December 29, 2009

Dinner with old friends

Last night we had the pleasure of hosting two couples, and their young children, who we hadn't seen for years since our San Francisco days. These couples themselves are old friends and back in the later 1990s Jennifer and I connected with them through our mutual love of wine and food. We scattered across the country and lost touch, but lately we've reconnected and it just happened that we were all here in the San Diego area at the same time. So, a reunion of sorts.

While the food was take out pizza, not the extravagant meals we used to share, the wines were top notch just like the old days. For starters, the NV Pierre Bouchard Champagne Inflorescence, a blanc de noirs that was crisp, refined and less red fruited than expected, but no less delicious than its reputation. Then a wine I picked up last week in Woodland Hills, the 2008 J.P. Brun Morgon. What a tremendous Beaujolais, full of lovely spicy raspberry and mineral gamay flavors, juicy and fairly rich. I'd love to age this a few years and see it gain even more breadth. Already it's really good.

Then onto bigger reds. First, the 1985 Ch. Pradeaux Bandol brought in by Premier Cru about a decade ago and stored well since. This was simply excellent, with great mourvedre raspberry fruit and tree bark aromas, and perfect aged sweetness on the palate. As you should expect from good Bandol, this had great freshness at almost 25 years old. A good bottle like this was great now but could easily last another decade or more. Thanks Paul for bringing this among all these great wines.

Then some new world mourvdre dominated blends for comparison. First, the 2006 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel "Panoplie," a 68% mourvedre blend with grenache and syrah that's apparently a domestic hommage to the Beaucastel "Hommage a Jacques Perrin" bottling. This bottle seemed fruit dominated and soft, certainly tasty and dense wine but lacking complexity and maybe the structure to allow age to bring out that complexity. Not as exciting as other Tablas Creek wines I've tried over the years.

Then the 2007 Carlisle Two Acres bottling from nearly 100 year old vines in the Russian River Valley, off Olivet Lane. Paul and I helped out here back in 1999 so we feel a particular connection to this bottling. This year's example has all the usual Carlisle ripeness but at a moderate 13.7% alcohol. The aroma showed a little more youthful sweetness than I was expecting, but the flavors had a nice savory, peppery spiciness and good acidity. This should age nicely.

And if that wasn't enough, we opened a wine totally foreign to me, the 2007 Passopisciaro from Mt. Etna in Sicily. Paul mentioned this area can produce the most Burgundian in style of southern Italian reds that he knows of. I would agree based on this taste. Pretty ruby color with a perfumed aroma, maybe more Rhone like with a whiff of volatility that lifts the aroma. Nice tannic structure and sweet savory red fruit, this was quite good.

In sum, a great night of reconnecting with old friends and all of our children, watching the sun set into the Pacific and taking a liesurely time sampling all these excellent wines. Hope we do it again, this time without waiting another decade.

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