Monday, September 28, 2009

Burgundy: La Tour de Cote!

I spent the afternoon yesterday at the home of a great friend, golf partner and fellow food aficionado's in scenic Bucks County Pennsylvania for a grand tour of the wines of the Cote D'Or. Nearly every village was represented with at least one wine (we skipped a few for sobriety's sake!), all arranged on a long farmhouse table, with each bottle appropriately stationed on a coaster in its terroir on a huge map of Burgundy that stretched the entire length of the table. Along with the following wines, we enjoyed perfect petite croque monsieurs, toasted bread with melted gruyere cheese, an appetizer of deliciously garlicy muscles, decadent macaroni and cheese with lobster chunks and dusted with crunchy bread crumbs, savory and tender Bouef Bourguignon, a delicious cheese course and Crepes Suzette, flaming and festive, for dessert. The wines came from a mutual friend/wine importers cellar: a terrific, diverse and eclectic selection. Here's the lineup, with a few thoughts on each of the wines:

Savigny les Beaune 1er cru Les Haute Jarrons 2002, Maurice Ecard - med straw gold, orange peel nose, secondary notes, bottle aged and very nice. Mineral, tightish. Good.

Auxey Duresses Les Hauts 2002 - Jean et Michel Lafouge - creamy, lovely nose, balanced, mid weight, drinking great, drinking well above its pedigree, would love to have this around the house!

St. Aubin Marc Colin, "en Montceau" 2001 - advanced, slightly oxidized - Judy and Carmen drink this a lot and said this was an off bottle rather than indicative of the wine. Also had 1996 Meursault, forgot the producer, that was a bit beyond its prime.

Chassagne Montrachet Les Caillerets 2000 - Marc Colin - creamy, still fresh, beautiful, with a stony minerality underneath. Lacks a little stuffing but balanced and very nice - drink now - 2012.

Chevallier Montrachet Grand Cru 2003, Marc Colin - What a treat! Lovely, creamy, stony, rich, and layered. A little fat, but relatively balanced and fresh for 2003, out of its shell but not showing any real secondary development yet. Don't think it's one for the ages but will be terrific with a few more years in the bottle and at least thru 2015.

Corton Charlemagne 1998, Maurice et Anne-Marie Chapuis - Slightly reductive and closed at first, fuller and richer with time, with lemon-butter-creme- nose, with 10 minutes in the glass this opened and expanded revealing pain grille notes, with complex non tropical fruit - hawthorne, linden, acacia. On the palate, full and plush with good acidity and cut, and a long finish. White wine of the night, even better than the Chevalier at the moment, just got better and better as it opened up!

Chorey les Beaune 2002, Chateau de Chorey - med ruby - good earthy cherry notes, firmish, old school, slightly rustic in a nice way - drinking great, perfect workday Burg!

Volnay "Carelles" 1998, Paul Pernot - Wish I spent a few more moments with this wine, as it is still tight, has classic '98 character with high-ish acids and structure, fine grained tannins and pure flavors, still a bit wound up, but with dark silken fruit underneath. Drink 2011-2015 would be my guess.

Pommard 1999, Gabrielle Billard - Lovely aromatics of dark plum and cherry, on the palate it is balanced with ripe smooth tannins, dark dried cherry fruits, sanftig and plush for Pomerol, very enjoyable now, drink now - 2015.

Fixin 2003, Meo Camuzet - Feral and a little dirty or reduced at first, fresh turned earth notes, ripe-ish, raw and young. Mod tannins, touch scorched fruit and a touch hot, vintage shows. With a little time this fleshed out and showed some more dark fruits. A little awkward - needs 3-4 to come together - then what? Could work out the kinks, maybe not?

Marsannay 2003 Meo Camuzet - Fresher, tighter, more tightly knit than the Fixin, less 2003 - like. Fruit and tannins silkier, ripe-ish, raw bing cherry, better integration all around than the Fixin. Needs 3-4 years at least, drink 2013-2016 -/+.

Savigny Les Beaune les Narbantons 1999, Maurice Ecard - I have always loved Ecards Savignys, well made, affordably priced classic Burgundy - alas the Domaine is no more, sold out of the family. I will miss them! This wine is no exception showing lovely just barely mature cherry fruit, earth and spice-box nose, ready to drink, fine, balanced and elegant. Mid weight. "Bring on the coq au vin" was the refrain around the table, and I would put it forth as the best red wine value of the night. Again, too bad the domaine is no more, was one of my favorites! Beautiful wine - wish I had a case in the cellar.

Chambolle - Musigny 2000 - Thierry Mortet - Perfumed, lacy dark and red cherry, and a whiff of subtle darker earth notes underneath. Mid weight, true Chambolle style: lithesome and elegant. Shows a little 2000 character, balanced but without the density or core concentration to be long lived, but a perfectly lovely wine to drink now and through 2015+.

