Sunday, October 31, 2010

When All the Wines are Noble, Old, and Glorious (Except for the one that I Brought)

I went out to dinner with my buddy Levi the other night and it turned out that I brought a proverbial knife to a gunfight. It was a "soft" opening for a new Thai restaurant downtown in the old Cru space. Thai food for the western palate. I figured that I'd bring something tasty that would go with the food, we'd have a few glasses and enjoy our meal, nothing terribly fancy. It turned out to be one of those nights where everything you drink is noble, old, and glorious.

As we sat down I took out the wine I brought along, the 2008 Pierre Gonon St Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers, $32, Fruit of the Vines Imports. But that bottle waited in the corner of the table, as a magnum of 1996 Bollinger Grande Année appeared. So that's how it's going to be. I was surprised by how open and utterly drinkable the wine was, as you hear about how acidic and closed down the 1996's can be. Not this one - it was generous and just lovely, very much a wine of finesse. The finish was delicate and intense, with this kernel of floral fragrance that left a great impression. I don't know how long this bottle had been open - perhaps it was shut tight 6 hours prior to me drinking a glass, but in any case, certainly a compelling case for 1996 Bollinger.

Then Levi pulls out a 1996 Francis Cotat Sancerre La Grande Côte, Michael Skurnik Imports. Yes, Francis, not his son François (I think it's his son, anyway). This is a phenomenal wine, and one of the interesting things about it is that honestly, served blind, there would be no way to peg it as Sauvignon Blanc. We agreed that it smelled, tasted, and really felt like Chenin Blanc - an old Montlouis, Levi said. In any case, it is beautifully and energetically aromatic, perfectly balanced, rich with baked apples, and it expanded and changed quite a bit over the course of an hour. A great argument for cellaring high quality Sancerre.

If my night had ended there, I would have had plenty of wine to think about. But Levi works most nights and doesn't himself get to go out to dinner very often. So he couldn't stop himself from bringing along a bottle of old Riesling, the 1976 H. Josef Fries Noviander Honigberg Riesling Auslese, Savio Soares Selections. The first surprise about this wine - it was very fresh and vigorous. The wine is 34 years old. One of the very kind servers appeared with a wine by the same producer, but from the 1992 vintage, "just to compare," he said. That wine was also delicious, and it seemed like a newborn baby in the company of the golden rich 34 year old wine. In the 1976 there was a little petrol hint, but for me the overall sensation of the wine was this slow-creeping herbal honey over rocks. It drank dry, by the way, and I didn't know it was an Auslese until I looked more carefully at the label.

By the way, as I was putting my coat on to leave, the Gonon St Joseph had finally opened up and was a delicious blend of flowers, white fruit, and stones. If you happen to have any of this, seems like it's worth leaving it alone for a few years, at least.

That should be enough, and I should be winding up this post up, but Levi suggested as we were leaving that we go to Babbo, just to drink this wine he had been wanting to drink for 6 months, a wine that no one else sells. And so we did. It is a solera wine from Sardinia, the 1987 Attilio Contini Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva. This is the kind of wine that really makes you wonder about things. Why solera wine, in Sardinia? How does it taste at the same time like Manzanilla sherry and also like the orange bitters and spice of Chinato? Does 1987 refer to the youngest wine in this bottle? Will I ever feel as though I actually know anything about wine? Probably not.

I've never before tasted anything like this wine. I guess it's considered to be a dessert wine, but I cannot imagine drinking it with sweet food. Certain cheeses, maybe, like something hard and salty made of sheep's milk. I would love to drink it again as the focus of an evening, but apparently there really isn't any more of it to be had in these parts.

I often dream about moving with my wife and small kids out of New York to some smaller and more manageable place. This kind of evening, though, reminds me of how amazing it is to be here in that without expecting it, you can experience several different esoteric and beautiful things from all over the world, with friends, in one night.


Anonymous said...

You've got to figure that when the likes of JJ Prum gets lost from the retelling, that it must have been a pretty darn good wine night.

Thanks for sharing, and for spending some time. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

An interesting post, as always, but to be fair, it's a lot easier to experience "several different esoteric and beautiful things from all over the world," when you're lucky enough to be rolling with industry heavyweights like your buddy Levi.

Alas, the majority of New Yorkers simply don't have access to these kinds of wines on a regular basis. Still, masochistic Auslese-hole that I am, I really want to know about the Prum.

Brooklynguy said...

I hope it's okay with you, Anon, if I adopt the word Auslese-hole as my new favorite swear word. i think it's pretty brilliant.

the Prum honestly was a bit lost on me. it was 2007 vintage, a .375 ML, a Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Kabinett I believe...and it just didn't register with me the way the other wines did. but perhaps Levi will chime in with his opinion.

Anonymous said...

Anon, Anon,

Here I have spent my entire career striving for irrelevancy and industry hanger-on status, and you go ahead and compare me to Mike Tyson anyway.

Is this just because I have a giant front facial tattoo?

So unfair.

On another note, wouldn't it be more chill to just go out there make your own cool narrative rather than playing the jealousy card on other people?

Don't let the Jones' keep your down.


Asher said...

These wines, delicate with age, paired well with Thai food?