Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stag's Leap and the "Say Fay" Kid

What comes to mind when you think of the word "Fay"? For me, it's Fay Vincent, former commissioner of baseball. Why? I have no idea. For you, perhaps it is Irish Dancing Shoes. Or weirder better yet, perhaps you enjoy raising fairies.* Or perhaps you remember that stellar ballplayer for the Giants back in the 1950's and 60's called the "Say Fay Kid".**

* I realize that there is a whole wide world out there of unique and different and worthwhile interests that don't necessarily intersect with mine. But if you are raising fairies online, you have moved in from the suburbs and right into downtown Weirdville.

** I know, it's Say Hey Kid. Thanks.

In any event, my word association with "Fay" has taken a DRAMATIC shift, thanks to the recently completed Food Night, as you soon shall see.

We had a nice crowd of 6 at Food Night this time, which is my personal favorite number for a dinner party. Not that I don't enjoy EIGHT (don't worry, no links to 80's TV shows this time), or five, or ten, or four. But six* really is where a proper dinner party's bread is buttered (pun intended). In addition to Food Night regulars Tom and Alex, the fabulous duo of James and Cynthia were in attendance this go round. In addition to being wonderful guests and food/wine appreciators, James is quite adept at snapping a photo or two, so I asked him if he would like to bring his new Leica to aid us in documenting the evening. Thankfully for all involved, he obliged.

* Sorry. I just couldn't resist. The Six Million Dollar Man. A bionic man... with an eye with a 20:1 zoom lens, two artificial... excuse me... bionic legs enabling him to run at 60mph. A bionic arm "with the equivalent strength of a bulldozer". And obviously the arm contains a Geiger Counter. I mean, that's so obvious I almost didn't even bother to mention it, of course the arm has a Geiger Counter, of COURSE! You may think I'm making this up, but, I'm not. This is a show that happened. It actually happened, and was very popular. Hell I remember watching reruns and enjoying the heck out of it as a kid. Maybe James Cameron should do a remake of it as a 3+ hour movie where Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Lee Major's role, is sent back from the future to kill Sarah Connor, crashes on his way back, and doctors rebuild him into the Bionic man (complete with Geiger Counter Arm), who then goes on to save the world from nuclear annihilation at the hands of Crazy-Ruthless-Dictator-X. Since he has a Geiger Counter in his arm and all. I think this idea may have legs.... real ones.

This Perfect Storm of guests, cameras, technology and of course... food and wine... culminated in an incredibly enjoyable and stunningly photographed Food Night!! Yes, I snapped a few clunkers myself, but James' shots are absolutely incredible in my humble opinion. But let's start by revealing the wine list at Food Night, where we pour EVERYTHING by the glass, and every bottle in the cellar is fair game*.

* Remind me to rant about "Wine Bars" and wine lists later. I mean, are you really a Wine Bar if you pour wine that retails for $5/bottle by the glass? But later, remind me later.

United States
L'Aventure Estate Cuvée

Stag's Leap Cellars, Fay Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon

Perrier-Jouët, Fleur de Champagne, Brut Rosé

Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape

Clos Des Papes, Chateauneuf du Pape

Chateau Clerc Milon, Bordeaux, Pauillac

Domaine Leroy, Côtes de Beaune-Villages

Montes, Rosé of Syrah

Let's hand out the awards, shall we? The Gold Medal winning wine of the night, by a LONG shot, destroying all comers like a bully on a playground, went to...

The 1999 Stag's Leap Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon! This gem was brought to Food Night by James and Cynthia, and easily secured the spot atop the podium. Not to shabby considering a couple of top flight Chateauneufs were in play, not to mention a measly little 98 point wine from Paso Robles. We tasted this one blind, and thought it was older (late 90's, early 2000's) high end Supertuscan. Tom guessed the 1999 Guado al Tosso. I thought it could be something like Solia.

The wine itself was very "cab" like, but most of us felt it had an Old World treatment about it. There was layer after layer of flavor and texture, and the juice absolutely coated the glass with its fleshy, inky goodness when swirled. This was top notch stuff. A real treat to add to the tasting database. And more enjoyable than raising fairies.

Next, the Silver Medal went to...

2002 Chateau Clerc Milon Bordeaux, Pauillac! That's it there in the middle. Another wine we tasted blind, Tom thought it was California or Washington Syrah. And I actually came pretty close with a guess of 2005 Pauillac. I must have smelled it 10 times before I finally locked into the trademark 'pencil lead' characteristic wines from this region are known for. Really cool aromatics, including smoke and leather poured out of the glass. Very Bordeaux-like on the palate, refined, and not overly tannic. A fabulous wine courtesy of Alex.

And finally, the Bronze went to...

