Manhattan Beach saves its' money and has fireworks before Christmas instead of on the 4th of July. Naturally, tons of people spill into the town to watch the fireworks. Sarah and I had Diana over to watch the fireworks and also go to Unique LA, which is a cool event with lots of artists downtown. Definitely worth checking out if you like cool stuff. Anyways, we were going to cook dinner, but my neighbor/landlord invited us over. Naturally, I said yes. I took the halibut with a carrot/fennel/shallot puree that I was going to make for Sarah and Diana, and I brought it over to our neighbors family-style instead. (Somewhat nervously, I might add. I'm a not too shabby cook, but you know, he's more like a chef. There's a difference. Luckily, everyone liked it...phew.) Claude, our landlord, made delicious sliders, and these potatoes that were sauteed in duck fat and garlic, which were absurdly delicious. (Can you screw up starch, garlic, and duck fat? The answer to that question is no.) Our two neighbors from across the street were there as well.
Of course, if my landlord likes one thing in particular; that would be wine. Just so happens my other neighbors do too. So I got to taste a lot of stuff that I wouldn't ordinarily be drinking. First up was a 1999 Michel Olivier Blancs de Blancs Brut. This isn't Champagne; rather it's Cremant de Limoux. (Limoux is in the Languedoc--quite a bit further south than Reims and Champagne.) Believe it or not, a magnum is 20$. Yeah, nuts. Especially since I bought a of 2002 Cristal at Costco on Friday night for $157. (I know, that sounds nuts, but it's pretty good, and I figured, when am I ever going to see Cristal that cheap again?? I might as well...and now I have a killer bottle of Champagne for a special occasion.) Anyways, the Michel Olivier was very good. Angular, tons of lemon rind and just a bit of ginger and green apples in the mouth. Long finish, although, like I said a bit angular. I don't know enough to know for sure, but my guess is that maybe this was on the downslope of its' lifespan.
Of course, there were a couple of Burgundies open as well. Alas, I don't remember what they were. Fuck. I'm going to have to go through the empties. There was a 2003 Domaine Maume Gevrey-Chambertin imported by Kermit Lynch, and 2007 Premier Cru (don't remember producer or vineyard...oops). The Gevrey-Chambertin was still quite tight, with lots of chocolate, mushroom tones, and berries. My neighbor and I both agreed that this needs some more time. The 2007 had been open for a day; it had a lot of cinnamon spice character, but was pretty oxidized. Definitely a different style than the Gevrey Chambertin. We also had a 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, which at $45 was the number 6 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 this year. Definitely a dramatically different style than the Burgundies, and much higher alcohol (listed at 14.6%). There is no question that this was a very good wine, and very complex. It's just different than the Burgundies. Licorice, herbal notes, dark red fruits. Very complex, well rounded, but it definitely is a pretty big wine, and has a lot of new oak on it. Interesting that Wine Spectator gave this a 94 and Parker gave it an 88-90. Hmmm. Does it really matter? No. It's pretty fantastic, which is what matters. Honestly, I thought this was going to be my wine of the night until I had the next wine.
Since we killed all those bottles (and we got to drink lots of interesting stuff with good conversation), I ran over and grabbed a bottle that I've been saving for a special occasion. I've had a lot of Pax Wines in the past, and I've always really liked them. I think the reason that I like them is that they have a wide range of styles across all the vineyards they use--some of the wines are huge and big, while others are more delicate. Anyways, a few years back when I didn't think it was crazy to spend 50$ on a bottle of wine, I bought a few bottles of Pax and they've been sleeping ever since. Since then, Pax, the winemaker, has left Pax the winery, and founded Wind Gap wines instead. I've yet to have anything from Wind Gap, but it's on my list of things to do. (In a perfect world, Pax would swoop down and send me samples. Haha. Yeah right, that's never happening.) Anyways, it's clear that they spent a lot of money on the marketing of Pax, which I have mixed feelings about. The bottle has a huge deep punt and is very heavy. The labels are made from really nice, textured paper. The corks are top notch and topped with wax. I'm figuring that probably 15% of the cost of the bottle to the consumer goes directly to those attributes...probably the cork is the only one that makes a real difference. Anyways, aside from that, this wine was spectacular. Almost like a Cote-Rotie, or another cool climate expression of Syrah--very floral, with blueberry, garrique, gamy animal fat (read: bacon) and a laser-beam pepper note at the end. Suave and well balanced, with lavender notes supporting the silky tannins and long finish. I wish I had some more of this one!! My only thought is that for the price I paid for this bottle--about $50, (You can get at Wally's locally for $125 right now...seriously, WTF. The rip-off continues...) you definitely could buy a Cote-Rotie or Hermitage. However, this bottle of wine does open up a very interesting question about terroir, since this damn well could have been something from Northern France. I would love to compare side to side to see for sure. A fun evening!