Christmas dinner with serious wine lovers usually brings out the best in food and wine. Fresh Dungeness crab, a popular holiday treat in Northern California, provided the focal point for the main course this year. I dined with friends who popped the corks on several great Champagnes (starting before I got there), including an elegant Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV and a yeasty, doughy Henriot Brut NV (the bottle disappeared so fast I didn’t catch more details). Next came a 2005 Marcassin Chardonnay Sonoma Coast Three Sisters Vineyard, rich and mature, very Burgundian with its minerally earthiness.
That was followed by a lovely California Pinot, a magnum of 2007 Rochioli Russian River Valley. The Rochioli has blossomed into a seamless mix of supple plum and black cherry fruit that was rich yet elegant, which I thought was outstanding (92 points, non-blind) and far showier than when I blind-tasted it and recommended short-term cellaring.
Dessert came in the form of a half-bottle of 2001 Château d’Yquem, a fitting end to the meal. This Sauternes earned a 100-point rating from Wine Spectator, and it showed why, with its pure richness, impeccable balance and deep, layered honeyed flavors with traces of fig, melon, tobacco and apricot.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Rochioli Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 (87, $60).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Pinot Noirs.