Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Winery visit with Jean-Marc Roulot of Domaine Guy Roulot

To taste a Domain Roulot wine is to taste a sense of deep rootedness, fine and crystalline, and yet somehow open. Although subtly powerful, the wine never imposes itself before the taster has time to form his own reactions... For me, the subtlety and finesse of Jean-Marc's very feline wines fulfill the criteria for a legitimate work of art: conventions coexisting with freedom of access and interpretation.
Thus had Jonathan Nossiter (Liquid Memory) described the wines of Domaine Guy Roulot. And, after stellar visits at DRC and Domaine Armand Rousseau, we were on our way to taste the wines so eloquently described by Nossiter.

Domaine Guy Roulot is headed by Jean-Marc Roulot, scion of the namesake founder, who took the reins of the Domaine in 1989 from a succession of caretaker winemakers who had overseen production since the death of his father in 1982. The Domaine is known primarily for its plot-specific whites from Village and Premier Cru sites in Meursault but it also produces red wines with grapes sourced from Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie as well as a Bourgogne red sourced from Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet parcels.





                          Domaine Guy Roulot Meursault Climats and Lieux-Dits
Classification
Climats/Lieux-Dits
Location
Soil Characteristic
Wine Descriptors
Meursault

Slope south of valley



Tillets
Highest on the slope and facing south

Floral and mineral.
Vineyards on the upper slope make bititng, precise wines*

Vireuils
North of Tillets at slightly lower elevation; east-facing

Rich yet racy

Luchets
Further north and lower

Round with great length

Narvaux
Adjacent to Tillets

Generous, lush character

Meix Chavaux
North of Premier Crus but at same elevation

Opulent and ripe

Tessons
do.

Powerful, long, complex
Premier Cru
Bouchères
Northernmost
Shallow, stony soil
Silky texture; medium-bodied; elegant.
Bigger, rounder, easier*

Porusot
South of Bouchères
do.
Fuller body

Charmes
On Puligny border; 70-year-old vines

Round, fleshy, ripe, mineral, complex; great depth of flavor
Source: rarewineco.com; *Dominique Lafon in Nossiter’s Liquid Memory.

Jean-Marc's commitment to these terroirs, and their wines, is illustrated by his comments to Nossiter: "... I am as attached to my village vineyard designation as the premier cru. The day I can't bottle my Tillets, Meix Chavaux, and Tessons separately is the day I'll leave any system of official designation. ... We need to continue to work to understand the individual identities of each parcel of vines, whether it is at the village, premier cru, or grand cru level." In a more recent conversation with Benjamin Lewin MW, Jean-Marc ranked the differences between lieux-dits as: (i) exposition, (ii) elevation, then (iii) the clay-limestone proportions with a resultant 1-week differential in harvest-initiation between Luchets and Narvaux.

One of the early decisions that Jean-Marc made upon taking the reins at Domaine Roulot was to pursue organic farming. In explaining his decision to Nossiter, Jean-Marc spoke admiringly of biodynamicism but going organic was a huge step for the winery. It was a step, however, which allowed the individual identity of each plot to be "more strongly expressed." Even though practicing organic principles since 1989, the estate was not formally certified until 2013.

The estate produces both white and red wines with the whites made from Chardonnay or Aligoté and the red from Pinot Noir. The winemaking processes are illustrated in the graphic below.


A winemaking couple from Santa Barbara was joining us for the tatsingt so, after hurried introductions, we headed to the cellars. It was clear that Raj and Jean-Marc were good friends and were happy to see each other because they immediately fell into an animated winemaking conversation which threaded its way through our entire visit. It was fascinating and a wonderful learning opportunity for us.

The wines to be tasted were placed on an upright barrel in the center of the room and Jean-Marc began to open them. The tasting would unfold in two parts: a tasting of the 2012 whites followed by a tasting, some of it blind, of some older vintages.

