My darling wife and I celebrated our 16th wedding at the Harris Arms ‘California Dreaming’ party. It was great. It opened my eyes and taste buds to a Californian take on Côtes du Rhône.
The evening started with a Mumm Napa Brut Prestige: a bright refreshing opening gambit, with a lingering strawberry after-taste.
With our starter of squid with risotto filling, our knowledgeable host, Andy, offered Qupé Marsanne. This fresh, rocky wine was a little cold on serving but on being warmed up revealed more tones including its 13% ‘contamination’ with Roussanne. There was a little bit of orangy smokiness in a glass that improved with drinking.
Next I put my nose in a Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard 2003. I was reminded of Douglas Adams’ great line about “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick”… except the lemon was missing. This was a powerful wine, seriously powerful. So powerful in fact that I ordered a taxi, and consigned my car keys to my jacket pocket. And all I had done was take a sniff. If I were to drink it I might be found days later, washed up on a deserted Cornish beach, with the hangover only slowly receding.
So I giddily put it to one side, and sampled the Mourvedre Old Telegram 2004. This was subtler (not difficult) but my taste buds had not fully recovered so I could not really taste it. I decided to recuperate by tucking in to the Duck with Mushroom Hash.
The Mourvedre was complex. One of the diners, Jim, suggested it was akin to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more of the graveyard than of the vineyard. He was spot on, Morbidre might be a better name for this earthy wine with its musty, newly buried corpse tones.
Our host had by now sipped the Qupé Syrah and noted its power. He left. Not permanently but to visit the cellar to appropriate a better match to the pork. And he returned with an absolute gem; a Calera Ryan Pinot Noir. Although still a little cold, its mellow tones of cherry and strawberry beautifully complemented the pork. It was excellent choice and many thanks to Andy for raiding his cellar at this time of need.
The medley of desserts which included some amazingly delicious apricot bread pudding (amazing because I don’t like apricots and am not keen on bread pudding) was accompanied by Bonny Doon Vineyard Raspberry Framboise, the intense kick of raspberry was not too sweet and not too sour.
Sadly, at this point, we had to depart in a taxi to attend a conference call with a supplier in the USA so there was no leisurely end to the evening.
I am already looking forward to the next wine evening at the Harris Arms on 24th February 2010 when Aussie and Kiwi wines will feature.
The menu tonight was:
Homage to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse
Wednesday 25th November 2009
Napa Brut Prestige, Mumm
Stuffed squid with tomato and saffron risotto and basil foam
Duck leg braised in Zinfandel on sweet potato and mushroom hash
Mourvèdre ”Old Telegram” 2004, Bonny Doon Vineyard
Roast marinated pork loin with rosemary, fennel & garlic, roasted root vegetables and creamy mustard mash
Qupé Syrah Bien Nacido Vineyard, 2003
Vanilla pannacotta on chocolate almond cookie with apricot bread pudding
Framboise Bonny Doon Vineyard