February 18, 2009

Playing Through Pain

So our reunion, Piemontese dinner almost didn't happen. Neidorf blew a tendon in his thumb at a speed chess tournament on Saturday, and we were forced to consider rescheduling. But with an aluminum splint on his hand and a belly full of homemade Demerol, he sucked it up, and we soldiered on.

Over dinner, we worked our way through a full flight of (almost) all Piedmont wines, sparkling aperitif to dessert wine. Here's the line up:

Sandro Fay, Drei Es, Spumante Metodo Classico, NV. Actually, this is from Lombardy (the neighboring state). But it's a blanc de noirs made entirely from Nebbiolo. And it's awesome. And Nebbiolo (did I mention that it's 100% Nebbiolo?), so we figured we'd let it play. Metodo Classico means Fay makes this like like Champagne with a secondary fermentation in the bottle on the lees. It is rich and muscular, with ripe apple and red-fruit flavors and an intense, chalky minerality. The nose is brioche with subtle, earthy notes of cured meats and mushroom. This is an exceptional wine and my favorite of the evening (even if it's not actually from Piedmont).

Bruno Giacosa, Roero Arneis, 2007. Bruno Giacosa invented Piedmont. Okay, that's not exactly true. Maybe it was Garibaldi's idea originally (pictured). Or Mazzini's. But Giacosa is an iconic winemaker and his reputation and that of the region are densely intertwined. Made from the Arneis grape, grown in the Roero hills of Southeastern Piedmont, this wine is crisp, aromatic and evocative of those hills. Aromas of orchard fruit, wet stones and straw. Flavors of apple and nectarine with a lively acidity and a bracing, gravelly core.

Bruno Giacosa, Barolo, Falletto, 2000. Giacosa invented Barolo. Okay, again I'm exaggerating. But less so this time. Giacosa has been long regarded as Piemonte's chief traditionalist. He makes old-school Barolo, fermented in tanks and aged in big vats called botti. This one is still young, and took 3 hours in a decanter to show. The nose is plum, raspberry and green stems carrying along a subtle earthy element of dry soil. Poised and precise, this is dense in three directions with bright fruit and pepper spice. The tannins bite hard but can't mask a beautiful finish of rocks and mocha.

Produtori del Barbaresco, Barbaresco, 2004. The Produtori is a cooperative of growers that dates back to the late 1950s and to a communal tradition going back to the late 19th century. Independent, mostly family-owned, farms pool resources and share expenses. Unlike Giacosa's single-vineyard wine, the combined effort of the Produttori results in a representative expression of the entire vintage. Which in 2004 was exemplary. Like many "big" vintages, this is dominated by ripe fruit flavors, wild berries and plum. And painfully young; the tannic sting makes your eyes water.

Coppo, Brachetto d'Acqui, 2006. Brachetto d'Acqui is regarded as the perfect match for chocolate, a myth no doubt perpetuated by producers of the stuff. Nevertheless, I always find it beguiling. And it's low alcohol (this one was 5.5%), so you can pound it down at the end of the night without conjuring room spins. It's a sweet mix of alcoholic black cherry soda and pixie dust.

Everyone agreed the almost all Piedmont wine night was a hit. Except Neidorf. He passed out under the table after the pasta course.

Thanks Crime Dog for organizing the community forum.

This is still not a blog.

(chess pic: © Ff0000 | Dreamstime.com)


Brooklynguy said...

neidorf, huh? why not just call him najdorf? i'm guessing that whoever he is, he opens with black against e4 with c5.

Managing Principal, Labstuff said...

I don't get it. He's Neidorf because his name is David Neidorf. And he's big, so we shouldn't make fun.

Managing Principal, Labstuff said...

I just googled the move, so now I get it. I don't actually know squat about chess. But I'll ask Neidorf if he uses the Sicilian.


David McDuff said...

Demerol, Barbera and Pixie Dust, all in one night? Man, you guys at the Lab know how to party.

Thanks for blogging! Oops, I mean participating in the experiment.

And don't mind Brooklynguy. He's an old chess prodigy, is all.

Peter Liem said...

OK, as dorky as wine is, chess jokes are even dorkier. I've got to hand it to you, brooklynguy. I love it.