Knowing someone in the Business
By: George Balling
Mary had a birthday last week and to celebrate we headed down to San Francisco to visit and stay with Mary’s brother John. Many of you know John Lancaster for his obvious skills as owner/winemaker at Skylark Wine Company. Many of you also know him as the Sommelier at Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco. John’s palate and palate memory are among the best I have ever known. His knowledge of wines from California and all of Europe is the most impressive of anyone I know in the wine business, and knowing someone in the business with this knowledge base is a very good thing.
While we were in SF, we had dinner at Boulevard and another night John made dinner for us at his home. On a side note, when we were at the restaurant our server shared with us that he sees 50 guests a year who have traveled to Northern California and had dinner at Boulevard that are customers and wine club members here at The Dinner Party. Mary and I were so touched by the kind words so many of you have shared with staff members at a restaurant so far away. We are equally thrilled so many of you have had the chance to eat at Boulevard, for those of you who may be headed that way in the future let us know and we will share our knowledge on this culinary destination.
John set out from the start to spoil his sister on her special day, and wow did he! The wine lineup for both of our dinners with John and his wife Paula and their adult daughters were truly extraordinary. I always learn a lot when spending some time with John, about wines unfamiliar to me and may want to ultimately carry in the shop. Some are out of reach for us as they are heavily allocated to the larger markets in the US, it is still a great learning opportunity.
At both dinners we started with Champagne from Billecart Salmon. “Billie” as we have nicknamed it is our favorite “bubbly”. The two bottles we enjoyed on back-to-back nights were vintage dated and vineyard designated wines that we don’t see here in our market. They did show the caliber of this great winery. The bubbles were fine and tight with an extraordinary balance between light biscuit notes and vibrant citrus. While we can’t get the allocated items we had, we highly recommend the Brut Rose from Billecart that we carry in the shop.
At the Boulevard dinner John followed the Champagne with a Grand Cru Chablis from Raveneau. Sadly, this is another highly allocated wine that is not available in North Idaho, but it was a special experience. The wine was crisp and clean but with amazing texture and palate weight. We all agreed that even in this stellar lineup of wines it was the highlight of the list.
We then moved on to red with dinner. Starting with 2015 Grand Cru Red Burgundy from Georges Mugneret-Gibourg. This fabulous Pinot Noir from the Chambertin appellation was an entirely new level of Pinot Noir for Mary and I who love the varietal. ’15 Was an extraordinary vintage across Europe and especially in Burgundy and it showed in every sip of this wine. We are working on getting wine from this producer into the shop as the importer is well represented here. We will keep you posted.
John joined us at our table at the end of the evening with a 2005 Hermitage from Jean-Louis Chave. Chave is one of the oldest wineries in France and one of our favorite producers in the Rhone. We get a small amount of his estate Hermitage each year and have consistent supply on his “Selections” series of wines that are more gently priced. The ’05 we had was delicious and one of the best Rhone wines we have ever had.
At home the following night we had a 2015 Corton Charlemagne white Burgundy from Dubreuil Fontaine. This was one of the most amazing Chardonnays I have ever had. The combination of an outstanding vintage, one of the most sought-after appellations for White Burgundy and a fabulous producer resulted in a wine that was special not only for its Chardonnay richness but also its exquisite balance.
With our steak salad John saved one of the best for last with a magnum of 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape from Domaine de Vieux Telegraphe. We carry the Vieux Telegraphe wine, but have not had the ’05 in many years and never from magnum. It had all of he concentrated fruit you would expect from great Chateauneuf but with soft round tannins from ample time in the bottle.
For the wines we carry we encourage you to stop by the shop and try them for yourselves. We will keep all of you posted as we make progress in acquiring more of those listed. Going forward we will continue to rely on John’s great knowledge, and always appreciate knowing someone in the business.