Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Pierre Brigandat Champagne Brut, $30, Bonhomie Wine Imports. I've been meaning to try this wine since November when it showed up at every retail shop that I frequent. It's cheaper than most grower Champagne, and it's from the Pinot Noir land of the Aube. That's the southern island of the Champagne region whose wines are, in my opinion, much better than the region gets credit for. I'm talking about Cedric Bouchard, Fleury, Lassaigne, and others.

How could a wine like this, a naturally made grower Champagne, a little wine that most people haven't heard of, how could this show up in so many fine NYC wine shops? Firstly, it honestly is a delicious wine. Secondly, compared to the low-mid $40's that most quality non-vintage grower Champs will run you, this is a bargain. Most places charge $35, but Chambers Street charges only $30, by the way.
Although it doesn't say so on the label, this is a Blanc de Noirs. Brigandat vinifies entirely in tank, so even though the Pinot fruit is ripe and boisterous, this is a nervy and racy wine that shows just as much mineral and soil character as it does fruit. This bottling is based on the 2005 vintage and it is a ripe wine, although I wouldn't call it especially rich. The nose shows spicy red fruit and a buzzing metallic celery note. Ripe fruit on the palate with earthy undertones, and plenty of acidity. The finish is gentle with spiced orange peel and chalky metallic minerals, and it is very refreshing. This is just a charming wine and again, a great value. And we need value in these times, as you well know. I think they were able to achieve this price because Bonhomie successfully petitioned Congress for a bailout. Get it while you can.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I am going to be the "guest sommelier" at what should be an excellent wine tasting on Sunday February 22nd. I was invited to do this by Andrew, the manager of the West Village wine car called Lelabar. Andrew hosts a tasting series on Sundays and sometimes he likes to have a guest host. On the 22nd, I'm it.

I'm not going to lie to you - I think most NYC wine bars kind of suck, so I wasn't all that enthused until I went to visit the place. Lelabar is actually a wine bar - most are simply restaurants that offer a few wines by the glass. At Lelabar every single wine, and there are many, is available by the glass. The space is sleek and minimally designed and rather intimate - there is a serious neighborhood vibe going on. And this is a lovely neighborhood.

Andrew reads and apparently enjoys my blog (to each his own, I guess), and he's given me full license to choose a theme and select the wines. I will be pouring 6 of my favorite reds from the Loire Valley - 2 wines each from Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny to be exact. I'm not going to tell you all of them because that would ruin the surprise. But I'll share one right now, just to whet your appetite. The 2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine will be poured, the gorgeous and terroir expressive beauty I wrote about the other day.

Lelabar will provide a food pairing for each wine. That's right - 6 great Loire reds, 6 food pairings, a little bit of Brooklynguy live instead of on this confounded interweb, and all for the ridiculously low price of $60. You'll drink almost a bottle of wine yourself and eat what amounts to a meal, and hang out with a load of other nice people in a great space in a great neighborhood, for $60. From 4-6pm on a Sunday - I mean really, what else are you doing then?

And yes, I will be compensated for my participation in this event, just to be clear. But again, I'm choosing the wines and I'm a nice guy in person, and this is the kind of place I would go myself, so I can stand behind this with pride. I hope you'll come out for the tasting if you live in the area - check out a cool wine bar and support your local Brooklynguy. To reserve your space (and they do limit spaces - this is an intimate spot) contact Andrew via email at And tell him Brooklynguy sent you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

By the Glass - 2007 Beaujolais Edition

2007 was difficult in Beaujolais as the summer was mostly overcast and rainy. Not easy to achieve ripeness under those conditions, but September was sunny and dry and the vintage was saved. Saved for those growers who worked carefully in the vineyards to avoid mildew and rot, which generally means spraying a lot. Or possibly getting lucky and not being his by mildew because of favorable wind currents or something.

I've drank almost my fair share of 2007 Beaujolais over the past few months and I very much like the wines in general. They are not as concentrated as the 2006's - these are lighter in color and in body, and when they're good they're fresh and bright with great purity of fruit. And they are terroir expressive, which is something that I always enjoy. But this also means that little problems can make a lot more noise than they might in a vintage like 2006. For example, a bit of rusticity on the finish or volatile acidity - these are problems that become very noticeable. Bottle variation seems to be more of an issue than in the past few vintages.

2007 in Beaujolais has so far for me been about finding the wines that I want to drink now and over the next year or so. It is a vintage for drinking young. In fact, it might be best to stick with the simpler wines like Vissoux's Cuvée Traditionnelle and Brun's Cuvée L'Ancien (aka Vin de Table this year). They are quite tasty and compliment many types of food, and there is a lot of variability, sometimes disappointment, in the higher level wines.

There are wines yet to be released and others that I haven't yet had at home with dinner (Coudert Fleurie Cuvée Tardive, Diochon's Moulin a Vent, to name but two), so this is not an exhaustive report. It may prove impossible to drink some wines. Yields were down (although not as much as in 2008, from what I hear) and the economy stinks, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the wines we're used to seeing simply do not appear on retail shelves.