Beaune 1er cru cent-vignes 1999 Chateau de Chorey - dried cherry, med weight, good, but not inspiring. Pommard and Ecard showing better in class to my taste. Very enjoyable never the less, and without the competition of tonight's lineup I would be happy to imbibe anytime!

Charmes Chambertin 1998, Dominique Gallois - sweet, earthy, with hints of tobacco, sice and trffe, good and proper Gevery, but to me just not showing its Grand Cru caliber. Still a bit youthful and closed, this needs a few years or so, when perhaps it will reveal a bit more of its pedigree, but not sure. Very good wine, just not quite living up to its terroir in my opinion.

Vosne Romanee Les Suchot 1996 - Francois Lamarche - No notes - must have gotten lazy here, or more likely the next wine just stole my attention! I do recall us mentioning that it was a bit tight and closed at the moment, and in need of a little more time to open. One of the perils of doing so many wines is that we really didn't spend enough time on each, as this might have been a big beneficiary of a little time before the next two wines.

Clos Vougeot "Musigni" 1999, Ann Gros - Wow! Perfumed and aromatic, with cherry and spice nose, it is polished, elegant and fine, feminine even, with a core of sweet fruits underneath. Just barley out of its youthful stage, it is still primary but hinting at much more to come with cellaring. This is a seamless, silky, perfectly harmonious wine that will most likely drink great on any given day for the next 10+ years. Excellent!

Clos Vougeot 1998, Meo Camuzet - This couldn't be more different than the Gros: more earth, wild, raw and sauvage, especially when first opened. Bigger boned wine, plenty of muscle on a sturdy frame. Meaty for '98, with grippy structure and good acidity. With time began to reveal dark fruits, earth, spice and a core of locked up potential. Still youthful and a bit awkward, this needs 5-8+ years to really come into its own. Another terrific wine!

Last wine of the night was a Chambertin trapet 1990 from magnum - this had a bit of seepage evident, and unfortunately I clearly sensed tell-tale baked fruit notes, potentially heat damaged, sadly off, and a reminder of the fragile, living nature of these great wines - cellar them well!

With the two Clos Vougeot wines, we had truly arrived at a perfect illustration of the essence of Burgundy, not only because of the sheer unmatchable Grand Cru quality of each of them, but also because of their stark differences in style. They are both Pinot Noir, both Grand Cru, both Clos Vougeot, but there the similarities end. Different vintages, different winemakers and different parcels within the Clos have created a familial resemblance, but the two twins are much more fraternal than identical. These magical, magnificent variations, frustrating at times and sublimely rewarding at others, are what makes Burgundy so unique, the very essence of what keeps you coming back for more - kind of like a great golf shot! These two wines, and all of the wines we tasted this afternoon on our trip through the Cote D'Or, make the case that with Burgundy, getting there is half the fun. You have to love the trip and the sights and experiences along the way, be able to travel with an open mind (and palate), with a sense of adventure and learning, and be willing to go along for the ride, valleys, peaks and all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In Store Tasting - September 19th and 20th 2009

This weekends wines are the Giovanni Almondo Arneis Bricco della Cieliege 2008, without doubt the finest Arneis I have ever tasted. The estate has 12 hectares of vines planted, with the highest six hectares (at 380 meters) planted to the Arneis grape. The cool climate at this altitude and the lighter sandy soils, while not great for red grapes, is perfect for producing Arneis. This has hints of pear and white flowers on the nose, cool and clean, with great acidity, medium body and great texture and mouth feel. Perfect with mild fish, cheeses, linguine with shrimp or white clams sauce or as an aperitif. $24.50.

Sancerre Chavignol 2008, Serge Laporte - Cool, crisp and focused, just the way I like'em. Hints of gooseberry, citrus, great acidity and a mineral texture all the way through to the finish - bring on the oysters! $28 per bottle.

Macon Solutre-Pouilly 2008 - Philippe Forest-Auvige - This lovely Chardonnay comes from the heart of the Macon region from vineyards in Solutre-Pouilly. The dramtic landscape and the history of this place is fantastic, and the wine is too! Crisp, focused, with nice weight and a hint of oak, it is a versatile, value priced wine that is better than many a Pouilly Fuisse. Corn silk, creamy nose, hints of vanilla, good acids underneath, clean lingering finish. $23 per bottle.

Chassagne Montrachet Rouge 1er Cur Les Boudriottes, Lamy-Pillot - While better known for making some of the greatest white wines in the world, the vineyards of Chassagne Montrachet are planted roughly half to Chardonnay and half to Pinot Noir for red wine. While some of the reds I have had seem to have a rustic, coarse edge, this excellent example from Lamy-Pillot has a lovely nose of crushed dark cherry and spice, mouthfilling dark fruits, moderate tannins that are fine and supple, good supporting acidity and a great, mouthwatering finish that calls you back for more. A perfect wine for pouissin, quail, duck, and lighter meat such as pork or veal, it will also go great with grilled salmon. Drinks well now, especially if opened or decanted just before serving, and will age and improve for 3-6 years. $44 per bottle.

