The lovely Elizabeth offered her gorgeous Midtown bungalow for the first meeting of The Carova Milk Bar in a long, long, looooooong time. Why has it been so long? I really don't know. Memphis blessed us with a tolerable Summer evening; & by tolerable I mean it was ONLY 90 degrees. So we began with Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2008 ($25.99 at Joe's) out on the patio. E already had a lovely spread of olives, sausage, cheeses & sushi waiting for us as sipped. Next up was a Vincent Girardin Morey St-Denis 2001. The aroma was brimming with dark cherry & forest floor, on the palate the wine was rich & dark with tart cherry & a sort of tea-like tannin. It was heavenly with a red Cerignola olive. Lance & Fiona popped open the first of their wines, a 2007 Neal Family Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley.
Elizabeth had the first course, a super summery salad of butter lettuce, toasted walnuts, fresh cherries, creamy blue cheese & a gorgeously elegant ginger-sesame vinaigrette. First off, I'll admit that the wine we chose to pair with this dish seems like an odd pairing or even a mistake. However, isn't experimentation kind of the point? Anyway, I digress. Richie & Meagan so kindly shared with us a DeLille Cellars Chaleur Estate 1994. This blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot & cabernet franc had aged into a gorgeous, sensual little thing. The rich liqueur-like fruit had softened into a woodsy, dried fruit, pantry spiced red wine that had a haunting presence. The cherries in the salad made the wines texture explode with voluptuousness yet still remaining elegant enough for the salad. Our next wine was a Peter Lehman Eight Songs Shiraz 1999. Its amazing how it takes 10 years for a Aussie shiraz to calm down to a state of drinkability. To be perfectly honest, I really am not much for Australian wines but this one was pretty special. The decade of age had turned this from a bombastic fruit laden alcoholic monster into a spicy, sweet moderately bodied viscous Rotie-wannabe. Its not often that I get to taste something that makes me realize how much I need to keep an open mind at ALL times.
The next selection was from Elizabeth's cellar, a Robert Sinskey Cabernet Franc 2001 Los Carneros. Lower quality, overcropped cab francs reek of stewed bell pepper. The hallmark of a excellent one is a pepper quality yes, but more of a black peppercorn. It also had a plum skin aroma that was lively & rich with hint of violet. The wine's velvet texture was smooth & supple with a lively finish.
For our next course yours truly prepared a Provencal Fish Stew with pernod, fennel, white wine, cod, flounder, scallops, shrimp & homemade shrimp stock. To pair with this I brought a Domaine des Baumard Savennieres 2006 ($30.99 at Joe's). The waxy, honeycomb notes & bright acidity really matched well with the fennel & pernod. Those flavors in the stew really amplified the texture & minerality in the wine. The rich broth poached the fish just perfectly....if I do say so myself.
Our next wine was also courtesy of yours truly, Martinelli Lolita Ranch Pinot Noir 2004 Russian River Valley. I love how a big, brawny, masculine pinot comes from a woman, the legendary Helen Turley. At 5 years old this bad boy could have gone another 5 easy. The nose was all dark, dark cherry & brambly fruit with fresh wild herb & earthy mushroom. This wine was big & rich with a sensual lusciousness that was voluptuous & at 15.8 alcohol I was shocked at the balance. Then again that shows how much of a deft hand Mrs. Turley has with this ripe fruit.
Next course was provided by Richie & Meagan. Their home-smoked salmon baklava was a savory twist on that Mediterranean classic. Crispy layers of phyllo dough encased salmon they smoked themselves folded with honeyed goat cheese & dill. They topped it with creme fraiche, flying fish & smelt roe & fresh dill. That gorgeous little dish was paired with a spicy little sparkler, Szigeti Gruner Veltliner Brut NV Austria $20.99. The white pepper & stone fruit notes amplified the smoky-sweet flavors in the salmon-klava. This bubbly also woke up our palate after the previous reds.
Lance & Fiona lavished us with another vinous beauty, Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste 1995 Pauillac. Ok, so here's the thing. I am really just not a Bordeaux guy. I know it may sound weird but I'm just not. However, again I was shown how I should always have a wine open mind & palate. Its not often that I get to taste something so classic & traditional as a Pauillac. This right here was a wine from a region that has made countless winemakers across the world fall in love with wine, plant grapes & make their own wine. Lance said that the last time he had this wine it was a bruiser, soooo we were initially going to decant. After a little preliminary taste through by Richie & I to confirm the order we decided to skip the decanter. 14 years of bottle age had softened it & integrated its power & weight into velvet soft texture & dark, tart red currant fruit.
As if we needed anymore food at all, Kelly plated up his chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches that he made himself (I'm so proud!) Elizabeth turned to me & said "alright. why don't you head downstairs into my cellar & pick 2 wines to open." !!!!! Wha wha Whaaat?? What to do? What, what to say? What to pick? Should I? Shouldn't I? I remember saying "I don't really know if you want me down there...WHOOSH! And off I flew downstairs followed closely by Richie & Meagan. Oh would Elizabeth regret thiiiis. I stopped myself from pulling anything that was too outrageous, well....kind of. We emerged upstairs with Williams Selyem Zinfandel Forchini Vineyard 2002 & Michel Chapoutier Les Meysonniers 1998 Crozes-Hermitage. We weren't all that bad because we did tell her that we would be more than happy to take them back downstairs & try again. Elizabeth just smiled & said "pop em!" The W-S zin was first. It was all brambly, wild red raspberry, fig & clove. The palate was sweet but balanced with a really cool earthy spice note. 7 years had been very good to this wine, it lost none of its prowess & presence. What made this wine special was not only that it was really very delicious, but that Elizabeth chose to share this beauty with us. Well kind of chose.... The Chapoutier was next. One whiff & taste & I turned to Kelly & said "this is like beef bourginon!" It really was! It was meaty & rich with layers & layers of savory, earthy notes. The finish lingered for what seemed like a millennium. It was truly spectacular.
The wine, food & great friends made this summer evening something I won't soon forget.
The Pour: The Evolution of a Natural Winemaker - On Mount Etna, Frank Cornelissen has learned the difference between making wine and making good wine for the ages.
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