Here are some notes on the wines I've had at home with dinner, in order of preference, loosely speaking. Prices are east coast.

2007 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette, $29, Kermit Lynch Imports. This is an old vines cuvée, I believe the vines average about 70 years old. This so far for me is the wine of the vintage, without anything coming all that close. I've had it several times now and once it was incredible, fresh and pure all the way, with lively sour cherry and herbs on the nose, and a crackling kind of energy. So refined and smooth on the palate with great density of fruit. It glides across the palate and is very well balanced, with a nice finish that really lingers. It still has a lot to reveal and I think will be best beginning in about 4 years. The second time I drank this wine I still thought it was great, but there was a bit of volatile acidity that detracted, but the purity and density of fruit was still compelling. I have a few more bottles and probably will not be cellaring much of anything else from 2007.

2007 Georges Descombes Régnié, Louis/Dressner Selections, $22. If I had to pick one wine from this vintage for drinking over the next 3 years it would be this one. Highly perfumed and just delicious with slightly rustic but sweet fruit, and there is great snappy acidity. Great balance and some complexity with air time as the mineral and earthy sides show themselves. There is plenty of grip too, actually, and this should be great for quite a few years.

2007 Coudert Fleurie Clos de la Roilette, Louis/Dressner Selections, $22. When this was good it was great, with lovely fruit on the nose, a fruit-filled punch on the palate, great balance and ample structure to hold everything together. But I drank a lesser bottle too that was very rustic and unappealing.

2007 Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais Vieilles Vignes Cuvée Traditionnelle, $17, Weygandt-Metzler. One of my favorite under $15 wines every year, when it was nder $15. Now at $17 I feel like for a few buck more I can take a very large step up to any of the above wines. Be that as it may, this is still quite lovely, with good ripe fruit, snappy acidity, an herbal undercurrent, and only 11.5% alcohol this year.

2007 Terres Dorées Beaujolais Cuvée L'Ancien Vieille Vignes, $17, Louis/Dressner Selections. I haven't had this in a few months now, but I liked it a lot when I drank it. Lots of herbal character, almost resiny on the nose. Well defined and high toned red currant, herbal, and tomato leaf/potting soil flavors, kind of disjointed. On day two much more integrated. Every year I drink this too early. By the way, this is the wine that lost the appellation status for 2/3 of production due to "rubber, mushrooms, and volatile acidity." Whatever, It's very good, as it always is.

2007 Marcel Lapierre Morgon, $21, Kermit Lynch Imports. I've had two great bottles of this wine. It does well with a good decant, as usual. Light and somewhat delicate, although the floral and fruit aromas are pungent and heady. Striking for its purity, this is fresh and snappy wine, a classic Beaujolais feel to it. But I've also had to return three bottles that were undrinkable because of volatile acidity. As much as I liked it when it was good, I wouldn't buy any more of this wine. Too volatile.

2007 Terres Dorées Fleurie, $21, Louis/Dressner Selections. Lovely perfume of dark flowers, ripe fruit, and wet stones. Nice texture and zippy acidity makes this absolutely gulpable, but only for 20 minutes, and then it becomes a vat of raging acidity. Like the red sauce at a bad Italian restaurant, I'm sorry to say. And it's so funny because the nose is lovely all the while.

Please let us know if you've had something good that's not mentioned here. Or something to avoid.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


There are two errors (that I know of) in my recent Friday Night Bubbles post on Robert Doyard's Champagne Extra Brut.

This Champagne is a blend of wines from 2000, 1999, and 1998; not 1998 and 1997 as I wrote in the original post.

In the original post I wrote that the wine is not imported to the United States. Happily, this is not true. Pacific Estates imports the wine and it has been/is available on both the east and the west coasts. One major east coast retailer, Wine Library, sells the Brut Premier Cru (not this wine - this is the Extra Brut) for the laughably low sale price of $28.33.

Thanks for your emails (Jon and Peter) and comments (Gene) alerting me to these mistakes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne Robert Doyard Cuvée Vendémiaire Extra Brut, price unknown, not imported to the US. For reasons that I still do not entirely understand, Peter Liem thought that it wasn't enough to let me tag along on his recent Burgundy trip. He felt he should also give me a bottle of very fine Champagne to take home, something that I would not be able to buy in the US. I know that it can be annoying to read about wine that you cannot purchase, but please bear with me this time. There are some interesting things about this wine that make it worth sharing, and eventually, I'm sure some one will bring it into the US, so you can try it then if you like.

I really don't know much about Doyard so I'll share some tasting notes first in the hopes of distracting you from my lack of contextual knowledge. There are fine and delicate aromas of citrus fruit and minerals in a way that reminds me of Larmandier-Bernier's Terre de Vertus. Not surprising, given the similarities between the two wines. The Doyard estate is located in Vertus, and at least some of the grapes in this wine come from vineyards there. Both are non-dosé Blanc de Blancs that rely on clean vineyard work and ripe fruit, and that are aged long enough to qualify for vintage status, but instead are blended with reserve wines. With some airtime the aromas become more defined and nuanced, and there is a lovely honeycomb character lurking in the background (and this is a non-dosé wine!) .

