We sampled a cross-section of the family’s wines. The 2006 Lange Twins Sauvignon Blanc (Musqué Clone), Estate Bottled, Lodi ($17) started the evening off as the preprandial. As the clone name on the label suggests, it has a touch of sweetness and peach flavors that make it enjoyable as a quaffing wine. It also has impressive body and a fruit-acid balance that is a compliment to the winemaker’s craft. That winemaker, David Akiyoshi, graduated from the Mecca of American winemaking, the University of California Davis, and worked for a quarter of a century for Robert Mondavi.
Passed hors d’oeuvres were straightforward Prosciutto Wrapped Arugula Bites (just arugula stems wrapped in prosciutto). Recall that the chef now at Dragonfly is Dan Landsberg. With this meal he showed again that his touch with flavor matching is as careful as his laid-back attitude is studied. As an aside, he is as tired as you and I at hearing chefs describe their creations as ‘playful’ so he boldly described one of his dishes as ‘sarcastic.’ I can’t wait until he does ‘loquacious’, or ‘imperious.’
Our first sit-down course may have been that: it was an amuse of Cinnamon Roasted Pineapple Fruit Rollup with Pine Nut & Micro Basil. This was served with the 2010 Lange Twins Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Clarksburg ($20). Half of this wine is aged in stainless steel and half in French oak. The objective is to keep a fresh fruitiness while also harnessing the flavor complexity of an oak-aged wine. If you like your oak subtle in your Chardonnay, then this wine is a good choice.
Next a ‘playful’ dish (with maybe a hint of garrulousness?): Foie PB&J. It took me a few moments to figure out PB&J was peanut butter and jelly… I have never had foie gras prepared in this way before but it was easily the dish of the night. The foie gras melted in the mouth between the slices of brioche making for a heavenly creamy emulsion. The 2010 Lange Twins Generations Pinot Noir, California ($20) served with it is an unmistakably New World Pinot Noir with a hint of sweetness on the tongue and cherry aromas enveloping the palate. The tannins are predictably soft and this wine should be regarded as good value.
It was on to poultry, and Landberg prepared Cherry Cola Grilled Texas Quail & Humboldt Fog Tater Tot. This accompanied the 2009 Lange Twins Generations Petite Petite, California ($20). The name comes from this wine being a blend of Petite Verdot (a permanent member of the Bordeaux quintet of red grapes) and Petite Sirah (a magnificent California elevation of a derided French blending grape to standalone varietal status). It is chewy and intensely colored, full of black fruit in the mouth and with a long, pleasing finish. I found it a little powerful for quail, but the Humboldt Cheese in the tater tot softened the tannins admirably. Serving tater tots in such rarefied wine company goes beyond playful. This was Landsberg being histrionic.
The last time that I reported on Dragonfly it was Landsberg’s baby back ribs that stole the show. He might have described them as phlegmatic. This time, he showed that he has something of a deft hand for pork with the next course: Roasted Pig Belly, Jalapeño Collards, Kennebec Hash Browns & Sunny Side Up Quail Egg. The 2009 Lange Twins Zinfandel, Estate Bottled, Lodi ($20) was a ripe, red-fruit, soft and full-bodied Zinfandel in the mainstream California tradition.
The top of the Lange Twins range is their Reserve wines. Our next taste was the 2008 Lange Twins Merlot, Reserve, Clarksberg ($33). This Merlot maintained the grape’s dignity, giving the lie to the oft-quoted line from Sideways “No fing Merlot…”. There is good Merlot from California, and here is an example.
Flavors of chocolate and cinnamon wrapped around a chewy core of young juice that will surely age into a very nicely resolved body of flavors over the next three or four years. Landsberg did Braised Short Rib with Tassione Baby Root Veggies & Sweet Potato Gnocchi to go with this. The root vegetables brought lots of complimentary flavors and a cascade of color to the plate. Playful? This dish was positively avuncular.
Finally, dessert of Overgrown House Made Smore was not playful at all. Maybe sibylline, or recondite? The wine was less obscure. 2006 Lange Twins Midnight Reserve, Lodi ($33) is a Bordeaux blend with slightly unconventional grape proportions: Petite Verdot (47%), Cabernet Sauvignon (45%), Merlot (4%) and Malbec (4%). It was showing some maturity but will continue to age for several years.
All of these wines are available locally (Cork is the one source that I know of) and would be great to check out for the holiday season. Given that Lange Twins has been making wines for only five years but have evident commitment, they are a vintner to watch.