Sunday will go down as one of our best days ever. After Ann and I got into a scrap the evening before, Sunday unfolded as a fantastic day from the get-go. After a delicious breakfast, we headed south to Bentonville to spend time with Jen and Dewie and new (85-pound Dobie) puppy Austin at their beautiful house on a hill looking out on Signal Knob.
Ann and I were given our marching orders a couple of weeks back: Bring sparkling wine, we were told. And sparkling wine we did bring, a bottle of Bailly-Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne, a light and lemony sparkler that is very, very good, and a bottle of Roland Champion Champagne Chouilly Grand Cru, a golden blanc de blancs with a nose of yeast and mushrooms, more wine-like than Champagne-like. Our first order of business was to open the crémant, because to quote Dewi, "It would be rude to start with anything else!" This wine is light and beautiful and dances across the palate. I love it. And I love the Roland Champion as well—this particular wine is a recently disgorged blend of the 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages. It's not the fresh, lightweight wine that the crémant is, but then grand cru wines are seldom lightweight.
Just look at this spread! Prosciutto from mutual friend Derek Luhowiak who along with his wife Amanda is now selling his wares at the Whole Ox inside the Marshall IGA, crackers, Marcona almonds, and a lovely burrata. Missing is a photo of Jen's crispy ciabatta.
And grapes, a Manchego cheese, a slab of Meadow Creek Dairy's Grayson—possibly my favorite cheese being made in the US now, and some killer salami from Derek, this one a really spicy pepperoni style. I loved this sausage.
Here's a close-up of the Grayson, a cheese that we serve at the restaurant when we can get our hands on it. It's a real stinker and super delicious. A customer once called it "the most disgusting thing ever," so you know it's not for everyone. Me, I can't get enough and Ann loves it as much or more than me. It is a very seasonal cheese and made in limited quantities, so it can be tough to find. I am hoping to get some for the restaurant in the near future.
Did somebody say burrata? I love burrata (even though it doesn't love me)! I can hardly wait until August when we will be making mozzarella and burrata daily at the restaurant!
And Jen's delicious shiitake tart, which I absolutely adore.
After we had our fill of these delectable goodies, we took advantage of the beautiful spring weather to sit out on the screened porch and admire the light green fuzz on the poplar trees and the fuchsia buds just popping out on the red buds. Dewi went back inside and returned with four mystery glasses of white wine for us to identify. The petrolly oxidized nose, the golden color, and the clear burst of Chardonnay acidity pretty well convinced me that this was a white Burgundy of about 8 to 10 years old. White Burgundy it was (Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne "Les Sétilles") but I was really wrong about the vintage. This was a 2009, that super hot year that cooked a lot of wine prematurely and one that we skipped at the restaurant. With its Meursault-like richness, the wine is drinking beautifully right now but it tastes like it has ten years on it. I would be drinking all my 2009s now if I had them.
Imagine seeing this tantalizing array of glasses and a couple of brown bagged bottles on your counter. One had a huge dark berry nose; the other was fairly closed, even after being open for hours and after decanting. One was deep purple, but showing the fading ring of lighter color around the edges that older wines take on. The other was brick red and clearly showing its age. One was clearly new world, California in style, with prominent black and blue fruit. The other seemed much more old world in style with less fruit, more acidity, and a streak of lean vegetal flavor that I associate with cold climate Cabernet Sauvignon (imagine Russian River Cabs from the 1980s) or some Virginia Cabernet Franc. The wine seemed fairly similar to some older (early 1980s) Bordeaux that I have tasted recently. Ann really liked the bright berry one.
Both wines were paired with the main course, an exemplary sirloin steak that Dewi grilled. The beef came from a farm in Middleburg and was as tender as it could be. To say that I rarely eat beef is a gross understatement—I pretty much never eat steak—so this was a special treat!
The sliced steak was served on a big bed of arugula, which worked really, really well with the vegetal flavors in the seemingly older wine, the one that I thought was a Bordeaux. We all loved the roasted onions that Jen served with the steak.
And after the grand unveiling, the wines turned out to be both Silver Oaks from 1996. The one that I thought was California was the Alexander Valley bottling and the one that I thought was Bordeaux was the Napa bottling. It is quite amazing the difference in these two wines! And that is why tasting blind is so fun. Thanks to Jen and Dewi for their incredible generosity in sharing these wines with us! And thanks for washing all those wine glasses!
And for dessert, Jen served these lovely dried figs with mascarpone, pistachios, and honey. What's not to love, especially when paired with a beautiful dessert wine? We had the 2007 Rappahannock Cellars Vidal. Although it tasted lovely and honeyed and was a great match, it had turned thin (lost its viscosity) and had turned a lovely shade of amber. I'm guessing that the cork was faulty, because I have seen Vidal last a lot longer and still maintain its color and vigor.
What an incredible meal and day from start to finish! We are blessed to have great friends! Truly blessed indeed.
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