In these modern times, the idea of a "guys' night out" is somewhat different than what it was back in the day. While the idea of a classic beer and pizza night is somewhat appealing, even the manliest of the James Bonds can sit down and enjoy a bottle of white wine with a man friend (see Quantum of Solace).
As mentioned in a previous post, our good friend Barry Koslow is the Executive Chef of a 40-some seat restaurant in Georgetown called Mendocino Grille and Wine Bar. The place, one of our favorites, specializes in California wine and cuisine (kind of). At Tim's request, each of his three friends was charged with selecting a wine to bring to the restaurant one night last week. (There is, in our opinion, a certain protocol to taking wine to a restaurant, which we will discuss in a future post.)
We started with Luis Padilla's selection, a 2005 Guy Amiot et Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Demoiselles". We have enjoyed this wine previously and Tim was thrilled to drink it again. Subtle French oak, hints of vanilla, flinty minerality, peach, perfect balance and a mile-long finish make this $119.99 wine well worth the splurge. We try to shy away from guarantees, but whatever is a step under a guarantee of likability, that's how we feel about this Burgundian masterpiece made from 100% Chardonnay. It had enough finesse to match Barry's mussel "taste o' the sea" dish, but was also, as Luis pointed out, terrific with a slightly heartier branzino plate with glazed baby root vegetables. A 9.5 out of 10.
Next up was Marek Rich's pick, a 1999 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Les Charmes. Another outstanding selection from Burgundy, this wine is a great example of why Pinot Noir and terroir are so often mentioned in the same breath. Whatever your definition of terroir, this gentle but not delicate wine tasted of everything Tim could imagine going into the process of producing a good wine. Earth, leather, tobacco, cherry and bright acidity come to mind for this well-proportioned choice from Côte de Nuits. A great match for Barry's poussin with a cassoulet. At $89.99 a bottle, we score this an 8.5 out of 10.
Matt Biel is about to become a dad for the first time, so we're not going to call his offering cheap. In fact, there were some merits to the 2003 Chateau Puy la Rose Pauillac he brought. With equal parts merlot and cabernet sauvignon and trace amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this garnet-colored wine had some of the qualities of a wine coming from this impressive appellation (the same as the legendary Chateau Lafite-Rothschild): a big backbone, impressive fruit and a long finish. But for whatever reason, all of the flavors of currant, cherry, cedar and leather got lost in its abundantly alcoholic finish. For $49.99, we could only muster a 5.5 out of 10.
To continue with our French-themed night at the California-themed restaurant (ask Barry if he's a French or California chef...), Tim chose a 1982 Chateau Branaire-Ducru Saint Julien. With mostly Cabernet, some Merlot and a touch of Petit Verdot, this Left Bank Bordeaux was the biggest disappointment of the evening. A good example of terroir from this region as opposed the aforementioned red Burgundy, this tannic reddish-orangeish wine had some beautiful subtleties, but sadly seemed past its prime. Instead of being a wonderfully open and structured aged wine, it seemed to fall apart at the edges despite its delicious, smooth fruit and spice. Barry sent out an incredible piece of beef with this--a Wagyu terres major (think of it as the hangar steak of the shoulder)--and while the pairing was theoretically good, the wine did not live up to the dish (or Tim's expectations). $159.99 a bottle and a 6.5 out of 10.
Somewhere in the middle of this nine-course, four-bottle-plus-cocktails, gastronomic melee, Tim decided another course and another bottle was necessary. (Actually, he had thought of this possibility beforehand, but had the silly notion that if he brought an extra bottle, it might not be consumed.) And with that, the best pairing of the night was born. The 2002 Dal Forno Romano Valpolicella Superiore is made from Corvina, Rondinella and Croatina grapes and is one of the more robust wines Tim has ever tasted from this region. This is due in large part to the style in which it's made, using some dried Oseleta grapes, similar to those that go into its much richer cousin Amarone. We drank it with wild boar, tasting hints of smoke, spice, raisins and port. This smoothly tannic wine could be described as a powerhouse, but that doesn't do justice to its Brunello-like softness. A $129.99 bottle worth an 8.5 out of 10.