Cramant Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs
Current price: about $55
Château de Beaucastel
Current price: about $60
Last night we hosted an intimate dinner party to celebrate the season. I served beef croustades, an elegant, if slightly fussy, take on beef Wellington in which seared tenderloin medallions are spread with herbed goat cheese, topped with mushroom gremolata, wrapped in a beggar's purse of phyllo dough, and baked. Such a dish requires simple accompaniments: Japonica rice and green beans sautéed with red sweet pepper, plus a salad of watercress, butter lettuce, Bosc pear, and walnuts caramelized with rosemary.
There were only five of us at table, so no need to pull a raft of bottles from the cellar, and a good excuse to serve a two special wines. We started with a toast, pouring this lovely non-vintage Champagne from Guy Larmandier, a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru RM from the village of Cramant, 100% Chardonnay. The wine was clear and pale, with tiny, restrained bubbles and a clean, bright nose. On the palate it offered good acidity, with citrus overlaying a toasty center, smooth and even in the mouth, with lots of minerality. It was delicious on its own, though we offered it with thin shavings of aged gouda, whose salt and unctuous, melting nuttiness was a perfect foil for the wine.
With the beef, we poured a red, carefully decanting this 1993 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though it had actually thrown very little sediment. The wine was pale, brickish red, and offered spicy, earthy, flower notes on the nose: Syrah in blossom. On the palate it was more restrained, but gradually, with patience, it opened to show its brilliant core: pure, clean, and even. I'd forgotten how delicate and demure a Châteauneuf-du-Pape could be, how utterly feminine. I only wish we had more.