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
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
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
Luca had yet to see my little photo book of Piemonte and he
perused this album with enthusiasm as his winery, Vietti, is prominently
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
As we swirled and sniffed the Sandhi Pinot,
others in the bar area were busy contemplating what cherry to pluck off the RN
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
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
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
...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
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
So...what better to bring to our Friday night event than a bottle of Vietti
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
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
...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
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
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
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
Thanks, too, to Luca, Taylor and Hayley.
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