As he opened the first bottle, Jean-Marc looked around the cellar ruefully noting that, under normal circumstances, barrels would be stacked three rows high. The 2012 vintage had not been normal though with hail damage, mildew, odium, and heat combining for a 60% reduction in stock.


Jean-Marc Roulot opening bottles for our tasting
Jean-Marc Roulot and Ron
Rajat Parr and Jean-Marc
The results of the tastings will be covered in a subsequent post.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Meursault? Or less so?

The Meursault commune, 5-km long and located just 7 km from Beaune, is the northern entry point to, arguably, the world's greatest concentration of stellar Chardonnay vines. While it cannot rival its Côte de Beaune compatriots Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet in number of Grand Cru vineyards (it has none), the wines of Meursault are world-renowned and, as will be discussed later, may be undergoing a refinement in style even as we speak. I will be writing a post on our visit to the Guy Roulot cellars in the near future and so wanted to provide some context herein for that upcoming post.

Source: musée-boissons.com

In his book on the vineyards of France (Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate and Culture in the Making of French Wines), James E. Wilson identifies what he refers to as Nuits and Beaune soil packages. The Beaune package is comprised of strata from the Callovian (Mid Jurassic) and Oxfordian (Upper Jurassic) periods, capped by Nantoux limestone. The Nuits package is comprised of Bajocian and Bathonian deposits (both Mid Jurassic) topped by Comblanchian limestone. The Nuits package dominates on the Côte d'Or before diving deep underground in the vicinity of Nuits-Saint-Georges. It reappears at Meursault but, to the north of the village, is overlain in the belly of the slope by a Beaune strata package. It is in this part of Meursault that red grapes are grown. To the south of the town, the Beaune package predominates and continues through Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet. This area is home to some of the finest white wines in the world.


The plot architecture of the Meursault vineyard has the leading-edge of the Premier Cru vineyards abutting the Volnay commune and separated from the southern Premier Crus by a thick band of Village-level lieu dits.


The allowed grapes in the Meursault commune are Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc for whites and Pinot Noir and accessory grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris) for reds. Accessory grapes are limited to 15% of the vines on a given plot and must be vinified as part of a field blend. Planting density is 9000 vines/ha with max loadings of 10,500kg/ha for whites and 9000 kg/ha for reds. No irrigation is permitted.

At approximately 400 ha, Meursault is larger than Puligny-Montrâchet (202.98 ha) or Chassagne-Montrâchet (301.43 ha) but has fewer Premier Crus (19) than does Chassagne (56) and only two more than Puligny. Of the 400 ha, approximately 130 ha is designated Premier Cru with the most well-regarded climats being Les Perrieres, Les Genevirières, and Les Charmes. The best of the Village lieu dits are Clos de la Barre, Tesson, Chevalierès, Rougeot, and Narvaux.

In 2010, the region produced 18,400 hl of wine, 400 hl of which was white. The red wines produced in the north of the commune are labeled Volnay-Santenot in order to take advantage of the higher standing of Volnay reds. White wines produced in Blagny to the south are allowed to be labeled as Meursault-Blagny to take advantage of the market strength of Meursault in white wines. The best producers in the region are Comtes Lafon, Coche Dury, Guy Roulot, Jean-Philippe Fichet, Francois Jobart, Patrick Javillier, Michelle Bouzereau, and Arnold Ente.

The Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) is the "voice of the Bourgogne wind trade" and, on its website, describes the wines of Meursault thusly:
The young wine is redolent of toasted almonds and hazelnuts in a floral (mayflower, elder, bracken, lime, verbena) and mineral (flint) setting. Butter, honey, and citrus fruits are also present. On the palate it is rich and fat, with a cheerful and appealing taste of hazelnut.
BBR, on its website, describes the wines as "... typically rich and savory with nutty, honeyed hints and buttery, vanilla spice from the oak." But these descriptors may no longer be applicable across the board. In a 2010 article profiling Domaines des Comtes Lafon, Burgundy-Report gave a halting, non-specific observation of a shift in this particular producer's offerings: "I have the impression that there has been a style shift in both red and white wines in recent years ... the whites of the 1990s were ... forceful, and very well oaked." The whites he tasted on this particular trip "mesmerized" him.

