Christmas Dinner Chez Parker

The centerpiece of our Christmas feast was a full Private Reserve prime rib of beef from Bryan Flannery in Corte Madera, California, as well as several prime rib of beef caps, while the wines were a group of seven magnums and one regular bottle each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Port. The two whites, which were both delicious, included a magnum of non-vintage Blanc de Blancfrom the under-the-radar, tiny artisanal house of Genet. This delicious, pure, crisp, light to medium-bodied Champagne is not the most complex style one can find in Champagne, but at this price point, it has been and will continue to be my house Champagne for some time to come. The 2005 Aubert Chardonnay Quarry (which he no longer makes, as the source of grapes was pulled away from him) is a beautiful wine displaying crushed rocks intermixed with lemon custard, nectarine, honey blossom, and crème brûlée. This beautiful, full-bodied Chardonnay seemed to be drunk down in record time. One of the two Châteauneuf du Papes was another magnum of 2003 Clos des Papes, which had shown so well earlier in the week. Classic kirsch, lavender, licorice, and spice box just oozed from this wine, which is taking on more definition and exhibiting the traditional, classic style of this producer. The 1998 Janasse Vieilles Vignes may be the best bottle I have seen of this wine, displaying plenty of garrigue, pepper, underbrush, roasted Provençal herbs, blackberry, and black cherry. Full-bodied, rich, with no hard edges, this wine seems to have reached its plateau of maturity, where it should stay for at least another 7-8 years.

The three wines from Napa Valley were all spectacular. The youngest one, of course, was the Schrader 2006 Old Sparky, which comes from the Beckstoffer Vineyard in Oakville. This glorious wine, with its notes of crème de cassis, cedar wood, and violets, is gushing with ripe fruit, and has a multi-dimensional texture and a long finish with no hard edges. It is certainly a candidate for wine of the vintage in 2006. The 2002 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is a profound example of this fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 30 months in 100% new French oak, and coming from their best parcels on the hillsides of the Stags Leap appellation. Like the Schrader, it is dense purple to the rim, but with more flowery and mineral notes, similarly full body, a multi-layered mouthfeel, and an extraordinary finish of 45-50 seconds. This is still a youthful wine, but like so many 2002s, the quality of the fruit, as well as the extraordinary texture and opulence, just make it fun to drink.

A wine that has aged beautifully was the 1992 Harlan Estate. Classic Pauillac notes of cedar wood, black currant, tobacco leaf, charcoal, and burning embers jump from the glass of this dark ruby/purple-tinged wine, which is just starting to lighten up at the edge. Full-bodied, but extremely elegant, the wine has shed its enormous baby fat and massiveness and now is a beautifully delineated, complex wine that is in mid-adolescence but still has a good 20, or even 30 more years in magnum. Trailing these wines, but a super success for a so-so vintage, was the young and generously endowed 1998 Bryant.

Of course, all of this washed down the extraordinary 45-day dry-aged prime beef from Bryan Flannery, and that was a marriage made in heaven.

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