Our good Paso Robles friends Jim and Rose Witt visited us the past few days for an extended weekend of reverlry and excess. Excess is the best kind.of fun.
I've been a victim of Paso Robles fun before, and I can tell you, it isn't pretty. So I decided to provision the house with a lot of lighter wines like Tariquet's crisp, delicious Classic white, Moulin de Gassac rose and Jana Water to pace myself during our three day wine deluge. You can drink a lot of the latter and still remember where you put your car keys.
But if I forget myself due to all the fun I'm having and drink too much Paso wine, I'll be chewed up and left for the wolves. It happens every time.
It all began when our dear old friends showed up Saturday afternoon while the sun was still shining, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. Dale had poured them some Gassac rose and chilled Tariquet Classic Cotes de Gascogne, refreshing light dry wines that perked them up after a tiring voyage to Long Beach. I arrived from work a short time later and I was ready to be refreshed too. I always complain to Dale that a single bottle of Cotes de Gascogne isn't enough for two people. Fortunately we bought a case of Tariquet. At only $8.99 per bottle, it can flow like water, and keep flowing without going broke. The low alcohol is perfect for quaffing huge quantities. So we caught up on our friends' latest happenings and quaffed huge quantities.
There was still plenty of sunlight, so we switched back to the new dry rose from Moulin de Gassac--a light and crisp wine that doesn't ask much of you--only that you enjoy yourself. We munched on some crackers and cheese and before we knew it, the bottle was empty. Fortunately, we had stashed a magnum of Domaine de Fonsainte Corbieres rose in the fridge the night before, and we opened the big bottle just in time to great our Long Beach friends, Brian and Yolanda Flook as they arrived.
Whenever I show up to a friend's house with a magnum of wine, someone always makes a crack like, "What're you tryin' to do? Get us all drunk? We can't possibly finish all that!" A few minutes later the same person will say, "Hey, you got any more of that?" while holding an empty bottle. And it's even more so with south-of France roses. Crisp, light wines go down easier than rich, heavy wines. I wish more restaurants would get that message. The point here is, the magnum was empty before the appetizer was.
Our Long Beach friends brought a curried shrimp and rice dish as a starter. Our Wine of the Month, Domaine de Fresche Anjou Blanc was their choice for an accompaniment, and I have to admit, it was as close to a fine match with the dish as I could imagine.
Dale was busy puttering in the kitchen, sauteeing spinach, cooking pasta and preparing Carl Taylor's delicious recipe for chicken thighs in Morel cream sauce. It had been a little chilly--a storm was about to arrive Sunday--so a rich meal seemed like a good idea. I pulled out a Savigny-Narbantons from Camus Bruchon, a medium-weight red Burgundy that you could sniff for hours, and Comte Lafon's terrific Macon Milly-Lamartine, perhaps the world's most perfect chicken wine. Brian and Yolanda supplied the table with a southern Rhone blend wile our Paso friends brought a rich, heavy GSM counterpart that had nothing in common with the Rhone except the name of the grapes inside. There was noticeable sweetness in the start, middle and finish, yet I'm sure the winemakers of this dark red didn't intend for it to be a "dessert wine." (The bottle never emptied, even though everybody drank some and was scratching around at the end of the evening for any more red wine.) We did polish off all the remaining Jana water in the house which was a wise move considering our one-way march toward next-morning pain.
The conversation was lively now. We all were having a great time discussing Viagra, Rick Santorum and Astro Glide, not in any particular order. This just always seems to happen when we eat well, surrounded by great friends and drinking as well and as heavily as we were. At times like these, we did what we always do--opened up more bottles of wine.
We had a Clape (not the clap). The Wine Country's one allocated case of the new Vins des Amis had just arrived and I wanted to try the northern Rhone Syrah before it disappeared from our shelves. That's what happened last year. What an affordable treat from a producer whose main wine costs close to $100 these days.
We were looking for more wine to drink with the same fervor as a dumpster diver who hadn't eaten in a week. Fortunately there was more Tariquet in the fridge. The grapefruity taste performed the function of a sorbet, cleansing and stimulating, as we shared an incredible cheese platter Samantha had prepared from the leftovers after our Saturday Wine and Cheese Spectacular at the store. We followed that indulgence with a flourless almond and raisin cake Dale had made as we sucked down every last drop of every last bottle we'd opened. That's what wine people do when we cross the line from civilized dining to getting it on.
When it came for our magic evening to end, our Brian and Yolanda decided which one was sober enough to drive. I would have insisted they take a cab home, but Yolanda passed my field sobriety test. Everyone at our house went to bed happy. At least that's the way it seemed.
Thanks to all the preventative hydration the previous night, Sunday morning didn't feel too bad. Dale, Rose and I odecided to drive to Encino to pick over the leftovers at Tomatomania, while Jim stayed behind to shop for Sunday's dinner. Driving on the Ventura Freeway it started to rain about five miles from our destination. Needless to say, I was drenched leaning over to read the cards above the seedlings--the info that told us whether it was a hybrid or heirloom, whether it was better for a salad or for stewing, whether it was sweet, white, yellow, black, purple, orange, varigated, cherry or bell-shaped. They were selling T-Shirts with this quaint poem:
I See London
I See France
I See Lots of Tomato Plants
We selected about two dozen different plants, paid for them and drove the 40 miles back home.
When we arrived Jim was munching on a panini, so I ran out to pick up some sandwiches for the rest of us. Jim had already been to Bristol Farms to pick up some ingredients for home-made pizzas which we were planning to eat that night. After downing more Tariquet, Moulin de Gassac rose and Champalou Vouvray Argiles, it began to rain, so Jim cooked his pizzas. We drank Giacomo Mori's rich Chianti and I-forgot-what-else while we built a fire in the fireplace, ate our homemade pizza slices and watched My Week with Marilyn which brought back memories of My Fifteen Minutes with Playboy when I was that kid's age.
The next day, Monday, both Dale and I had to go to work, and our friends went shopping. Late afternoon we started in again on dry rose (this one was the terrific Fouquet Cotes de Provence) and Tariquet and we continued as we devoured our fennel salads. We then drank two reds with our steak--a Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny Poyeaux and the top-of-the-line red Panoplie from Tablas Creek, which is only available to their wine club. Two wines couldn't have been more different from each other if one had been white and the other green. The French Cabernet Franc had some charming or obnoxious barnyard-y scents and flavors, depending on your sense of smell. The Paso red was big and flavorful, but since it was a gift, I graciously kept my doubts as to whether it was worth $100 to myself.
Three nights, three big meals. Loads of fun, I think. The recycle bin was full of empty bottles which must have waked the neighbors and their animals when the dump truck plunged them into its bin. It was said you could hear the sound of breaking bottles as far as Running Springs, but that's just a rumor.
I think I had a good time, although I can't remember much of it. Like a fallen politician, I take full responsibility for my actions, although in my heart I know it's all Paso's fault.