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When Friendship Means Too Much

Posted: Nov 14, 2006 5:49pm ET

Are two dinners in one night over doing it? Yes! I’ll be honest.

And – ouch -- I have a slight hangover.

But it was worth it. I wanted to see a good friend from Mexico City and he was only in Manhattan for one night. So I met him after a Frescobaldi dinner at the Lotus Club, which included about a dozen wines and what I thought was one of my more humorous speeches.

It meant I had to join him with two other friends at the restaurant Daniel at about 10 pm for a quick bite and a bottle of 2005 Araujo Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard and 1998 Chave Hermitage.

For the first dinner, I was asked to speak at a Young Presidents’ Organization dinner in Manhattan last night, which featured the wines of Frescobaldi, the famous Tuscan vintner’s clan, and four courses. The wines included three vintages of Ornellaia (2000, 2002 and 2003) as well as a trio of years of their Chianti Rufina Montesodi, (1999, 2001 and 2003) and Brunello Castelgiocondo (1997, 1999, and 2001).

I told the diners at the beginning of the evening as they drank a glass of the Frescobaldi’s pure barrel fermented Chardonnay, 2004 Pomino Bianco Benefizio, that the last time I had been to a YPO event, I was arrested for speeding! Yes, and it was after a lunch in Chianti Classico with a group of the YPOs at the Antinori restaurant near the CC estate of Badia a Passignano.  A radar roadblock nailed me.

The police officer with the radar couldn’t have been more polite. In fact, he recognized me as a wine critic from Wine Spectator. He said he would have let me off the hook, but that the radar had all the information and it couldn’t be erased. He also said that his family made wine and that he was sure I had rated it. Then he proceeded to take my driving license and told me I could pick it up a month later in Florence.

Luckily I taste blind so I didn’t let the $300 fine and the seized driving license influence my judgment on his family’s wine! And to be honest, I don’t remember the name of the winery.

Anyway, I commented last on all the wines to the group of about 100 people. And in general, all the vintages were drinking well except for the 2001s and 2003s. Those two vintages should be left for another four or five years more. The 1997 Brunello was drinking wonderfully. It was fresh and refined, while the 1999s were just coming into their own.

I felt sort gluttonous going to a Michelin two-starred restaurant after the dinner, but it was great to see my friend.  I only had some consomme and a little roasted sea bass. And the two wines were stupendous. The 1998 Chave was drinking beautifully and packed to the brim with wild red fruits with an earthy, gamey undertone.  The 2005 Araujo was bright, crisp and lively with wonderful lime, apple fruit. I thought another year of bottle age would make it even better.

I am not sure I can bear another dinner tonight. Thank goodness my amigo left for Cancun on business this morning!

Greg Hedrick
Virginia —  November 14, 2006 8:19pm ET
James,I have dined at the Osteria di Passignano on several occasions. Where was the speed trap?
James Suckling
 —  November 14, 2006 11:33pm ET
On the way to Florence...
Carole Wurster
New York —  November 15, 2006 11:30am ET
Dear James,I've enjoyed your column and tasting notes in WS for quite some time. Your blog is terific--I love all your wine adventure tales! I'm feeling rather envious of the YPO's. Do you have any open to the public wine dinners scheduled for NYC?
James Suckling
 —  November 15, 2006 12:03pm ET
Nothing planned. I don't do many public wine dinners. Thank you for your comments!

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