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A Weekend in the Country, Part I

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jan 21, 2007 6:40pm ET

To celebrate a milestone birthday (OK, it's our 60th), my wife and I invited six friends who share our love of good food and wine to rent a big house with us in Napa Valley for four days. Many of them are serious cooks. Some of us have some nice older wines that we can pluck from our cellars.

To join our core group of eight, we invited a few extra friends to join us for some of the evenings, including James Suckling, who wrote a snarky blog item about not finding any red wine at our casual opening-night crab, Riesling and Chardonnay party. He came as James Laube's guest and mostly behaved himself. He also gave me a beautiful Laguiole corkscrew, the handle made of polished cork. A great use for cork, in my opinion.

As I write this, it is Sunday morning and we have had two more dinners. We went out on Friday. Saturday all the cooks got together in the kitchen all day. We drank some memorable wines, too.

Among the vinous highlights for me at the crab dinner were the Marcassin Chardonnay 2002 Sonoma Coast that Laube brought and a Peter Michael Chardonnay Mon Plaisir 2001, which Suckling wrote up (and by the way, he got more than a thimbleful; I know because he sat next to me). But I also loved the Stony Hill Napa Valley Riesling 1994 that another guest brought, and some Eroica Riesling 2000 and 2001 from Washington, which have remained remarkably fresh and retained lively balance.

We got into the reds the next night. Opinion was divided on the wine of the night, between the Grose Frères et Soeurs Grands Echezaux 1990 from weekend participant Mark's cellar and the Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Private Reserve 1978 from mine. The Burgundy was everything you want in a wine from Pinot Noir, graceful and deceptively rich in texture, with an ethereal way for the earthy nuances to waft around a glowing core of dark, deep fruit.

Those wines had some formidable competition over the course of the dinner, including two big-time reds from my stash: Château Pichon-Baron 1989 and Vega Sicilia Unico 1960.

The whites weren't bad either. A gorgeous Verget Chablis Valmur 1987 (from Mark again) is developing a patina of spice around its citrusy core. Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Margaret River 1998 (from my cellar) manages to balance a huge superstructure of flavor on a supple, elegant frame. And there was another special bottle, from another weekend participant, Philip: Leacock Sercial Madeira 1940, which did that thing that good Madeira does—wrapped some flesh and flavor around raging acidity. It was yummy with cheese.

Next: home cooking for Champagne, Barbaresco, Brunello and a pleasant surprise from Australia.

Jeremy Matouk
Port of Spain, Trinidad —  January 22, 2007 7:47am ET
Harvey, are we to understand from your comment "OK, it's our 60th" that you and your wife share the same birthday? If so, I wanted to let you know that the same applies to my wife and me, though we are not the same age, just a year apart. I wonder how many WS blog readers share birthdays with their spouses. It would be interesting to hear how spouses who share birthdays tend to celebrate them; alone together, with friends or family. It's spooky falling in love with someone with the same birthday, one feels there is some divine intervention or predestination involved. By the way ours is this Friday coming, January 26th, and it will feature Barolo, among others.
Harvey Steiman
San Francisco, CA —  January 22, 2007 11:00am ET
No, hers is in December, mine in February. We split the difference so we could celebrate together with friends equally.
John Jorgenson
Seattle, —  January 22, 2007 7:10pm ET
Happy birthday to all of you! Be it three, or four.
Robert L Schmitt
Encinitas,CA USA —  January 25, 2007 4:05pm ET
Now that sounds like a great birthday celebration!Speaking of a surprise from Australia, I bought a case (six bottles) in a wooden box of the 1990 Penfold's Grange which has been stored in my wine cooler ever since. My wife says that I should sell it since I paid $75.00/bottle for it and it is going at auction for $350.00 or so. The only other Grange I ever had was a 1982 and it was so thick that you could have stood a fork up in the glass. It was like no wine I ever had before or since. What do you think, sell or drink?

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