The foreground, however, is a wall of granite and chalk with almost painfully intense minerals. There is fruit, but in the end this, to me, is not a fruit driven wine. I liked the way this wine is not terribly delicate, yet it is not very rich either. It floats somewhere in the middle. This is a Blanc de Blancs of great purity and expression of place, and it delivers pleasure, but I wouldn't bother pouring it for someone who isn't already in love with Champagne - they might not make it past the rocky wall. This is an intensely vinous Champagne and I think, a challenging Champagne. In a good way.
Here is the little bit of context I can offer. Yannick Doyard selects only the best grapes for the Doyard wines and sells the rest to the négoce. The wine is vinified in barrel, blended with reserve wines, and aged for a long time before disgorgement. This bottle, for example, I believe is a blend of the 1997 and 1998 vintages. Less sugar than is typically used for fermentation is added in order to create a wine of lower pressure.

This is a wine that I would love to drink again, preferably in France, preferably on a sunny and breezy day on the Normandy coast with exactly two other people (so that we each get a bit more than one glass), and preferably with a plate of raw oysters. If ever there were a Champagne that is a perfect match for oysters, it is this one.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back on Planet Earth

I've been up on a Burgundy high horse for a while. It's been almost 2 months since I've written about anything other than the Burgundy trip, except for Friday Night Bubbles posts. After almost 2 months of nothing but Burgundy and Champagne, anything I do now may seem like a letdown.

But watch this - I'm coming back to planet earth, and I'm coming with value and style. I've had some wine in the past two months, you know. I haven't just been sitting here writing about my trip. And as an inaugural (Hooray Obama!) "back to normal at Brooklynguy" post, I want to highlight a daily drinker of a wine that performs way above its $18 price point. A wine that you can feel responsible while drinking, as it is farmed and vinified organically and with minimal interventions of any kind. And best of all, in my opinion, it is a wine that offers an open window to its underlying terroir.

Bernard Baudry is probably at the head of the class in Chinon right now. His wines are pure and clean and well balanced, and they are unmistakably Chinon. And they are affordable, even at the top of the range. Terrible dollar notwithstanding, the barrel-aged Croix Boisée is $32, the very old vines Les Grézeaux is a silly $25. And the wine I want to talk about, the 2006 Cuvée Domaine, is merely $18. That's $16.20 with the mixed case discount, for you non-mathematicians out there. But please do not be fooled by the price. This is a serious wine, an old vines cuvée (35 years average) that offers great pleasure in young drinking, but will also improve with several years in the cellar.

The 2006 Bernard Baudry Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis Dressner Selections, is so transparent that it really should be embarrassed. On the nose it shows gravelly earth and beautifully ripe and intense dark fruit, absolutely clean and pure. This wine is quite concentrated and it shows better after an hour open, when the aromas get to know each other a bit and settle into friendly conversation. On the palate, this wine tastes like Baudry's back yard - there is earth with lots of gravel and clay, there is plentiful fruit, there are flowers and trees, there is a river nearby, and in the evenings there is smoke in the air from the fireplaces. This is a delicious wine with great character and depth of fruit, and it's even better on the second day. I imagine that it will be at its peak in about 4 years, although it may be difficult to keep your hands off until then. That's why it's probably a good idea to buy several bottles. If you live in New York City, this wine (for some reason) is available only at Chambers Street Wines. Wherever you live, if you like wine, this is one worth seeking out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Final Burgundy Trip Tidbits

I'm having fun with these but I'm guessing that you've had your fill. I'll wrap it up with a few random tidbits. Here are some interesting quotes by Mounir Saouma, wine maker at Lucien Le Moine:

On his wine making style - "I'm trying to make wine with no defects."

On minerality - "Minerality in wine begins with water on rocks."

On whether or not I could photograph him in his cellar - "What are you, Japanese?"

On his 2007 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses - "Amoureuses is one of the finest Crus in Burgundy. This wine is nowhere, this wine is everywhere."

On Chambertin Clos de Beze - "If you close your eyes, this is like a white wine. Clos de Beze is all limestone, like in Puligny."

On Le Montrachet - "There is no acid, there is low alcohol, yet Montrachet ages forever. This is one of the mysteries of wine. Montrachet doesn't need these things, that's just the way it is."

On the uniqueness of terroir, even if vineyards are adjacent to one another, separated by only a few meters - "Please do not make me tell you a most vulgar story about two things that are incredibly close to each other, yet smell and taste entirely different."

Thanks Mounir! Check out the "About us" page on Le Moine's website for some genuinely interesting facts about the wine making.

Here are a few photos that haven't made it into the other posts:

Château de Chambolle-Musigny, home of Domaine Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier.

