Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Night Before Cassoulet


The Night Before Cassoulet

We were in Napa for the cassoulet, but after all, you have to eat every night of the week, so off we went to the trendiest foodie place in Yountville, Redd Wood, for dinner for six: Lou and BettyLu, Jason and Lynn, and Roxi and moiself.

The place was packed on a Friday night, of course, but we had made a rez so we were good.

The food was great---Italian-ish with lots of cured meats and tasty thin-crust pizzas, hearty salads and good selection of flavors.  It’s the kind of joint where you could go there several times and end up never having a main course item---the appetizers are many and there’s an Italian abbondanza of gargantuan proportions.  Some of them are bigger than Thor Iverson’s head.


Jason and Lynn got there early so I grabbed a taste of his starter glass of Miner Sangiovese.  Decent enough, albeit on the light, polite side with fresh cherries; not much depth or persistence though.  And the problem was that it immediately preceded what Lou pulled from his magic bag, a bottle…no, wait, two bottles…of William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Les PreusesChablis 2005.  

It was in good form, although muted in minerality and apple tanginess and low in the expected citrus zinginess.  Chewy texture, solid body, but sedate, with some actual butter and cream notes coming out.  Could be in a tame phase, or could be the vintage.  The impression of maturity is there, so I wouldn’t hesitate to drink this up if I had it. Not an oyster wine, but went quite nicely with the arancini and the salt cod fritters piled on a mass of beans and fritture (that was the one bigger than Thor’s head).

The next treasure to emerge from the magic bag was an unalloyed delight of a big bad bruiser of a wine turned elegant and sophisticated:  Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 1990.  This must have been one intense and compact wine when first released, because it still has power and mass to spare; and time has been kind to it, beveling off all the edges, smoothing out any rough spots.  It is perfectly poised and balanced, with all its elements working together so beautifully that it seems seamless on the palate: rich and smooth and fruity, with earth lurking underneath, and that odd but altogether lovely scent of old dried roses pressed in a book.  This wine is way too easy to drink and the bottle’s down to its dregs before you know it.

….Which is why it’s so great that the magic bag also contains another Tuscan delight, the Fontodi Vigna dal Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva 1997.  This one is just now starting to show its age a bit, but it has one final surge of richly fruited cherry pie aromas for us before it settles firmly into that lean acid-driven tomato-friendly acidity that matches so well with our anchovy and tomato pizza with just the right amount of char to make things interesting.

The server solicited dessert, but sated as we were, the Fontodi served that purpose for us and we drank it…literally…to the dregs.