Ever since my wife and I got introduced to the wine expert Alex Bernardo who runs the Vineyardgate wine shop in Millbrae with Yoda-like aura, our dining and drinking experiences have definitely kicked up another notch. Not only does Alex carry a great selection of wine (particularly French) at great prices, but also he introduced us to his good friends and customers who share our passion for wine and food. Collectively, I call this bunch "the Alex Bernardo Wine Appreciation Society" (ABWAS) of which I am gladly a member. Right, guys?
As is Andrew C., who was gracious enough to invite my wife and me to his town-home for a wine & dine experience I won't soon forget. Andrew and Alex Bernardo put on a bona fide Chinese seafood cooking show. But as in pretty much all ABWAS gatherings, food is just the means to drinking great wine. Thus, the whole affair had been fundamentally planned around wine, although by no means would I dare minimize the significance of the great company and the amazing food that surrounded the drinking! And not just random drinking -- one punctuated by uncommon selection of bottlings that should make any wine enthusiast drool silly. Alex and Andrew had sent out the wine category suggestions well in advance - and clearly much thought had gone into those. These wines not only had to pair well with the Asian seafood, but they also had to inspire even the most experienced wine palates before, during, and after the feast. Andrew worked up a mouth-watering crab - the Cantonese style - with overload of ginger and green onions, served with slightly fried buttery garlic noodles. In the meantime, Alex cooked beautifully fresh black mussels from a secret source with a coconut-Prosecco-cilantro concoction until the mussels had just opened up, but were still incredibly tender and fresh. Both the crab and the mussels came out super light, moist and flavorful - thankfully, Andrew and Alex cooked up pounds and pounds, because the feasting continued all night - just thinking about that now makes me salivate all over again!
|The crabs and the mussels -- mmmmm...life is good!|
There were about 10 of us, and every guest (or guest couple) was asked to bring at least one bottle of a special wine. And since every guest was *into* wine, we ended up with an instructive array.
- 1995 Meursault, Cloz De Mozeray, from Domaine Jacques Prieur (Burgundy) - corked (unfortunately)
- 1998 Kistler Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California - buttery, balanced (enough acidity), tasty and remarkably Burgundian for a California chard, definitely exceeding my expectations
- 1997 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, from Louis Latour (Burgundy) - very nice, but a bit light on flavor and texture for me
- 2001 Meursault 1er Cru, from Vincent Girardin (Burgundy) - my favorite chard of the evening - big, complex, super-flavorful
- 1976 German Riesling Beerenauslese, Urzinger Wurzgarten, Mosel, from Jos. Christoffel - amazing! the sugars have subsided (probably closer to a Spatlese level) and integrated with fruit, acid, and mineral -- incredibly complex with enormity of petrol and rubber (which I loved!) - this was my other favorite wine of the night.
- 1988 German Riesling Auslese, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Mosel, from Jos Christoffel - tasty, not very acidic (i.e. acidity has integrated with the sugars, so it's harder to pinpoint), mineral, lots of petrol
- 1990 German Riesling Spatlese, from Eitelsbacher Karthauserhof - delicious, super fresh and acidic (not as integrated as Christoffel), balancing out the sweet fruit
- Champagne AR Lenoble Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV - complex and not very fruity - excellent!
- 2007 Tavel Rosé, from Domaine de la Mordorée (Southern Rhone) - I brought this one from my recent trip to France - it was very good Rosé, signed personally by the winemaker, but too young and not nearly as complex as the mature line-up preceding it.
But in the end of the day, not only did the Rieslings (especially the 1976) steal the show in terms of being the best wines on their own, but they once again proved to be the best match for Chinese food. The 1976 was a marvel - super rich yellow-orange color, almost nutty complexity, it was mellow and balanced, with loads and loads of petrol. This wine being approximately the same age as my wife, I was thinking - wow, good things do take time to develop :)! The sweetness, fruitiness, mineraliness, and the acidity integrated together (in both of them) so beautifully that I vowed to myself that from now on I am on the lookout for mature specimens (talking about the Rieslings, of course) - as trying them young is often a waste (- the same conclusion that I arrived at with Burgundies).
The amazing 1976 Riesling brought by Steve R. -- just look at the orange color!
As my wine expert friend Eric Lecours pointed out, Rieslings often enter a dumb phase in their 2-10 years of age, when they don't show very well. That explains a number of disappointing tastings I recently had with wines from great producers. So drink them very young, or wait for over ten years and drink them when they are older! And especially with Chinese food!
This sort of evening once again reminds me why great wine is all about bringing people together, lifting their spirits, caressing their senses, intriguing their minds (and sometimes straining their wallets - but who's counting!) With my taste buds tingling, I look forward to the next ABWAS session!