Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Illadelph Blogger meet-up with the great David McDuff

Wine blogging. It may seem easy. You know, drink, form an impression, get up on your soap box and post something. Repeat. Well, blogging regularly - say 3 times a week as a minimum - actually is a real commitment. I read various wine blogs, but few of them ever keep me coming back as regularly as Mcduff's Food and Wine Trail. The combination of McDuff's crisp, professional writing, his thorough profiles of producers, region's and wines, and display of authority without coming across as arrogant or snobbish makes for what might be my favorite wine blog out there, or at least top 3. As David mentioned in his re-cap of our lunch together last week, we also have a good bit in common: we have spent significant time living in the Washington, DC area, we are both University of Maryland alums, we enjoy listening to an eclectic mix of music, particularly anything in a post-punk vein.

On my way home from New York City last week, I stopped in Philly and was picked up by Mr. McDuff at the train station. We then headed to one of the city's many BYO's for some lunch and wine which David brought with him. As some of you may know, the distribution and sale of wine in Pennsylvania is controlled by the state, which leads to a generally poor selection of wines which often times cost a lot more than they should. So a few upshots are that BYO restaurants are popular, and serious wine drinkers in Pennsylvania shop in New Jersey or Delaware - David, though he lives in the Philly metro area, actually works at a store in Wilmington, Delaware named Moore Brothers.

OK, on to the lunch and wine. We went to a Thai restaurant named Nan, which had a typical menu including pad thai, salmon with red curry (which I had and quite enjoyed), smoked duck (which David ordered, also very tasty) and one seriously out of place lunch entree of spaghetti with ricotta and broccoli. Hmmm...we started with a 2002 Ratzenberger Riesling Steeger St Jost Spatlese Trocken from the Mittelrhein. At first it showed the intense apricot kernel flavor and broad fruit which I generally associate with the Rheingau, but then the smoky blue slate minerality kicked in and grew increasingly present in the wine. Apparently the steeply sloping vineyard has provides some of the fruit for a Grosses Gewaches wine which Ratzinger also makes. It was a bit on the dry and strict side for a great pairing with most Thai dishes (especiall the curries), though it did go really well with some grilled squid salad. The second bottle David opened was a delicious 2004 Aldo Vajra 'Costa e Fossati' Dolcetto d'alba. It showed the cut and fine balance of '04 in Piedmont, with a real traditional structure. Very dry blackberry fruits, with some earthiness, cut white flowers and a real elegant, lighter weight (for Dolcetto) palate. The finishing tannins were really fine, like a cat's tongue - that sort of sensation on the palate. None of those coarse, puckery, wood tannins which marr many other Piedmontese wines these days - no surprise as this is a traditional winery (longer fermentation in large slavonian oak) and I do tend to prefer traditional wines. It was the best Dolcetto I have ever tasted, and just out of curiosity a few days later I saw an '05 Giuseppe Mascarello Dolcetto d'Alba in a new Baltimore shop named Swirl, cracked it open, and found that it was not nearly as refined and elegant. Granted, it's not as good a vintage and the Vajra has a year of bottle age on it, but I still don't think the Giuseppe Mascarello Dolcetto will be as good.

Sorry for the dolcetto tangent there. Anyway, back to the story at hand. McDuff knows his stuff, is a terrific guy, and it was a pleasure to finally meet him in person. Thanks for lunch, David, next time is on me.