I invited my fellow wine loving friends over for the "first great tasting of the year". Everyone brought a bottle, some brought two, and some nibbles. I poached figs in port then sliced them in half and stuffed them with Bleu d'Auvergne cheese and toasted walnuts. Next, I roasted them for a few minutes to melt the cheese, YUM! Richie and Megan brought Prosciutto, herbed goat's cheese, stuffed hot cherry peppers, and a delicious beer soaked horseradish cheese ( I don't remember the name, sorry). Sabrina prepared a earthy, hearty and beautiful lamb and white bean stew. De-licious.
First we popped a bottle of Schramsberg 2001 Blancs de Noirs (thanks Sabrina!). If anyone out there hasn't heard of this glorious sparkling wine producer, you owe it to yourself to immediately run out and buy a bottle. This is THE California sparkling house. It had a bold, bright mouthful of fruit yet remained dry with excellent acidity. I really thought it was full bodied enough to stand up to an entree, yet it was creamy enough to stand alone.
Next up was Bryce and Candace's Tablas Creek 2002 Cote de Tablas Blanc, a Rhone style blend of Roussane, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc from Paso Robles. This winery, owned by the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel, continues to surprise me with their wines. It had a beautiful straw-gold color with a firm viscous texture. Sabrina said she smelled ginger on the nose, so I then got some ginger out of my fridge to smell side by side with the wine. Sure enough, Sabrina was right. There was a definite bright ginger aroma in this wine. We then moved on to another wine that Bryce and Candace brought, the Craneford 2005 Viognier from Australia. Crisp acidity, bright nose, and a very interesting creamy finish. Usually viogniers have a lanolin aspect to them that can be unwelcoming if the wine isn't balanced. Someone happened to mention that it finished like an orange creamsicle, and that couldn't have been more correct. It had a distinct orange characteristic that made me want to pair it with an orange shrimp recipe of mine.
Sabrina was up again with her Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone Villages 2000 Les Sambides. Andre Brunel might be familiar to many as the producer of Les Cailloux. This rich red paired so harmoniously with the lamb and white bean stew that I can't separate the two. This wine is a perfect example of how foods of a specific region develop, over time, to complement the wines of that same region. The earthy herbaceous quality of the stew perfectly complemented the same flavor profiles of the wine. I could smell sage and thyme, and tasted a wild earthiness.
Honestly, these wines kept getting better and better. Next up was a 2002 Zealear Bolero Syrah that Patrick brought. It smelled of woodsy blackberries and had firm solid tannins. This wine was full of fresh blueberry and blackberry flavors. It was so elegant and astonishing that Sabrina, Patrick and I couldn't help but comment on how this is hopefully the future of California reds.
My baby had been opened for an hour so I hoped it was ready. I couldn't have been more proud. The 1999 Coturri Glover Vineyards Merlot was absolutely gorgeous, if I do say so myself. The tannins were still strong and pronounced. It had a dark, very extracted purple color, with firm mouthfilling tannins. Interestingly enough, it paired quite well with my port poached roasted figs with gorgonzola and walnuts. Megan mentioned that she thought it would go well with some good dark chocolate.
Our last wine of the evening was a 2001 Coturri Chauvet Vineyards Old Vines East Block Zinfandel courtesy of Richie and Megan. It was thick and port-like, with hints of raisin and wild berry. Usually an old vine zin is more earthy and a bit drier, but Coturri's house style of zin leans more toward high residual sugar and high alcohol. This particular zin didn't disappoint in that respect. The high alcohol content was barely detectable, obviously buried underneath all the fresh fruit that was bursting out of the glass.
The two Coturri wines were a perfect ending to the evening. That zin definitely made up for the corked Modus 2000 super tuscan we opened earlier (it wasn't your fault Richie).
To Become a Better Cook, Sharpen Your Senses - Learn to listen to your food as it cooks, and to rely on your senses of touch and smell.
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