Topic: TN: First night of Hannukah
Author: Stuart Yaniger/ Napa
Date: Fri Dec 22 14:16:00 2000
Our two Visitors from the East followed the Star, and it led them to Chapeau! in the Richmond district. And we ALMOST managed to get through the evening without a corked wine, but that''s a story for later in this note. I''ll be nice and skip our discussion of the Seleucids versus the Ptolemies, and why I went to Antioch to shoot up the place.

One commences with whites, although one could argue that seven commence with the whites. The opener was a ''97 Marcel Deiss pinot gris Beblenheim, and an odd duck it is. Never would have guessed it to be a pinot gris nor a Deiss. Somewhat blowsy, more than a hint of residual sugar, slightly oxidative without being oxidized, and a bit of a chemical note manifest as a slight gewurtz-like bitterness in the finish. Not at all unpleasant, just odd and unexpected.

Next up, a ''97 Monteillet St-Joseph blanc, brought in by my usual irregular means. Ah, would that American roussannes and marsannes had this degree of minerality, this sort of balance and light touch, this sort of floral nose, this length of finish! Not to mention the $6 price tag. Of course it doesn''t have the weight, depth, or complexity of a fine white Hermitage, but it''s still the Real Deal.

The Great White Hope emerges, a ''98 Niellon Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St-Jean, from a vineyard better know for its reds. Within the idiom of barrel-fermented, oaked and malo''d chardonnays, no one does it better than Niellon, and this wine, from a less-than-stellar vineyard and a less-than-stellar vintage comes through as a rich, intense, perfectly balanced wine. Quite a mouthful, and at a relatively bargain price.

Nathan pulls out an odd-looking bottle, a present from Joe Dressner, the infamous ''93 Overnoy Arbois Pupillon. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, but at the same time, no need to stick your face in its butt. Lightish color, showing plently of signs of oxidation, despite the huge sulfur content, both free and bound, not to mention an interesting mix of mercaptans. Imagine, if you will, shoving an M-80 up the hind parts of a skunk, shoving the skunk up the hind parts of a sweaty shepherdess with a yeast infection and on her period. Now the explosion ensues- catch her week-old thong (a gift from Brad Kane) as it flies by. Give it a good hard sniff and contemplate the layers of aroma. Voila! You have the Overnoy. It was all I could do to actually taste it. And I''m (gag!) pleased to report that (gag!) the flavor was consistent with the aroma. Well, at least if you mix in some battery acid. A wine too dirty for me to enjoy- contemplate that and be very, very afraid.

This Overnoy says a lot about Joe Dressner. Some clever guy would taste this and buy a bottle as a gag gift. Joe, ever the man truly committed to humor, actually bought this in quantity, imported it, and sells it for money. THAT is the kind of dedication and willingness to go the extra yard for a laugh that sets him apart from his fellow Man. Many thanks, Joe!

Six or seven glasses of water almost got the taste out of my mouth (though the memory of that horror will linger on for decades- need to call my lawyer about this). But to complete the job, I gulped a glass of ''91 Verset Cornas. This bottle showed atypically old (storage?) with more than a slight whiff of volatility, but the core was definitely there. Great black fruit and granite flavors, a bit of tannic punch still remaining. And it only got better through the evening. Along the ''91 theme was the ''91 Ogier Cote-Rotie, a true classic of the genre. Broad, sweet, floral, intense, but not at all heavy or overblown. Thunderbird Award.

The only thing that saved the ''98 Dutschke St. Jakobi Shiraz from being the worst wine of the night was the Overnoy. You could tell the age of this wine by sawing it in half and counting the rings. Pure chocolate, vanilla, and cocoanut, without a trace of that annoying wine character.

The ''88 Musar is another classic, quite full and rich for a Moose. Lots of volatility, which seemingly gave the spicy-gunpowder nose a lift. Aagain, a wine that just got better and better with air. Needs another 20 years, though. And we finished the Drys with a ''78 Chapoutier Hermitage from the Max Chapoutier days. A little oxidized, but only a little. Big leathery, meaty aromas, a surprisingly delicate flavor. Not really classic Hermitage in the manner of a ''78 Chave, but quite delicious.

Dessert proved a lesson. The ''97 Raymond-Lafon was served and Stacy immediately piped up, "Is this a little corky?" Right as usual (except for when she said "Yes" to Mike). It was indeed badly corked, yet the wet-newspaper corky aromas were a bit under the threshold of some of the table denizens. Popping a second bottle beautifully underscored the insidious nature of corkiness- by comparison, it was a HUGELY better wine, yet tasted alone, the first bottle would not have registered "corked" to most; it would have just come across as a lousy wine.

Rob rushed me back to BART at speeds worthy of chase scenes from Dirty Harry movies. And a good thing, I made the last train out by a minute. I hope we didn''t freak out David Risch too badly with our rough California ways. And Nathan is, of course, right at home here, given his proclivities and the reputation of the Castro. Not that there''s anything wrong with that.