Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A couple of old friends (both ex-coworkers of mine) and I finally managed to get together a few nights ago. Given our disparate labor schedules, not to mention other requirements in life, such meetings have become far too few and distant between. When the stars finally do align, though, you can pretty much count on both wine and food being involved. One can also depend on all of us bringing along a bottle or four that we want to share with each other, often something that we suspect the others may not have had in a while, maybe even something that holds a little in the way of sentimental value. On most such occasions, contributions are pretty evenhanded; on this night, though, I took all but total control of the wine corner, as I was in the mood not just to drink some cool stuff but, more importantly, to turn my buds on to some wines I was pretty sure they'd never had the chance to experience.

An aperitif started things rolling right, a glass for each of us of the second oldest wine yet "newest" vintage of the night, the 2000 Rioja Gran Reserva Rosado "Viña Tondonia" from R. Lopez de Heredia. I'd actually tasted the '98 rosado with one of my cohorts a few months earlier but, as fate would have it, it wasn't a stellar bottle. This one I really wanted to be right and it was, really lovely stuff, oxidative at first whiff but still very young, full of potpourri, wood spice and coconut oil aromas and an overall impression of warm, sun-baked sands.

The scene of the crime, by the way, was Fond, a BYOB spot in the burgeoning, cultural polyglot of a neighborhood that is South Philly's East Passyunk Avenue corridor. I'd eaten at Fond once before with satisfying enough results but on this night chef Lee Styer and crew were cooking at another level.

To a man, we started with Fond's veal sweetbreads, fried to a fine balance between external crispiness and internal creaminess, seasoned just one stop short of the end of the line, and very nicely appointed with the sweetness of wilted onions and rich simplicity of a sunny-up egg. Radikon's 2002 Venezia-Giulia Ribolla Gialla, poured from its signature thin-necked 500 ml bottle, proved not only surprisingly primary, predictably golden and snappily tannic, but also a more than admirable match with our salty, savory plates of ris de veau. Proof aplenty that orange wine really isn't just for uni.

My dining companions both opted for the squab, the chef's special for the day. A killer choice, I must add — one of my buddies, an alum of Le Bec Fin, where squab was a signature dish for many a year, proclaimed it the best he'd ever had. I, however, couldn't pass up on the hangar steak, which was cooked pretty much to perfection and finished with a damn tasty sauce Bordelaise.

Here, I "let" the guys slide in a sentimental choice, a bottle of 1999 Valtellina Superiore Sassella from La Castellina della Fondazione Fojanini. This is a wine we all once sold and that, I believe, its owner had hoped to share with a recently departed friend. It was richer than I remember but otherwise as expected, just barely softening and inching toward some signs of bottle development, a great-value example of how age-worthy, not to mention compelling, the wines of Nebbiolo-based wines of Valtellina can be.

I think we were all in agreement, though, that the youngster in the bunch turned out to be the wine of the night. Bernard Baudry's 2007 Chinon "La Croix Boissée" was drinking beautifully. Disgracefully young as it was, the Baudrys' wine, like the food that night, was firing on all cylinders, showing richness aligned with grace and displaying all the classic traits of Chinon grown in Cravant les Coteaux — floral, herbal and grassy, full of cassis and blueberry fruit, all seasoned with a liberal sprinkling of mineral extract. Ten more years should do this one much, much good. No matter, though. It provided a long overdue introduction to Baudry for a certain member of the Chevaliers de Chezelet, paired wonderfully with my steak, and made for a great way to wrap up and savor an evening among friends.

1617 East Passyunk Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19148
(215) 551-5000
Fond on Urbanspoon


Unknown said...

Thanks for report on the Sasella.
A couple of times this fall I've had my hand on the last 98 and 99 I have, but keep putting them back. It might be time to have at them.

David McDuff said...

You bet, Patrick. I still have a couple of bottles of the '98 squirreled away. It's been a while since I drank one but, at that time at least, it was a good deal leaner and more elegant than the '99. Guess I'll have to check in on one soon, too.

larsmakie said...

I think that the '02 Radikon has been my favorite 'orange' wine I've had yet; god, I love it. Wish I had more. If I do get more, I'd love to try with something like that sweetbread dish. Sounds great.

Almost opened an '06 Croix Boissee last night, but thought it way too young (also, didn't really want to just open it and drink it by myself; that's no fun).

Thanks for the notes.

David McDuff said...

Hey Lars,
Just in case it wasn't crystal clear from my write-up, I too really dug the '02 Radikon. Loved the way it still exhibited a fresh expression of fruit and minerality along with all that great texture. Wish there were more of it in my cellar, too.

Do Bianchi said...

SO dying to taste that Sassella...

Tasted the 2002 Radikon with Lars! Awesome wine... I'm so behind in my Friuli posts but Radikon is in the queue...

Thanks for the link love man! Great post... great wines...

David McDuff said...

I guess I'll have to add one of those bottles of '98 to the ever-growing "to be shared with Sir DoBi" list. Very cool that you got to visit Radikon -- and taste with Lars! You do get around there, pal.

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