In a recent post (Burgundy Diary part 6: Sea Change in Meursault -- Visits to Comtes Lafon, Guy Roulot, Michel Bouzereau, and Pierre Morey), Benjamin Lewin MW observes that this visit "... showed a real change in style from the old view that Meursault is soft, nutty, and buttery ..." He summarized the key elements of the change as follows: "Previously I have always been a devotée of Puligny for expressing terroir in that ineffably steely, mineral style, but Meursault is now running a close second."

Does this mean that Meursault has not been properly expressing its terroir all along? Or does it mean that terroir is fungible in that region? Stay tuned.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Drops of God: Wine quest as wine education platform

The Japanese manga series Drops of God performs the extremely difficult task of spinning a yarn which grabs and holds the attention of the general reader while simultaneously imparting learnings that are of interest to both the novice and experienced wine drinker. I explore this fine dance in this post.

The Drops of God is a consolidation and translation of a Japanese manga series ((i) style of cartoon originating in Japan; (ii) often published in magazines or comic books and generally appearing serially in those media -- wise geek.com) which was created by a brother and sister team (Yuko and Shin Kibiyashi) writing under the pseudonym Tadashi Agi. The series has been published continually from 2004 to today.


The protagonist in the series is Shizuku Kanzaki, a beer company salesman whose father, Yutaka Kanzaki, the Robert Parker of Japan, dies suddenly, leaving his home and a ¥2 billion wine collection in his will. Now for the twist. The estate is not willed directly to Shizuku. Rather, he has to identify 12 wines (The 12 Apostles) and a 13th (The Drops of God) by name and vintage -- based solely on his father's written description -- in order to claim the estate. And this has to be accomplished within a year. To me this is a quest, a journey through 13 wines which has the home and the wine collection as its pot of gold.


But not so fast. He is not the only participant in this level of the quest. His father had adopted a famous young wine critic -- Issei Tomei -- as his legal son one week before his death and this "second son" would also be competing against Skizuku for ownership of the estate. The wines are to be tasted blind. To increase the level of difficulty of Shizuku's quest, the adopted son is an accomplished and well-regarded wine critic while Shizuku has never had a glass of wine in his life.

Source: thermalservices.wordpress.com

In order to compete effectively in this top-level quest, Shizuku has to embark on a second quest: to acquire the detailed wine knowledge that would allow him to compete against Issei. For, you see, Shizuku was not totally unequipped for this fight. While he had never drank a glass of wine, his father had given him a lifelong education in aromas and flavors. His quest then was to marry that flavor knowledge to individual wines so that he could identify those wines in the blind tasting competitions he would be having with Issei to determine the winner.

The authors use diversions and distractions from the main quest in order to maintain high drama and keep the plot line fresh and interesting for the general reader. It is the wine-education aspects that are of especial interest to us though and I have attempted to capture the essence in the chart below. Whether on the tortuous path of the main quest or on one of the diversions/divergences, Shizuku is being exposed to new wines. The exposure to those wines, and the stories wrapped around them, keeps the interest of the experienced wine drinker (I for one have drunk specific wines, or vintages of wines, because I first encountered them within these pages). For the relatively inexperienced drinker, the authors use these wines as a jumping-off point to explore some of the more fundamental wine concepts and that, as I see it, improves their understanding and appreciation of wine, and, hopefully, encourages exploration.


It may seem somewhat incongruous that some of these fundamental wine principles are being explored through the lens of some of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world but it becomes less so when one considers that the wine collection that is being pursued will be populated with these types of wines. And these are the wines that Shizuku has to become familiar with in order to be competitive.

