One of the truly superb restaurants in the United States, if not the world, is Veritas, a mini-treasure located just west of Union Square on 20th Street in New York City. It is well-known as a wine drinker's paradise, and for that reason, the exquisite cooking of the young chef, Scott Bryan, is often overlooked. Certainly no foodies/chowhounds are unaware of his brilliance as he is one of the country's top talents. This particular dinner was superb from start to finish. Bryan's food possesses a wonderful richness and intensity of flavor yet remains light and almost ethereal in the mouth. I enjoyed every course, by my favorites included his hamachi tartare, Atlantic halibut, foie gras, and duo of beef.

We began the evening with a magnum of Manfred Krankl's famed Sine Qua Non The Hussy. Krankl himself created the provocative/risqué label, which, if readers remember from my notes in The Wine Advocate, the BATF approved while refusing to sanction the design for its sister wine, The Good Girl. Try and figure that out! In any event, The Hussy, a blend of Roussanne, Chardonnay, and Viognier, is the finest dry white made south of the San Francisco Bay area. It is a beacon for all of those who see a future in Rhône Ranger-styled whites. Of course the red Rhône Rangers are all the rage, but people like Krankl, who are fashioning extraordinary blends, moving away from the varietal concept, prove what top-notch vineyard sources and impeccable winemaking can achieve. While Roussanne tends to dominate the blend, there is plenty of Chardonnay and Viognier in it as well. The result is a wine of multiple dimensions, gorgeous richness, and a long, honeyed finish. It has a style all its own, and I have never tasted anything quite like it, from anywhere in the world! Its inspiration is obviously some of the great Rhône Valley whites, but it has some of that very ripe fruit character that California can achieve along with the delineation and complexity of the finest French wines. We then opened two of the greatest Châteauneuf du Papes ever made ... and in magnum! Four to five hundred cases of the Cuvée da Capo made by Pégaü, first in 1998 and then in 2000 (one will be produced in 2003 also) comes from some of the estate's oldest vines. While it is primarily Grenache (95%), all thirteen permitted Châteauneuf du Pape varietals are included in the blend. It is aged in foudre for two years, and often takes a full year to complete fermentation because of its old vine richness and extraordinary potent, high octane style. In spite of its mass, richness, concentration, and alcohol (usually over 15%), this is a wine of remarkable balance. A tour de force in winemaking, it proves just how noble and majestic old vine Grenache can be. Full-bodied and massively rich, its notes of kirsch liqueur intermixed with plums, pepper, blackberries, and a bevy of spices are followed by a wine of enormous unctuosity yet vigor as well as freshness. Both of these Châteauneufs are still extraordinarily young with at least twenty years of upside. However, because of the sweetness of the tannin, mass of fruit, and soaring aromatics, they already offer compelling drinking. I go back and forth as to which is better. The 1998 has the advantage of two additional years in bottle, and therefore appears to have more aromatic firepower. The 2000 possesses a thickness and richness that are hard to believe in a dry table wine, yet it is neither heavy nor overbearing. Both are extravagant expressions of old vine Châteauneuf du Pape. After tasting them, everyone at the table kept saying, 

"sure, these are among the most expensive Châteauneuf du Papes ever made, but they're bargains considering that they are the old vine, natural, uncompromised essence of a site that has not been given any make-up."

They are about as naked an expression of a terroir as is made in the world. Moreover, they are outrageously complex, delicious wines ... and they were the perfect foil for the brilliant cooking of Scott Bryan.

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