Midsummer Hedonism

Like many people in the wine biz, I’m part of a tasting group that meets regularly to sniff, sip, ‘n spit wines. I’m also part of another subgroup – with some of the same people from the main group – where instead of getting together and writing tasting notes that we’ll probably never read again, we cook a delicious dinner and mutually raid our cellars. We hosted the most recent dinner in San Francisco. With a couple days to work (and recover from a massive house party; Advil, natch), Simon and I assembled the menu: fava-pecorino crostini, hand-made fettucini with an earthy porcini-shitake ragù, roast leg of lamb with crispy potatoes and a salad of spicy summer greens, panna cotta with raspberries. Below, the wine spoils:

Apologies for the darkness of the shot; I was a little sauced by that point and not up to the task of adjusting the light settings on the camera. Poor Dampierre, forced to hide in the shadows like that.

The ’99 Giacosa Barbaresco was stunning, and continued to positively evolve over the course of the evening (and it killed with the fresh pasta); the 2001 Paleo, a Bolgheri cabernet franc from Le Macchiole, was supple and elegant, a distinctive expression of cabernet franc that tastes totally Italian. But then you would expect stellar performances from these wines. The shocker was the magnum 1986 Ahlgren Santa Cruz Mountains Semillon that my friend Matthew brought over. Fresh and vibrant, yet showing that semillon honey/waxy character, I found this wine (from Santa Cruz–wtf!?!?) to be just delicious. And because of the large bottle size, we got to drink it throughout the meal. Matthew had bought this recently at the winery, so that probably accounts for its freshness.

*The Santa Cruz Mountains is one of California’s more obscure AVAs, but one that’s totally worth getting to know (You can check out the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association here). I find that I’m constantly surprised by wines from here, and the ’86 Ahlgren Semillon was no exception.