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Food Wine & Friends Page 296  June 2017

 

We were disappointed that our usual delegation of wine judges from overseas was unable to come to San Francisco this year for the 37th Annual San Francisco International Wine Competition judging.

The past couple of years, everyone flies in two days before the wine judging and we host a little "wine & food marathon."  These have started at 7pm and ended between 2 and 3 in the morning!

This year one of our friends was obliged to fly in just the afternoon prior to the SF International and so we hosted a slightly less-ambitious soirée.
We invited a few other wine judges to join this little evening of eating and drinking.


The table was set and we were delighted when everyone arrived.

 

We opened a magnum of a very fine French Champagne and Rowald Hepp, of Schloss Vollrads in  Germany's Rheingau region, took care of pouring this.


Jim Trezise is President of WineAmerica.org.
Mike Tadich is the Italian Wine Guru at Breakthrough Beverage in Nevada.
Rowald Hepp, as already mentioned, comes from Germany's Schloss Vollrads winery/restaurant in the Rheingau.
Jim McMahon is a wine writer and wine educator from Australia and is affiliated with Charles Sturt University,  the University of Adelaide, the Orange Agricultural College at the University of Sydney and the Australian College of Wine in Melbourne.

Also joining us is Sonoma County's longtime wine gadfly, Dan Berger.

Dan writes a syndicated wine column which appears in journals all over the country, plus his own "Vintage Experiences" newsletter.

We put a few little nibbles on the table to accompany the magnum of Marie Courtin "Efflorescence" Champagne.

I had made, for the first time, a small batch of Guacamole to pair with some grilled shrimp.

It was actually simple.  Two large avocados (not too soft, not too hard), fresh lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro, some minced garlic, ground cumin and a bit of chili powder.

I had the idea of grilling some shrimp (marinated in garlic and olive oil) and slathering the avocado mash onto some slices of a sweet baguette.


We were, by the way, waiting for our dear friend Dr. Valery Uhl to arrive.  She had a busy day with treating patients in the East Bay, but she arrived before the Champagne was gone.

Rowald volunteered to help, so we put him to work opening a couple of bottles of Riesling from Alsace.


Dan Berger brought an ancient bottle of Gewürztraminer from Napa Valley's Stony Hill Winery...so we let him loose to open that venerable 1977 California wine.



We invited everyone to the table..."Zu tisch, bitte" and they discovered a little surprise waiting for them.

Everyone had a nice apron as a souvenir of our little evening together.

Dan, meanwhile, got back to his wrestling match with the 1977 Stony Hill.

He finally prevailed and then had a sniff and a taste.

"It's old," he said.


"Well, it's a really nice California Sherry."
And it was...brown in color and quite nutty and oxidized, but certainly drinkable with almonds and olives.

Back in the kitchen I prepared the Seafood Salads.

Smoked Salmon and Smoked Trout...embellished with a bit of Salmon Roe.

The two Rieslings from Alsace were seriously fine.

The Hugel was from 2007 and it's a bit of a first for them.  They had not been fans of selling single-vineyard wines and but they decided to offer a site-specific wine from the grand cru Schoenenbourg.
It's called Schoelhammer and they produced less than 5000 bottles.
This displayed notes of lime and green apples...beautifully floral, classic Riesling.
They bottled it young and gave it substantial bottle aging before release.  Kudos to Hugel for that.
The wine was exceptional with the smoked fish.

Trimbach's Clos Ste. Hune Riesling was from the 2006 vintage.  We had ordered the 2007 which the big liquor distributor has in stock, but they still had some 2006, so they shipped that instead.
Rowald explained that 2007 was an "easy" vintage to produce great wine, while 2006 required a bit of skill and a bit of luck.  Fortunately Trimbach excels in skill and they made their own luck.
"If you picked before it rained in 2006," Rowald told the group, "you could make very good wine.  But if your grapes were not ready and you waited, it rained and you were out of luck."
This wine was exceptional. It displayed notes of lime, quince and some minerally, stony tones.  Dry and complete.
If you search for numerical scores for the Trimbach, for example, you'll see numbers in the low 90s.
This is a pity, but it's what happens when you try to "enjoy" a profound bottle of wine without a good food pairing.
The wines were both in the category of "exceptional," so why debate whether it's worthy of 91 to 99 points?  In the company of good friends and this lovely smoked fish, it was worthy of 110 points.

Rowald then took care of opening the next two bottles, a pair of special Pinot Bianco-based whites from the Cantina Terlano in Italy's Alto Adige region.

I was busy preparing the Crab Cake mixture...sautéed onions, chopped parsley, some mustard, smoked Paprika and then some whisked eggs and a small amount of bread crumbs to bind things together.
I had about a pound and a half of fresh Dungeness Crab meat.
Once mixed, I grabbed a handful and made "patties" of this.

Rowald observed this process and astutely commented:
"It's a good thing you have big hands!"

I placed these in a bowl of white flour before setting them into the frying pans...


I've typically served these on a plate "naked" with a lemon and some red pepper diamonds...
This time I prepared a salad of arugula and some shaved fennel with a fine dice of red peppers.
Added to the mix were some small bits of fresh grapefruit (which looked like cured salmon in the little plastic bag I'd kept them in).
I made a vinaigrette using our late Uncle Bob's homemade vinegar and a few drops of grapefruit juice, along with some grated grapefruit peel.

The Terlaner I is only the second vintage made.  It's 90% Pinot Bianco, 7% Chardonnay and 3% Sauvignon Blanc.  They used 30 hectoliter wood casks for the fermentation and then gave the wine 12 months in wooden barrels.  Full malolactic, too.
Very showy white wine!
This had some creamy notes and was a medium-full bodied dry white.  You might notice an influence of the oak, but it's not taking center stage.  The wine, in fact, may be a bit too young at this stage.

The Nova Domus was from 2014.  They been making this wonderful wine since 1990.  It's based on Pinot Bianco with 30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc.
It's a very good bottle, though slightly over-shadowed by the Terlaner 1.

Both, though, paired handsomely with the Dungeness Crab.

We handed Mike the corkscrew and he got busy opening some red wines he'd contributed to the meal.

Yes, that's a 1984 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.

While Mike dealt with the bottles, I was busy serving up an Orange Sorbet which I added a tiny amount of fresh mint...



Now that everyone's palate was refreshed, it was time to serve the main course.


We had some grilled steaks paired with these little oven-roasted potatoes and some braised vegetables (Artichokes, Romano beans, Zucchini, Eggplant and Mushrooms).


Beef.

It's what's for dinner.



We passed the platter and bowls around...

And of course, another toast was in order.
 

Mike also provided a magnum of a terrific Barolo.
 
1998 PAOLO SCAVINO
Rocche dell'Annuziata
Riserva

This was a wonderful bottle of wine!
It's right in that phase of development where it's showing the complexity of heading towards maturity, yet it's still mildly tannic and a bit youthful.  I found lots of black licorice notes and spicy tones...Very good.



 

For dessert Dan Berger brought along a 1983 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Auslese
 
The Fritz Haag was nice acidic and balanced...mildly honeyed and certainly mature.

 

And Rowald had brought along a nice bottle last year which we opened on this occasion.

The Vollrads Riesling was excellent...just at a fine moment for enjoying it now...sweet fruits, notes of peaches, apricots and ripe melons.


At this stage, mindful of the clock, we adjourned the proceedings so everyone could get a good night's rest and be prepared for the start of the San Francisco International Wine Competition judging.

Thanks everyone for participating, contributing and helping!

 

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