Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Pickyeater's BBQ

I was lucky enough to be invited to Keith Levenberg's BBQ again this year. Last year at this event I drank a few great wines that were completely new to me. Again this year a clutch of lovely people assembled on the roof of a building in Chelsea, again we had great weather, again Keith grilled a bevy of truly excellent steaks, and again everyone brought some sort of interesting wine that they wanted to share with the world.

I didn't take notes because I thought it would be more fun to enjoy the party, to speak to other people. I finally met Michel Abood in person, Manuel Camblor too, and many other good folks. There were some great wines, many of which fall outside of my typical experience. Here are some that moved me, along with a few impressions:

1995 Mount Eden Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains - if California wine tasted like this, I would drink lots of California wine. And by the way, put this up against a lot of white Burgundy from the same year and this will come out ahead, as there is not even a hint of oxidation. This wine was so fresh and well balanced, so utterly and completely delicious. Pure and intense fruit, secondary mint and soil, a mature richness that really lingers. Top notch wine.

1999 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre - an Alsace Gewurtztraminer with some bottle age...yum. Actually, the nose was the star here, not to knock the palate which was lovely, but the nose was so complex with typical Gewurtz tropical fruit, but with such an elegant and mature tone. Really intriguing wine.

1981 Bodegas Riojana Gran Riserva - I don't know which Gran Riserva this was, as there are several, but whatever it was, it was fantastic. Such a clearly defined nose of bloody meat and metal, dried cherries, and rocks. So gentle for such a powerful wine. Antique in character, youthful in its power, this was just great wine. Why did they stop making wine like this in Rioja???

1996 Michel Lafarge Beaune 1er Cru Grèves - I had so much fun drinking this wine. I wasn't collecting wine when this was released, and it's a real treat to get to drink a wine like this. Seemed austere at first, but actually it wasn't - it's just old-school Lafarge. The fruit was incredibly pure and the wine was perfectly balanced, and so the acidity of the vintage was the most obvious characteristic of the wine. But it had a quiet intensity, and was absolutely lovely. I want a bottle for myself, and perhaps a Burgundian cheese plate.

2007 Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py - really a pretty wine with lively and enticing fruit, and it puts on weight with air time. Elegant in body, crystal clean and pure, perfectly balanced - delicious wine. Not as meaty as the 2006, but more elegant. Great Beaujolais.

I was eagerly anticipating drinking the 2000 Bruno Clair Savigny Lès Beaune 1er Cru Dominode, but it was corked. People hanging out with me should know this - I am a magnet for corked wine right now. Clearly I am unclean, and if/when I get better I will let you know.

It's not easy to decide what wine to bring to this sort of event. It's a bunch of wine geeks - I wanted to bring something of the highest quality, but also something unusual. So I decided to bring a bottle of Equipo Navazos Sherry La Bota de Fino "Macharnudo Alto" Nº 15. Most were unfamiliar with this wine, and many of them were not terribly interested in Sherry. I can understand that - Sherry is still unusual for most people, and alot of it just isn't terribly special. But this is Equipo Navazos Sherry we're talking about, and it is as special as Sherry gets. "The Real Jay Miller," a bit of a legend in NYC wine circles, was well versed in Equipo Navazos wines. In fact, he told me, Jesus Barquin of Equipo Navazos is a friend of his, and would be coming to the BBQ later on in the evening. How's that for a coincidence?

Jesus came, he saw, and he most assuredly conquered, bringing with him a bottle of Equipo Navazos Jerez-Xérès-Sherry La Bota de Manzanilla "Las Cañas" Nº 16. Tasting these two amazing wines side by side, listening to Jesus Barquin discuss them, I think I finally understood the difference between Manzanilla and Fino. People tend to speak of these wines as if they are exactly the same, only that Manzanilla comes from nearby Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Perhaps that is true when the wines are not individually distinctive. But these wines from Equipos Navazos were cousins at best. The Fino, a wine that I think of as light and elegant (and that is light and elegant), seemed positively brawny next to the Manzanilla's ethereal texture. Both smelled of the sea, but the Manzanilla was imposibly light, with only wispy hints of almonds on the nose and a ballerina's touch in the mouth. The Fino was more assertive and more definitively structured, and a bit more pungent. I loved them both.



Jesus Barquin said...

Neil, it was a pleasure to meet you in person. As I told you, my first contact as a reader of your blog was while looking from some info on Momofuku's places in Manhattan, and then I got to read with great pleasure your comments on different Sherries. You can't imagine how encouraging and refreshing is to happen to find anywhere in the world such 'smart' (:-D) wine lovers as Peter Liem and you.

Please allow me a small query, just for curiosity: did Jay tell you in advance that I intended to go to Keith's BBQ, or you only got to know that after arriving there? It is only a question from a guy interested in causalty and casualty issues...

And congratulations for your hard work here!

Brooklynguy said...

Jesus - such a pleasure to meet you. I met Jay for the 2nd time that night, and i had no idea you were coming to the BBQ.

hope to meet you again someday, preferably in Spain. Thanks for bringing such fantastic wine to the rest of us.

keithlevenberg said...

Glad you were both able to join us and I'm still staggered by the coincidence of the double Equipo Navazos appearance... small world! I got a chance to revisit the leftovers of the sherries last night and really enjoyed them. I think I mentioned these would be like, maybe, the third and fourth sherries I've ever had in my life, so I don't really know what to say about them except that I kinda preferred the Nº 16 for, as you put it, its lightness. Thanks for expanding my horizons!

I loved the Mount Eden too and wish I'd bought more of them when I had the chance. The old-school California producers are really something special and it's nice to see the pendulum swinging back their way.