Above: The 1989 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco was truly brilliant yesterday afternoon. We paired with roast leg of lamb and sat outside in the gorgeous weather. Ubi major minor cessat: check out Tom’s excellent profile of Produttori del Barbaresco here. I visited the winery during my March trip to Piedmont and will post on my tasting there in the next few weeks.
Posting in a hurry this afternoon because slammed with work and getting ready for tonight’s Orange Wine dinner at Vino Vino, where I’ll be pouring and talking about some amazing wines. We posted the wines and the menu earlier today. (There are still a few spots open: the wines are great, chef Esteban is pulling all the stops, and in true Austinite fashion, the dinner will be followed by Gary Clark Jr.’s first performance at Vino Vino.)
We shared our Easter feast with another couple, close friends of ours. I roasted a leg of lamb yesterday afternoon, seasoned with rosemary from our garden. My beautiful Tracie P made all the fixins. :-)
Tracie P had also dyed some Easter eggs. Our new home is so wonderful. Words just cannot say how much I love her…
In other news…
Alfonso aka Italian Wine Guy has been making his way from Bordeaux down to Italy. I’ve really be enjoying his posts and his travels… Definitely worth checking out…
Every once in a while you come across one of those truly special bottles, like this 1989 classic Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco,* at a price you can afford. I found it the other day in a wine shop in San Antonio (where I’ve been spending a lot of time these days) and although it gently pushed the envelope of my pricepoint ceiling (sorry for the mixed metaphors), I just couldn’t resist.
The 1989 harvest in Langa was one of the greatest in contemporary memory and I’ve had the great fortune to taste a lot of Nebbiolo from both 1989 (a classic, slow-ripening vintage) and 1990 (also a classic, but with slightly warmer temperatures). This gorgeous wine is still very young: the nobility of its tannin and earthy flavors were adorned by delicate notes of berry and red stone fruit, the way Laura’s noble, alpine beauty is dressed by her golden hair and her delicate veil as she sits by the stream in Petrarch’s songs.
Many would fetishize a wine like this but we always open them with food. After all, the people who made them intended them to be consumed with food.
At the urging of our friend Howard, Tracie B had Netflixed Alberto Lattuada’s 1962 social-commentary/thriller/comedy Mafioso, starring one of the all-time greatest Italian actors, Alberto Sordi.
Lattuada doesn’t make it as often into the syllabuses of Italian film studies in the U.S. as does, say, Pietro Germi (with 1960s classics like Sedotta e abbandonata), but he should. His Mafioso is 1960s social-commentary comedy at its best, at once poignant and hilarious, bridging the Messina Straits of the paradox of the country that never was — Italy. Alberto Sordi is a Sicilian who’s moved to the industrial north and has made a life for himself and his beautiful blond alpine wife. Lattuada’s camera follows him has he fulfills his peripeteia in a journey home to visit his family. The backdrop is the “economic miracle” of the 1960s in Italy, where the north flourished while the south continued to languish. I won’t spoil it for you but the final thriller scenes had us on the edge of our seats as we sipped the last drops of that gorgeous wine.
Here’s the great scene where Sordi’s character’s family welcomes him home with a classic Sicilian luncheon. Coppola ain’t got nothing on this baby!
* Many erroneously distinguish the “cru” or single-vineyard bottlings of Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco from the classic Barbaresco (made with fruit sourced from multiple vineyards) using the ignominious qualifier normale. Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco that has been made by blending wines sourced from different vineyards is classic Barbaresco or Barbaresco classico.
Above: La Tour d’Argent’s signature dish, duck breast in civet. The duck bones are crushed in a press and their juices are used to make a civet (sauce). Civet is an ancient recipe. In my translation of the 15th-century Ars Culinaria by Maestro Martino (UC Press, 2005), you’ll find an excellent recipe for venison civet, for example.
In all honesty, I’m a little embarrassed by the extravagance of a lunch Tracie B and I enjoyed in Paris a few weeks ago while we were in town for the NN+ tourette France 2009.
Above: We drank a 1991 Volnay Les Champans 1er Cru with the main course. Lunch wasn’t cheap but the list was jam-packed with very reasonably priced “outer borough” Burgundy. I was looking at 1989 Marsannay but the excellent sommelier pointed out that 1991 is drinking better in general and that Marsannay would have been too tannic with our duck. His choice was superb and he kept me well under my price point. Note the dust on the bottle: this is a sign that it has been well cellared in situ and has rested peacefully. (Check out Eric’s cool article on “Those Other Burgundies.”)
Especially in these tough times (and believe me, I am so relieved and fortunate to be busy with work these days, when so many of my peers are having trouble), I couldn’t help but be more than a little self-conscious.
Above: Watching the wine service at La Tour was a thrill. Our sommelier was so friendly and helpful. Frankly, it’s intimidating to approach a wine list like that (check out this pic that Tracie B snapped of me). I knew that I wanted to drink old Burgundy and I told our steward my price point, my preference in style (traditional), and we discussed our menu. The 91 Volnay was fantastic and you’d be surprised at how little I paid for it: because La Tour buys so much wine on release, the prices are actually surprisingly affordable (as long as you stay clear of the heavy hitters).
But, hey, you only live twice: I can’t imagine that Tracie B and I will be back in Paris any time soon and a lunch like this is something you do once in your life (And since we were on tour, we ate mostly ham sandwiches while we were there! And so this was our one extravagant repast. Believe it or not, I actually lost weight.)
Above: For every course, the mise en place was a work of art. I loved how they trimmed the lettuce leaves to match the size of these delicately sliced, raw scallops. We paired this first course with a 4-year-old Savennières.
I’ve read a lot of food and wine bloggers talking about how they are cutting back on and reeling in their wine budgets, these days (and so are we here in Austin). That’s perfectly understandable as well as indispensable in this new “age of responsibility.”
Above: A picture really isn’t worth a thousand stinky flavors and aromas! The cheese course was phenomenal. We paired with an equally stinky vin jaune.
But it is equally important to go out and spend money on wine and in restaurants and support local businesses and merchants. Remember: every time you buy a bottle of wine (even if you’re spending less on wine these days), you are supporting a whole chain of people in the industry — producer, importer, broker/vendor, distributor, and restaurateur/retailer (including the shippers, drivers, delivery people, etc.).
Not that La Tour d’Argent needs any help from me and Tracie B: a pair of bankers sitting next to us ordered two bottles of old Mersault and I can only imagine what they paid (probably in the thousands, gauging from my perusal of the list).
Above: I have no idea what we ate for dessert but it was delicious.
Lunch is certainly more affordable at La Tour than dinner and Tracie B and I stuck to the fixed price menu. You would be surprised at how little we actually spent, considering the venue.
All I can say is that the experience was worth every penny. Tracie B was simply stunning that day, the sunlight reflecting off the Seine and giving her a glow that I will never forget as long as I live.