Ray Signorello Charity Luncheon
I donated wines from my cellar for this charity luncheon held to benefit Meals on Wheels, which Daniel Boulud supports so generously. The luncheon was purchased by Ray Signorello of the well-known Signorello Winery in Napa Valley. He invited a bunch of his Canadian pals to this brilliant event. It is difficult to choose a favorite course, but the Spaghetti a la Guitarra with Alba white truffles was off the charts, as was the Turbot stuffed with cépes and lardons. I don’t understand why so many French chefs are fascinated by cooking in hay, but the only one that has really worked for me is Daniel Boulud’s. (I have had food cooked in hay by a local chef at Baltimore’s Four Seasons Hotel as well as by Alain Passard at his Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris, and was completely unimpressed.) However, Boulud has gotten some sort of benefit from the hay without the food tasting like it was prepared for a horse.
As for the wines, I’ll keep it simple. The Marcassin 1999 Alexander Mountain, which is the Upper Barn Vineyard that the Jess Jackson family purchased and may have been her last vintage from purchased fruit, performed brilliantly. It slightly outshone a gorgeous bottle of 1997 Michel Niellon Chassagne Montrachet Les Vergers. I won’t comment on the Beaux Frères since I am one of the owners, but the still young Ponsot 2003 Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes was absolutely magnificent. For me, it is “the” Burgundy of this relatively bizarre vintage.
The flight of Piedmontese Nebbiolo was dominated by the 2000 Santo Stefano Red Label Riserva from Bruno Giacosa. Served from magnum and fully mature, it was gloriously perfumed. The other wines included strong efforts from Pira and Scavino (both 1997s), and less impressive offerings from Spinetta and Giacosa (both 1998s).
The winner in the Châteauneuf du Pape flight was once again a magnum of Clos des Papes 2003. This wine has gone from strength to strength, and at age nine it seems fully mature, but is capable of lasting another 7-8 years (although I am watching all the 2003s I own very carefully as I do not intend to push their longevity). The 1988 Vieux Télégraphe proved just how long these wines can age, and the Vieux Donjon 1998 (both from magnum) was the youngest wine in this flight.
The controversial flight of Australian Shiraz, with one outlier, the Saxum 2003, included the1998 D’Arenberg, which had not performed that well the last time I had it. One this day, it showed brilliantly. However, it was the 1999 Astralis that seemed to be a clunker. The 1997 Astralis performed very well, and the Penfolds Grange1987 was still youthful and promising. The wine of the flight was the 2003 Saxum Bone Rock.
Luckily we recovered for four great wines from the master craftsman located south of Santa Barbara in Ojai, Sine Qua Non. The only Grenache was the 2004 Into the Dark, which was spectacular. I have been lucky enough to have it several times over the last few months and it is superb. The Syrahs included the 2004 Poker Face, 2003 Papa (which gets better and better every time I have it), and the profound 2002 Just For the Love of It. I don’t say this lightly, but these wines blew away the Australian versions of Syrah.
All in all, this was a remarkable luncheon and tasting supporting the generosity and graciousness of Ray Signorello and Daniel Boulud.
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Petit Louis Bistro
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