Dinner with Friends Chez Parker

A sumptuous meal began with some of my wife's wonderful deep-fried jumbo back fin crab fritters (I can eat these anytime, anyplace), drunk with a spectacular 1996 Deutz Cuvée William Deutz Rosé. This is the fourth bottle of this rare, exquisite Champagne that I would rate this highly. What an extraordinary offering! It seems to me that the Deutz firm has ratcheted up the level of quality for all their cuvées. Moreover, given the price for Dom Pérignon Rosé or Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, this is a bargain. Next we had a beautiful grilled salmon cooked, as the French say, unilaterally (meaning skin side down), so it is essentially sashimi style on top. That was served with the wine I think is the greatest match for grilled salmon, a wonderful grand cru red Burgundy, in this case, the 2003 Clos du Tart. It offered marvelous notes of ripe berry fruit and flowers along with plenty of tannin, good sweetness, and a voluptuous texture. This offering is sexy and irresistible, yet has two decades of life left. It appears that the finest 2003 Côtes de Nuits are going to be legendary wines, along the lines of the 1964s and 1959s. With my wife's homemade moussaka, a Greek dish consisting of layers of sauteed eggplant and ground lamb topped with bechamel sauce, I chose robust, hearty Châteauneuf du Papes. Even though Châteauneuf du Pape is from France, not Greece, it is a great food and wine marriage. We began with the lightest Châteauneuf, the 2000 Clos des Papes, which, despite two hours of breathing, was still a bit firm, closed, and atypically restrained for this exuberant, luscious vintage. This high quality wine seemed much closer in style to the Clos du Tart than the other Châteauneuf du Papes. This bottle suggested that this is on 2000 that needs more time in the cellar. We then moved to another backward cuvée that may be just beginning to go through a dormant stage, the 2000 Clos du Caillou Réserve (white label). This stunning offering has a higher percentage of Mourvèdre in the final blend than any of these wines with the exception of the Beaucastel Hommage. The dense purple-colored Clos du Caillou exhibits gorgeous aromas of blueberries, blackberries, creosote, barrique, underbrush, and Provençal herbs. Full-bodied, powerful, and stunningly concentrated and pure, this should turn out to be a classic as it is a much bigger, denser wine than the Clos des Papes. It requires another 3-4 years of bottle age. The surprisingly forward 2000 Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrinwill be even better with 5-8 more years of cellaring. An exquisite effort, it boasts wonderful intense notes of licorice, tar, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and garrigue. Full-bodied, powerful, and rich, with lovely overall harmony, this is a stunning Châteauneuf. The perfect 2000 Pierre Usseglio Châteauneuf du Pape Réserve des Deux Frères is a monumental Châteauneuf based on old vine Grenache. It is as natural as a wine can be since no new oak is utilized. In fact, the only one of these Châteauneuf du Papes that sees any exposure to cask is the Clos du Caillou, and that's very limited. The inky/purple-hued Deux Frères possesses gorgeous aromas of acacia flowers interwoven with blackberries, blueberries, grilled meats, and beef blood. This rich, full Châteauneuf reminded me of a modern day version of Henri Bonneau's 1990 Réserve des Céléstins. It is an exquisite wine that should continue to drink well for 20-25 more years. We finished with the famous 2000 Sine Qua Non Suey, a 100% botrytis infected Roussanne that was bottled with 241 grams of sugar per liter. An amazing wine, it seemed totally dormant and revealed some toasty new oak when I decanted it, but after an hour in the decanter, it exploded with honeyed orange marmalade and Asian spice notes, a hint of caramel, gorgeous purity, and great acidity as well as freshness. It was a challenge to appreciate all of its multiple intricacies and nuances. This profoundly great sweet wine that should last for 15-20 years.

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