Spanna 55 or 58? The answer and seals on the beach

You may remember a post from more than two years ago on a bottle of Vallana Spanna 1958 that my good buddy, wine writer and WSJ editor, Jeff Grocott and I shared for our fortieth birthdays. The wine was fantastic — fresh, with lively acidity and fruit, a real treat. Last night, I had the great fortune to pour and to taste the 1955 with our good friend and Jaynes Gastropub regular John G, who graciously tasted me, Jayne, and Jon on the wine (as we say in the wine biz, using the dative form of first person singular, for you linguist geeks). Jayne and Jon have some crazy stuff on their reserve list (be sure to ask them or me about it next time you visit) and this beauty showed gloriously. As much as I enjoyed the 58 back in New York with Jeff, I have to say that the 55 showed better (and is generally considered the slightly superior of the two spectacular vintages for Piedmont). Had it been topped off with young wine at some point? I’m sure it had. Was it recorked (and maybe even rebottled) recently? Probably not so recently, given the mold I found under the capsule. Was it a stunningly delicious wine, with vibrant fruit and acidity, and that ineffable lightness that traditional Nebbiolo attains when vinified and aged in a traditional manner? Well, I think you get the picture… If not, see the photo above.

When my shift ended, Jayne and Jon graciously let me pop a bottle of the 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by Sanguineto I had brought in my wine bag. My pairing? The Jaynes Burger, obviously. Man, I am just so crazy about this wine — a traditional, old-school expression of Sangiovese (in this case, known as Prugnolo Gentile), with smaller amounts of Mammolo and Canaiolo. Classic red fruit flavors, Nadia Comăneci balance between acidity, fruit, and tannin (Benoit, who shared the bottle with me, agreed). I’ve squirreled away another bottle to share with Tracie B (maybe over camaronillas — deep-fried corn tortillas stuffed with Pacific Ocean shrimp — at Bahia Don Bravo, my lovely?) when we come back out in a few weeks for the San Diego Natural Wine Summit at Jaynes August 9. Check out the wines we’ll be pouring here.

Jumping on a plane now to get back to Tracie B in Austin (it’s been two days too long since I’ve seen her) but here’s a quick vid I shot this morning of the seals outside of mama Judy’s place in La Jolla:

A favorite Chianti at Bahia

Above: Dora was in the kitchen the other night at Bahia and the food was just smoking good! The best chile relleno I’ve ever had there.

Last Sunday, Tracie B and Jayne and Jon and I headed over to Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock (La Jolla) for some corkage a la acapulqueña. (Tracie B was in town for a lil’ Southern California weekend.)

Jon brought an obligatory bottle of López de Heridia 1989 Tondonia white, always so good at Bahia, and I brought a bottle of one of my favorite wines to pair with Mexican food, with any food really, Selvapiana 2006 Chianti Rufina. Franco is a big fan of Selvapiana as well: the wine is traditional in style, 100% Sangiovese, very fresh and bright in the mouth. I love the way its acidity and natural fruit flavor marry with the intense flavors of Dora’s cooking. And it costs around $22 at the La Jolla BevMo.

Dora’s camaronillas were excellent that night, a classic in her acapulqueño repertoire.

The vineyards of Chianti Rufina (pronounced ROO-fee-nah, btw, with the ictus on the first syllable) lie above 400 meters (perfect for growing Sangiovese) and the wines have a distinctive freshness thanks to the temperature variation (warm summer days but cool nights). Check it out…

Camaronillas and Cornas

Here’s a little photo essay of Sunday night 2004 Chablis by La Chablisienne and sunset and then 2001 Les Méjeans Cornas by Jean-Luc Colombo and camaronillas at Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock. Salvador and Roberto have been really cool about letting me bring my own wine and the other night they turned me on to a dish I’ve never had there: camaronillas — grilled corn tortillas wrapped around jumbo shrimp and then deep fried. The camaronillas are then dressed with shredded cabbage, lettuce, fresh salsa, shredded cheese, and a light mayonnaise sauce. Salvador explained that camaronillas is a cognate of camarones (shrimp) and quesadilla (a tortilla stuffed with cheese). Salvador said that it’s a specialty of his home state Guerrero.

Bahia was packed when we got there so we walked down to Calumet Park, broke out our stemware and 2004 Chablis by Chablisienne and watched the sunset.

The point you see in the distance is Bird Rock, the surf break that gives Bird Rock its name.

We shared a glass of 2001 Les Méjeans Cornas by Jean-Luc Colombo with this foxy lady.

Camaronillas are my new favorite dish at Bahia and they paired well with the rich Cornas. The mouthfeel of the fried shrimp, in particular, went well with the meatiness of the excellent wine.

I love Dora: she’s the chef at Bahia. She’s not there every night, but, man, when she is, look out!