No. I am not going to tell you how it ends because I don't know.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What is Raj Parr drinking: A Delectable (get it?) study

Coming out of our trip to Burgundy with Raj Parr (noted Sommelier cum winemaker), I gained the distinct impression, based on the social drinking experiences recorded in the pictures below, that he had a preference for Burgundy and Northern Rhone wines and Champagne.

First night dinner at Bistro de l'Hotel with Raj
Second-day lunch in Burgundy

Third-day lunch in Burgundy

Lunch at Willi's Wine Bar in Paris
I sought to validate these thoughts by studying Raj's posts to the Delectable platform and my findings are reported herein. I was comfortable that using Delectable would reveal his preferences because: (i) during our time together, Raj was religious about posting every wine we drank to the site and (ii) he generally took on the task of ordering the wine, a role that he would probably assume in most settings.

I examined Raj's posts to Delectable up to, and including, Monday of this week. He is a serial wine consumer so the data points might have shifted somewhat within the intervening timeframe but I would expect the volumes to have shifted, rather than the trends. A point of note. The Delectable system will only record one bottle per picture, regardless of how many bottles are in the shot. As a result, the top-level numbers are understated. For example, when Raj participated in an 8-bottle DRC vertical, the site only recorded one bottle. For the top-level analysis, I used the Delectable numbers; for Commune-level analysis I counted the bottles in order to get granular accuracy.

So here is a brief summary of some of the key findings:
  • 73% of the wine that Raj consumes is of French origin with the US (10%), Italy (6%), Germany (3%) following in that order. Japan and Spain are a little above 1% while Australia, Canada, NZ, Austria, Greece, and Portugal barely pass his lips.
  • At the regional level, Burgundy comprises 35% of his total consumption, the Rhone 12%, the Loire Valley 10%, Champagne 8%, and Bordeaux and Piedmont 3% each. The US equivalent of this grouping is a state and California tops the the other states with 8%. That is not, however, as revealing of a wine style as are the preceding regions. What I find striking here is the showing of Piedmont and Bordeaux vis a vis their peers, a confirmation of my initial perception as to Raj's preferences.
  • Turning to the countries, let us first look at France. Burgundy represents 48% of Raj's French wine consumption, with the Rhone (16%), Loire Valley (14%), Champagne (10%), Bordeaux (4%), Jura (3%), and Languedoc-Roussillon (1%) following. All other French regions are less than 1% individually.
    • Within Burgundy, 44% of the wines consumed were from the Cote de Nuit, 31% from the Cote de Beaune, 10% from Chablis, 7% from Beaujolais, and 1% each from Cote Chalonnaise and Cotes d'Auxerre.
      • To give a sense of the granularity that the data set allows, in the case of the Cote de Nuit, we are able to see that Raj's preferences are for wines from Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Flagey-Echezeaux, and Morey-St-Denis, in that order.
      • We are also able to discern that Raj is most likely to be drinking Armand Rousseau and Dujac wines in Gevrey-Chambertin (he is particularly partial to Chambertin) and DRC in Vosne-Romanee.
      • Finally, we can show that he is primarily drinking wines from the 1990s and 2000s in these Cote de Nuit communes.
    • Within Rhone, 83% of the wines that Raj consumed originated in the Northern Rhone.
    • For the Loire Valley, 82% of the consumed wines were from Anjou-Saumur, 18% from Touraine, and 14% from the Central Vineyards.
    • In the case of Champagne, 24% of the wines were from Montagne de Reims, 13% from Cote de Blanc and Valle de Marne, respectively, 12% from Aube, and 10% from Cote de Sezanne.
  • Fully 70% of Raj's US wine consumption was from California. Oregon (21%), Oregon/Washington (11%) and Virginia (8%) had meaningful contributions.
  • The dominant Italian regions were Piedmont (53%), Tuscany (13%), and Sardinia (12%).
And on it goes. There is a wealth of information contained in the platform but the data have to be manually extracted and analyzed.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Domaine Armand Rousseau: Iconic Burgundy

