Attended the annual cassoulet fête our friends' home in the Napa Valley last night.
The "format" of the evening is elegantly simple. With an array of passed hors d'oeuvres, there is an open bar with six white wines to taste and enjoy. This is followed by a sit-down dinner, with three more wines.
This year the hors d'oeuvres included tuna tartare, stuffed mushroom caps, sun-dried tomato and herbs, profiteroles stuffed with salami and Dijon mustard, and more.
Tasting notes are short, as they are written this morning, not during dinner, but don't mistake brevity for a lack of quality or interest -- each of these wines were stunning and impressive; it was (as it always is) an embarrassment of riches.
-- 2012 Királyudvar Tokaiji Furmint Sec, Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary: My first exposure to this specific producer, and it was something totally unexpected -- a dry Furmint that I'd actually buy voluntarily! Very aromatic with orange peel, melon, herbs, flowers, white pepper and minerality, all echoed on the palate, yet somehow remains complex but delicate. Very nice indeed.
-- 2010 Do Ferreiro Albariño, Cepas Vellas, Rias Baixas, Spain: This is the version produced from a single hectare of 200-year old head-pruned vines. Simply put, this is the finest, most complete, most complex Albariño/Alvarinho I have ever tried, and I consider myself lucky to have had several vintages of this extraordinary wine.
-- 2010 Sancerre "Monts Dammés," Gérald Boulay, Loire, France: Simply put, this is pure, classic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, showing a beautiful nose, great complexity and depth of flavor, and a clean, long finish. Excellent.
-- 2005 Franz Hirtzberger "Rotes Tor" Grüner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau, Austria: Youthful, fresh, and just showing the development of honeysuckle and other "sweet" aromatics that come with bottle age; very flavorful, with lime, mineral, honey and more, yet still structured and delicious. Outstanding. My favorite of the "appetizer wines."
-- 2011 Vie di Romains Chardonnay, Friuli Isonzo DOC, Italy: After decades of cheap and somewhat simple Chardonnays from Friuli and nearby Alto-Adige, I must say I was very impressed with the character and depth of this wine.
We then moved into the dining room, and took our places around the table for the next three courses.
-- 2012 Antoine Arena Haut de Carco Patrimonio, Corsica, France: An incredibly aromatic and flavorful Vermentino, round and lush on the palate, and a perfect foil for the Diver scallops in a tangerine-cream sauce.
-- 1996 Azelia Barolo "Bricco Fiasco," Piedmonte, Italy: After giving our hosts some flak for not serving a more traditional *French* wine with the cassoulet, this wine made us eat our words . . . as well as our cassoulet! It was an inspired choice, a beautiful wine, the sort that causes everyone to stop eating, to stop talking, and focus on the wine in utter silence and, indeed, reverence . . . then the moment passes, conversation resumes, and all is right in the Heavens and on Earth. Magnificent.
Following dessert (an orange mousse "pie" with a pistachio crust) and coffee, we moved on to the final wine of the evening.
-- 1985 Taylor, Fladgate Vintage Porto, Douro, Portugal: Dark ruby (stil!) in color at 29 years of age, closed-in initially, with nuanced aromatics of plum, cherry, licorice, slate, and more; on the palate the wine started off somewhat hard-edged¹ though it opened after some considerable time in the glass. Truly an excellent wine, though still with considerable development to come with added bottle age.
¹ I *believe* the bottle had been opened hours earlier, but only decanted some 15 minutes or so prior to serving.