By Ray Isle Posted March 15, 2007

Had dinner last night at Telepan with Bill Hunter, the owner (along with Billington Imports, in some capacity) and winemaker at Chasseur. Bill's a bluff, friendly, no-nonsense sort of guy who happens to make some pretty extraordinary Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. The standout last night for me was his 2004 Chasseur Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay ($48). Unfined and unfiltered, the wine is slightly hazy (not a problem) and its texture is a physical incarnation of that veil-like appearance; it's the kind of white that wins you over on texture alone, before you realize how good it tastes (think white peach and other stone fruits, brioche, and a faint, appealing note of butterscotch). It achieves that supple richness partly because Bill believes in leaving the wine on its lees well into the new year, creating the conditions for the kind of autolyzed yeast notes most people are familiar with from Champagne. He poured it next to a bottle of John Kongsgaard's 2004 Napa Chardonnay that he ordered off the list at the restaurant, an act that took a substantial amount of winemaker-cojones, given the level of acclaim Kongsgaard has received for his (admittedly terrific) Chardonnays. It was close to a dead heat in terms of quality, but in the end I gave the edge to the Chasseur, which surprised me.

Also, just a side note about Telepan. Bill Telepan is a wonderful chef, and he's cooking at the top of his game right now; everything I had-down to the slightly absurd but in-your-face delicious foie gras "donuts" that appeared as an amuse bouche-was superb. Of particular note were some nearly ethereal ricotta gnocchi, served with a small forest's worth of wild mushrooms, coin-sized discs of potato and toasted pine nuts, with small shavings of ricotta salata scattered on top; the definition of the flavors here was remarkable, with no ingredient vanishing under the weight of any other. It's hard to imagine a dish more suited to the style of Chardonnay we were drinking (though a kind of deconstructed lamb cassoulet went very well with the Pinot we switched to afterward, too). Aaron von Rock's wine list is adventurous and extensive, too, full of things I wished I could have ordered, But, you know, there's only so much one can experience in a single night.

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