Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Leave the '81 Cote aux Enfants, take the fried chicken and vitovska

Last night my girlfriend and I, along with SF by way of Nîmes natty wine supporter/ California wine troublestarter Guilhaume Gerard and his lovely wife Claire, were treated to a delicious dinner hosted by our friends Josh and Catherine. A diverse group representing Baltimore, Philly, San Francisco, Sacramento, Southeast and Northeast France, we ate and drank quite nicely for a bunch of twenty somethings making a living selling wine, art and fancy desserts in a seriously downward trending economy. Food highlights included an amazing cream of celery root and parsnips soup, topped with a fried sliced fingerling potato and a drizzle of truffle oil - so simple and delicious. The 'fried chicken salad,' as coined by Josh, was a terrific mix of baby spinach, perfectly fried strips of chicken, crumbled blue cheese, lardons, sliced apple and persimmons.

As for wine, my favorite was an '03 Vodopivec Vitovska. Truly interesting, long maceration on skins Friuli-Slovenian type wine. It was so complex and continued to evolve until the last sip. Fresh stone fruit aromas, pronounced truffle, then some marzipan, a suggestion of acacia honey. Flavors on the palate were orchard fresh and unbelievably fleshy. Nectarines. You can really sink your teeth into this wine, it's so fleshy, but combine this with terrific acidity and vivid fruit, and you get a completely satisfying drinking experience, natural wine style. It was also cool in that this is, from the flavors anyway, much less oxidative style winemaking than Radikon or Gravner. I would guess a shorter maceration on the skins as well. This wine and the aforementioned soup - phenomenal.

On the other end of the spectrum, a bottle of 1981 Bollinger Cote aux Enfants, which I had happened across at work and purchased, with discount, for a modest $40, did not show too well. Very simple mature pinot noir flavors, a lack of acidity, and aromas which Guilhaume compared to wood floor cleaner just didn't make the cut. Guess that this rare bottling of pinot noir from Ay should be enjoyed in its first 10-15 years of life. In fact, a bottle of 1981 central coast pinot noir I drank last year absolutely would have killed this much fancier much higher pedigreed, northerly champagne in a head-to-head tasting.

In between the Bolli at the qualitative low end and Vitovska at the high end, there was some '06 Verget Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons (reductive and then gradually better, if a bit lacking in excitement), '98 Fonsalette CDR reserve (primary, chewy grenache, ok, but fruity and not a whole lot else, what do you expect - it's grenache) and an '07 Domaine de Reuilly rose of pinot gris (which was its usual, understated, subtle, elegant self).

Considerably less eclectic and fancy wines will feature for turkey day, which I'll hopefully get around to posting tomorrow prior to the flurry of prep which feeding 14 people in a small, minimally equipped kitchen entails.