A Backyard Barbecue for Wine Geeks

Jul 27, 2009

On Saturday, David Bowler hosted his annual "Backyard Barbecue" at his house in the Bronx, a tradition since 2004. Bowler, a talented musician, was bitten by the wine bug back in the early 1990s. That’s when we met; I used to buy German Riesling from him when he worked at Crossroads on 14th Street.

He left the music business and worked for wine distributors and importers over the years, before starting his own business in 2003. About 45 people gathered to enjoy plenty of good wine and food. This was my third barbecue—after attending in 2005 and 2006, I missed the next two parties due to my travel schedule.

This year, Peter Hoffman of Savoy and Back Forty manned the grill with a small crew. We enjoyed whole striped bass with remoulade, steak and bagna cauda, lamb, and black olive tapenade with a host of salads of fresh seasonal ingredients like corn, eggplant, beets and kirbys.

Bowler generously provides most of the wines, but guests also add to the interesting array of bottles. It would be difficult to taste everything, however, corked or otherwise off bottles aside, even a random sampling of the evening’s selection is enough to satisfy any wine lover.

I started with a glass of Alain Soutiran’s Brut Champagne Perle Noir NV, made entirely from Pinot Noir. It was firm and on the dry side, with a mineral impression.

I followed that with the Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Séchet 2004, a mouthful of fresh melon with hints of the seashore. From there I moved south in Burgundy to Meursault, a Les Tillets 2004 from Domaine Roulot. A sleek white, it reminded me of toast and mineral flavors.

Then it was on to a pair of Marcassin Chardonnay Carneros Hudson Vineyard. The 1993 was buttery and rich, while the 1994, with its oxidized, caramel notes may have suffered from poor storage.

Undaunted, I moved on to the creamy, apricot-, lime- and mineral-infused Montrachet 1999 from Baron Thénard. My next taste, unfortunately, was an oxidized Raveneau Chablis Chapelot 1989 (and a Raveneau Montée de Tonnerre 2002 was corked).

I switched gears for the next two wines, refreshing my palate with A.J. Adam’s Riesling Kabinett Mosel 2007, full of savory, salty mineral flavors, before pulling the cork on one of the wines I brought, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt’s Riesling Spätlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Scharzhofberger 1997. There were signs of some seepage on the back label and this wasn’t one of the better bottles of this vintage, yet it offered vanilla pastry, spice and mineral notes.

Then it was back to white Burgundy before moving on to some reds. The Domaine Chandon de Briailles Pernand-Vergelesses White Île des Vergelesses 2000 from magnum delivered broad, ripe flavors of butterscotch, honey and roasted almond. The Raveneau Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 2001 showed an exotic nose of quince and spice, with soft plum and melon tones.

We sat down to dinner and a mini-vertical of Cornas from Noël Verset. The 1995 was full of sweet fruit, black olive, garrigue and spice flavors. The 1996 was higher pitched, with more acidity and herbal notes. A lighter style, the 1997 displayed elegance and an easy personality. The 1998 tasted great with the lamb and steak, a very complete Syrah revealing concentrated blackberry and spice flavors, all balanced and juicy. The '99 was still a baby, though the most concentrated, youthful and powerful of the flight, while the 2000 exhibited breadth and generous black fruit flavors.

I missed a lot of the red Burgundies, but did get a taste of the Jacky Truchot Charmes-Chambertin 2001. Sweet fruit and woodsy spice notes filled the glass in this beautifully balanced, silky red.

From there it was a couple of Spanish wines—the Rioja Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva 1976 and Rioja Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 1973—from R. López de Heredia. These are in the traditional camp of Rioja and the Viña Bosconia ’76 showed delicate earth, mushroom, vanilla and tea flavors against a supple texture. The Viña Tondonia ’73 was more vigorous, firm and spicy.

I finished with a trio of German Rieslings: Fritz Haag Riesling Spätlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr 1997; Zilliken Riesling Spätlese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Saarburger Rausch 1989; and Karthäuserhof’s Riesling Feinste Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Fuder No. 123 1964.

The Haag was brilliant, a terrific bottle featuring a piercing slate bouquet, followed by sweet, brown spices melting into honey, all matched to an ethereal profile. The Zilliken combined rich honey, vanilla and mineral flavors. Yet it was the Karthäuserhof that really sang, with a complex range of candied citrus, honey, mineral and smoke notes, a silky feel and fine harmony.

After dinner, the guitars appeared, as they always do at chez Bowler. As people began to drift off to other events, or just home to sleep, the rest of us enjoyed some remaining bottles as the day slipped into night.

New York City France Burgundy Germany United States New York

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