December 21, 2010

Great wines and friends

Since we're visiting southern California and feeling at home in the pouring rain, what better time to see old friends from our San Francisco days who live locally. We'd reconnected with Paul and Barrie last year at this time here at our family beach condo, along with other friends who we missed this time around. This time we traveled south to their lovely old Spanish-style home for dinner and tastes of a few really good and interesting wines.

I'll spare you the details of the older kids playing video games and the occasional chase around the house with the younger twins who have endless energy. Though it was really fun and Paul and Barrie's kids are impossibly cute. Instead, the wines, first the 1992 Zind Humbrecht Tokay Pinot Gris Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann. I don't know my Alsatian grand crus nearly well enough, but I know this is a top vineyard with a long history worth knowing about. So how was the wine? This isn't Oregon Pinot gris, to say the least. Eighteen years old, opulent and ripe, lightly sweet but nicely balanced, rich with stone fruit juiciness and an expected mineral quality, all still youthful and clearly capable of aging for another decade with ease. This was exceptional.

Then a bagged wine, a red wine I guess to be some no sulfur gamay from Beaujolais or maybe the Loire. Some spritz at first, pungent strawberry and ashy earth aromas. Bright and a bit lean in the mouth, there's great energy in this wine and a long, slightly cheesy finish. Clearly no sulfur but I had no idea it was from Sicily. It was the Frank Cornelissen Contadino 7 Rosso Etna, from the slopes of Mt. Etna made in amphorae with the Nerello Mascalese grape. This is totally natural wine, something many winemakers would taste and remark, "you know, some sulfur would clean that right up." But that's not the point. And strange as the wine is, I found it grew on me, especially tasting a bit with pizza dinner. Probably more of an intellectual pleasure than purely delicious, but I still really appreciate wine like this. But I'm a wine geek.

Paul also opened the 2009 Domaine Dubeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais, imported by KERMIT LYNCH in case the label's too subtle. This is really good, more straightforward wine compared to the Cornelissen. Just another example of how great 2009 is in the greater Beaujolais area. Purple, bright fruit and gravel and soil notes, great texture, simply delicious gamay.

But the coup de grâce was the 1942 Jean Bourdy Cotes du Jura, a World War II era bottle from the remote Jura region near Switzerland. This bottling is a blend of Plousard, Trousseau and Pinot noir, aged three to four years according to the back label (en Francaise) in old oak tonneaus. The wine was probably better some time ago, but still was a delight for its history and flavor. Almost honey gold in color, the aroma was meaty with some pungent notes from oxidation. The flavors were seamless, with a nutty middle and finish like a dry sherry, certainly from oxidation in the winemaking and elevage process and also from 60+ years in bottle. Again, an intellectual pleasure more than anything, though also memorable purely for its taste.

Thanks Paul and Barrie for such delightful wine and for opening your house to us. We'll have to repay you in Portland.

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