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Saturday Suppers at the Gelbers

cornasvoge.jpgDinner invitations from Christopher and Teri Gelber are a cause for celebration. Teri is an extraordinary cook and co-author of many fine cookbooks including Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table  and  Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book: The Best Sandwiches Ever—from Thursday Nights at Campanile among others and Christopher is just as much of a wine geek as I am so a great culinary evening is guaranteed.

While Teri worked her wizardry in the kitchen we sipped on 1996 Argyle Willamette Valley Extended Tirage Brut, a stunning wine, which I recently wrote about, with olives and fresh roasted almonds. This lovely wine mingling with the aromas of Teri’s cooking put our taste buds into high alert for what was to come.

To match Teri’s luxurious lentil soup, which was followed by fragrant roasted chicken tossed with arucola and gigantic fresh croutons (that must have contained something addicting as I still crave them), Christopher selected two contrasting wines from the last decade.

Older California pinot noir can often be suspect, but this bottle of 1996 Williams Selyem Olivet Lane Pinot Noir was not one of the usual suspects. Despite its 15% alcohol this wine was surprisingly refined and balanced. Sure it had a bit of heat in the finish, but the layers of earthy complexity were more than rewarding enough to make up for it. This is a wine that has completed itself and should be consumed soon.

While the pinot noir was a delicate wine made in a big style, the next wine was just the opposite. The 1998 Alain Voge Cornas Vielles Vignes is as graceful, balanced and refined as a syrah can get. Richly earthy and meaty throughout and laced with a freshly crushed black pepper tang, this now fully mature wine has more grace than brawn and proves that syrah has far more to offer than simple raw power. Perhaps this wine is just past its peak, but what a peak it must have been for this is still an outstanding wine.

With an assortment of French, Oregon and Italian cheeses arrived a bottle of Château d’Arlay Red Macvin from France’s Jura region, which is produced from unfermented pinot noir juice blended with one third marc-brandy, much like Cognac’s Pineau de Charentes . The brandy is mellowed four years in cask and then the blend is aged for another year in old barrels. A deliciously unique drink that, while tasting a bit like a tawny-style Port, has its own distinct fruity sweetness combined with the warming sensation of the brandy. A more charming match with cheeses you will not find.

Sunday suppers at Lucques may be wonderful, but so are Saturday suppers at the Gelbers.