It's December, when everybody in The Business works overtime. So this entry is being somewhat hastily assembled, and will more than likely be subject to revision.
On this night, Les challenged us to move beyond our usual Francophilia, so the proceedings opened with a bottle that actually has a regular place on his wine list: The one and only R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé 1997:
Elaine: There is some yellow fruit here, and something green...green pea tendrils.
Dave: I'm mostly picking up oak spice. No red fruit. Is this grenache or tempranillo or what?
Elaine: Oh, look, it's actually on the label: 60% grenache, 20% tempranillo, 20% viura. It's kind of spicy and citrusy, and there's a note of baked or maybe stewed apple.
Dave: A little caramel at the end. To me, this seems to be mostly about barrel flavors.
Karl: Don't write this down, I'm getting a little sherry note.
Dave: Why not? It makes sense, it should be a little oxidized. It's 12 years old!
Elaine: The tannins taste of grape skin.
Dave: Now I'm finally getting some red fruit.
Elaine: This isn't really doing anything for the food.
Dave: Maybe it's a bar wine.
Elaine: Yeah, a 12-year-old bar wine.
At some point during this dialogue we ordered the duck appetizer and the all-important crab rangoons. About which Elaine clarified an earlier opinion. "It's not the perfect universal match for wine," she said. "It's more like a good control--it softens the effect of tannins and acids."
D. Ventura Vina Do Burato Ribiera Sacra 2008:
Elaine: This smells like a fruit-rollup.
Karl: An organic one.
Elaine: I haven't seen one in years. Whatever happened to them? This wine smells like the apricot one. And grape.
Dave: It smells like a Twizzer!
Elaine: Is that a hint of cigarette?
Dave: January is coming soon. What's the grape?
Karl: (Reads the label) "Grown on slate and loess. Unfiltered."
Dave: Who is D. Ventura?
Karl: Jesse Ventura's brother...wait, here's the actual winemaker's name: Ramon Losada Fernandez.
Elaine: Violets, roses, minerals...very like a cru Beaujolais.
Dave: I'm getting cherry, and some cherry-pit-like tannins.
Elaine: It smells like sour cherry pie; there's so much mineral character, it's stoney, dusty--minerals entwined with tannins.
There followed an enlightening discussion of fried pies. Elaine is an aficionado, who knew? I asked her if she meant those horrible things from Hostess that you find in C-stores attached to gas stations, and she said no, not those, but ones that were made locally. And sure enough, there is a local producer, called Towne House Fried Pies. You can get them at the Enmark station on Tunnel Road in East Asheville. The bakery is on Parker Road in Riceville, which is less than 15 minutes away, so we assume a degree of otherwise unobtainable freshness.