A friend’s 40th, a 1990 Vin Santo, and a bunch of awesome wine and food

Tuesday night we celebrated 40 years for our good friend Paolo Cantele in our home. Paolo was on the road “working the market” with his wines, as we say in the biz. And he just happened to be in Austin on his 40th birthday.

Tracie P outdid herself with this amazing strawberry cake. I wish yall could see just how beautiful she is right now. Truly aglow… :)

She also broke out her grandmother’s cast-iron skillet to fry up some lightly battered and delicately salted okra fritters. Man, when Tracie P starts a-fryin’, watch out! Delicious…

My contribution to the flight of wines poured was this 2001 Musar white that I had been saving. The oxidative style of this wine may not be for everyone but man, I would drink it every day (if I could afford it). Gorgeous wine, imho.

Barbecue and Burgundy? The 1993 Volnay-Satenots 1er Cru by Ampeau was excellent with Sam’s smoked lamb ribs. Awesome wine, thoroughly enjoyed by all thanks to Keeper Collection and husband Earl.

My “wine of the evening” could have been this 1992 Primitivo by Savese, generously proffered by Alfonso. This amphora-aged wine (yes, amphora before it got trendy) was on its last legs and we shared its last gasps of life. But, man, what gorgeous notes, laced with fruit and earth, emerged as it departed this world for a better one.

Dulcis in fundo… of all the great wines that were opened that night, the bottle that blew me away was this 1990 Vin Santo by Villa di Vetrice, one of my favorite producers in Chianti Rufina, perhaps more noted for their legendary olive oils, but always a solid producer of honest, real wine, however rough around the edges. Vin Santo is too often misunderstood in this country, where it’s served young and regrettably paired with cookies (as per your average Tuscan tourist trap). The acidity in this 21-year-old wine was brilliant and its layers and layers of flavor can best be described as a salty ice cream Sunday (think caramel, salty peanuts, apricot jam, etc.). I’ve had the good fortune to taste a lot of old Vin Santo from Chianti Rufina and it was a thrill to revisit this wine and this vintage. It paired beautifully with the cake but the winning pairing was the fresh burrata (lightly dressed with kosher salt and olive oil) that Alfonso had brought down from Jimmy’s in Dallas. THANK YOU, Guy!

I can almost hear Gene Wilder saying, “What knockers!” The burrata was outstanding.

Paolo had flown from Apulia to Texas only to find Primitivo and burrata — from Apulia! I guess globalization is good for something… And I sure am glad that Paolo was born. Happy birthday, mate!

A correction on white Musar and a Tracie P[olaroid] moment

Above: I met Serge Hochar, owner of Musar, a few years ago at a food and wine festival. Super nice guy and a lot of fun to be around. I’m not sure where he wrote or said this, but Georgios Hadjistylianou in Cyprus quotes him, “the harmony of nature is better than anything we could ever create. I believe it should be a priority to seek to drink what is ‘true’ rather than what is ‘good.'”

Reader Georgios Hadjistylianou in Cyprus was entirely right to write me, pointing out that Musar white is, in fact, made from Obeideh and Merwah, grapes indigenous to Mount Lebanon. (See a fact sheet on the wine here.)

He was writing me in reference to yesterday’s post on the super restaurant Marouch in Los Angeles. The restaurant listed the wine under “Chardonnay” but the other wine professionals with whom I dined were under the impression (as was I) that it was made from Sémillon.

Thanks, Georgios for the correction! :-) I can tell you — for certain — that the wine was delicious. ;-)

Obeideh and Merwah didn’t make it into Eric the Red’s (Eric the Green’s?) excellent post today on “a dozen obscure grapes that are the foundation of some wonderful wines and will reward intrepid explorers.” But I highly recomment both the wine (Musar) and Eric’s post to you.

In other news…

Couldn’t resist sharing this Polaroid moment from Kate and Dan’s wedding over the weekend. Among other fun activities, they had set up a Polaroid studio where you could take photos with some of the western artifacts lying around the Figueroa Mountain Farmhouse.

O my goodness, my Tracie P, you are the most mellifluous melody this singing cowboy has ever heard! I love you so! :-)

Wines I drank with Russian spies in LA at Marouch

Above: The 2000 Chateau Musar white (Sémillon) was FANTASTIC at Lebanese/Armenian restaurant Marouch in Los Angeles last night. At 10 years out, this wine is just coming into its own: oxidative and richly aromatic, with gorgeous nutty and stone fruit flavors.

Strained diplomatic relations between the two countries and the delicate nature of my mission as cultural attaché do not allow me to reveal the names of the persons with whom I dined last night. Let it suffice to say that they were all ethnic-Russian Jews who — at some point in their lives — have harbored sympathy for the Communist Party and/or own or have at one time owned a copy of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book.”

Above: Not to be missed at Marouch, the fried sardines. Serge, a wonderfully convivial host who came to this country more than 30 years ago, allows corkage in his fine establishment, which I cannot recommend enough.

Owner Serge Brady blew our communist party away with his superb cooking. I can’t believe I’ve almost reached 43 years of age without knowing about his restaurant. Amazing… While I was waiting for my friends, I sipped the Musar and noshed on turnips pickled in vinegar and red wine and cured olives. Perfection… simple and utterly undeniable and inconfutable perfection…

Above: My decoder ring was embedded in the Fattouch (Lebanese Salad).

Among other bottles opened last night, it was the Pascal Janvier 2009 Coteaux du Loir Rouge “Rosier,” made from Pineau d’Aunis, that captivated our senses more than any other. Some of my companions preferred it chilled, but espionage, my friends, is a dish best served température ambiante. Lip-smacking delicious wine. [PHOTO UNAVAILABLE FOR SECURITY REASONS!]

Above: Secret messages where imprinted in the Bastourma (Armenian Salami), which melted in your mouth after the for-your-tongue-only information was decoded.

But as if to prove the axiom that the signifier precedes the signified, it was another bottle brought by Comrade H, its contents now defunct, that contained the logogriphic dispatch with our orders.

Need I say more?

Get to Marouch AS QUICK AS YOU CAN!

In other news…

Readers of Do Bianchi have asked for it and here it is. A short video of The Grapes debut performance last week by the lovely Gross sisters (with whom I attended La Jolla High School). Enjoy!