Both wines are opened to sample all day Saturday September 19th (from 10am-7pm) and Sunday September 20th (12-5pm)

To purchase, visit us online at 56 Degree Wine Online

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2005 Clos Rougeard: A must Have Vintage

Well the much anticipated 2005 wines from Clos Rougeard have arrived and the verdict is in: without doubt some of the finest expressions of Cabernet Franc I have ever had. This vintage, from this estate, is an absolute must have for my cellar.

To me, Clos Rougeard is one the benchmark wineries in the world, occupying the same rarified space as some of my other "desert island wines" like Lopez de Heredia, Giacomo Conterno, Donnhoff, Rousseau, and Raveneau to name a few. This is a winery that quietly and gently coaxes pure, seamless, complex and elegant wines out of the soil and terroir of their splendid plot of land in Saumur -Champigny. These are wines that get mentioned in the same breath as Cheval Blanc. When visiting wine makers see them in our shop they are floored to see them, with several Bordeaux wine makers commenting that the Clos has the best Cabernet Franc vines in the world and that they are trying to buy cuttings for their own vineyards.

Saumur-Champigny in the Loire Valley is not the first place that most would list when thinking of where some of the greatest red wines in the world are made, but there it is, defying popular misconceptions. The Clos is owned by brothers Nadi and Charlie Foucault, and has been in the family for generations. They hand-craft wines from organically grown grapes, crop at tiny yields, and vinify in barrel, where they slowly and naturally mature them in their cold cellars, and bottle them unfiltered.

I get asked all the time "if you had to have just one wine, what would it be?". And while I hate that question, (too much to love out there!) these wines are definitely on the short list. It is an incredible line-up, with wines that in some way seem to embody the elegance and transparency of great Burgundy, the depth and class of right bank Bordeaux, and the cool minerality of their Loire Valley roots.

The wines are imported by Louis Dressner Selections who sum up the estate on their web site in their typical droll manner:

"Just our luck. We have a cult estate. Every three-star restaurant in France hustles to get a small allocation. No one in America, outside of the lucky few, has heard of it..... Would you like to buy some? It is exceptionally expensive. And it is sold out."

Unfortunately, this is pretty much the case, with the only change being that the Americans do know about them now, as the wines have been discovered by the press and an increasing number of savvy wine buyers. A must have - and if you want some, don't wait!

Clos Rougeard 2005 - I absolutely refuse to call this the "entry level wine", the "regular" bottling or in any way refer to it in the diminutive! There is absolutely nothing "regular" about it, and were it the only wine made by the freres Foucault, they would still have a reputation for making some of the best red wine in the Loire Valley. So let's call it the "Clos". It is produced from 25 year old vines and matured in older oak barrels. To me it is the generally the most forward and accessible of the reds, fine, cooler and more classic in some ways. The 2005 is absolutely lovely Cabernet Franc; herbal, finely boned and elegant, with earth notes and underbrush underneath, and some dark fruits as well. Lovely burst of flavor at first, but with fine grippy tannins; focused and linear when first tasted, opening and expanding with a bit of time in the glass, showing the depth and character of the vintage and a glimpse of what those patient enough to hold on to this delicious wine for 6-10 years or so will enjoy. $57* per bottle.

Les Poyeux - The Poyeux is from 40-60 year old vines, and fermented half in new Allier barrels and half in one year old barrels from Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau Margaux. Right out of the gate this is fuller, more aromatic and expressive than either of the other two. A sweetness of dark fruits, kirsch and hint of smoky/charred wood and tobacco; complex, layered. Even more expressive with time in the glass. This is riper and more complex than the lovely "Clos", with more exotic spice box nose and darker fruits, more forward than the brooding Le Bourg. Ripe tannins are ample, but they well-integrated and woven into the wine, mainly showing in the finish. Cellar this for 7-12 years. $76* per bottle

Le Bourg - This wine is from 80+ year old vines pruned to extraordinarily low yields, fermented and aged in 100% new Allier barrels with minimal racking. This to me is always the most reserved, closed and structured wine of the trio, and the 2005, even with the concentration of the vintage, holds true to form. Slightly closed at first, with a deep core of locked up dark aromas and flavors that take time to evolve. Solid and fine, with cedar, cigar box, earth, truffle; definitely more rigidly structured than the others. Less up front in nature, but very deep - almost Bordeaux like. This should be aged from 10-15 years and perhaps even longer. $110* per bottle

To purchase these fantastic wine, visit us online at 56 Degree Wine or call us at 908.953.0900.

* Wines are net, no further discounts. Prices valid while supplies last or through September 30th 2009.