The photo below depicts some of what we drank with dinner at Jeremy Seysses' house. There is no label on the 1978 Domaine Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Aux Combottes. Behind it on the left is the unlabeled 1975 Sigolas-Rabaud Sauternes. To the right is the 1992 Pousse D'Or Pommard Jarolières. To the left is the 2001 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Grand Ruchottes. That unlabeled half bottle behind the decanter is the 2005 Domaine Dujac Clos St. Denis, and the 1996 Noël Verset Cornas is sitting up in the front decanter, trying to open up a bit. By this time the 2001 Domaine Dujac Morey Saint Denis 1er Cru Monts-Luisants was drained and gone. Maybe we're not such lushes as you think - each of these bottles and decanters still has wine remaining, and dinner is over.
Magnums gathering mold in the cellars of Pierre Morey.

Alright, that's it. Thanks for reading through these Burgundy 2008 posts, I hope you enjoyed them. One day I'll go back and you may have to do this all over again...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Françoise Bedel Champagne Brut Entre Ciel et Terre, $54, Jon-David Headrick Selections. It seems like forever since I last drank this wine, but it turns out it was just last April. And I'm recycling the photograph.

When Peter Liem came through New York and stopped by for dinner, I decided that it was time to check in on this wine. It's not easy to open Champagne for someone like Peter - he drinks Champagne all the time, more often than not the very finest wines. Hard to serve something that can compete, but Françoise Bedel's Entre Ciel et Terre is off the beaten track, anyway. Literally. The estate and vineyards are technically located in the Vallée de Marne, but Crouttes-sur-Marne is closer to Paris than it is to Aÿ, for example. From Paris to Bedel's estate by car is only about 45 minutes. Remember, Champagne is by far the largest single appellation in all of France. We're talking about a wine region the size of Massachusetts. I made that up, but it sounds right. Work with me, people.

Françoise Bedel was one of the first (modern growers, that is) to farm biodynamically in Champagne. This wine is mostly black grapes, but there is about 10% Chardonnay in the blend. The wine is then aged for a long time on its lees and takes on a particular richness. Sometimes this style of wine making can sacrifice freshness, Peter says, but it really depends on the wine maker and then on the individual bottle. Probably also on the vintage of the base wine. In America we cannot discern the vintage or the disgorgement date of Entre Ciel et Terre, as the back label does not disclose this information the way it does in France.

This bottle, most likely based on the 1999 vintage, was a beautiful bottle, "a particularly great bottle," Peter said. And that's just the way I do things - I try to keep only particularly outstanding bottles on hand. The nose is just beautiful with a pronounced sherry character, saline, oxidized, and very rich, but also with great freshness and vibrancy, especially with 15 minutes of air. The perfume achieves a lovely delicacy, which is no small feat considering the richness of the wine. There are precise flavors of leesy brioche, raw almonds, creamy citrus, and a lively salty mineral finish. This is absolutely delicious wine, one of my favorites.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Domaine des Croix, Beaune

I would be shocked if David Croix is even 35 years old, but he is the accomplished wine maker at the esteemed Maison Camille Giroud, and now also for the Domaine that bears his name, Domaine des Croix. David says that things happened very quickly - the old Domaine Duchet in Beaune was up for sale, he mentioned this to investors he knew via Camille Giroud, they looked at the plots together and made an offer the following day.

These are good plots in quality Beaune vineyards, such as Bressandes, Greves, Pertuisots, and Cent Vignes, and there are holdings in Pommard as well. There is one white wine, a Corton-Charlemagne. The first vintage at the Domaine was 2005 and the wines were well received by Allen Meadows at Burghound, most of them scoring in the high 80's to low 90's. I drank the 2005 Bourgogne twice in early 2008 and thought it was excellent. The wines are affordable and of high quality - this is a Domaine to watch.

David des Croix's girlfriend Mary is a friend of Peter, the guy who writes the excellent food blog called Cookblog. Peter and I had dinner together once when he came through Brooklyn and have a bit of a bloggespondance (my term for bloggers who email regularly). He told Mary that I would be in Burgundy and boom - we had an invite to Domaine des Croix for dinner. Isn't this whole internet thing awesome?

We arrived at their house and David first took us to the cellar to taste his wines. The 07's had just been racked and were not available for tasting, but we sampled some of the 2008's. These wines had just been pressed and were closer to grape juice than wine, but this was fascinating nonetheless. I've never tasted wine that young before. The dark brooding fruit and mineral essence really showed through in both the Beaune Bressandes and the Grèves, even at only a few months old.

David Croix thinking things over in the cellar.

We then tasted a few 2006's:

2006 Domaine des Croix Bourgogne - made from declassified grapes from Pommard, Beaune, and Savigny-Les-Beaune. There is a pleasantly gamy nose of rich dark fruit and violets, and a nicely textured palate with ripe fruit and good acidity. This is classy wine.

2006 Domaine des Croix Beaune 1er Cru Grèves - the nose is a bit more refined, the fruit deeper, the flowers a bit more delicate, the wood a bit more noticeable. The palate is full of sweet and intense fruit, creamy, and with nice underlying minerality.

