Saturday, August 20, 2005

Chappellet Chenin Blanc Napa Valley 2003

With the help of Stephanie's new birthday present, the Amuse Bouche cookbook by Rick Tramonto, we prepared a dinner exclusively composed of small appetizers. In no particular order, we had 1) "linguini and clams" (sauteed littleneck clams with long julienne strips of blanched cucumber); 2) carmelized onion tartlettes; 3) crab quenelles with three sauces - roasted red pepper, roasted yellow pepper, and picoline olive; 4) beef carpaccio with cumin-espresso crust and champagne grapes; and finally 5) "cucumber salads", invented by Stephanie. The last of these consisted of hollowed out heirloom grape tomatoes filled with minced onion, celery, and cucumbers, drizzled with olive oil. Truly a spark of inspired genius. Feel free to check out our photo album of the dinner.

We began the meal with a delightful Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc region that we had used to steam the clams. For $7, it's hard to beat this wine for pure fruit and crisp acidity (although this one seemed rounder than previous vintages).

We chose the Chenin as the best accompaniment for a variety of courses, and we were quite pleased. Chenin is an unfortunately under-appreciated and under-produced varietal that can often provide far more class and substance that sauvi blanc. We have lately had the pleasure of drinking some fine Savennieres and a delicious off-dry Chenin from Ken Forrester in South Africa. Chappellet produces a decidedly dry version, with a racy acidic finish. Nonetheless, the wine opens with so much ripeness that you'd think it was a sweet wine. This wine sees some oak and accordingly had a rounder, fuller body than most sauvis. Stephanie notes sweet dough aromas, followed by a dry, minerally finish. It could pair with a great variety of foods, particularly spicy asian dishes and seafood pastas.

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