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FOOD, WINE & FRIENDS Page 215

On a Friday night in January of 2012, I was going to meet my pal Luca for dinner in San Francisco.

But Luca had hosted Famous Wine Celebrity Sommelier Rajat Parr in Piemonte for a Bacchanal of Barolo.
"When you're in San Francisco, give me a shout." Parr told Luca and so contacts were made.

I found myself swimming in deep waters with a bunch of luminaries, so I was surely the dim bulb in this evening's chandelier.

Luca and I arrived at a busy, bustling bar scene at RN 74, not sure what was on tap for the evening.

Soon, Mr. Parr made his appearance and brought a nice bottle of bubbly to launch the festivities.

RN 74, named for the Route National road which winds through Burgundy, is a famous gem in the necklace of Chef Michael Mina and Parr is heralded as its wine director/sommelier/vinous archeologist and enological philatelist.

The place has a tremendous array of wines by the glass...

Waiters, runners, bartenders and other staffers are constantly on the run.

We began our extravaganza with a bottle of Champagne by Cedric Bouchard.

This fellow founded his own little Champagne company in the year 2000 and he vinifies and bottles Champagnes from single vineyard sites.
Quantities are tiny and his wines have character and style.

A few moments later we were joined by another Famous Sommelier, Nicole Burke.
She's currently affiliated with Town Hall.

Parr, who's not kept sufficiently busy (apparently) by managing the encyclopedic wine lists at various Michael Mina establishments, also has his hand in the world of viticulture and winemaking with a new label called Sandhi.

Luca had yet to see my little photo book of Piemonte and he perused this album with enthusiasm as his winery, Vietti, is prominently featured.

 

Another bottle of bubbly was brought out as we'd just about drained the first one...

Vouette & Sorbee is another producer in the Aube working to change that region's reputation as a "lesser" Champagne area.  Barnard Gautherot tends something like 5 hectares of vineyards and produces three bottlings, each made by a fellow who's seriously "hands on" in terms of viticulture and cellar work.
This was another very fine glass of bubbly.


Parr then opened a bottle of his low-alcohol, low SO2 Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir.

The wine was a delight and brought back a rush of memories.  I'd been lucky enough to visit Sanford & Benedict around 1977, or so, when they were just about to release their first wines.
I recalled visiting an old lady named Mary Vigoroso whose son owned a property called Los Alamos Vineyard.  The wines from that property were remarkably stylish and I always felt the Pinot Noir she had made were really good and showed tremendous promise for Santa Barbara as a wine region.  Back in those days, there were but a handful of wineries:  Sanford & Benedict, Firestone, Zaca Mesa and Santa Barbara Winery.

The Sandhi Pinot from 2010 showed the same particular aromas of fruit...a bit of dark cherry, some under-bush or forest floor characters.  I'm not sure it will be a wine for extended cellaring, but there are enjoyable elements at this stage.

As we swirled and sniffed the Sandhi Pinot, others in the bar area were busy contemplating what cherry to pluck off the RN 74 "tree."

But the bar serves its share of cocktails, too.
This is where the question "What's shakin'?" comes from, apparently.

 

Then another Eno-Celebrity appeared...
and he was shaken to run into Luca Currado.

"Shanken, not Stirred" :  James Suckling.


L-R:  James Suckling, Rajat Parr, Nicole Burke and Luca Currado.

*****

And then another luminary appeared...

Gregorio Santo Chiaro of K&L fame.
*****

I think someone ask The Critic to explain what his "point" was as I snapped this photo.

Having heard Mr. Suckling making his points (all 95 of them, I think), it was time for us to hoof it over to the Ferry Building as Rajat had reservations...

And soon we entered The Slanted Door.

We were joined by one of Raj's RN-74 colleagues, a young sommelier named Taylor.
His associates Fonseca and Graham were, apparently, on duty and unable to join us.

As we waited for a table, bar manager Erik Adkins set about making some cocktails for us.


A whole lot of shaking going on...


Pierre Moncuit Champagne to top off these cocktails!  Wow...talk about decadent!!!

Now at the table, we perused the menu and Raj checked out the wine list.
I brought a special "mystery" bottle and Raj dragged along a bottle of Burgundy from Luca's birth year...

Raj then had a chat with Slanted Door Sommelier Hayley Johnson.

...and soon The Say Hay Kid brought a nice bottle of Christoffel's 1998 Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese to open The Door.

Raj ordered just about one of everything on the menu.

The Christoffel Spatlese from 1998 was amazingly youthful and beautifully floral and complex.

Then Ms. Say Hay brought out my mystery bottle...

A bottle of Vietti Nascetta!


Actually, though, Vietti doesn't make Nascetta.  They produce a lovely Arneis, though.

But a blogger who claims to be a bit of an expert with respect to Piemontese wines, recently posted he thought Vietti made one of the best Nascetta wines he'd tasted.

So...what better to bring to our Friday night event than a bottle of Vietti Nascetta?!


Raj pegged the Mystery Bottle as a "New World Chardonnay."
And he was correct.




Luca was having trouble deciphering the label on the bottle of German wine...
Raj did some translating...

Meanwhile, there was nothing lost in the translation of this fantastic bowl of Won Ton Soup.

The won tons are so savory and delicious...and they matched so nicely with the Riesling!


The Dungeness Crab was outstanding!


And the Donnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Kabinett from the 2009 was a delight...it's really young, but had good fruit, some stony, floral tones and great acidity to balance the slight sweetness of the Riesling and the savory, oily character of the fried crab.

There was still more food coming and we had some red wines to drink...



Hayley then pulled the cork and poured the first red wine...a Pousse d'Or 1969 Santenay...

...Clos Tavannes from Luca's birth year.

The color was light cherry red and the aromas and bouquet were amazing.  The Clos des Tavannes is little more than a 5 hectare parcel, rather close to Chassagne-Montrachet.  The wine, though, was a bit reminiscent of Volnay in its light color and yet intensely fragrant and complex Pinot Noir character.
It was remarkably aromatic and unmistakable as a noble Burgundy wine.
And at 42+ years of age, this wine was beautifully youthful and lively.
A big "Merci, Monsieur" to Mr. Parr for sharing this splendid bottle.

 

What can be more suited to a great plate of lamb than a really fine bottle of Syrah?

So, soon Hayley was at our table with a decanter full of a delicious Cornas.


The 2004 vintage was a thrilling bottle of wine.  It was a superb counterpoint, too, to the Santenay.
Both wines had great character of their terroir...and it was a delightful bottle of Syrah.
The color was fairly deep and displayed beautiful spice and red berry notes.  It's a young, fairly lean wine with some muscle...and it was stellar with the meats.

As the evening madness was winding down, Hayley was able to sit down for a moment and enjoy a sip with us.

And then, as we'd finished this wonderful marathon of food (and wine), a number of desserts arrived at the table!

And so we "adjourned the meeting" and made our way back to Mission Street...

It was a clear and fairly mild evening in San Francisco.

There was some sort of little rocket ship or large cocktail shaker on display along the Embarcadero...

Luca, meanwhile, thought to see about taking the street car to Fisherman's Wharf...

And so in the bright lights of the big city, we ambled along Mission Street back to RN 74.

Many thanks to Rajat Parr for hosting such a grand and memorable evening.

Thanks, too, to Luca, Taylor and Hayley.

 

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