The 1998 Clos Des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape! This is a bottle I pulled out of the cellar for Food Night. Normally the deal is, I supply the food, and other peeps bring the wine. But given the guest list... I had to call a little audible. Quick bit of background on this bottle... years ago, probably 2001 or 2002, James and I were playing golf out in Stillwater somewhere. Afterwards, we strolled into town to eat at La Belle Vie, which at the time was still in Stillwater. We sat in the back, where Cynthia joined us, and we ordered a bottle of this 1998 CDP. At the time, I had pretty limited exposure to wines of that caliber, and this wine completely floored me. So shortly thereafter I went out and bought a bottle for my cellar*, and ever since I've been searching for the right occasion to open it. This Food Night was clearly the perfect occasion.

*My "cellar" at the time consisted of a cardboard box in a closet.

There is a great saying that you don't have to search for an occasion to break out a special bottle of wine. The wine IS the occasion. And while I'm not saying that this bottle was some otherworldly, life-changing wine, it represented an introduction into the world of fine wine for me. The occasion and the wine intersected at the perfect crossroads on Food Night. Tasted blind, most thought it was older Chianti. And honestly, when I opened the bottle before people arrived, and tasted it... I KNEW someone would think it was older Chianti, it had that exact color and aroma of fine Chianti. But Tom... um, well.... Tom gave it some thought.... then all of a sudden said....

"I'm gonna guess 1998 Chateauneuf." BANG. Bullseye! Pretty good, Tom. Pretty, pretty, pretty good. (That's actually Tom and a couple DEECE bottles at a tasting at the store, not at Food Night. Whatever.)

The rest of the wines were as strong a supporting cast as we've had at Food Night. The L'Aventure Estate Cuvee was rich, pure and another tooth staining powerhouse. The Beaucastel was very representative of that producer's consistency. But would you look at the bubbles that Alex brought....

Are you kidding me??!?? Look at the color of that stuff! And look at the BOTTLE... absolutely gorgeous. This vintage Champagne is certainly one of the most interesting wines I've ever had. Apparently it was stored in a hot Arizona garage for a spell, which made how good it still was all the more remarkable. And while it may have been starting to ease into the twilight of its life, it was a massively cool tasting experience. Almondy. Appropriately dry, but not cloyingly so. And soooooooo food friendly. I thought it was absolutely brilliant with the first course of....... well, you'll just have to tune in next time to see what we had first. Thought I was gonna give it up, didn't you.

And one more wine I have to make mention of is... the Leroy*. Ahhhhhh the Leroy. With the end of another Food Night comes... the morning after. As in, dishes. As in, why didn't I clean up a little more the night before? In an effort to delay that not-so-great-feeling as long as possible, as the proceedings were winding down I asked if anyone would like to open one more bottle. And I had just the bottle to open...

*One thing you'll soon come to understand if you attend Food Night (which, by they way, I hope each of you do at some point...), is that we like to have a little fun with pronunciation. Leroy is pronounced "Leh-WAH". But, obviously, we like to call it "LEE-roy". I mean, that much should be clear. Another thing you'll realize is that, we love us some Leroy wines. I would say Calera and Domaine Leroy are Food Night's favorite producers. Put it this way, I have gotten voicemail at 4am telling me how utterly profound a Leroy that was CURRENTLY being consumed was. Yeah, it's like that.

We like to talk at Food Night about when a wine gets to a certain quality, a certain abstract level of "goodness", or "deeceness" if you prefer, it almost becomes...... some other thing. As in it's almost not wine anymore, but of course it IS still just fermented grape juice, but yet it is so NOT just fermented grape juice. Does this make sense? It's like a Ferrari is a car, and so is a Chevy Chevette, but it's not like you'd go around talking about them in the same sentence. Some of the best, most spirited and enjoyable conversations at Food Night revolve around this concept that once a wine gets to a certain level of quality... is it wrong to clutter the experience with (gasp!) food? It's a subjective issue to be sure, but I've had two wines from Domaine Leroy that fall into this "some other thing" category, and never once while I was drinking those bottles did I think "Wow, I wish I had something to munch on with this unbelievable beverage."

I know that picture is a little dark. Ok maybe a LOT dark. But it actually captures the cloudy nature of the color of the wine. It's almost "emulsified" with the particulate matter in the wine. I can remember the smell and the texture of the wine perfectly just by looking at that picture.

To be sure, this particular wine from Domaine Leroy we had at the conclusion of Food Night was not one of those "some other thing" wines. It is basically the lowest level wine that Leroy produces, made with bought Pinot Noir juice, not juice from grapes that were grown by Leroy. But what's so cool about this 1996 Domaine Leroy Cotes du Beaune Villages is that... you can tell it's a Leroy. Of course it has the FILTHY dirty foil, the saturated cork, the bottle that began leaking prior to uncorking. But most importantly, in the nose and on the pallate, this little baby Leroy says "Hey, I'm something special... stop what you are doing, and ponder me for a moment."

And so we did. On the deck, after a hard rain, and with a distinct chill in the air, we donned our fleeces while we sat and enjoyed simple conversation over that bottle of Leroy.

Next up; The Food posts from the "A MidSpring Night's Dream" Food Night, complete with uber-deece photos. See you back here shortly.

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