By Robert Haas
The end of fall and beginning of winter is the season that we enjoyed wonderful black truffle dishes during our travels to visit vineyard proprietors in France. Alas, although we have learned to produce fine wines in California, we have not been able to do black truffles yet.
So, when the yearly truffle yearning comes along, we sometimes yield to the temptation of buying imported French truffles on line. We do scrambled eggs with truffles (yum), as served at Beaucastel or chez Perrin, and last night, with our California family, a poulet demi-deuil (literally “chicken in half-mourning” for the dark color given to the chicken’s skin by the slices of truffle nestled underneath. Once appropriately dressed, the chicken is poached in chicken stock). It is a dish y which we were stunned at first exposure at La Mère Brazier, just outside Lyon, many long falls ago.
What wine to serve with the poulet? I had recently discovered an old bottle of Château de Beaucastel originally from my Vermont cellar, transported to California in the ‘90s, label damaged and vintage unknown, and wondered when to serve it. The answer became obvious last night. I knew that we would discover the vintage on the cork. It turned out to be 1981: a great vintage at Beaucastel although dodgy almost everywhere else in France.
The wine was absolutely perfect: mature yet no hint of oxidation, truffly in itself, echoing the dish, velvety, rich, leathery, with dark red fruits and a long finish. Thirty-one years old and fully mature, in beautiful balance. What a nice memorable evening with food, family and a great wine!