My buddy and colleague James Laube came to my house for dinner last night with some of his friends. They are in Tuscany for a couple of weeks to chase the Tuscan sun. Unfortunately, it was raining this morning as I poured myself into my car to drive to the Rome airport for a trip to North America.
I was trying to figure out what to serve for a dinner party with 11 people in the courtyard of my house. It was simple Tuscan cuisine: a starter of thick bread tomato soup and a main course of roasted chicken, spinach and potatoes. Plus, I had to serve something that Laube was going to like. I was worried that he might find some aged Sangiovese a little too weak for his palate! I mean…the guy lives in Napa Valley. He drinks and tastes wines that are rich and powerful. It’s like comparing the San Francisco 49ers to the Florentine soccer team. The former would murder the latter in a simple game of touch football! The Italians wouldn’t even know what to do with such a strangely shaped ball and would be scared to death of such monster players!!!!
The other problem was that Jimbo told me not to push out the boat on the wine because his traveling companions were not “that experienced” with wine. He’s too polite. So I looked around my cellars, under my bed and any other place that I might find some interesting bottles. I finally came up with a magnum of 2001 Livio Felluga Terre Alte, a Friulian white blended from Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon and Pinot Bianc, and a double magnum of 1997 Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano Riserva, pure Sangiovese from a great vintage. Both wines were delicious. The white was rich and exotic, with lovely fresh ripe fruit and acidity, while the red was aromatic, youthful, balanced and lively. I am not sure there is anything comparable in California. It’s ready to drink. Laube had a big smile on his face while drinking both wines.
In fact, one of his traveling companions asked me what is the best Sangiovese in California, and I said that he'd better ask Jim, who said something to the effect that there is nothing comparable yet to the real thing in Tuscany.
We didn’t really belabor the virtues of each wine. It was just fun to hang out, drink good wine and eat hearty food. I pulled out a magnum of 2001 Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro Syrah Cortona Il Bosco when a sexy Australian friend of his said she felt like some Shiraz. And Laube seemed to love that too – the wine, I mean.
You know, a lot of people probably think that wine critics like Laube and me are hyper-critical and don’t really enjoy the juice anymore. Well, they are wrong. There’s nothing better than sharing some great bottles with such a long-time friend as Jimbo, and his entourage.