Mary prepared a lovely and interesting dinner that featured something I have never before had - a boudin noir pie. That's right, a pie stuffed with blood sausage. She threw in some red cabbage and sunchokes (I think) for good measure. Perhaps a strange way to eat boudin noir, but the sausages were delicious and I loved it.

Mary works with Thoreau Wine Society, an independent service that selects quality French wines and offers them for sale to members. I was excited to see what she would serve with dinner, and indeed we drank very well. She served an excellent 2007 Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg Grand Cru with a lively green salad, and a dark and stormy, and still probably too young, but layered and delicious 1999 Alain Graillot Hermitage with the boudin noir pie. That should be the name of a band - Boudin Noir Pie.
David and Mary in their kitchen.

We had dessert, many laughs, more wine, but it was the end of my first day and I had been awake for at least 24 hours by the end of the evening, so details are elusive. But this was a perfect way to spend an evening in Burgundy - in a warm home with friends, and great food and wine. Thank you again David and Mary!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Domaine Pierre Morey, Meursault

Perhaps the finest and most memorable lesson that I received in Burgundy terroir came at the hands of Pierre Morey. We tasted through a large range of 2007 wines from Meursault, each with its own distinct personality. It was easy even for a novice like me to understand the differences - the 2007 vintage offers nothing if not transparency. A vintage like 2007 in the hands of Pierre Morey, who farms organically and biodynamically (since 1997), and who vinifies all of his wines in an ultra-clean style - this makes for absolutely thrilling wines. And we were thrilled and awed. Peter, Tista, and I walked out from our morning visit and sat in the car for a few moments in stunned silence, the experience sitting there making its own noise.

Peter, Tista, and Pierre Morey walking in Meursault.

Pierre Morey is considered to be one of the very finest wine makers in Burgundy. Although he started his own Domaine in 1971, he was for many years the quiet force behind the wines of Domaine Leflaive. He also makes the wines of Morey-Blanc, a négoce operation he created in 1992 order to work with an expanded group of vineyards. He works with farmers who employ largely the same vineyard practices that he does.

And you know what else - Pierre Morey was so immediately likable, so genuinely pleasant. Humble and soft spoken, earnest and curious, warm and gracious. A real gentleman and clearly a scholar. He should probably be nominated for France's version of "Living National Treasure."

We began in the cellars of Morey-Blanc, tasting through the lineup of reds. We then moved on to Morey-Blanc's whites, and then drove several blocks to Domaine Pierre Morey's cellars to taste his whites.
Pierre Morey in his cellar.

The first thing I can tell you is that the reds are really quite good. Who thinks of red wine when they think of Meursault or of Pierre Morey? Well, these were lovely. I liked the simple 2007 Bourgogne very much, and of course the 1er Cru Pommard Grands Epenots was great. I can also tell you that the wines from St. Romain, Auxey-Duresses, and St. Aubin were quite good, particularly in my opinion the Auxey-Duresses. I would eagerly drink any of these wines. And as good as they were, the wines of Meurault were a serious step up - even the villages Meursault.

According to my own very unofficial talley, there are more wines labeled as lieux-dits (single vineyard wines, but from villages-level vineyards) than in any other Burgundy village. Perhaps this came about because there are no Grand Cru vineyards in Meursault (although most people acknowledge the Grand Cru-esque quality of 1er Cru Perrieres) and so the quality of 1er Cru and villages-level vineyards is emphasized this way. Perhaps it is because many producers feel that singular wines can be crafted from villages-level vineyards such as Les Narvaux, Les Tessons, and Les Chevalières.
Green is villages-level, yellow is 1er Cru.

Here are some tasting notes from the 2007's in barrel. Morey poured them basically in north to south order. The first several wines showed the richness baked apples, and as we moved south the wines took on a more mineral and citrus character.

Morey Blanc Meursault - the nose integrates fresh apple fruit, spice, and mineral. The palate is graceful and balanced, there is nice acidity, and the finish is long with apple skins and pie crust. This is a great villages wine that should drink well when young.

Morey Blanc Meursault Les Narvaux - similar aromatic and flavor profile as the above wine, but denser, spicier, and more intense. And somehow, leaner.

Morey Blanc Meursault 1er Cru Les Bouchères - leaner nose than Les Narvaux, yet richer on the palate. Dense and muscular with rich fruit, great acidity, and a frangrant finish. Delicious wine.

Morey Blanc Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes - the most elegant nose so far, very mineral, with clean and focused fruit. The palate is a bit closed, but there is a nicely herbal finish.

Morey Blanc Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières
- density again on the nose with prominent lemon peel. Lots of stuffing, a bit creamy on the palate, and a long minty finish.
The Meursault 1er Crus.

Pierre Morey's Cellars are deeper underground than those of Morey-Blanc, and perhaps this is why some of the wines were not as forward and open as the above wines.

Pierre Morey Meursault - smokey herbal nose and a rich palate with precise flavors of apple skins, lemon, and stones. Another lovely villages wine.

