Way back in the early '90's, I tried a CraneCanyon Zin that I liked quite a bit. I wrote GardnerBritt how much I was impressed by it and it sparked a long-time friendship that has been dormant for the last few yrs. Last Fall, Gardner ran into MikeOfficer at a wine shipping place and Gardner asked him about me. Mike gave him my e-mail and we reconnected. Gardner suggested we get together for a pizza dinner next time I was in the area (Gardner has an outdoor wood-fired oven & is a huge pizza afficinado). So I set aside the Fri afore RhoneRangers for just that event.
Left Berkeley early in morning for the drive up to Napa and a must-stop at the FattedCalf. When it comes to pig parts, FattedCalf is one of the best around (after SalumiCuredMeats and Adesso). Picked up some chorizo and leaf lard to take home and some rillettes for dinner that night. Decided to go thru Calistoga for a visit with a very dear friend, MX at Enoteca. Then a stop at Siduri to pay my bill and the must-stop at BottleBarn.
Took a leasurily drive up into the BennettVlly and a short driving tour, as I'd not seen it in daylight
and not been there since my list dinner at Gardner's. It's a beautiful, if compact, valley. Some pretty great wines come out of there these days.
Then over to the Britt's. Gardner was finishing up his prep work in the kitchen. Alas, the rain meant no outdoor pizzas that night. As he went off to clean up, he handed me this 10-page bound menu of the night's festivities. I was dumbfounded. Eight courses, including 4 pizza courses (we wound up skipping 2 courses as the evening approached midnight). Clearly, as we say, "a passion run amok". It was an incredible culinary and vinous tour-de-force.
Joining Gardner & wife Debbie were special guests, Mike & Kendall Officer. In addition to their
daughter, Elise, home on spring break from UCLA, was their son, David, and his fiancee, Pany. When I was last there at the Britts in the mid-'90's, son David, then a teenager, expressed an interest in science (or SCIENCE as we do it at LosAlamos). To encourage David's interest in Science, I invited him and Gardner out for a visit, which they did a year later. I lined them up w/ talks from some of our people who do real Science here (unlike us code-weenies) and a tour of the LosAlamos Meson Physics Facilities. David swallowed this Science bait hook/line and sinker and went on to get his PhD at UCLA in Inorganic Chemistry and now works in the area of carbon
sequestration at LawrenceBerkeleyLaboratory...not far from where SteveEdmunds first made his wine. A pretty incredible cast of characters that ensured a rollicking discussion on food/wine/ Science/ kids/tattoos & body piercings and a mind-boggling array of topics well into the wee hours of the morning. Alas, none of the world's problems were solved that night. But we gave it our best shot...sorta. And, alas, no pre-Columbian whistle concerts by Gardner. When I'd had dinner at the Britt's some yrs ago & David was a teenager; towards the end of the evening Gardner serenaded us by playing some of his ancient whistles. Poor David was mortified & embarassed by his Dad's immature behavior and pleaded...."Awwwwwww, Dad...please"!! I think David has matured
sufficiently by now that he'd have just rolled his eyes and let it go.... Dad just being Dad.
I'll forgo a description of the incredible food other than say the pizzas were some of the best I've had. The Yin/Yang pizza, sculpted in that design, was amazingly inventive. Daughter Elise had to help Gardner w/ the Yin/Yang symbol, however. Too hard a task for scientist-types. One important take-away lesson I got: form and dress your pizzas on the pizza paddle atop a sheet of parchment paper. The paper is invisible to the pizza's crust and it easily slides, paper & all, right onto the pizza stone. It's like magic and no corn flour all over your oven and burning to a crisp.
The wines poured by the talented Somm were: