We paid homage to Jimmy's great selection of Italian wines with a bottle of Prosecco. Nino Franco Rustico. Crisp flavors, bone dry, this is prosecco to get excited about rather than the readily available slightly sweet, frothy concoctions that dominate the market place. (Major cloying brands, you know who you are!)
With appetizers of caprese 'smores and bacon wrapped figs, we moved onto the first wine of the evening. The color was deep gold. (Funny how details like color in the glass are admired with the first wines of the evening...) The rich wine was showing smoky oak, butterscotch, caramel, and rich tropical fruits. Grilled pineapple and cajeta added complexity.
"Must be chardonnay, but, but old!" The group was definite as to varietal, but split as to origin.
"Not quite enough acid, must be domestic!"
Scott also brought the second wine, and it was another white, even older, even a darker burnished gold than the first. "Darker than a pilsener!" Bradley exclaimed! However it was fresher, less sunken, with less buttercotch than the first, with a definite waxy feel. Must be Graves, with a lot of Semillon, suggested Sepi. John came in late, took one smell, one taste and declared, "Nice Chard!" The wine reacted quite differently to the food on the table.It head-butted the risotto balls with their slightly spicy sauce but was an extension of the bacon wrapped figs. "You know, Sigel's used to carry wines from Kalin who aged white wines forever before releasing them," Dave remembered. And that was it. 1997 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve from Kalin Cellars. I just checked. The 1997 is the CURRENT RELEASE.
Both wines were out-there selections. Much discussion of the slippery slope of aged wines ensued. Both wines showed significant levels of oxidation especially when compared to the current standards of fresh, crisp wines produced by cold fermentation and limited exposure to oxygen. Kalin's website has an interesting discussion of umami and wine. Oh to be a student of aesthetics!
Brad brought out the first Red of the evening. "Wow, that's Kosta Brown!" Sepi exclaimed, before everyone had even poured a glass. And correct he was.2006 Kosta Brown Russian River Pinot Noir. Everyone agreed. That was the fastest ID the group has seen. Faster even than John's Massetto call back in BT #3. Sepi's point was taken. The Kosta Brown does not jump out of the glass like most Pinot Noirs. It just sinks. But sinks with lightness, not heaviness.
Brad also brought the second red. Obviously Pinot Noir, but totally different from the Kosta Brown. Intense red mystery fruit, driven by acids, the wine was elusive and powerful. To get that much power and liveliness it had to come from the Santa Rita Hills. Scott nailed it. Sea Smoke 2005 Botella. The mystery fruit was rhubarb.
At this point in the evening we were somewhat in awe of the power of the wines we had experienced as we realized we were under wine's "Cone of Magic" that descends over a group of good friends enjoying good food and good wine.We all could pinpoint times when the magic of wine made its impact on our lives.
John brought wine number 5. Ripe cherries and neutral tobacco were the initial notes, followed by darker fruit flavors and an earthy note of gorund expresso. Raspberries morphing into blackberries. Shiraz? No, the black pepper signature was missing entirely. The wine was in a lush, new world style, but the acids and red fruits were not Californian. "Chile?" ventured Dave. "Yes." "Carmenere?" "A high percentage." "Clos Apalta?" "Yes, 2005. The Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year." Awesome. New World extraction in an Old World framework.
Sepi brought out wine #6. Earthy mushrooms with a beautiful perfumed violet aromas and delicate kisses of cassis poking though the edges, this red could only come from Bordeaux. "I didn't want to bring this because I new Dave would just nail it," said Sepi. Pichon Lalande? Almost. Pichon Baron. 1995.
By now I had a filet on a bed of mushroom risotto. Life was looking pretty good!
And Sepi brought out #7. Brad was ecstatic. "Rounded out like a natural breast that fills the hand. No silicone. I could drink this every day." Silky floral perfumes, sweet caramelized oak. Ripe, balanced fruit. Napa Cabernet, no question. 2001, a great vintage coming together perfectly. Spottswoode.
And that's the end of my notes. I won't mention the under-performing 2008 Flor de Pingus. It didn't seem to be corked, but the color was bricked and flavors were underwhelming. Most of us had had the wine before and this bottle was definitely way off its peak.
Dessert followed, along with more wines tasted non-blind. The half bottle of Krug was brilliant, with its rich honeyed notes of toast points and baked apples as was the half bottle of 2007 Petite Giraud Sauternes. No one drank it because none of us drink sweet wine. Or white wine for that matter. Right.
Thanks again to Mitch Kaufman and his wonderful staff at Cafe Urbano for a relaxed evening. It is a real treat to be able to be so relaxed, eat such great food and drink our own wine.
While we leaving, Mitch was talking about terroir of beef. He did a dinner last week with Uruguayan beef producers. "Local is relative," he said. He'd love to do a dinner showcasing beef from different sources.
As we were getting into the car, he was pushing a garbage cart across the street. "Local is seeing the restaurant owner taking out the garbage," I said.