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Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Posted: Sep 25, 2006 10:07am ET

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.

Joseph Romualdi
Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada —  September 25, 2006 2:10pm ET
Wine, food, friends (family) and fun. Music to my ears.Now I'm just waiting for JL to corroborate your "tame" blog. We need more details.
Albert Jochems
The Netherlands —  September 25, 2006 2:21pm ET

Great to see that professionals like you and James are almost normal human beings! My greatest wine experiences always include a friendship angle.

Are you leaving for the USA? I was really looking forward to some blog episodes with a double-angle view from you and James. Is this going to happen?I am particulary anticipating the 'Napa Valley' view on something that I have come to love: Italian wine.
Kelly Walker
Charlotte —  September 25, 2006 2:44pm ET
James,My entourage is decidedly more critical...That Fattoria Le Pupille MdS Riserva is pretty top notch stuff. It seems Sangiovese's banner is back in front in Tuscany.
Jeffrey Ghi
New York —  September 25, 2006 3:36pm ET
"Laube had a big smile on his face while drinking both wines." Heh after a double mag and a mag, are you sure it was the taste or the alcohol smiling? =)
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  September 25, 2006 5:26pm ET
hhmmm....strange to hear you headed out of town the day after James came to visit. In his blog his wrote the reason for his trip "the truth is I¿m going to catch up with my old friend and colleague, James Suckling".
Paul Anderson
Longview, TX —  September 25, 2006 7:40pm ET
Well I figure if a tribe of North Americans were about to invade your house it would be like a trip to North America.
Kevin Krawchuk
Vancouver B.C —  September 25, 2006 7:50pm ET
My oldest wine is a good 1999 Borolo, I just look forward to having enough that I can actually start drinking it.. ;)
Michael Culley
September 26, 2006 10:56am ET
Benvenuto(e bentornato) JL a Toscana!JS..I used to sell Livio Felluga and I always wanted to get behind the Terre Alte but the sauvignon always seemed to dominate the blend and almost throw it off kelter with its aggressiveness. Don't know if this happens in some vintages or maybe it shows that way in youth(I was always selling it right out of the gates). Has this ever stood out to you?
Alvaro Esquivel
Miami, Fla —  September 26, 2006 12:57pm ET
James you have nothing to worry about Laube tasting your terrific Brunellos, nothing better for the wine lover than a change of flavor. Besides you can get him many superb Super Tuscans, Ornellaias, Solaias, Sassicaias, Massetos, Serpicos, Tignanellos, what else can any one ask for? Have fun.
Brian Duncan
Chicago/IL —  October 4, 2006 2:50pm ET
Hi James,I hope this reaches you. We met at my restaurant Bin36 in Chicago a while back when you dined with Harvey Steiman, and later that week with Pio Boffa & colleagues. I enjoyed entertaining you and your guests. Let me know when you have the opportunity to return to Chicago.I will be travelling to Rome, Florence, Bologna & Verona next month. I would appreciate your thoughts on restaurants that you feel should not be missed in terms of cuisine, design & quality. I am more inclined towards places that are not too avant garde. Also, I want to see places that are uniquely Italian, top notch regional cooking and not french inspired. Achitecture and interior design is also of keen interest with regards to some restaurants. So, if there are places worth seeing regardless of the food, I would like to include them as well. I am hoping to benefit from your insight.I visited Il Borro in January, however, you were away unfortunately. Next time.Best Regards,Brian DuncanOwner/Wine DirectorBIN 36bin wine cafeChicago, IL312-560-4660
James Suckling
 —  October 4, 2006 4:00pm ET
Brian: Let me think about it. I think that in Florence you have to go to Cibreo and Trattoria Cammilo. Verona, of course, Bottega del Vino. Rome I am not very good as well as Bologna. I tend to eat at home a lot or on the coast when I am in Italy. When are you going?
Brian Duncan
Chicago/IL —  October 5, 2006 8:43am ET
Thanks for getting back to me James. I will be travelling November 5th through the 11th. I am definitely going back to Bottega del Vino and Il Pompiere in Verona. I am looking forward to enjoying the city minus the intensity of Vin Italy.Just in case, do you have any thoughts on Milan and Torino?Best Regards,Brian Duncan
Mark Lowenberg
weatogue,ct —  October 5, 2006 11:48am ET
James, will be in staying at Borgo Argenina near Siena and Antica Fattoria del Colle near Deruta the last two weeks of October. Can you recommend a wine itinerary. Much appreciated. Mark Lowenberg

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