March 20, 2006

Dinner at Tabla

This past weekend saw three wine events, which is three more than I usually seem to attend these days. But this is Magnum Madness weekend, with an added bonus of a little Giacomo Conterno tasting that I’ll get to later.

Friday night I arranged a dinner at Tabla in NE Portland with Magnum Madness hosts Marshall and Carolyn Manning, the Portolover himself Roy Hersh and friend Justin down from the Seattle area, and Becca Hunt and Jimmie Wellman from out Yakima way. The theme: Mediterranean and friends, meaning anything made in or inspired by the region. Not that we kept to that.

These being good and generous folks, we drank well with a truly eclectic line up that ended up complementing Tabla’s diverse flavors nicely. By the way, Tabla is hot, and Eddie Robinson is tearing it up in a well-staffed kitchen. Definitely eat here.

We started with the 1998 Rudi Pichler Riesling Smaragd (designation missed), that was very fresh but showing nice aromas of early maturity. Bright, almost piercing on the palate, very focused, delicious and still young. No rush here.

Next came an out of order red, the 2001 Edmunds St. John Los Robles Viejos. An hommage to Chateauneuf du Pape from the Berkeley producer wine from all over California, this mourvedre, grenache and syrah blend from the limestone soils of west Paso Robles delivers. Neutral cask ageing, natural fermentations, and terrific, pure fruit and earth flavors. One of the few California wines that easily suggests France but in the end displays what California can produce.

We went back to white for the 2002 Chave Hermitage Blanc, paired with a substantial Amuse Bouche of chorizo on a chickpea base with whipped chive crème fraîche. Nice combination of spice and sweet cream, and once the Chave warmed up, what a pure aroma of marsanne and roussane. Not so thick and oily on the palate as a better vintage might be, but lovely in the mouth with minerality good length.

Then the 1995 Chateau Musar, a favorite obscurity of mine, red wine from the Bekka Valley of Lebanon. A blend of cinsault, grenache, and cabernet sauvignon in unclear amounts, this wine is never for the unadventurous. Tonight’s bottle was good but not great, young to be sure but showing some volatility without too much depth. Round on the palate, more like a southern Rhone than anything else, typcially farmy and certainly a nice drink. Not a match to my organic greens but what is?

The 1989 Produttori di Barbaresco Montestefano seemed less intense than I expected, but it was a pretty wine with nice nebbiolo fragrance and a silky texture if not so complex and long. A nice accompaniment to parpadelle with rabbit ragu.

Next came my contribution, the impossibly tight 1990 Ch. Pradeaux Bandol. The color of a 2000 with a narrow aroma of black fruits and eventually some forest notes. Tight, tight, tight on the palate. Will this ever come around? A fine drink and better with food, but a few people wondered aloud if this would ever turn into something special. Hold for ten more years if you have any. Need more sap.

Then the coup de grace, my first Unico. Specially the 1986 Vega Scilia “Unico” Ribera del Deuro. Again, impossibly dark and youthful color. How does something kept in cask for so many years stay so vibrant? Well integrated fragrance of berries, American oak cedar and light dill notes (I don't mind dill, unlike many in the wine world), and charred earth, this wasn’t an oak bomb but a beautifully textured, silky and fairly long drink. If you like Spanish reds, this is really nice though perhaps not a blockbuster Unico that other vintages deliver. I tried this and a few others with my duck confit, which (again) was delicious. As one taster noted, what a good use of salt at Tabla.

Finally, the 1986 Ch. Climens Barsac for dessert. Still a bright, lightish color with a fresh pineapple and slightly volatile aroma. Sweet and pure on the palate, ginger, tropical fruit but not heavy with botrytis, I really liked this and thought it plenty long. The most persnickety in the bunch thought it not as good as ooooother vintages. Yeah, sure.

Then exeunt, satisfied.

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