Monday, February 12, 2007

Dinner with the In-Laws

That phrase alone is enough to send shivers down the spine of many of us. It's never easy to completely relax but if you and the husband/wife are in a good place together, it can be done. BrooklynLady and I are in such a place, luckily, because her folks flew in last Thursday from California and we had several dinners together, all in our living/dining room.

For the last dinner of this visit I decided to whip up something special, a little bit festive. But with tiny daughter needing attention, the occasion called for a meal that would be simple to prepare. I went with roast rack of lamb - rub it with mustard, garlic, herbs, throw it in the oven, let is rest, presto. Also some simple roast potatoes with white truffle oil, and some braised kale. Everything worked out well, I am happy to say, and the in-laws were appreciative and in YUM-land.

I wanted to serve something interesting as an aperitif, I didn't feel like defaulting to Champagne. Not that there's anything wrong with Champs, but we did that on Thursday night. How about something elegant and festive in a white wine? I opened a bottle of Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, an Alsace producer I have been meaning to try for a while now. Both Fork and Bottle (if you read the WBW 29 Biodynamic Roundup, you already know this) and The Wine Doctor have nice profiles of this biodynamic producer, so take a peek.

2004 Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim, $28.
Not vieille vignes, not a grand cru vineyard, this is more of an "entry level" Gewurz from the Zind. I LOVED it, and will definitely investigate Zind Humbrecht further. Deep golden color, very inviting. Expansive floral aromas, also some classic lychee, some citrus, and a touch of honey. And that's just the nose, people! First impression of the palate is purity lean and clean wine, surprisingly so for a wine with innate sweetness. The wine zings with the tension that comes from a perfect mixture of sweet yellow fruit and acidity. The label indicates that this wine is a "2" out of 5 on the sweetness index, and this honeyed and floral residual sugar carried through on the long and elegant finish. I wanted more and more of this wine. I want some now...

Father-in-law stunned us by bringing to this dinner a bottle of mature Burgundy wine, a 1993 Volnay 1er Cru by Robert Ampeau, a producer I had never encountered. It gets mostly excellent reviews from the community on Cellar Tracker, and one of the reviews said that it needs time to open up. Good thing I read that note...

1993 Domaine Robert Ampeau et Fils Volnay Santenots 1er Cru
Smells of seaweed and rotting vegetables when first opened. Reminded me of the older regional wine I opened with cheese at our holiday wine dinner. Not good. But almost 3 hours later (thank you Cellar Tracker reviewers), by the time we sat down to our dinner, the nasty smells had completely blown off. Lovely tranparent ruby, no visible signs of aging. Enticing smells of sweet cooked cherries, some spices, and some musty earth undertones. Amazing, how much changed in the nose over a few hours. Silky texture, flavors of cooked red fruit and clay earth with some dried leaf character - an interesting and delicious mature Burgundy. Made fast and close friends with the food too. This wine is available at Crush in Manhattan for $70, and although I really enjoyed it, I am not sure if that represents a great value. I guess if you're in the market specifically for a mature red Burgundy, it is a good value, but if you have $70 to spend on any bottle of red Burgundy...not so sure.

I opened a half bottle of dessert wine as a final flourish, a 2002 Grgich Hills Violetta, $30 (on secondary market). I have enjoyed, but not loved this wine in the past, and this was the best showing thus far. This is a late harvest blend of mostly Chardonnay (65-70% I think), Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. Deep yellow with some light orange tint. Orange blossom and honey smells, some citrus peel. Fat and intense on the palate, with confectioners sugar and orange liquor at first, then some floral and honey flavors. A somewhat flabby and unfocused finish prevents this wine from soaring, in my opinion, but it is certainly a treat.

So the in-laws had a great time at dinner, and we did too - a successful evening to be sure. BrooklynBabyGirl slept through almost the whole thing too. And how lovely was that gesture, bringing that lovely old Burgundy? Good luck with your dinners with the in-laws.


Unknown said...

Robert Ampeau was a good friend until he died in December, 2004. I still see his son Michel every year. I do believe that the vital transformation over time in the carafe or glass you noticed is a mark of very fine wine. BTW,the 1993 is available at Moore Brothers on 20th Street in Gramercy for $63. The 1976 (!), a very great wine, is still available at $110.

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Greg,
Thanks for your comments. I agree with you regarding transformation in the glass. I was surprised and excited by this wine's ability to do so at almost 15 years old. Your late-friend clearly was a master wine maker. I will keep my eyes open for his wines, and thanks for the tip on the 1976. Did you find this blog by searching for your friend's name? Hope you'll stop by again sometime.