. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Monday Dinner

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Monday Dinner

Monday is my only day off during the week, so I use it to get together with friends and make new ones, at a more decent hour than I am usually able (I close late in the evening every other day of the week). This past Monday was a little different because my sister Beatrice was behind the pots and pans and the guests were all very serious wine lovers and experts. It was also my first opportunity to meet in person with Alice Feiring (up until Monday, we just exchanged emails). Before I continue with my chronicles of the evening, I have to apologize for the absence of any pictures - I was too busy with pouring wine, opening oysters and bringing food to the table. The guests arrived around 8:00 with their bottles; Mark and his wife Carol brought two of the Prince Fiorano wines, the Malvasia 1986 and the Semillion 1990, plus a bottle that he wanted us to be tasted blind. Then Luigi showed up with an Isole Olena Oreno 2003, Piers, the Francophile, arrived with Daniel Rion Echezeau Grand Cru 2000 and a Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos 1998, then Alice with a biodynamic Jura Puffeney Arbois Poulsard 2005. Susan also showed up with a red and a white from Francois Chidaine' Clos du Breuil and Descombes Morgon Cru Beaujolais 2005. My brother in law, Julio, opened a Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 1997, and I uncorked a Refosco 1988 from Ronchi di Cialla. The guests were welcomed with some refreshing bubbles - the Godme 1999 Millesime Grand Cru. This is a small grower that gave me a lot of satisfaction on several different occasions, and it was enjoyed with some fresh oysters, carefully shucked by yours truly. I don't know why, but in addition to loving the taste and texture of oyster, but I also find pleasure in opening them up. The final aperitif was a plate of some great cheeses; Gorgonzola dolce with a little honey, some Castelrosso and a deliciously stinky Taleggio with a cream of "Amarene" (Sour Cherries), which my sister selected with the cheese monger Luigi Di Palo earlier. After sipping on champagne, we started to check the condition of the wines before we sat down. Luckily, we had no corked bottles, but one funky one (unfortunately the Fiorano Semillon wasn't in great shape - the oxidation had killed most of the bouquet) but considering the age of some of the wines we were very fortunate indeed. The dinner didn't have a theme, so I decided to just leave all the bottles on the table and set up the guests with 2 glasses. I kind of liked the lack of "discipline," leaving space to experiment with the same dish and several different wines. A big terracotta plate of pasta with tomatoes, fried eggplant and ricotta salata, a Sicilian specialty, was the first course - we started right in with the drinking as well. As I said, there was no order so I went back and forth with the same wines for the course of the entire dinner. I found the reds better fitted to the pasta; I tried the Jura first, a young Pinot Noir with very pale color, elegant and minerally. It was a bit closed, and it will benefit with some more aging in the bottle, like it benefitted from breathing in the bottle after opening. Then I tried Susan's Cru Beaujolais, which was also a good pair with the pasta - medium bodied with some fresh berries and a violet bouquet, some minerality and firm acidity. While time was passing by, and I was attacking my second plate of the delicious first course, the wines were getting better. My next choice was my Refosco, which had been opened for several hours at that point. It was incredibly young, still very vibrant with charming red berry flavors and hints of herbal spice (somewhere in between oregano and rosemary). There were no signs of aging whatsoever, which is pretty impressive for a 20 year old wine. Oreno was next - it was an 03, so a modern wine in a hot year, well done but probably lacking in complexity compared to the others. Piers's Echezeau was also from a hot year but the wine was showing layers of violet and minerality, the tone of the bouquet gave hints of the year with some ripe scents around the nose and in parts of the palate as well. Last but not least was the Le Pergole Torte 1997. Leather and cherry perfumes were bursting out of the glass and in the palate those same flavors were supported by some mature tannins, gaining in lenght and depth. Finally it was the secret bottle's turn. The wine was an old friend with a totally different attitude, a Chateau Musar 1999. None of us got the winery although Alice, Piers, Luigi and myself had had the Musar many times in past vintages. They must have changed something in the way they make wine because it didn't have any of the old characteristics that made Musar special, to tell the truth this more polished by-the-book version was not as interesting as the older ones, and that was also Piers and Alice perception. I'm just wondering why they changed - could it be because they now want to please the big critics? I don't really know but it was a bit of a disappointment. The second course consisted of 2 whole red snappers, roasted in the oven with olive oil, wine, oregano and garlic, and as side dishes we had a wonderful and tasty potato salad and some green sald with olive oil and vinegar dressing. As the night was progressing, the focus of the conversations shifted from the wine itself to the different methodologies to vinifying must. We focused on some shady practices of some producers involved in this business, and briefly talked about Mr. Parker (his wine majesty was mention when we tasted the Musar). One thing Alice said about him (which I thought was spot-on) is that Parker is a very cultured individual that loves wines, but is blissfully ignorant when he writes about them.
Going back to the wine of the night - with the red Snapper, the whites showed their best. I first tried Susan's Chenin Blanc which was slightly sweet but minerally, with some complexity. Usually sugar residues give stronger flavors to the wine but also flatten it, making it less complex. Next was the Chablis, which was vibrant and citrusy, with strong minerality showing terroir and some tropical fruit along with lemon zest. Now a different chapter needs to be opened for the Fiorano wines. I heard a lot about the story of these wines and thanks to Mark I had the chance to drink them. As I mentioned earlier, the Semillon was not in good shape being that the oxidation had overcome most of the flavors, so I focused on the Malvasia. I tried it from its initial opening to few hours in, with a final taste while I was cleaning after everybody left. I'm a bit torn in what to say about the wine, because there were several positive aspects, but there was something lacking in the wine. Alice told me that it was lacking in acidity, but my mouth was watering from the sides, which is a sign of a lower PH. She was right though - there was something missing in the middle of the palate, the backbone of the wine was weak so the still-bright fruit did not have something to hold on to. Because of that, the Fiorano was not as complex as I thought, I'd be curious to blind taste it next to a Lopez the Heredia Rioja Riserva Blanco from the 80s.
It was a great evening where some exceptional wines were opened, and, as often happens, the wines were mirrored by the great mix of people sitting at the table, so I'd like to thank all my guests for another brilliant evening.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti.

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