The King of Wines and the King of Crabs

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Yesterday, I got the call from my oldest friend, Henry Hiatt, who manages the Fish Market restaurant in San Jose. His one allocation of fresh King Crab, aired in from Alaska, had arrived. They usually get two deliveries a year, but this time, problems at the Dutch Harbor airport in Alaska cut that in half. Because of difficulties with transportation logistics for fresh product, almost the entire catch is frozen as soon as it comes off the boats. This special creature comes in three types, gold, brown, and red—the biggest and best of them all. This was the crab that we feasted on last night, and it was made all the better by having a real fish expert on hand to explain it all to Cinnamon and me.

 I am very fortunate to have had the chance to enjoy this rare delicacy for several years running thanks to Henry, and after experimenting with Chablis, Puligny, Chassagne, and all manner of white Burgundy and Champagne, we have settled on a pairing that we think works best. I suppose it is only natural that the king of wines works perfectly with the king of crabs. I bought the best bottle we had on the shelf, the 2016 Fieuzal Pessac-Leognan Blanc, and pulled out of our cellar our wedding vintage of Domaine de Chevalier Pessac-Leognan Blanc. Cinnamon always decants these whites, this time a good hour and half ahead, which is a very wise move, as they were open from the beginning this way. It is unfortunate to drink a great wine and have only the last half of the last glass be great.

 Chateau Fieuzal is a 210-acre property, making far less white wine than red. They produce about 3000 cases a year of the white, which is a blend of approximately half and half Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The wine is vinified in a combination of about 50% new French 225 liter barrels as well as 400-liter acacia wood foudres and some temperature-controlled stainless steel. The final settling is done in concrete after blending and before bottling. The 2016 Fieuzal showed incredible virility, with wild, grassy aromatics backed up by textural, layered Semillon richness. The finish was completely dry, and the wine was like a second knife for the bratwurst sized pieces of crab meat on the table. This long finisher has many years ahead of it. I drank my last 2001 last year, and wish I had another 10-year’s worth. Some must go into the cellar to backfill!

 The legendary Domaine de Chevalier is 110 acres, of which a scant 12 are planted to 70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon. Incredibly, none of us could tell the difference between the 2016 Fieuzal and 2004 Domaine de Chevalier by color. The 2004 was still the same pale straw hue as the day it was released! I always recommend that people never buy two decanters in the same shape, and once again, I was happy to have this in “the beaker” while the Fieuzal was in the “the captain.” The aromatics rewarded our patience and cellar space; however, and this wine had an intense bouquet of lanolin and honey. There were no traces of oak left in this wine, which sometimes gets 100% new oak fermentation, but instead, just soft, sweet white fruit and Semillon honey. The back end of the wine defied the exoticism of the nose and flavors with incredible vibrant freshness and near-infinite length. This is one of the world’s great whites.

Both wines brought out the sweet flavor of the crab, while the crab brought out the minerality and showed off the fresh acidity of the wines. It is a great combination, and I plan on keeping my cellar filled to have this experience for as many years into the future as I can. Get on the list with your fishmonger for fresh king crab. It is a truly special experience!

 A toast to you!

 -Gary Westby

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