So our beloved Mets finish up a pretty little July Fourth sweep of the crosstown girly-league team; this, coincident with every restaurant in town being closed for Independence Day, means that a celebration is called for chez Coad. We abandon the notion of picking up ribs from the Hog Pit and simply head home to grill up some steaks and toss in whatever else we have in the cupboard.

Putting in a special guest appearance is Star Chick Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd, always a stern and somewhat intimidating presence for me. I decide to let Lisa handle the socializing and hide myself in the kitchen, where it's safe.

There was a lot of talking, Kate Bush was of course played, I was coaxed into performing my interpretive dance on the theme of The Kick Inside, but apart from hearing incessant insincere complaints about revealing pictures of Lisa on my screensaver I was too busy cooking to take notes on nonwine highjinks, so you the reader will just have to fill in your own details.

What better way to kick off a midsummer night's guzzling than with an Alain Renardat-Fâche Cerdon de Bugey NV? Bigger and juicier than I remember the last batch or two being (I wonder, is this another product of the goofy '03 weather?), ripe and full of horehound-earthy strawberry fruit. Also a touch sweeter and squishier than I recall, although still possessed of cheerful acidity and frothy bubbles. Year in, year out, the perfect summer wine.

Now for something a bit more substantial, a Domaine du Closel Savennières Clos Papillon Cuvée Speciale 1996. Medium light straw-gold color. Richly and earthily aromatic: chamomile, quince and almond notes with just a hint of nutmeg, smells vibrant. Tastes big and hefty, an imposing wine with a firm spine and a great deal of substance. Still quite coiled at the core, but the once-hard edges are rounding slightly. More quince, more chamomile, Earl Grey tea flavors. The combination of size and balance is compelling, the way it takes the almost oversized flavorosity and focuses it into one pure, layered whole. Strangely, this wine has never had the unfriendly phase that so many Savenni¸res seem to go through; it's been a pleasure to drink throughout its short life and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. Just exquisite, in my book of Savennières this takes a backseat only to the holy '89 version. Star Chick Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd notes that it's aging much better than the '96 Coulée; I nod, agreeing with everything she says. I've learned that this placates her.

The chicks follow me into the kitchen, where they make fun of my red Hawaiian salt and try to distract me from the task at hand by arguing with me about why it's red. It's the oxidized volcanic soil, all right? OUT! Back to the conservatory with you saucy wenches!

When I pour her a glass of Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello California 2001 Star Chick Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd is convinced I'm trying to poison her with high-octane Aussie shiraz. She squinches up her face and moans about overextraction, but it turns out that she's just a delicate flower, too girly-fragile for this quintessentially all-American wine. Jeez, it's the Fourth of July, can't I squeeze ONE non-Frenchie into the lineup without all the eurocarps coming out to leap and play? Carp, carp, carp. Anyway, yes there's a good whiff of vanilla-coconut, but there's dark rich cassis-blackberry fruit underneath, and ever farther down there's a good gravelly-smoky baseline. Not a brawny wine like the '99, more along the lines of the middleweight '00. It's dark and chewy and a bit awkward now, but has good balance and definition for such a big baby. This I predict: leave it alone for a decade or so, it'll shed the shirazzy phase like a badger sheds its chrysalis.

Okay, fine. You shrinking violets want the other end of the spectum? Try an Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses 1978. Medium matte ruby color, just a hint of browning at the rim. Smooth and lightly earthy at first, this plumps out a bit with air, gains a little weight and a muted berryness emerges. Touch of pine, forest floor, smooth and mellow and bricky-red. Light bodied and marrowy, the acidity is supportive but rather subdued, there's a gossamer fleshiness that adds to the easygoing quality. The finish tastes pleasantly of mud. It's a delicate wine with a great deal of charm, one of the finer showings from a vintage that sometimes these days takes a turn towards dead-leafiness.

Star Chick Sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd tells her Olga Raffault Story™. I laugh politely, even though I've heard it before. It's a good story, you see. Plus, Lisa hasn't heard it, so it's worth retelling. I didn't mind sitting through it again one bit. No, really, I could probably even hear it a few more times, maybe once right after the summer is over and another time in, say, November, just before the holidays.

What better post-Olga Raffault Story™ wine than a Francois Pinon Vouvray Petillant Sec 1996? Hints of wax and pollen over a lean chalky frame, toasty almond traces underneath, hints of fresh-baked bread, more pollen on the finish. Happily cohesive and cheerful, there wine has passed its young-chenin awkward phase; the pear-apple fruit is muted and smooth, but I can't help thinking a few more decades might be called for. Still, it's got enough going on now to be quite enjoyable in its youth.

Hey, did you see that Andrea Immer TV show? That's a weird show. She sure is perky though, almost alarmingly so. I liked the part where she explains what a corkscrew is and how you need one to open some wine bottles. It's nice to see some reliable baseline information getting out there to the grass roots.

We keep saying we have to open one of Lisa's favorites to celebrate her getting into various medical schools, so here's our chance, with a Château d'Yquem Sauternes 1990. Her mighty heart skips a beat when she pries the bottle open, for the reek of TCA on the cork is noxious and unmistakable. Astonishingly, try as we might we can find absolutely no trace of taint in the wine itself.

Woohoo! I say.

I say again: Woohoo!

Yah. So it's a medium gold color, smells rich and round and pleasantly wacky. Big honey-vanilla, singed coconut, apricot, light botrytis, mandarin orange, lemon. Tastes big and rich, quite sweet and creamy. There's good acidity but also a soft blanket of baby fat, and a sense of broadness as well, it's a wide wide wine. It's too cohesive to be clumsy, but there are gaps between the flavors, seems like it needs a lot of time. A little more botrytis emerges on the finish, but so does more butterscotchy woodiness. A big, impressive young Sauternes that's fascinating for its substantiality and heft, an imposing wine that disappears awfully quickly.

No Huet, but not bad at all. When you consider this stuff is merely semillon and sauvignon it's truly an overachiever, so it looks like good ol' Tom Troiano (rest his WIWP soul) was right all along: good QPR.

Now for the real showstopper, a Marc Angeli Rosé d'Anjou 2001. Yes, the AOC-approved version. Naturally, it's horribly corked. I guess we dodged a bullet with the Sauternes, I suppose it's only fair. We stopper it up for return (why do I always feel obliged to keep corked wines in the fridge?) and open a second, which is fresh, lovely and creamy-light. It's not the boisterous thing that the Yquem was, but rather light and supple and oh so flavorful. Cherry-vanilla, spicy hay and orange cream, there's that CreamSicle note again. Medium sweet, the spine is always a presence, the light cherry-creamy fruit clothes it as it flicks back and forth like the business end of a nervous kitty.

Ah, that's good.

Yes, that's nice.

We're done now, though. The rest is just dancing and unreportable girl talk.

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