Thursday, July 25, 2013

Faking A Wine Dinner

Too cheap and lazy to sign up for a recent wine dinner retrospective of Ceritas wines, I joined some friends at a house to mimic the dinner. I thought, if we could get close enough to interpreting each course, then everything should fall into place because we have the wines.

The crostini topped with a fava and walnut pesto was a brilliant starter with
a pair of Chardonnays.

Ceritas makes a style of California Chardonnay that's lithe and dry with a racy, fruity intensity.  The closest parallel I could think of in Burgundy is a Maconnais. The Porter-Bass is perhaps lighter and sharper than the Charles Heintz but their styles are close. Ceritas Chardonnays, as California Chardonnays go, have a fresh appeal. They are tense and lean, with an understated character. Folks I know who have been drawn mainly to European wines have been seduced by Ceritas. Apart from the quality, which is solid, the attraction I'm sure is the buzz factor of an elusive label.

Since the wine dinner announcement bragged how Ceritas can stand next to a Corton-Charlemagne, we thought, why not open a Corton-Charlemagne then. The 1996 Bertrand Ambroise Corton-Charlemagne is precisely what you'd expect from this great white Burgundy. It is rich but vibrant, powerful yet elegant, golden and deeply colored but still youthful. Compared to the Ceritas Chardonnays, the Corton-Charlemagne is broader and multi-faceted.

Next up was a wild salmon with pea tendrils and pureed cauliflower. This dish was very good, too. I just love the idea of pureed cauliflower, it is light and creamy textured with a hint of bitter sweetness that proved to be deadly good with the salmon.

If the Ceritas wine dinner served a version of the house fettuccine that's close to what we have this night then they had lucky diners. The fresh porcini tossed in with the noodles then garnished with mint and pecorino was awesome. Both Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs paired great with this dish.

The final course,  a combo of duck breast stuffed with mushroom and herbs and chicken leg stuffed with sausage, was delicious with the Pinot Noirs, although, frankly, I was getting pretty full by this time. I wonder how the Ceritas wine dinner folks fared? If they were as satiated as me by this juncture, then they would have gotten their money's worth.

The Ceritas Pinot Noir is reminiscent of the old Williams Selyem style before the winery got sold in the late 1990s. Those Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs could last a decade or two in a good cellar, remaining fresh and interesting to drink with age. One might extrapolate that the Ceritas might have the same potential. I do like its balance, it has good ripeness but light, and so the flavors are well-defined, and the structure helps the flavors linger. I kept going back to my glass, sipping and sipping, the freshness is good and the flavors seem to lengthen. So on second thought, maybe it's best to consume this Pinot Noir young.

The wine dinner also bragged about Ceritas standing next to some Clos Vougeots, hence we opened a Clos Vougeout. In contrast, the 2003 Faiveley Clos de Vougeot was an embodiment of Pinot Noir power. It is a brooding, saturated, tannic red Burgundy suffused with wild, gamy, bloody scents of a Clos de Vougeot. I found it approachable for its surfeit of fruit and delicious as well, but an effort. This beastly Faiveley was another decade or two before it settles down and behave tamely on the table. Meanwhile, thankfully, we had the Ceritas to refresh ourselves.

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