Food, Wine & Friends-Page 153
AN EVENING WITH
October 29, 2008
I've been a fan of Alice Feiring's for some
time. She writes a wonderfully opinionated blog and is a champion of
"honest" wines...wines which offer diversity from vintage to
vintage; wines which offer character and 'soul.' Alice is willing to
challenge those who think wine appreciation can be distilled into a rather
sterile numerical score.
Knowing she was coming to the west coast for some research for her various
writing projects (her blog, her New York Times blog, a blogger's conference and promoting her terrific
book, "The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved The World from
Parkerization), I extended and invitation for dinner.
And so, following a "meet & greet" event at Biondivino in The
City, Alice, winemaker Kevin Hamel (Hamel Wines, Pellegrini Family/Olivet Lane
winery) and Ceri Smith (owner of Biondivino) trekked to Burlingame for vittles
and vino. We were joined by wine broker/wine geek Davoe Price.
We began the festivities with a bottle of 2003 by Bollinger, a
Champagne from a vintage of extremes.
The Bollinger showed nice fruit more than their normal "biscuity" or
toasty elements. It's not a bubbly of finesse, but was still very good.
We then sat down at the dinner table and commenced with a salad.
White and green asparagus, blanched, and served with some endive and baby
Four of the five salads was adorned with some pancetta.
We opened a bottle of Movia Sauvignon, a famed producer in Slovenia.
The Movia Sauvignon has a lovely fragrance hinting at
vegetal/herbal/green. There's a streak of a stony element, too. It
was delicious with the salad and a nice counterpoint to the slightly salty tang
of the pancetta.
The Feisty Feiring.
The second course was a risotto made with mushrooms: fresh Porcini,
chanterelles and portabellas, along with some dried porcini and a bit of Porcini
Mushroom Cream from Alba, Italy. I was impressed when Ceri remarked
"Oh, I smell truffles!" as I was starting to plate the risotto.
But first I had to decant an old bottle of Barolo.
1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva
What a perfume!
Carnaroli rice, by the way.
The Conterno Barolo was the wine of the night. This was a bottle given to
me by Giovanni Conterno many years ago.
I had first visited the winery in the very early 1980s (and was offered a taste
out of tank of the 1970 vintage Monfortino Barolo!) and would stop by when I was
in the Langhe. He was a delightful soul and I've long been a fan of his
wines. Conterno's son Roberto continues in the grand tradition of his
father, making classic Piemontese wines.
The 1971 was a wine which started impressively and got better. Deep, heady
perfumes with nuances of earthy, mushroomy tones...
Gilding the lily was the jar of truffle salt on the table. I don't add but
a pinch of salt as I'm preparing the risotto and a few sprinkles of this truffle
salt adds some vitality to the dish and balances it.
Ceri Smith keeps her eye on the wine.
Alice and winemaker Kevin Hamel.
To freshen the palate, we had a little intermezzo of an ice I prepared.
Alice had recently inquired if we had any Gamay wines in the shop, so I made the
sorbet from an old vine Gamay from a little vineyard in Regnie owned by Jackie
This is ridiculously simple and amazingly refreshing.
The main plate was salmon cooked in parchment paper on a bed of vegetable
confetti: diced yellow and green zucchini, a red pepper, a green pepper
and a Serrano chili pepper. For good measure, I tossed in a bit of saffron and some fresh thyme,
We had two vintages of Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir. This is a special
wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vines were originally planted by
Martin Ray, who obtained budwood from Paul Masson. It's thought Masson got
his cuttings from Louis Latour in Burgundy.
We had the 1990 and 1994 vintages.
The 1990 was elegant, refined and leaning in the direction of Burgundy, while
the 1994 was a riper, oak-dominated wine. The 1990 danced rings around its
sibling and both wines were vital and reasonably vibrant. What a delight to revisit these and
to find the 1990 was as complex as it was.
We then offered a few locally-produced cheeses and a couple of
Spanish cheeses to pair with an old, dusty bottle of Rioja.
R. López de Heredia 1954 Viña Tondonia.
This was a very fine bottle. Earthy, almost loamy, hints of cherry or,
more accurately, dried cherry tones...
The wine is nicely acidic and mildly tannic (still)...and there's an elegance or
refinement which is remarkable.
Alice has an entire chapter on Spain and the López de Heredia wines in her
book, so opening a bottle of wine from such a venerable vintage was a delight
and a nice touch of history.
A couple of 1954s and a 1955.
We then proceeded to something "completely different," dessert.
Pears poached in Syrah with a dash of cinnamon accompanied by a homemade vanilla
ice cream infused, also, with cinnamon.
We had a lovely Italian sweet wine with dessert...
Years ago Elda Felluga gave me a bottle of her family's 1988 Picolit.
This is a rare sweet wine from Friuli. The vine doesn't set a large crop
and the fruit is picked late in the season. I believe they dry at least a
portion of the fruit to further enhance the resulting wine.
Picolit is a rare wine and can be a glorious 'nectar.'
This wine was golden/amber in color. Notes of dried figs, raisins and
hints of orange peel came through nicely on the nose and palate.
Suddenly we had a look at the clock...
We had spent a glorious evening (and now, part of the morning)
at the dinner table with much eno-banter and conviviality.
What a splendid soirée!!!
We sent Alice home with a copy of Bob Gorman's book, a superb snapshot of the
California wine scene before spoofulation was so common.
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