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Hitting the Big Three-Seven

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Oct 22, 2007 10:03am ET

It was a celebration weekend for me: I hit a major milestone. The big three-seven.

I invited a few of my tasting department colleagues up to the house for some food and wine—simple food, with a fall theme matched with great wines.

Saturday's lunch was grilled shrimp over arugula, nice and simple, followed by a cheese course. For wine, a series of Champagnes was followed by a series of whites, including the 1995 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape White Vieilles Vignes, which is showing a deep, burnished amber color and lively flavors of honey, biscuit, sautéed almonds and more, all backed by a bracing saline hint. Its texture was creamy but the acidity was very much alive, and it married perfectly with the shrimp and the ensuing cheese.

As afternoon turned to evening, we started the second round of eating with one of my favorite dishes, a mélange of fresh mushrooms—oyster, lobster, chanterelle, porcini and more—sautéed in butter and cognac and topped with fresh parsley, all spooned out over lightly toasted country bread. I’ve appropriated the recipe from Erin Chave, Jean-Louis Chave’s wife, and I always serve it with a white Hermitage (in this case the 2002 J.-L. Chave Hermitage White). Again, the creamy texture and buried acidity was a perfect foil for the wide range of flavors in the mushrooms, while the floral and stone fruit notes in the wine helped brighten the whole dish.

Dinner was also a simple fall meal: a roasted leg of lamb served alongside a galette (layered with truffles and rosemary) and some creamed leeks. A parade of reds came up from the cellar, lead by a 1995 Château Trotanoy Pomerol, 1998 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Chaupin, 1997 Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino and a magnum of 1999 Alain Voge Cornas Vielles Vignes, all of which helped to overcome the sting caused by bottles of 1994 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain and 1994 Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard (my last one too, argh!) being corked.

Red wine and lamb is a great match of course, but as I surveyed the full recycling bin and thought back on the food and wine (which didn’t happen until late on Sunday for obvious reasons) my vote for the best wine/food match would have gone to the two white Rhônes and their respective dishes. They really are the best white wines that nobody drinks. They’re distinctive, surprisingly long-lived, and are just great food wines that always leave a lasting impression.

I just wish I hadn’t promised Nancy that I wouldn’t buy any more wine this year ...

Santiago Achaval
Mendoza —  October 22, 2007 11:31am ET
Hey James! Feliz Cumplea¿os! From my point of view of forty-six going on forty-seven, your milestone isn't very worrisome :-) Although the food and the wine must have made it memorable!Un abrazo,Santiago
Christopher Hood
October 22, 2007 1:31pm ET
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about white Rhones. One question, however: If they are the best white wines that nobody drinks, then why are the prices for them so high? We hear people in the wine trade frequently wondering why so few people drink other high-quality white wines, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc, particularly when their prices tend to be relatively low. But the same does not seem to be true for white Rhones--one would think that the laws of supply and demand would dictate that if few people were drinking white Rhones, they would be much less expensive than they currently are.
James Molesworth
October 22, 2007 1:59pm ET
Christopher: Great question. Remember that white wine production is only 5 percent of the region, and with many vineyards on hillside sites (Condrieu and Hermitage primarily) yields are low while the effort needed to make the wines is high. Alas, this results in few bargains and most of the top Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne bottlings do carry price tags in the $75 and up range.

Nonetheless, some excellent white Chateauneufs can be found for $30 to $50, and solid varietal bottlings from the North's Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes can be found for under $25.
Zurich, Switzerland —  October 22, 2007 2:12pm ET
Congrats, James! If this is the lineup for your 37th, I'll be sure to try and sneak in on the big four-oh, since I wonder how you intend to top this year's b-day selection...How has the 97 Siro Pacenti drinking? I've been saving my bottles - should I uncork them or wait?
James Molesworth
October 22, 2007 2:38pm ET
Merlin: The Pacenti was rockin', but there's no rush. It should hold for another 5-10 years easy...
James Scoptur
WI —  October 22, 2007 3:19pm ET
at least the year is almost over, and then you can get back to buying more wine
Adam Lee
Santa Rosa, CA —  October 22, 2007 4:03pm ET
Hey James, I didn't realize that 37 was such a milestone and then it dawned on me - the average American male now lives to be 74 - so you are now half way done with your life! ;)Sounds like a great celebration! -- Adam Lee, Siduri Wines
James Molesworth
October 22, 2007 4:08pm ET
Adam: Half way there, eh? I wonder if that means it's time for my mid-life crisis?
Kevin Lewis
Baltimore,MD —  October 23, 2007 7:09pm ET
James-Nice to hear you had a great time for your b-day!The wines sounded like they were just as memorable!Cheers!
Noemi M-cinzano
london —  October 24, 2007 2:22am ET
Dear James,Piece of advise: You will enter into a conflict of interest by making your own wine...very difficult it is to make....good..........Hans Vinding-Diers
James Molesworth
October 24, 2007 12:50pm ET
Hans: If I had some nice old vines like you Hans, it'd be no sweat! ;-)...

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