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WINE AND FOOD WEDNESDAY
12/21/2011
Wine and Food Wednesday
Fresh Dungeness Crab Is In—And So Is Sauvignon Blanc

By Stephen Eliot

One of the great pleasures of a lifetime spent in the study and appreciation of wine is that of endless discovery, of knowing that there are always new wines, new winemakers and new vintages waiting around each corner. The search is as fascinating and as much fun as the finding. It is impossible to be bored, and, if you think you have seen it all, I would respectfully suggest that you think again.

Sometimes, however, it is nice to stop for a minute and revisit an old friend, one that reminds that there is difference between being new and interesting and, with apologies to all of the eye-of-the-beholder subjectivists out there, being great.

That point was driven home last week when attending a remarkable five-course pop-up dinner hosted by the Bernal Supper Club and Chef John C. Fink at San Francisco’s Winemaker’s Speakeasy restaurant. Chef Fink is the mind behind The Whole Beast, a catering company which embraces the very sensible idea that a great dish starts with the best ingredients, and, in John’s case, that begins with the way in which an animal is raised and ends with making full use of every part of the animal in the kitchen.

While Riesling would of course be a first-rate choice for a dinner that features crab five ways, and I suspect that a good one would have shown quite well on this particular evening, I opted for something different. A pleasant, palate-waking first glass of the crisp, mildly minerally 2009 Bosnian Zilavka from Brkic met the obligation to try something new, but it was the 2007 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc that I pulled from the cellar that was the star of the evening.

Good Sauvignon Blanc, I mean really good ones, are still among my favorite white wines, and, I would argue, they are among the most versatile mealtime matches to be found. They rarely win rave reviews in the press and are seen in too many eyes as being inherently incapable of earning high “scores”. They are rarely spoken of in terms of complexity and aging potential, but as we have found on a good many occasions here at CGCW, the best bottlings can age brilliantly and will exhibit stunning depth. I still recall a twenty-year old Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc opened for our millennial New Year’s dinner that was as memorable as any of the several legendary Burgundies, Pinots and Cabernets that had been saved for the event.

Admittedly, the bottling from Ms.Edwards still had plenty of room for further growth, but it was clearly hitting full stride in its fourth year and was a rich, layered, very vital and impeccably balanced wine that sailed through the meal in fine form. From a silky, wonderfully rich crab bisque to raviolis of crab coral, chanterelles, leeks and spinach to deep-fried cracked crab served in a ginger black-peppercorn sauce, the wine seemed to show different faces with each course, and was uncannily refreshing in one instance and quite rich and substantial in another.

Oh, the crab? It was nothing short of splendid—but the night belonged to Merry Edwards and her stunning Sauvignon Blanc.
http://thewholebeastsf.com/Home_Page.html


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