Pierre Morey Meursault Terres Blanches - apple skins, herbs, brown sugar, and earth on the nose. Palate is already well integrated light and energetic fruit flavors, great acidity, and a long prickly finish.

Pierre Morey Meursault Les Tessons - very reduced, and hard to get past that on the nose. Seems like there is nice fruit here, but I'm still no good at tasting reductive wines.

Pierre Morey Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres - also a bit reduced, but less so. Herbs, lemon oil, stones, and lovely white flowers on the nose. Rich and deep in the mouth but in a piercing and economical way, nothing is wasted. Balanced and long, just so obviously a beautiful wine. If I am lucky enough to see this in a store someday, and lucky enough to have the approximately $130 it will cost, I will buy a bottle and put it to sleep for my older daughter, who was born in 2007.

Pierre Morey Bâtard-Montrachet - resinated layers of fruit on the nose, very noble, a bit closed, but still expressive. Pear and honeyed nuts in the mouth, great acidity and length, very complex. Beautiful wine, certainly one of the finest whites that I've tasted.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

2000 Gatinois Brut, about $45, Polaner Imports. The millennium vintage in Champagne was not a great one, in the end. It was a ripe vintage, strange as that may sound for Champagne, and apparently many of the wines lack precision and focus. Most producers made a vintage wine anyway - if you were a wine maker would you skip the chance to make a wine from the year 2000? really, how bad would your fruit have to be to voluntarily miss out? All your colleagues are making a 2000, shouldn't you?

I've had the chance to drink several 2000's in the past few weeks, and I must say that I have not been impressed. Even with a rock solid producer like Jacques Lassaigne in Montgueux, whose non vintage wines are cut and precise, the 2000 was sort of fuzzy and all over the place. I know there are great wines from the 2000 vintage, but I haven't had them. Well, I did taste the 2000 Cuvée Fiacre from Chartogne Taillet and that was wonderful. They're out there, but they're not the norm.

This one, the 2000 Gatinois Brut, is one of the good ones. Gatinois is located in Aÿ in the Vallée de Marne, right near Bollinger, to whom Pierre Cheval-Gatinois sells about half of his harvest each year. Aÿ is Grand Cru Pinot Noir territory, and as you would therefore expect, Gatinois wines are almost entirely Pinot. In the case of the vintage wines, they are 100% Pinot Noir. Gatinois bottles under 3,000 cases of wine each year, and this is inclusive of all five wines (Tradition Brut, Réserve Brut, Rosé, Millésime, and Demi-sec), so it's not an easy bottle to find. But if you are a fan of red grape Champagne, and of a full bodied style in general, try a bottle if you see one.
The color is somewhat striking, golden, almost amber in color. The nose is first and foremost clean and fresh, almost airy, and this balances the ripeness and richness of the aromas so that the wine in the end transcends the problems of the vintage. Sweet and rich aromas of berry fruit, orange peel and marzipan are infused with a chalky essence. The nose is broad and round, but mostly under control. The wine is texturally lovely with a very fine mousse and the palate is surprisingly mineral driven. The fruit is front and center, and it's juicy and ripe, but the fineness of texture and the definite mineral floor grounds the wine. With air time it puts on weight, but maintains somewhat strong focus in part because of the tangy acidity, and also because of the strong and narrow finish that resonates with orange zest. This is a very big wine with great depth of fragrance and flavor, and it maintains an elegant, if exuberant posture.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Same Terroir, Different Hands

I was thinking about my Burgundy trip the other night at 3:30 am while rocking a squalling baby in the crook of my arm. We sampled well over 100 wines from barrel representing many different terroirs. Some we sampled only once, such as the phenomenal Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru Les Gaudichots at Lucien Le Moine. We did get to sample several wines from the same terroir, though. Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought, to list them all, to see the wines that occurred most frequently? To compare the expressions of terroir in different highly capable hands?

This is the kind of thing that can fascinate you at 3:30 am with screaming baby. If what follows is of little interest, I ask that you either bear with me, or print this out and save it until you have a baby. Then pull it out at 3:30 am and you'll see…

So I found that the most commonly occurring terroirs across our visits were Bonnes Mares and Charmes Chambertin, both Grand Cru, both tasted four times. An interesting duo, if I may say so. Neither of these is in the most elite class of Grand Cru wines, although Bonnes Mares is probably a notch higher than Charmes Chambertin. Moreover, these wines have personalities that might be described as polar opposites.

Bonnes Mares is interesting in that it spreads across two villages. About 14 of its 15 hectares are in Chambolle-Musigny and one lone hectare, the northern most portion, is in Morey St. Denis. The wines in general are said to be dense and masculine, highly structured and unyielding in their youth. I've never had a mature Bonnes Mares, so I cannot comment on what happens with age. Reference standards include Dujac, Roumier, and Mugnier.

Charmes Chambertin is one of the Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Crus, bordering Chambertin to the west and the villages-classified Champs-Chenys to the east. The wines in general are said to be, as the name might suggest, charming, with elegant red fruit and finesse, and a subtle power running underneath. I don't know who are the reference standard producers. I'm going to guess Dugat, Roty,Rousseau, and maybe Bachelet.

