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 ...