As I pulled down our Christmas decorations from the closet last weekend, I could have sworn I’d just put them away about two weeks ago. This year totally went by in a blur. But it was a hell of a nice blur!
It was another year full of great food and wine (imagine that), and lots of memorable moments and events that just make me happy to be doing what I’m doing. Since leaving the fascinating and totally insane world of the corporate rock & roll business ten years ago, I’ve probably worked longer and harder than I ever have, but am certainly enjoying it all lot more. (Well, except for the living on the Poison tour bus with Bret Michaels in 1991, but that’s another story for another time. Or maybe not…)
One reason I’m enjoying life a lot more is that 2010 was the year I became a runner. 12 months ago I couldn’t run around the block. Literally. I started training around Christmas-time last year, and by this November I had completed two half-marathons. I have now impetuously signed up for the Portland Marathon next October, and have 10 months to train for the 26.2-mile grind. Please keep reminding me that the course is “mostly flat”…
Chef Gabe Rucker at Le Pigeon
I don’t eat and drink with the reckless abandon that I used to, or at least not as often. Logging 30+ miles per week on Leif Erikson trail in Forest Park allows me to continue to indulge my endless passion for French bistro fare and all things chocolate, (and anything from the kitchens of Gabe Rucker at Portland’s Le Pigeon and Little Bird.)
I had the pleasure of doing a bunch of great winemaker dinners this year, including great Portland spots Laurelhurst Market (a major personal fave), Bluehour, The Heathman, Wildwood and Gracie’s – and Ray’s Boathouse up in Seattle too.
I took three trips to Burgundy this year, and had some memorable meals over there. My favorite this year was at Auprès du Clocher in Pommard, the best new addition to the Burgundy dining scene in a long time and a spot I hope to return to again and again. Another French fave was at the humble but often divine Caves Madeleine in Beaune, where perhaps the best Duck Confit on the planet can be had if you hit it on the right day.
Closer to home we had some rockin’ great meals at Le Pigeon, it’s sister bistro the newly-opened Little Bird, Paley’s, Laurelhurst Market, Metrovino, and orgasmically-great truffle-salted Fries at Little Big Burger in Portland. In wine country we were consistently wowed by Farm to Fork, Jory at the Allison, Nick’s, & Thistle. In Seattle it keeps getting better and better, with Lark, Matt’s in the Market, Sitka & Spruce, Crush and Boat Street Café all standing out this year.
Frogs Legs (or Cuisses de Grenouille if you you think that sounds better...)
We had a lot of great events at the winery this year, but none more outstanding than our pre-IPNC dinner in the cellars, with superstar chef Vitaly Paley of Paley’s Place at the stove. We were honored to have Burghound’s Allen Meadows with us, along with Food & Wine Magazine’s Ray Isle, and guest winemakers Paul and Louis Meunier of Domaine J-J Confuron for a simply fabulous night.
Chef Paley's hay-roasted Ribeye at our IPNC dinner
I had the rare and amazing experience of working harvest in Burgundy this year, as the lateness of our Oregon harvest allowed me to jump over there for a couple of weeks and work alongside a number of our star producers, including the legendary Michel Lafarge. It was the experience of a lifetime, to say the least. And I returned home from that to jump into crush here – still high from Burgundy and with no time to even acknowledge the jet-lag.
In Volnay with Michel Lafarge
What a bizarre year in the vineyards here. Cold, wet spring. Late bloom. Small crop-set. Cold summer. Beautiful Indian summer. Unprecedented bird attacks on the grapes. When all was said and done, we ended up with our smallest crop ever, yielding tiny amounts of what are promising to be gorgeous wines. We are thrilled with the quality. There’s just not enough of it to go around…
Outside of food & wine I actually do have other interests. At least a couple, anyway. My passion for European soccer is well-known to regular readers here. The greatest single display of sporting excellence I’ve ever seen was Barcelona’s 5-0 shellacking of Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago – definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. That and the chance to see my first Champions League match in person in September, when Frédéric Gueguen in Chablis invited me to see the Auxerre v Real Madrid game in Auxerre – what a blast!
Movies and Music are my other main passions. My favorite film of the year so far has been Social Network – I thought Jesse Eisenberg was great, and the whole Zuckerberg-Facebook story I find fascinating and inspiring. On the French cinema side I loved Un Prophet and Le Concert – see both of these gems when you can. I’m hugely looking forward to two films that are due out before the end of the year – Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere and James L. Brooks’ How Do You Know – both are among my all-time fave directors, and these projects both should be excellent.
Musically it hasn’t been the most inspiring year. Many critics are already saying that Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” – the 21 songs he recorded for, but chose not to use, on 1978’s “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, may in fact be the best album of 2011. I would tend to agree - absolutely genius stuff, from a writer at his lyrical and artistic peak. I’ve also really enjoyed the latest from Charlotte Gainsbourg, Amy MacDonald, Court Yard Hounds, Duffy, Pearl Jam, Sarah McLachlan, Lilly Allen, She & Him, and I admit that some Lady Gaga tracks make for great running tunes on those cold rainy mornings on the trail…
Some goodies lined up for the Paulée in Beaune in November...
As for my favorite wines of the year, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 bottles that crossed my path at various dinners and events over the course of the year. In no particular order:
2002 Champagne Special Club – Marc Chauvet
1949 Corton-Charlemagne – Thevenot
1966 Montrachet – Drouhin
1985 Demoiselles – Jadot
1934 Batard Montrachet – Latour
1964 Clos de la Roche – Rousseau
1976 Richebourg – Meo-Camuzet
1929 Clos Vougeot – Jadot
1965 Romanée-Conti – DRC
1945 Musigny – de Vogüé
It’s been an amazing year for all of us at Scott Paul, and through it all we’ve felt a lot of love and support from all of you. Thanks for being great friends, fans and customers – you truly make it a joy. We wish you a very Merry Christmas, the happiest of holiday seasons, and promise you another year full of great wine, events, meals and classes in 2011. Cheers!