Food, Wine & Friends Page 244
The world famous Eno-Celebrity, Dr. Fabiana Bracco Bosca, was
in town briefly to promote wines from Anima Negra from Spain's Mallorca as well
as Uruguay's Finca Narbona.
We booked a table at San Francisco's remarkable NOPA restaurant and a group of 4
of us had a terrific meal with some interesting wines.
I had some bottles in my bag, but we first took a look at the wine list and immediately
ordered a bottle of the idiosyncratic "Twenty Five Reasons" Sauvignon
Blanc, a mildly fizzy white wine from Mendocino.
Our server brought a little Amuse Bouche to start the festivities...
This was a ripe Muscat grape on a little dab of Yogurt which was to be dipped in
Maldon Sea Salt.
The Twenty Five Reasons wine is comprised of several vintages of Sauvignon
Blanc, including the partially-fermented 2012 vintage which contributes the
fizzy character to the wine. The spent yeast, then, forms a sediment which
makes the wine a bit cloudy or hazy.
This is not a wine for the average wine consumer...it's for adventuresome souls
who don't mind that the wine is not crystal clear in the glass.
The first pours show a bit more of the Sauvignon Blanc character and then the
flavors change as the sediment gets sloshed around in the bottle, showing an
almost salty tang at the end.
We had a bowl of mixed olives which seemed to have an oil infused with a touch
of orange or orange peel...this was delicious with the Twenty Five Reasons, but
even better was the plate of "Little Fried Fish."
We then opened a bottle of Jim and Beth Summer's Napa Valley
...and the young Fabulosa began swirling the wine in her glass...
Fiorela was intrigued by this wine, too.
"When the rivulets of wine fall from the sides of the glass, do you call
them 'tears' or 'legs'." asked Fabiana.
"If you call them 'tears,' then you are most likely a nostalgic
person. If you call them 'legs,' then you are a romantic
individual." she explained.
"I call them both legs and tears...I guess I'm nostalgic
(since I have the memory of an elephant) and certainly I'm a hopeless
The Charbono grape is said to be the Italian (and Argentinean)
variety known as Bonarda...It was a stellar bottle, showing lots of dark
blackberry and blueberry fruit notes with an underlying hint of violets. I
had chilled the bottle to cellar temperature and this was beautifully flashy on
the palate, showing nicely as a prelude to our first courses.
Grilled Calamari, Potatoes, Olives, Capers and Harissa A¤oli...a
beautiful plate with flavorful food and an interesting combination.
Fiorela was intrigued by the tomato salad...
Fabien was intrigued by the wines and cuisine and soon had his "mobile
device" out to take a few snapshots and make a few notes.
I then opened a 2001 Dehlinger Pinot Noir from Sonoma's Russian River Valley.
...and Fabulosa whipped out her smart-phone (since she's a Smart Lady) and took
It was another wine of intrigue for Fiorela.
We finished our appetizer courses and had time to focus on the
Dehlinger Pinot and then another old bottle...
...a 1984 Napa Valley Cabernet from Forman.
Fiorela examined the old cork, which was thoroughly wine-saturated.
The 2001 Dehlinger was a bit on the shy side of the spectrum, but after a half
an hour, it began to show nicely...
We opened a 1984 Forman Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley...a good example
of Napa Valley grape growing in the early 1980s by someone not worried about
making a huge 'fruit bomb.' In fact, the alcohol listed on the label was a
mere 13%, much lower than today's muscular California red wines.
The cork in the Forman bottle was totally saturated and the level of fill of
that bottle was about mid to low-shoulder level. It was a bottle that most
people would not risk buying at this stage.
Fabien has a good sniff of the Cabernet...
...and this was intoxicatingly good!
Beautifully earthy and showing some cigar-box
notes...loamy...elegant...flavorful all across the palate...just a bare hint of
Fabiana was wowed by the 1984 Forman Cabernet. This wine
started out nicely, but like many old or venerable wines, it needed a bit of
aeration to allow it to shine.
And the wine was good, too!
Then it was time for one final bottle to be opened...
A 2001 Chateau Montelena Cabernet from the Montelena Estate.
I asked everyone to evaluate the wine and guess the number of "Points"
this wine received from a journal such as The Wine Spectator.
More swirling, sniffing and sipping ensured...and finally, the consensus was the
Montelena probably got a score of 92 to 96 points.
But, in fact, The Wine Spectator's California wine guru
awarded this wine a mere 69 points, finding it to be faulty and flawed.
As we have seen on a number of occasions over the past decade, the supposed flaw
in the wine is at such a low intensity, virtually nobody, save for The Wine
Spectator, is sensitive to it.
And while they were hugely critical of the 2001 Montelena, most people we know
have enjoyed it immensely and praised it highly!
Fiorela, apparently, is checking "on line" to see how someone could
give the wine such a low score.
Or she was looking to see how the Old Boys fared against Champagnat in Rugby in
Uruguay...turns out they won 10 to 0 in a rain-shortened match and they still
lead the Primera Division.
Fiorela ordered a NOPA Burger:
Grass Fed Hamburger, Pickled Onions and French Fries
Fabien opted for NOPA's Famous Rotisserie Chicken.
Rotisserie Chicken, Watermelon, Hazelnuts, Feta and Peppercress...
Fiorela made special note of the Montelena Cabernet.
"I've never had a 69 point wine which tasted so good!" she explained.
Fabiana kept swirling the wine, looking for the elusive fatal flaw.
We'd finished our main plates and were enjoying the wines and camaraderie at the
I thought I might go snap a few quick photos of the kitchen crew at NOPA.
And the "padron" was busy all night patrolling the
dining room and pitching in where needed...
I spied a chalkboard with some status updates and info for the
NOPA team members...
Customers want to know where their food comes from...In fact, Fabien was
impressed to learn the "best chicken in the world" which he had just
enjoyed came from a farm a few miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County.
Another NOPA staffer was busy in their wine vault...
We ordered a few post-prandial potations...this one a Botrytized Arneis from our
friend Roberto Damonte of the Malvira winery in Piemonte.
It was a delight with the Sopaipillas with Cinnamon.
We also had a sip of the fantastic Barolo Chinato from the GD Vajra winery...a
beautifully spiced rendition of that elixir!
And to show off something local, we had a sip of Firelit, a dynamite coffee
liqueur made here in the Bay Area.
And we had a little surprise in our "magic cellar
I think the earrings replicate Premsal grapes!
It was approximately 1:00 in the morning, so we made our way
to the door to do a quick bit of sight-seeing in The City.
NOPA was still buzzing along, a full bar and but a few empty tables!
And soon we were walking back to the car in the cool San Francisco fog!
After a drive down Lombard Street, we zigged and zagged our way to Coit Tower.
And the Bay Bridge was beautifully lit up on this wonderful
The Bay Lights are designed by artist Leo Villareal...
To see the lights in action...CLICK
And we ambled back to the car, seeing our banner yet waving...
We had a memorable evening and it was a joy to hang out with The Three Fs!
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