Domaine Armand Rousseau, the Gevrey-Chambertin-based producer of fine Burgundy wines, is hailed by BBR as "one of the grand old domaines of Burgundy" which lauds its offerings as "pale, finely structured wines of great elegance and stamina." This well-regarded and well-respected domaine has attained its stature due in no small part to: (i) the acquisition prowess and business innovations of its founder Armand Rousseau; (ii) the establishment of international markets by his son Charles; and (iii) the quality of its flagship wines (Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, and Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques). So it was with great anticipation that we headed out to taste the wines of this estate after our epic April 30th barrel and bottle tastings at DRC.

We were greeted at the winery by Fréderic Robert, the individual at the estate with responsibility for customer relationships, and, after introductions and some small talk, we headed down into the cellar to begin tasting the wines. Before the discussion of the tasting, some background is in order.

Ron, Raj, the author, and Fréderic Robert (Domaine Rousseau)

Domaine Armand Rousseau is currently managed by Charles Rousseau, the son of the founder, with the assistance of his son, Eric. The estate grows Pinot Noir grapes for its wines on 40 - 45 year old vines at Grand Cru (Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St-Denis) as well as Premier Cru and Village-level sites. The Premier Cru and Village sites are all located in Gevrey-Chambertin. The detailed distribution of vineyards by site is shown here in tabular form -- and below in map form -- but, in summary, the estate owns 8.5 ha of Grand Cru vineyards, 3.57 ha of Premier Cru vineyards, and 2.4 ha of Village-level vineyards.

Source: domaine-rousseau.com

The Pinot Noir clones used for the estate's wines are selected for small production and concentration and the vines are further stressed by planting densities of 11,000 vines/ha. Traditional viticultural management is practiced but with a focus on low yields manifested in de-budding and green harvesting in productive years.

Significant effort is expended to ensure harvesting at the "right" time in order to "optimize the maturity of the grapes and the concentration of phenolic components." The domaine's winemaking process is illustrated below.


We began by tasting elements of the 2013 vintage from barrel. Fréderic indicated that 2013 was a very difficult vintage but, he said, Christophe Roumier had told him that, despite that difficulty, 2013 would end up being like the 1978 vintage. We began with the Premier Cru Lavalle St. Jacques. Acidity level in this wine was very high. Wild berries and spice. Tannic. Fréderic expressed that he had liked the 2012 version of this wine (was not indicating a dislike for this vintage by that comment). This wine was being aged in second-year barrels.



The second wine tasted was the Clos de La Roche. This wine was being aged in 100% new oak barrels. A toasty nose due to some reduction. Earthy and dense red fruit. Spice. Great texture and finish.



The third wine was the Ruchotte-Chambertin. Meat and bacon on the nose. Ron noted dark fruits and spice with mineral notes. Structured.

We tasted the Clos St Jacques and Clos de Bèze in quick succession. They both exhibited dark red fruits and spice with the Clos de Bèze expressing more power and gaminess. Both are balanced wines.

The 2011 Chambertin Grand Cru was tasted out of bottle. This wine was, obviously, much more evolved than the wines that were tasting out of barrel but, nevertheless, its flagship status was immediately evident. On the nose berry fruit, minerality, and spice. Power and density on the palate with ripe tannins. Long, balanced finish. Fréderic noted that the Clos de Bèze is normally approachable earlier than is the Chambertin. A truly lovely wine.

We also tasted the 2009 Ruchotte-Chambertin out of bottle. This wine exhibited berry fruit, earth, minerality, dried herbs, and spice on the nose with a long, balanced finish.

