Sunday, March 7, 2010

Valentine's Food Night - The Wines

Have you ever tried to follow an act that was wildly successful? Rarely is Act II as good as Act I. Unless you are Larry David, and you follow "Seinfeld" with "Curb Your Enthusiasm". Or unless you are Tim McKee and you follow La Belle Vie with Solera and Barrio. But clearly, I don't do comedy, and I don't qwiiiiiiite have the culinary acumen of a James Beard Award winner like Tim McKee. So I did what anyone would do - I panicked. And right after panicking, I set out to create a menu that would be a worthy Act II to the wildly successful Act I that featured...

  • The first Food Night ever documented on the Internets.
  • A Food Night that featured a freaking truffle (and not the chocolate kind, either).
  • A Food Night whose wines included the best Priorat I've ever had, and Lafite's second wine.

One thing is never in question at Food Night... the wines will be Rock Star caliber. The food takes a bit of luck and thought and effort and luck and more luck and then a miracle happens and then I trip over a rabbits foot onto a four leaf clover patch, and then if all the happens the food turns out deece. OK, I exaggerate slightly, but the wines... the wines are never in question. Let's have a look at the Star Studded lineup this time that featured not one, not two but THREE Chateauneufs...

United States
Calera, Selleck Pinot Noir

Ridge, Monte Bello

Northstar, Columbia Valley Merlot

Swanson, Alexis Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Clos Des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape

Vieux Télégraphe, Chateauneuf du Pape la Crau

Cuvée du Vatican, Chateauneuf du Pape, Réserve Sixtine

Chateau Cambon La Pelouse, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux

Les Brugueres, Priorat Vi Blanc

Rotllan Torra, Tirant, Priorat

Manzone, Barolo le Gramolere

By now, you are no doubt aching to find out which of these wines were the fave's of the Food Night crew. So let's not keep you waiting any longer... the prestigious GOLD MEDAL from the Valentine's Food Night goes to....................................

The 2001 Ridge Monte Bello! Absolutely no surprise there, it was certainly a notch (or two) above all other wines that night. The best domestic wine I have ever had was the 2004 Phelps Insignia, and the Monte Bello seriously made me reconsider that position, as it was absolutely spectacular. A sort of ripe banana aroma was incredible, as were the layers of texture and concentration. Certainly one of the better wines we've had at any Food Night. There was actually a great article in the New York Times this week about Ridge, and the Monte Bello in particular. You can imagine hard time I had convincing them to run it in conjunction with this post. Amazing that this little blog has gotten so much pull in such a short period of time, no?! In any case, I highly encourage you to check out the article.

When Tom extracted the unmistakably Ridge labeled bottle from the paper bag that had been concealing it during our blind tasting... many loud "OHHHHHs!!!!" were heard, many fists bumped, and chants of "We are not worthy!" filled the air. So many of us had been wanting to try this bottle for some time. A dream had been realized. Because that is what we do at Food Night. We make dreams... come true.*

* If your dreams happen to involve drinking great wine, that is. If you dream bigger than that, we probably cannot help you. Thanks for understanding.

Moving on, the SILVER MEDAL goes to.........

The 2006 Clos Des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape! The first (and last, prior to Food Night) Clos Des Papes I had was a the 1998 vintage at the old La Belle Vie in Stillwater. My wine knowledge at the time couldn't have filled a flea's bathtub, but I knew enough to say... wow... that's good. Fast forward several years, and Clos Des Papes is making even BETTER wine now, so says Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, and others who "know". And while it was absolutely fantastic, I think Tyler captured it accurately when he mentioned we probably did not max out this bottle's potential. It was decanted OVERNIGHT in TWO separate decanters for maximum aeration. Rich, decadent, and ripe, I'm really glad there are three left in my cellar. We'll break it out again for a Food Night in 2015.

And finally... rounding out the medal stand with the BRONZE is...

The 2001 Calera Selleck! If you know anything about the Food Night crew, you know we are pretty obsessed with Calera wines. The 2001 Selleck is what started that obsession. Perfume? Check. Bright acidity? Check. Gobs of Asian spice and other "non-fruit" aromas? All present and accounted for. Amazing stuff the Calera.

Personally, I really loved the Tirant Priorat too. I actually gave it the Silver on my ballot. Fantastically structured, with awesome aromas of asphalt and rich tobacco and smoke. Plus, check out the hand written bottle numbers! How cool is that?! Very classy.

And speaking of labels, how regal are these Chatty labels...

In the middle is the 2000 Vieux Télégraphe. That stuff (as Tim commented on) was indeed fantastic. I think it had the most terroir (ter-whah) of any wine of the night. You could smell and taste the soil the grapes were grown in, and the musty funky air of the cave that the wine was aged in.* The Clos Des Papes even goes so far as to print the word "TERROIR" right on the label! (Check out the picture below if you don't believe me). Above on the right was the 2000 Vatican Sixtine, and unfortunately it had a definite hint of TCA (or, it was slightly "corked"). It wasn't as prevalent on the palate, but once that smell is in my head, I have a hard time getting past it. A shame too, as the 2001 Sixtine was one of the best Chateauneufs I've ever had, so I was really looking forward to trying the 2000.

* I have no idea if it was stored in a cave, but it sure wouldn't surprise me.

Rounding out the wine summary, was a 2004 Manzone Barolo, which is a wine I've had twice before. First time was the 2001 vintage, and at the time, it was the best Barolo I'd ever had. I distinctly remember it's leathery bouquet and wonderfully acidic structure. The second time was the 2004, and I decanted it for hours and hours, but was unable to extract it from it's youth. That seems to be a pattern for young Barolos. Sometimes you can give a young powerful wine some air and time in the decanter, and it will reveal itself to you. Not so, the Barolo. It is the most stubborn wine I've come across in that regard; it seems there is simply no substitute for bottle age with Barolo. That isn't to say the 2004 Manzone wasn't enjoyable - it certainly was, and it will surely be a gem in another 5+ years. But like the Clos Des Papes, another wine we opened before it's time.

And now, sadly, I must wrap up this riveting post on the wines of the Valentine's Food Night. I could go on, but, A) it's almost St. Patrick's Day, and B). I need to save my energy for detailing the food of Food Night. And as you might imagine... there was a lot of pretty deece (and this time, unique) food to detail.

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