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Mark Neal and Gove Celio were in town to visit some of their clients so the DC Crü figured it was a great reason to get together. It was nice to see Mark and Gove again since I missed them the last time around.

Dinner was very good. As usual, we started with a round of appetizers for the table, steak tartare, duck confit, shrimp croquettes, the charcuterie plate, some of the wonderful frites, and steamed mussels. I had the grilled steak with the frites (as usual) and the crispy skate wing that t-rep had looked delicious. Others had the shepherds pie, the mussels, a very wonderful looking cassoulet, but I really wasn't paying much attention to what those who were not next to me ordered. And btw, Brasserie Beck is one of the restaurants in town that has the good taste to have Neal Family wines on their wine list.

The line lineup was:

2005 Beringer Sbrgia Limited Release Chardonnay - very smooth, toasty, maybe a little too much oak for some but I thought it was very good.

2004 A Donkey and Goat Chardonnay Brosseau - nice balance of citrus and pear, with a nice minerality. It is really coming together nicely, and in about 6 months should be absolutely stunning.

2003 Neal Chardonnay - It has lost a little fruit, but smooth and vanilla and pear flavors. Gove said he hadn't had any in over a year, and was anxious to try it again. I think Norm brought it because Gove and Mark don't have any left, but it stood up well to the other two Chards.

2006 Neal Zinfandel - 92% Zin, 8% Petit Syrah. Grapes are from the Rutherford and Charles Valley vineyards. Wonderful nose, cinnamon and chocolate, but still obviously young. Buy what you can get, they only made 900 cases, but this was wonderful.

2004 J. Rochioli Pinot Noir East Block - Wow. Deep red color, nose of cherrys and vanilla, medium bodied with mild but smooth tannins. A wonderful wine.

2005 Neal Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Made from a blend of grapes from 9 vineyards, Gove listed them but I couldn't write them all down. Very approachable for a wine that has only been in the bottle for about 8 months. Lots of dark fruit, cherry and cassis, rosemary hints and a little vanilla. Excellent cab.

2002 Neal Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon - Again, made from grapes from 9 vineyards. Nice balance and a long finish. Much like the 2005 only more powerful in a mature way. I'm glad I have a bottle of this left. Norm described it as like candy - balanced no tannic finish, fruity and full in the mouth

Service was, as usual exceptional. New glasses for each wine, water glasses always full, everything one could ask for. All the chefs came out to talk to us, and to have a glass of wine and Thor (the sommelier) was his usual discrete but charming self. As usual, Beck lived up to its high standards.
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so you guys wait til *after* i move to cali and then do an offline with mark and gove? not fair!

sounds like a wonderful evening. hopefully i'll be able to see those two again (maybe the auction weekend in june). the evening i spent at the neal homestead atop howell mountain at the end of august 2005 when mark was kind enough to invite me to a dinner they hosted for some auction winners still stands as my favorite napa valley memory. wish i had held onto a copy of the column i wrote about that night...

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