This essay, sent in from Vermont, is the next in an occasional series of articles by Robert Haas.
After a rainy Vermont summer (was that summer?), fall has arrived
with the leaves just beginning to turn color, apples ready to pick and the
garden mostly put away for the winter although the beans do not know it and are
continuing to bloom and produce.
The days are getting very fall-like with the slanting sunlight angles and the nights are getting jacket chilly. With the cooler nights the dinner menus are turning to more substantial fare with a good share of lamb and beef recipes designed for braising, stewing and oven roasting.
As the menus turn toward the fall so do the wine cellar choices. I still have quite a few 1978s in the cellar here and we have started to renew our acquaintances with them at the dinner table. In my opinion, 1978 was the best vintage of the otherwise difficult decade of the 1970s and the wines have stood up beautifully here in my below ground natural cellars.
The other night we enjoyed a delicious Provençal blanquette of lamb shoulder -- from Richard Olney’s gloriously illustrated Provence the Beautiful Cookbook -- with a 1978 Volnay Premier Crû Clos des Ducs from the domain of a late old good friend, the Marquis (Jacques) d’Angerville, and documented the event with the accompanying photo (right).
The wine was deliciously sturdy and fruited but mature with the character that only old Burgundy can impart to pinot noir. Its elegant power and delicate balance were perfectly matched with the delicately flavored dish.
The week before we enjoyed a more robustly flavored dish of braised gigot d'agneau (leg of lamb) with olives and salted anchovies and accompanied it with a surprisingly robust and flavorful 1978 Santenay from the Château de la Charrière (photo left). Vincent Girardin tells me that 1978 was the last vintage that his father vinified.
I’m trying to hold on to the recent vintages of my Tablas Creek wines for future drinking but occasionally (maybe more than occasionally) find myself digging into the fruity and luscious 2006 Tablas Creek Vineyard reds. They are tasting wonderfully right now, especially with Provençal cuisine.
A few years ago, when we moved into our California house in Templeton and installed the refrigerated cabinets necessary for good wine storage out here, we shipped fifty or so cases of my old wine stash going back to the 1960s vintages to California. I fully expected that they would taste quite a bit older out here than in their original resting place. But happily, they do not. It’s a good sign that one can ship carefully packed and shipped older wines across the country without damaging them. What is necessary, however, is to be patient before opening and drinking them. We waited six months before opening the first bottle.
I know that “fall like” is not exactly how one would describe this week’s weather in California. Quite the opposite. However, cooler days and nights will come, and hopefully, with some RAIN. So think of lamb, beef, pork, and game dishes in their winter incarnations and enjoy your red wines out of your cellar with them.