I am not presenting this as a comprehensive study of these two Grand Crus in 2007. It is just a set of tasting notes, that’s it. But as you’ll see, there are some interesting similarities and differences among the wines. The Bonnes Mares wines seemed to exhibit similar characteristics across the board, although Le Moine's was more immediately drinkable than the others. The Charmes Chambertins were a bit more varied, and maybe that's because they sometimes and sometimes not contain grapes from neighboring Mazoyeres Chambertin.

Mounir Saouma of Lucien Le Moine.

Here are the notes on the 2007 Bonnes Mares:

JF Mugnier Bonnes Mares
savoury nose, so much so that I spelled savoury with a “u.” Umami all the way. Deep dark fruit on the palate, incredibly dense and difficult for me to really taste. Mugnier pours this before he pours his 1er Cru Amoureuses.

Georges/Christophe Roumier Bonnes MaresReticent nose, some umami notes with coaxing. Dark plums on the palate, lots of extract, leaves something minty after swallowing, which is quite appealing. This was poured after the Amoureuses.

Lucien Le Moine Bonnes MaresNose of deeply perfumed fruit and hoisin sauce. On the palate sweet dark fruit, plums, hoisin, lots of sap, great length and purity. There is a stony mineral grip, and a minty aftertaste.

Domaine Dujac Bonnes Mares
Smoky nose, dark plums and hoisin, an energetic core of aroma. Closed on the palate, but there are hints of dark fruits and the minerality is evident. The finish is deeply fragrant with herbs, very complex.
Terroir whizzing by our car's window.

And now the assortment of 2007 Charmes Chambertins:

Georges/Christophe Roumier Charmes Chambertinwide open nose of fresh fruit and baking spices, hints of black tea. Very pretty red fruit on the palate with great acidity, sappy and deep. Lovely wine.

Philippe Pacalet Charmes Chambertin - incredibly dense nose of spicy fruit, orange peel, and minerals. Elegant and powerful, and still somewhat closed, if you can believe that. Rich and deep on the palate, the wine spreads out and coats the mouth with gentle red fruit. There is great clarity here, balance, poise, richness, and a powerful core of fruit.

Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin
- A bit reductive on the nose, but still lovely with roses, tar, and tea. Sappy red berries on the palate, great acidity, very elegant with a fragrant rose petal finish. Very pretty wine.

Domaine Dujac Charmes Chambertin
- Nose is quite closed, but the palate shows a core of deep fruit, baking spices, and a bit of oak with nice fruit-filled length. Dense right now, hard to evaluate.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Domaine de L'Arlot

I asked Peter Liem where Domaine de L'Arlot stands in the pantheon of Burgundy and he said "People who really know and love Burgundy love Domaine de L'Arlot." He didn't mean that you must be a vastly experienced Burgundy lover in order to appreciate them. They're lovely wines and anyone would enjoy them. I think he meant that the wines are often overlooked amidst the many huge names in Burgundy, but are never overlooked by those who have extensive experience, the cognoscenti, if you will.

Southern wing of the Domaine, where we stayed.

Although Domaine de L'Arlot owns vines in Romanée St. Vivant, the exalted Grand Cru, and also in 1er Cru Les Suchots in Vosne-Romanée, it is probably best known for wines from two relatively large 1er Cru vineyards, both monopoles of the Domaine, both located near the southern end of the vineyards of Nuits St. Georges. The vineyard Clos de L'Arlot borders Mugnier's Clos de la Maréchale to the south, and is known for red fruited wines of elegance and finesse. The Domaine also makes a 1er Cru white wine from this site, a rarity in the Côte de Nuits. Wines from Clos des Fôrets bear some of the muscular and savage character of its more famous neighbor to the north, Les Saint-Georges.
From the living room window, the Clos de L'Arlot under gray skies.

Vineyard and winery work is rather old school at Domaine de L'Arlot, which is a good thing. Vineyards are plowed and harvested by hand, and whole clusters are used in fermentation. Since 2003 Domaine de L'Arlot has been practicing biodynamic throughout the entire estate. As you might expect, these are wines of freshness and purity, with an elegant lightness of color that belies the depth and complexity within. I could share more background information, but I would basically be quoting from these two fantastic online sources: Bill Nanson's piece from Burgundy Report in August of 2005 does a great job of detailing the history of the Domaine and also vividly portrays the unique vineyard that bears the name of the Domaine, the Clos de L'Arlot. Peter Liem's piece also provides great contextual information, and describes the recent tasting he attended in which he sampled wines dating back to the creation of the Domaine in 1987.

Peter Liem worked harvest at Domaine de L'Arlot in 1998 and has remained friendly with the staff ever since. It is because of this friendship that Peter stays at the Domaine when he visits Burgundy, and it is because of this friendship that Olivier Leriche extended to me the generous offer of staying there as well. Domaine de L'Arlot is in Prémeaux-Prissey, a village I have never heard of until just now. All the while I thought we were staying in Nuits St. Georges. To my foreigner's eyes, the villages in France can really blend into one another...

