Friday Night Wines

You meet a lot of people who share this passion for wine, and most are generous and quite nice. As in every relationship, a very few end up being close friends, and this past Friday we were honored to have two couples that we call close friends over for dinner. It is nights like these where you realize how lucky you are, to share in the friendship as well as the wines.

This was something we’d been planning for a while as they hadn’t seen the new kitchen and were sick of my constant rambling about it. So after a day slaving in the kitchen, our guests arrived, to find foie gras and sliced Rosette de Lyon sausage. What to serve, you ask? What else? Champagne!

We began with a NV Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain, big and bold yet beautiful and complex, a lovely wine that could stand on its own as well as up to the powerful taste of the foie. A friend offered a bottle of 1999 Kistler Cuvée Kathleen Chardonnay Sonoma County, but it was slightly oxidyzed, so we had to pass on it. The Henriot was quickly emptied, so we popped a NV Champagne Charbaut which was steelier, yet whose finish was rather clipped. It seemed to fall off the palate rather rapidly, something I didn’t care for. Still, a learning experience if anything.

Our first course was a Melon Carpaccio, drizzled lightly with some olive oil and lime juice and sprinkled with tarragon leaves. If I might say so myself, this was fantastic. Perfect for a summer’s evening. After much hemming and hawing over which wines to serve with this dish, I decided on a 2001 Zilliken Forstmeister Geltz Saarburger Rausch Kabinett Riesling (that’s a mouthful, no? And people say French wines are hard to understand????). Beautiful, crisp, lively on the tongue, with minerals and lime fruit dancing joyfully across the palate. And quite good with the melon to boot!

Main course was a duck breast on a bed of wild mushrooms, a dish I’d never made before. Sadly, I think I overcooked the poor birds, as I do prefer them medium rare. What can I say, I’m still learning the ins and outs of the stove… Yeah, that’s my excuse… Anyway, for our first flight we poured a 1988 Arnoux Vosne Romanée les Suchots and a 1995 Patrice et Michele Rion Chambolle Musigny les Cras. The Arnoux was corked (those damn Portuguese trees again!) so I tossed it, but the Chambolle showed sous-bois, mushrooms and light cherries on the nose, giving way to similar aspects on the palate. For a Chambolle, the wine was surprisingly mouth-filling, leaving a haunting resonance long after it was gone. Not as lacy as a Chambolle should be, the flavors were slightly muddled, but it was still delicious. For the record, Patrice Rion was the winemaker for the heralded Domaine Daniel Rion, and 1995 was his first vintage making his own wines.

The next flight, though, was killer: 1989 and 1990 Chateau de Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape, both brought by our guests. Talk about generosity! Both of these looked so young we were wondering if they might be fakes, but as they breathed they put on weight, took on some darker colors and began showing graceful signs of ageing. Both offered very similar bouquets, though the 1990 was a tad darker and muddled than the 1989, but I’m quibbling here. Basically, here was everything you could ask for in older Chateauneuf: leather, game, meats, dark and heady fruits, and a lovely balance. Absolutely decadently fabulous with the duck, too, I might add. We lingered for a while over these wines, as you can imagine.

Next came a flight of cheeses (aged Comte, raw milk Morbier and a Tomme de Savoie), with which I poured the 2002 Carillon Puligny Montrachet. Heady aromas of hazelnuts and lemons filled the air above the wine. This was just pure Puligny, backed with some startling acidity which made for a great match for the cheeses. Now this is what Chardonnay is all about!

The night ended with some home-made Mint Sorbet with assorted cookies, and at this point we were pretty happy. I am not sure what could have gone with the Sorbet, maybe Champagne? Sadly, we were out of bubbly (a sign of the Apocalypse, perhaps?), so we went back to some of the other wines once the mint had disappeared down our gullets.

It is nights like these that I am thankful for the people I’ve met through wine. We talked about the wines, it’s true, but we also talked of other things, and laughed and lingered at the dinner table until the wee hours of the night. This is what it’s all about.

And a big thank you to our guests for their generosity and for putting up with the smoke conditions while I prepared the duck.

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