Friday, November 24, 2006

Pantagruelian Feast with Southern Gentlemen

The city of Paris was once again graced with the presence of a group of self-proclaimed "galoots" on the return swing from Valence, Beaune, and the surrounding regions. Don Cornutt, Bob Fleming, and their friend Ed came over for dinner on Tuesday. We got to hear, first-hand, first off, all the stories from their 10-day trip, hot off the press.

But of course, we didn't just sit there empty-handed talking about Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Chambolle-Musigny, we opened a bottle of

NV Jean Vesselle Brut "Oeil de Perdrix" - I was still overheated and hyperactive from stewing and chopping and blending, but immediately calmed down and fell under the spell of this pale, pale pink champagne. On the nose, gooseberries and raspberries, and in the mouth a certain fullness, with light red fruit, brioche, and an elegant, harmonious overall structure. Definitely a wine I'll be seeking out again.

When we sat down to eat, there was a crisis. What wine to drink with chestnut soup? Maybe something red, but then that would leave our two white possibilities by the wayside. There was a stalemate, as the gentlemen, in their gentlemanly fashion, gave the lady her choice. Only the lady ran off to the kitchen and said she'd make the next choice...

A committee must have decided, because the wine was good, but didn't find its soulmate in chestnut soup...

1999 Châteauneuf-du-Pape white - Clos des Papes - Deep yellow, full-bodied, and stunningly austere white Châteauneuf. Comes at you head on with an imposing, delicious nose of exotic flowers and apricots. But it was too cold (damn my fridge...) and on the palate, seemed a little dominated by its minerality and a bitter backbone. The chestnut soup was not its friend.

Coda: there was a glass left and we tasted it the next day, and it seemed less austere and more supple...

After we had finished the soup and tasted, on a lark, the 2000 Vouvray sec - Cathelineau, which I'd opened to use in my sauce for the veal dish - to Arnaud's indignation, which is why it showed up on the table as a side-guest. Not a good match for the soup, and also not a good year in its "sec" incarnation. We'd tried the 1990 sec this summer and it was delicious, but two other bottles of the 2000 sec from that producer were tired, not up to speed.

So we moved on to the main course, a blanquette de veau au paprika with mashed potatoes.

There were three reds on the mantlepiece from the "galoots." I had been forewarned that there was one I was not allowed not to choose. Trepidation! Was it...

1990 Château Figeac - Mature Bordeaux in a dusky, deep fullness. Complex things going on, spice, prunes, compoted black cherries, smoky and torrefied notes, and evolving on the palate, and in the glass.

And just when I thought I had tasted the wine of the night, we opened a

1987 Ridge Monte Bello - Oh... oh, my. Wait... hold on... I'll get back to you in a second... my intellectual functions are on hold and some deeper, hedonistic cortex has taken over. Yes - its deep, mature complexity and evolution on the palate stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't hide a half-ashamed smile at being so visibly smitten. This is a great wine. Aged beautifully, with compoted fruits and tobacco, smoky elements and a hint of dusky rose, just too much going on for me to keep my wits about me. I hate to admit it, but I kept coming back for more - and each time I was as bowled over as with the first sip.

I fetched the cheese platter, which included Mont d'Or, époisses, saint-marcellin, a small, pungent Portuguese cheese similar to a maroilles, and an ashy, cylindrical goat cheese sainte-maure.

We opened another wine.

1999 Pommard 1er cru "Pézerolles" - de Montille. Youngish (especially compared to the two previous wines), but starting to open up into interesting, complex pinot fruit. Not at all in the austere vein I had often heard in descriptions of Montille's reds (the only other experience I'd had with his wines was the delicious Puligny-Montrachet "Cailleret" described in a tasting note about 10 days ago... shared with the same culprits as here...). The Pommard "Pézerolles" was an elegant, if not powerful expression of its terroir.

And last, with the desserts, which were apple, pear-walnut, rhubarb, and gooseberry-pistachio tartlets, we opened a bottle of

NV Roederer Brut. To me, this was something of a come-down after the delicious Jean Vesselle "Oeil de Perdrix". Classic, mineral champagne with citrus and brioche notes.

And then it was getting late... Unfortunately, the fellows had an early morning flight, so it was bonsoir and hopefully à bientôt!

No comments: