Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Village Morey St-Denis: Dujac & Jadot

Let me begin with saying that I think Domaine Dujac likely makes the best village Morey St-Denis, to my taste, anyway. In addition to this, its prices are such that one need not wait for a particularly special occasion to pop one open. I've enjoyed, to my immediate recollection, the '95, '96, '97 and '99 (all in Côte d'Or so there was little chance of travel-related deterioration).

1997/1999 Dujac Morey St-Denis - Both vintages are expressive of the terroir and are what one expects from Morey St-Denis from their respective vintages. The '97 is more open, forward, lush and ripe than the '99 and exhibited more sweetish red fruit and red beet nuances than the latter (not surprising). The '99 had a comparatively burlier, darker and earthier over-all character with more depth and focus to its fruit. I think the '99 will hold itself together much longer than the '97.

I would recommend both without hesitation, though I would drink the '97 on its own and would have the '99 with a fat, hearty roast pigeon. Last I checked, the '99 is available in the US at under $65. I, however, unfortunately had to pay restaurant prices in Euro, but enjoyed the bottles nontheless.

Not having any village Dujac Morey St-Denis on hand during this past Valentines (a crisis since I was to have a main course of Marc Aubry's roast pigeon), I was happily surprised to find some 1997 Jadot Morey St-Denis at Bacchus Int'l. - The cork was absolutely pristine and the wine immediately offered up a seductive bouquet perfumed with violets and the slightest hint of vanilla cream. Wide open and generous, ripe dark cherry and raspberriy layers dominated the palate with, again, slight undertones of violets, and, some plumminess underneath, all on a lushly curved medium body.

This wine had a feminine touch and delicacy to it, unlike the earthier, masculine Dujacs previously mentioned. Focus could have been much better and the flavors did display some separation towards the back. Length was adequate at best. Still and all, it was a very enjoyable bottle, and, at around the equivalent of $55 (P2,340.00) for an immediately available Morey St-Denis fix, I cannot reasonably complain. On the contrary, I am going back for more.

I'd drink up now and soonest, it seems on the cusp of decline - something I am not at all averse to. Personally, good red burgs at this point of maturity and slightly past, at times possess a wistful air of decay and nostalgia that I find irresistible.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Pigeon and A Pichon.

Was treated to lunch today at Choi's Garden, a new Chinese restaurant I'd been hearing good things about - specifically, it serves good roast pigeon with toasted salt - one of my favorite Cantonese dishes. Who better to have a good Cantonese lunch with than IWFS directors Oscar Ong (who hosted the lunch) and Bernie Sim (who brought the red wine)?

With the shrimp and dim sum courses, I opened yet another 1997 Tokay Pinot Gris Comtes d'Eguisheim by Léon Beyer (which I set aside when having the excellent shark's fin soup so I could concentrate on the soup's delicately complex flavors and textures).

With the pigeon (which, I must say, was likely the best I've had in the Philippines), Bernie opened a 1990 Pichon Baron - Beautiful bouquet of ripe, sweet red cherry/raspberry/kirsch/camphor/cedar over warm, earthy cassis with touches of menthol, graphite, licorice, truffle and violets. A handsome dark ruby-red wine that flowed languidly in the glass, it displayed its generously ripe flavors in exquisite layers. Multi-faceted, complex, healthy extraction (but not overdone) and most admirable balance. Luscious mouthfeel, it exists for sheer enjoyment. A textbook in hedonism without being loud, heavy-handed or over-the-top.

I must note, as well, that it wears its almost 18 years superbly. Not even a hint of tiring here.

Some may recall that I've always had difficulties with pairing Chinese food with red wine. Well, I must bow to the master. I felt that Bernie's red was a wonderful match with the pigeon. The wine had enough power not to get lost in the pigeon's juicy, oily richness yet did not over power the same. The lush, sweet ripeness served as a wonderful counterpoint to the dish's earthy-and-salty savor.

I've never experienced such a wonderful pairing of red wine with Chinese food. If that were not enough, it was a pairing with one of my favorite Chinese dishes.

Many, many thanks guys. I'll always remember this lunch.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Barrel Tasting: 2006 Anne Gros and Daniel Rion

While visiting Vosne Romanée this past October 2007, my wife and I stayed at Anne Gros' maison and got to taste some of her '06s. At nearby Prémeaux-Prissey (just a few minutes drive away), I also got to taste some of the wines of Domaine Daniel Rion through the kindness of Pascale Rion.

Domaine Anne Gros

Anne's whites weren't quite ready to taste yet, so we started with her basic Bourgogne.

Anne's basic '06 Bourgogne is, well, pretty basic and basically pretty - but obviously fuller and noticeably deeper than any other basic Bourgogne I have ever tried, with distinctive plumminess and a dose of violets to the fruit. Her 2006 is noticeable better knit, more focused and polished than her '03 - less ripe too, but anyone even somewhat familiar with the past several vintages of Burgundy would know that, so I won't belabor the issue.

In all, it is a very good basic Bourgogne. If I were to be in the market for basic Bourgogne, I would definitely get some of this (I actually did buy a few of her 2003s for afternoon quaffing in Vezelay).

We then descended to her barrel room for the grand crus. Here she is with her wine thief dipping into her '06 Clos de Vougeot as I (a bit too) eagerly look on.

Her Clos de Vougeot is on the full side of medium-bodiedness, rich, ripe and deeply-veined, well-focused with nicely clean, neat layering of primary fruit - the mildly spicy oak/vanilla touch, delicately executed. Wonderful balance. The plumminess to the fruit I noted in the basic Bourgogne and, below, the Richebourg, did not play a major role in the Clos de Vougeot.

We then moved on to her '06 Richebourg. This wine was decidedly full-bodied, rich, lush, generous, with a touch more masculine earthiness and decadence to its (again) plummy dark fruit, mild dark spice and alluring violets, as compared to the Clos de Vougeot. The violets here were sweeter and laced the fruit rather than permeating it as in the basic Bourgogne. The oak/vanilla was marginally more obvious in the Richebourg as compared to the Clos de Vougeot.

In 2007, Anne made an Echézeaux that I hope to get to try next year when it is ready. Madam Gros, Anne's energetic and most hospitable mother, joined us while we tasted the Richebourg.

Domaine Daniel Rion

Pascale Rion at first seemed a little shy, serious and soft-spoken. She has assured me, though, it was only because she was incredibly busy that day (and, indeed, she was as I saw myself). Despite this, however, she still took the time for a brief interview with me at her office, after my tasting. I look forward to meeting her again soon and tasting through her wines.

Anne, on the other hand, is very friendly, has a sharp, dry, mischievous wit, a meltingly charming smile, doesn't take herself seriously and speaks English very well.

Since my wife was a bit groggy from lunch, she didn't join me at Domaine Rion, and I, naturally, forgot to bring my camera. So, no pictures.

Together with one of Pascale's wine analysts, a charming young lady with sandy blond hair, wine-stained jeans and perfect English, I started with the '06 Chambolle Musigny Beaux Bruns - A touch of delicate femininity (which I found characterizes all the wines I tried from this domaine's '06s) to its medium-bodied, black cherry laced dark fruit with mere hints of dark raspberry and hint of cocoa. Good, pleasant, nice clean lines, definitely well-made, very discreet spicy wood; but, somehow it just didn't interest me much.

The '06 Vosne Romanée Beauxmonts was quite alluring, I could say seductive. What grabbed me most about it was the exceptional purity and silkiness of its sweet, dark fruit, dark violet petals and sweetly spiced, gracefully integrated demure wood notes. Elegant wine, definitely. Great balance.

The '06 Clos de Vougeot, as expected was richer, more generous, fruitier than the previous wine, but neither as perfumed, pure nor as fine/elegant as the Beauxmonts at this point. I suspect, though, that this will gain more finesse after several years in bottle.

The '06 Echézeaux, on the other hand, though even bigger and deeper, seemed to have better balance now, with darker fruit and a touch of black berries and red currants, as well as hints of clove to the pinot fruit. Still, there is that underlying feminine sweetness and grace. The oak is more noticeable in this but not to the point of being obnoxious. I suppose this will greatly improve over time - I'd try it again in around 8 years to see how it comes along.

Pairing Alsace Pinot Gris

I've gone through around 5 or 6 bottles of the 1997 Tokay Pinot Gris Comtes d'Eguisheim by Léon Beyer in the past 2-1/2 months, ever since I found them available locally from Bacchus Int'l., and have enjoyed every one of them.

After drinking a lot of pinot gris in Alsace, from the top makers' best bottlings down to unheard-of house wines, I can personally confirm the literature that says it is very versatile with food. I've had it with foie gras (pan-seared and in terrine), Flammekueche (a.k.a., tart flambée), Baeckeoffe, choucroute, Cantonese crispy/spicy pork, Thai lamb curry and prawn crackers dipped in a spicy curried peanut sauce, and, as posted earlier, with an Alsacien stew of quail and foie gras. It matched well, in varying degrees, with each of the mentioned dishes.

Pinot gris wine will never have the crisp, minerally brightness of riesling, but with heavier dishes, such as the quail and foie gras stew, it is, to me, a better match.

The wine is a limpid, gold-tinged full yellow with a heady bouquet of alluringly spiced melon, ripe yellow tropical fruit, touch of lemon drop, moderate vanilla/oak, all mirrored on the palate in broad layers and voluptuously rounded curves. Full-bodied white, ripe fruit, but not at all cloyingly sweet, its acidity was just good enough to support/buttress the generous flavors.

I just had another bottle over dinner tonight with my family at our favorite Thai restaurant. My eldest son, 14 years old, has been having a glass or two with us when out to dinner. Unprompted, tonight, he commented to me that he thought the wine went well with the prawn crakers and curried peanut sauce and the dish of lamb curry. He was absolutely certainly warms the heart to see how he can tell.

Another match I think making special mention of is with a Cantonese dish of deep-fried pork, crispy on the outside and juicy inside, laced with salt and hot red pepper. The wine gently eased the burn and resuscitated and cleansed the palate, its off-dry ripe fruit playing nicely with the pork's salty notes. An excellent match.

There are few bottles left in Bacchus of this wine. I purposely didn't post on it until now to make sure I had gotten a good helping of the Bacchus stock before someone cleans it out. Hopefully, that someone will be me.

With Marc and Léon Beyer (13th and 12th generations, respectively, in the business) in their Eguisheim vineyards:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

2 Rhônes and a Burgundy for Roast Pigeon.

With a main course of earthy roast French pigeon, dinner 2 February 2008:

2000 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon - From the Doc. The overwhelming ripe, richness and power of this big, muscular young bruiser are balanced by surprising focus and purity. Decidedly a huge masculine wine, it would have been all too easy to be awkward and clumsy and it is a testament to Chapoutier's skill and dexterity that this was not the case. While still quite primary, some dark red raspberry highlights manage to twinkle through a lush velvet curtain of thick, woody, leathery ripe dark fruit compote, crème de cassis, touch of licorice, hint of thyme, vanilla and a healthy dose of sweetish dark chocolate.

I'd wait several years on this - at least 8 more, but to re-check in 6.

Enjoyable, but it was too big and alcoholic at this point for my little pigeon.

2003 Domaine de Beaurenard Cuvée Boisrenard - A blast of super ripe, baked, spiced dark fruit wrapped in alcohol. There is depth to the fruit, no doubt, probably very old vines, but its heat just wouldn't let up even though I kept returning to it throughout the evening. Much too young, of course, but I do not think this can age gracefully. Not enough stuffing in too much alcohol. I'm pretty sure it's the vintage speaking. Also quite big, but marginally less than the previously mentioned wine and nowhere near as focused.

Way too much for the pigeon. I couldn't taste any interplay at all. The wine just seemed to kick the bird's flavors right out of my mouth.

1999 Grand Cru Charmes Chambertin by Domaine Taupenot-Merme - The third bottle I've gone through in two months. My previous notes state:

Though only 8 years from vintage, it is already exhibiting its bouquet of age -
a forshadowing of even better things to come, I'd say: deep, darkish pinot noir
fruit primaries very discreetly and intricately laced with well integrated
oak/vanilla and seductive earthy/truffle notes.

In the mouth, what I recall best is its luxurious texture, a relatively full Burg but lithe, not heavy at all. Superior balance and purity. Focus and length were adequate, could be better; but, over-all (considering its price) I was very happy with it and would recommend it in a trice.

After the previous mentioned Rhônes, my Burg felt like a lightweight on the palate, yet, still, its purity and balance shone through. Added alluring lavender and notes of violets in the nose and mouth, together with whispers of the ever-so-hard-to-describe Burgundy decay that I am hopelessly in thrall of.

I loved this wine that evening and it was a good match with my pigeon. Still and all, I think I should have brought something with a little less finesse and a touch more masculine earthiness - I'm thinking something from Morey St-Denis.

Next time.