Get ready, wine collectors: Bordeaux looks like it's having a historically great vintage in 2009. The weather has been warm and dry all summer, and most of the Merlot is already harvested. On the Right Bank, where Merlot is the dominant grape, vintners are comparing '09 to the great years of the last century.
"The '09 vintage has been the perfect vintage," said Christian Moueix, president of the family company that makes some of the most expensive wines in Pomerol, including Petrus. "We had the summer of '89 and the picking of '90. I compare it to '47. We will have that kind of extraordinary character."
There's always some hype with vintage reports because nobody wants to tell customers that next year's product isn't worthy. But weather records don't lie.
About an inch of rain fell over three days in mid-September; then the skies stayed dry for the next three weeks. A storm was expected last week, encouraging some wineries to pick beforehand.
But the clouds stayed away days longer than expected and eventually dropped just a few millimeters in some areas, a sprinkling that the Medoc's famous Cabernet Sauvignon vines probably welcomed.
"The word for the vintage is fruit," Moueix said. "Unbelievable -- you enter the tank rooms and you smell so much more fruit than I have smelled in years."
Spotlight on spinys
Spiny lobster season in Southern California is open, and that means hungry shoppers are lined up at Pearson's Port.
Located in the harbor at Newport Beach, Pearson's is a second-generation dream come true for local lovers of seafood. Tommy Pearson is a fisherman who specializes in spot prawns during the summer and spiny lobsters during the winter. His wife, Terese, runs the store, which is really just a shack housing a dozen or so live tanks.
The place can be a little hard to find -- it's literally in Newport Harbor, at the end of a short pier just underneath the Pacific Coast Highway bridge. Turn in just before the trailer park and drive down to the water.
Prices this year are the same as last -- $17.99 a pound. And Terese says early fishing has been good, so supplies are plentiful.
If you can't make it to Newport, you can also find spinys at good local fish markets, including Quality Seafood in Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Fish Co. downtown, Malibu Seafood, Fish King in Glendale and the various Santa Monica Seafood stores. Call first to make sure they're in stock.
Pearson's Port, 100 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach; (949) 675-6771.
Chefs for Bocuse?
The Bocuse d'Or USA Foundation is seeking applications from talented chefs who would like to represent America at the Bocuse d'Or international culinary competition in Lyon, France, in 2011. Founded by legendary chef Paul Bocuse, it's the Olympics of the food world, and the U.S. has never placed higher than sixth.
Last year's winner was Norway's Geir Skeie (U.S. contestant Timothy Hollingsworth of the French Laundry placed sixth). For more than a decade, chefs from Norway have been top contenders against longtime front-runners from France; chefs from both countries train for years. The winner gets the golden Bocuse trophy and 20,000 euros (about $30,000).
The deadline to apply is Nov. 30, and the application is available at www.bocusedorusa.org.
If you are a pie baker, here's a chance to go pie dish to pie dish with other proud bakers: KCRW-FM's "Good Food" is holding a pie contest Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. at the Westfield Topanga Shopping Center. Nov. 8 is the deadline to register. Judges include Campanile chef Mark Peel and Times Food Editor Russ Parsons.
W. Blake Gray, Russ Parsons and Betty Hallock