So, in early December I stayed at Domaine de L'Arlot while visiting Burgundy. My accommodations were pretty sick - a large and beautiful room with an attached bathroom that is larger than my bedroom in Brooklyn. I'm talking two sinks, a heater, several windows, a bidet, all class and grace. And of course, no toilet. The toilet is in the water closet in private hallway outside of the bedroom.
Bathroom alone: $1.25 Million in New York City.

We tasted the 2007's in barrel, many of the 2005's and 2006's in bottle. Here are some notes from our tasting:

2007 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de L'Arlot - tastes nothing like any other NSG wine I've had. All silky red fruit and flowers, gentle, good acidity, lots of finesse. Very pretty.

2007 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Fôrets Saint Georges - meaty animal wildness, dark fruit, big tannic presence, rich fruit, juicy and dense. Should be brawny and beautiful in maybe 8 years.

2007 Grand Cru Romanée St. Vivant - nose of dark spices, maybe cloves, a bit animale. Intense dark fruit in the mouth, firm tannins, but the overall effect is suave and gentle. This wine is still quite closed, but there is evident depth and complexity here hiding in the shadows.

2006 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de L'Arlot - meaty sauvage character on the nose this time, with floral dark fruit. Light and elegant in the mouth, but powerful, tannins are silky. Unusual for Clos de L'Arlot maybe, but a beauty.

2005 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de L'Arlot - vibrant red fruit on the nose with savory brown sugar notes. Ripe fruit on the palate, ripe, ripe, ripe, but good acidity keeps it in check. Nice length, strong tannins, this wine has class. I'd love to taste it again in 15 years.

2005 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots - gorgeous nose, elegant floral perfume with deep red fruit and earth tones. Tight in the mouth but generous fruit, a great mix of pwer and finesse. This is a real beauty.

2006 Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos de L'Arlot Blanc - delicate layers of white flowers at the core, tangy citrus and minerals. Just lovely. Some pear in there too. Very precise and cut with firm tannins and a zesty bright finish. Very impressive indeed.

After our tasting and a brief rest, we enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by wine maker Olivier Leriche's wife Florence, and attended by none other than Jean-Pierre de Smet, the original wine maker at L'Arlot.
Olivier Leriche and his lovely wife Florence in their kitchen. That's Tista in the background.

Dinner was a beautiful fillet of beef roasted in the kitchen fireplace and served essentially raw. There was also a nice green salad, purée of winter squash, roast potatoes, and a lovely fruit tart. It was the end of a long day that included a huge lunch and a lot of wine. This did not exactly enhance my ability to speak and comprehend the French language, but I enjoyed trying to decipher the various conversations nonetheless. We drank some pretty good wines at the dinner, by the way.
Fallen heroes - they shall not be forgotten.

Thank you again, Oliver and Florence, for your generous hospitality, and for an experience that I will never forget.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Night Bubbles

Most of this post already appeared on Jeremy Parzon's Do Bianchi. Sorry to repeat, but whaddaya want from me?!? I have a five-day old and a 2 year old. I'm like a walking dead man.

1999 Henri Billiot Brut, $56, Terry Theise Selections / Michael Skurnik Imports. Billiot's wines are really a treat. Laetitia (Henri's granddaughter, I believe) is in charge now, and there are still fewer than 4,000 cases per year of the 5 wines Billiot makes. Located in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims, Billiot's wines are comprised mostly of Pinot Noir, and the fruit is rich and joyous .The basic non-vintage Brut is typically excellent, although not cheap at almost $50. The rosé is one of the better ones I know of that is not made in the saignée method. Billiot adds still 15+ year old solera Pinot Noir to the blend to create the rosé, and it's absolutely complex and delicious. Cuvée Laetitia is the house's top wine (along with the newer and in my opinion, less successful Cuvée Julie), also a solera wine, and is oddly, mostly Chardonnay.

Billiot adds little or no dosage, achieving sufficient ripeness on the vine to do without. These are wines, like most good Champagnes, that really show better if you wait a while after disgorgement to open them. The bottle we drank was disgorged in October of 2007, and I'm glad we gave it a year. I've had the NV Brut earlier in it's post-disgorgement life and it was a bit disjointed, the fruit in particular just fell off at the end.

I think that when buying Billiot's wines, it's worth it to spend a couple more bucks to buy Billiot's vintage wines as opposed to the basic NV Brut. This one, the 1999, is the wine we opened as an aperitif with friends before Christmas dinner, the night before our daughter was born. It exceeded expectations - so graceful and controlled, such exuberant fruit, so rich and broad, yet with refined elegance. the texture is lush and fine, there is good acidity, and the finish really lingers with a chalk-infused fruit fragrance. This wine has a great inner core of energetic fruit, and it's just delicious. It will probably continue to improve with a few more years in a cold cellar. You might not be able to find the '99 on shelves now, but the 2002 is the new release and it may well surpass the '99 once it is ready to drink, in about 5-8 years.