Last Friday (8/27/99) saw an incursion into the Empire State of a small but well-lubricated force from the land of Celine Dion and all that hockey hullabaloo.
The assembled New York contingent was amazed to find not a beady eye nor a single flapping head in evidence as it welcomed Mr. Tom Gandey and his girlfriend Karen ("The Hummingbird") to town with an offline in the quaint borough of Brooklyn. Among the curious who came to gawk but stayed to talk were Jeff and Patrice Davidson, Mike and Kim Bassman, Lisa Allen and myself, and the prolific Oleg. O., who had been grudgingly allowed away from his newly-arrived bundle of joy, albeit on a short, tight leash.
We arrived at La Bouillabaisse roughly two minutes early to find that they were a little unprepared for us, a little annoying given that, as a condition of our B-ing our own Bs and having corkage waived, they had allotted us a two-hour (seven to nine) slot in which to cavort to our hearts' content, after which time we were to hit the road, Jack. At any rate, after a very short scramble they soon had us settled in, popping corks like crazy and carrying on in the international language of winegeekdom; a truly inspiring display of cross-cultural dŽtente, eh?
We started off with the Cloody, er, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 1998 (which we had duplicates of--fortunately there was a backup red): soft, light nose--this strikes me right away as being in the style of the softer 1997 rather than the much more extravagant 1996, although after tasting it a bit more it seems to have hit a middle ground between the two. Yes, it's grassy, crisp & herbaceous in the mouth, nicely tart & tangy, still a straightforward style of sauvignon blanc that I find fun.
Next a red, the Louis Latour Château Corton Grancy 1993: I like the color on this one--very translucent, but a rich vibrant red nonetheless; the nose is very soft--spectral notes of cherry and earth and cola haunt the bowl of the glass, on more nasal perusal light forest-floor hints emerge. When sipped, this wine surprises with its softness--it melts into your mouth and the flavors settle lightly on your palate like volcanic ash. Very low acidity, very soft and delicate, but with a streak of rich earthy fruit to hang your hat on.
We order our appetizers and entrées now. Naturally, at a restaurant named 'La Bouillabaisse' we order everything BUT actual bouillabaisse.
Peter Michael Chardonnay Clos du Ciel 1995: pale yellow; velvety-lush buttery-pear-oak nose; rich & a bit viscous in the mouth, bit of crispness, more pear & butter. To me it seems a kind of a generic big calchard, but I'm not a fan of the style--others find it more appealing.
Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Montmains 1996: Well, I brought this one, so it's obviously more my style of chardonnay: light, crisp nose--lemon-lime, stones & rainwater. Crisp in the mouth as well, with a bit of roundness around the edges, smooth Chablis, opening up a bit from when I last had it a year ago.
Another Burg comes by... Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts 1993: much deeper color than the Latour; cherry & minty herbs on the nose, light hint of barnyard; rich and crisp and bright in the mouth, nice earth & cherry notes with a strong spine of crisp acidity to give it some zing. Nice young fightin' Burgundy that helps to beat back the honey-glazed pear with blue-cheese assault of my appetizer.
J.J. Prum Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Spatlese 1983: Pale straw color; mmmm, lovely nose of a riesling in its prime--mess o'gasoline, honey, gardenia and minerals--my notes say 'freshly-scrubbed Valdez rocks'--lively-smelling and kind of exciting. Rich, lightly sweet & beautifully balanced wine that just bursts with flavor in my mouth, slightly oily feel but wonderfully acidic as well. A beauty, and the only empty bottle by the time we leave. Tom brought this one down from the Great White North and Karen the Hummingbird begins to live up to her nickname.
We're working on the entrŽes now, and some heavier reds appear.
Rosenblum Petite Sirah Kenefick Ranch 1995: medium-dark color; cherry vanilla and earth on the nose; fairly crisp, dense but straightforward cherry flavors, more cherry than I'd expect from a PS and less of the dark earthiness that I associate with the grape. Nicely crisp, with some gritty tannins sneaking in on the finish. Interesting PS, which I would never have spotted as PS were I tasting it blind.
Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot Napa 1997: Dark, dense purply-red; ripe, gushing nose of raspberry-plum and dark oaky notes; to the taste this wine is a bit fruitbomby, with dark, robitussiny flavors, black raspberry, oak; dense and rich, but a bit disjointed and overwhelming, with some dry tannins floating up from under a quilt of fruit. Not quite 'liquified Viagra,' I'm afraid, although I like it more than I like most California merlot.
Having reached our allotted time limit, we pack Oleg off before his electronic ankle-bracelet starts shrieking and adjourn to Sweet Melissa's Patisserie for dessert. In the interest of full disclosure I must aver that this establishment is owned by an old friend of ours who is a gifted pastry chef, and they provide some lovely sweets for us to nosh while we sit in the garden and swap tall wine tales, all the while polishing off the remains of the evening's offerings. Both of the Burgundies remained lovely if very contrasting examples of pinot noir, and, having calmed down a bit with some air, the Pride found its place in my glass as a sort of fruity Portlike after-dinner drink. We chat and enjoy the cool night air in our Brooklyn garden setting.
Finally, with Karen flitting about the rim of the bottle dipping her bill towards the sweet nectar, we opened the Thirty Bench Riesling Icewine Niagara Peninsula 1995: Gold-amber color; vivid, rich apricot-mango (or is that the mango in my hard-won fruit tart?) nose, with a hint of what? acetone? that makes Tom worry that this is a slightly off bottle. No matter, it's awfully tasty. Very sweet--no, make that supersweet, with loads of zingy acidity to keep the viscous mouthfeel from cloying. A rich mouthful that turns into another empty bottle in record time.
Well, the bottles drained and the wee hours approaching, we escort our visiting dignitaries away from the rustic charms of Brooklyn and back to the bright lights of Manhattan, giving them the time-honored New York treatment of out-of-towners by walking them in circles around Greenwich Village for a while to confuse them, then pointing them in the supposed direction of their hotel and beating a hasty retreat.
If they aren't heard from again, you didn't hear this from me.