A great evening of wine tasting and dinner pairing with friends…
We were recently included in a fantastic wine tasting and dinner pairing with a wine group in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thank you for including our wine with your tasting and we hope you all enjoyed the tasting.
Below is the post on the WestCoastWine.net forum and blog.
My regular wine group met at our place in Charlottesville on Saturday. We’ve been together longer than any of us are sure (over twenty years in total and over 15 with the current members). We started in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Even though one couple has moved to Pennsylvania and Pat and I to Charlottesville, we have stayed together. We travel and sleep over (kind of a slumber party with wine). Since one couple moved to Santa Fe last year (a bit far for even our commuting orientation) we have taken to having the host invite another couple to keep our numbers at 10. Saturday we were joined by Boyce Brannock (“BEB” here on the board) and his lovely wife, Deneen.
This was a bit of an unusual gathering for our group. Pat and our friend, Joan Hyde, will be celebrating milestone birthdays in a couple of weeks. So we decided to make a celebration of it and had a chef (Ben, whom we knew already) from our favorite caterer come in to prepare the meal, matching the food to the wines I selected. Made life a lot easier for Pat and me and what a meal he created! At times there was a cooking class going on in the kitchen since folks were interested and Ben was delighted to explain what he was doing. The wine theme was the traditional “wines that don’t suck”. I pulled wines I love and put them in flights of two with each course.
Before dinner we gathered out on our back porch and enjoyed a splendid evening and a great view. We sampled four Chardonnays Pat and I picked up from our trip to California in late April. They were accompanied by two spreads (artichoke and smoked trout) and olives (the only food Ben did not prepare – we wanted to keep it simple and light).
No notes, but a few impressions. None of these was overly oaked (which Pat and I hate). I loved the Copain for its crisp, clean presentation; this all about fruit and acid and balance. The Small Vines was a lovely balance of fruit with the faintest bit of oak and very nice acidity. The Daou showed the most oak (which is not to say a lot), but the fruit handled it and the acidity framed the fruit nicely; it you are a total oakaphobe my guess is you will not like this one, but if you like a bit of oak as a spice, it has a lot to offer. The Mauritson was a bit of a disappointment. I like the Mauritson reds (notably some great zins), but this chardonnay, while not offensive in any way, just seemed outclassed.
On to the dinner table. The whites with the first course were kept in the cellar and then placed in the refrigerator for 15 minutes immediately before serving.
Oven-seared Halibut with minted pearl pasta, fennel compote in a smoked heirloom tomato broth. A gorgeous dish. Two Rhone whites to go with this and the pairing was excellent.
A truly great wine. A lovely golden color. Hints of lemon on the nose. The palate shows butterscotch, lemon, minerals and tarragon. It finishes long and lovely with beautiful minerality and notes of lemon. Lovely acidity and balance. This wine is intense and beautiful with a long life ahead of it. It certainly is not at peak but it gives great pleasure even at 7 years old. My wine of the night across both the whites and the reds. 14.5% ABV. “A+”
More floral on the nose than the Chapoutier, but with the same deep gold color. Deep, brilliant fruit with a hint of peaches, honey, minerals and an herbal note I had trouble pinning down. Long, long finish. Great acidity. 14.5% ABV. “A-“
A quick notes on the reds. All were decanted abut 5:00 PM and then double decanted back into the rinsed bottles about an hour later. They stayed in the cellar until they were served. The wines with the main course were served about 8:15 PM and those with the cheese course were served about 9:15 PM.
Moulard Breast of Duck wrapped in Swiss Chard with red plum reduction, eggplant caponata and saffron potatoes.
Two domestic cabs from two of my favorite producers accompanied the duck. This may have been the best preparation of duck I have ever had, from presentation to taste.
I know this wine was only recently released and will improve with age, but I was just too tempted to try it now. I have loved the Spottswoode cabs for years. For whatever reasons, they don’t get the love that the trophy cabs get – probably because Spottswoode tries to make great wine and not trophies. Tonight the nose was a complex blend of cherries, cinnamon and mint. Even this young the wine shows hints of the elegance it will have in 10+ years. Blackberries, prominent but not harsh tannins, intense fruit and great balance. The wine brightens with time in the glass. 14.5% ABV. “A“ right now, but it has all the makings of an “A+” wine.
Another long-time favorite (I have a 20 year vertical lurking in the cellar). Black cherries and mint on the nose. The palate is all dark fruits and herbs with a bit of roasted coffee coming through. Still tannic but with great acidity and balance. This wine needs 5+ years, but was great to drink now nevertheless. 14.9% ABV. Like the Spottswoode, “A-“ now but I am confident it will be an “A+” later.
14 year old aged cheddar, Saint Agur Bleu, and Saint Nectaire.
Ben and I consulted on the cheese course to find cheeses that would work with the two Australian Shiraz. The pairings worked very well. The Saint Agur was a revelation.
My notes are a bit sketchy (or I can’t read my handwriting!), but two words stand out: “Bright” and “brilliant”. There is big, sweet (not RS) red fruit across the palate here. Roasted meat and a bit of blackberry is added to the mix as it hits the mid-palate. Surprisingly to me the tannins seems more resolved than I would have anticipated. The balance is definitely there and I’ll guess this will only improve with more age. Sorry, no notes (or memory) on the nose. 14.5% ABV. “A”
My wine of the night among the reds. Big, dark and tannic it may be, but the fruit is so rich and beautiful. The nose was a bit hesitant at first but developed blueberry notes with some floral notes (perhaps from the 3% Viognier blended in). Great acidity and balance. Blueberry and pepper on the palate. Mint notes develop with a bit of time in the glass. Even at this stage it shows the trade mark elegance of the best Torbreck reds. No need to hurry on this one, but a great wine already. 14.5% ABV. “A+”
Lemon Pudding Cake with fresh berries.
The cake was almost like a soufflé and it was perfect, not too heavy and a great ending to the meal. But there was a surprise waiting….
I wasn’t planning to serve a dessert wine. When no one at the table wanted coffee with dessert, I foolishly asked if anyone was interested in a bonus wine. You can guess the result of that inquiry. A quick rush to the cellar produced port glasses and this wine. I served at cellar temperature (obviously) and took no notes. However, I can say it was a lovely wine, not overly intense, with (if I recall correctly) honey and orange notes and enough acidity to balance it nicely and carry through the moderate RS. That’s all I got and it’s not fair to grade it, but my memory says it was lovely and I would be glad to have it again.
A great evening with friends and in celebration of two lovely ladies. And I know you’re too polite to ask which milestone birthdays they were!