Kelly Gonnet of Châteauneuf-du-Pape based Font de Michelle was in Denver on work, and I was thrilled to have her over for dinner. It was a relaxing evening of simple food and some great wines. For the wines, most of which came from my cellar, the goal was to pour US based wines that I thought she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try. As for the food, we started with Spanish Tortilla, which is a potato and egg dish that’s incredibly wine friendly. A straightforward Risotto was followed by a Chicken Marsala, and dessert was as simple as it gets with Haggen Daz Ice Cream (best Ice Cream you can buy) and quickly cooked berries. Simple stuff, but having spent lots of time on the road, sometimes simple is the best.

We started the evening off with a bottle of Aubert’s 2014 Chardonnay Sugar Shack, which is the only wine from Aubert that’s from Napa Valley. It was incredibly fresh, vibrant and pure, with lots of lemony fruit and minerality, it’s a Grand Cru Chablis from Napa Valley. I don’t know how he gets such purity and precision, was well as power, into his Chardonnays, but very few do it so well.

From there we moved into the reds and the 2012 Horsepower Grenache Sur Echalas Vineyard is an exotic, singular wine that can be difficult to wrap your head around. Ruby colored, with lots of olive, rose petal, decaying flowers and strawberry fruit, it was expressive, elegant and silky on the palate. It needed a solid hour of air to show at its best and drank beautifully.

Kelly had a brought a bottle of her 2012 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Etienne Gonnet and it showed the more forward, sexy, open knit style of the vintage. This Grenache dominated cuvee is loaded with notions of garrigue, cured meats and spice, and is about as Provençal as they come. It’s drinking great today and it’s always fun to drink a wine with its winemaker. The Syrah dominated 2008 Saxum Broken Stones, which incorporates 13% Grenache and 8% Mourvèdre, was drinking brilliantly, and I suspect it’s just now at the early stages of maturity. Cassis, exotic spices, lots of pepper (some white pepper even) and background meatiness all emerged from this full-bodied, downright sexy beauty that will keep for another 5-8 years at a minimum. At roughly 9 years of age, it’s more youthful and has more texture than most Northern Rhône Syrahs.

Lastly, the 2009 Cayuse Impulsivo was just singing, with a full-bodied, unctuous, meaty, even bloody style that’s as much The Rocks as Tempranillo. Black olives, iron, dried herbs and ample dark fruit all give way to this full-bodied beauty that’s at the early stages of its maturity plateau.