and earth over a body of rich red fruit. The tannins are not fully resolved, but are not intrusive. Good acidity, good length, a nice almost mature Barolo. B+
1995 Oddero " Rocche di Castiglione" Barolo
Whoa, what happened here? Acidic red raspberry fruit, decent earthy nose, but a lack of concentration, short finish. I felt this the poorest wine of the night, but it actually was the first red emptied. Go figure. C+/C
But my original plan for dinner had included Bordeaux, so we opened two after the Barolos, and followed them through the cheese course- Keen's cheddar, aged comte, a Pyrenees cheese called Pere Toinou, Stinking Bishop, and a Spanish blue cheese wrapped in leaves (there was also a salad of watercress and orange in there- a wine killer, but one must have one low-fat course!).
1979 Château du Tertre (Margaux)
VHS fill, this was a tad stinky on decanting but cleaned up and filled out nicely after a short rest. I was looking forward to this one based on reports by Mark Golodetz and John Gilman, but even so found this a very pleasant surprise. Fully mature, with round cassis and black plum fruit, some cedar and tobacco, a little graphite. Holds steady throughout dinner, though it had faded by the time I had the last half-glass while doing dishes. Easily WOTN for me. A-
1978 Château Talbot (St. Julien)
The Cordier funk was overwhelming at first. But it seemed to moderate, leaving behind a still muscular wine with blackcurrant fruit and coffee. There's still that touch of barnyard, but a nice wine for its level. B+
For the blue cheese (and the Stinking Bishop, though that did not work well) I opened the 1995 Pierre-Bise "Les Rouannieres" Coteaux du Layon
. This is all about orange- orange color, candied orange and orange peel aromas. Ok, so there's apricot and honey too. Huge hit around the table. That lanolin/waxy Chenin thing adds a fun note to the sweet fruit and flowers. I like this for its moderate sweetness and good acidity. A-/B+
There was a lemon tart and a cheesecake for the dessert eaters. Fun night, with good friends. Hopefully evening didn't shorten our lives too much.
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.