******************************************************************************************

This was truly a great tasting experience. Especially following so closely on the heels of the DRC tasting. A 2005 Burgundy Report (burgundy-report.com) profiling the domaine pithily captures the esteem in which its offerings are held: "It has been said that if you want the safest route to a fine bottle of Chambertin or Chambertin Clos de Bèze, then make sure the label says Domaine Armand Rousseau." We were extremely happy to have tasted these products at the origin point of the route.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Domaine Armand Rousseau (Gevrey-Chambertin, Côte de Nuit, Burgundy) vineyard sites

Domaine Armand Rousseau grows grapes for the production of Grand Cru, Premier Cru, and Village  wines in a number of vineyards in the communes of Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis (two parcels in a Grand Cru vineyard). The characteristics of the sites in the noted appellations are presented below.

      Domaine Armand Rousseau Grand Cru Appellation Vineyards
Appellation
Size (ha)
Aspect
Soil
Clos de La Roche
1.48
East 
Hard calcareous with a depth of 30 cm and big stones
Charmes-Chambertin (grapes from Charmes and Mazoyers)
1.47
do.
Mazoyers - Comblanchian limestone with a shallow gravel layer
Charmes - Upper: entroqual limestone
                  Lower: Comblanchian
Chambertin
2.55
do.
Screes rich in limestone; plot located mid-slope on entroqual limestone of lower Bajocian and Maris Bajociennis
Chambertin Clos de Bèze
1.42
do.
do.
Ruchottes-Chambertin
1.06
do.
Soil shallow with layers of red marl; very pebbly, shallow, and infertile. Oolithic limestone dating from Bathonian
Mazy-Chambertin
0.52
do.
Premeaux limestone of the Bathonian. Soil dense in Mazy-bas (where the plot is located and as opposed to Mazy-haut), with depths of as much as 1.5 m.
Source: Underlying data from domaine-rousseau.com


      Domaine Armand Rousseau Premier Cru AppellationVineyards
Appellation
Size (ha)
Aspect
Soil
Lavaux-Saint-Jacques
0.76
Southeast
Two parcels located at bottom of slope. Soil 33% limestone with 25 cm fine gravel covering.
Premeaux limestone at top of plot with remainder loamy limestone. The soil produced is less deep; dark and rich in light calcareous stones
Clos St. Jacques
2.21
do.
Domaine Rousseau owns 1/3 of Clos. 
Rich soil that is rocky at the top, giving a very shallow clay soil
Middle has deeper soil with a Bajocian base; the soil here is rich in clay and limestone
Lower end based on Premeaux limestone; rich clay and flinto soils.
Les Cazetiers
0.60
East
Orange ochre rich in loam and limestone. Three types of soil:
  1. Upper: clay and limestone; soil often rich in clay
  2. Middle: rock- and scree-covered slope
  3. Lower: silt with clay and limestone
Source: Underlying data from domaine-rousseau.com


    Domaine Armand Rousseau Village Appellation Vineyards
Appellation
Size (ha)
Aspect
Soil
Village
2.40 over nine parcels; seven parcels (1.68 ha) used in blend.
East
The following vineyards are used in the blend:
  • Le Crais
  • Creux Brouillard
  • Clos Prieur
  • En Champs
  • Les cerceiuls
  • Les Etournelles
  • Perrieres
The latter two are Premier Cru sites which are included in the Village blend.
The blending is done at harvest time.
Source: Underlying data from domaine-rousseau.com

Our visit to the domaine and tasting of its wines are described here.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Victoria and Albert's Queen Victoria Room: Chef's Table experience sans Chef

Back in the good old days, Florida residents could book the Chef's Table at Victoria and Albert's for dinner and, over the years, we have used this privilege to good advantage. Disney has recently modified the Chef's Table requirements, restricting reservations to individuals actually staying at the Grand Floridian Resort. This is a bummer as the environment, staff, food, and service are all impeccable and we loved holding special tasting events at the locale.

Recently it was brought to Ron's attention that the Queen Victoria Room -- an enclosed 8-seater off the main dining room which serves the same menu as at the Chef's Table -- was still available for booking by locals so he set up a dinner and tasting in order to check out its viability as a rotational site for our tasting events. The tasting diner was scheduled, and held, on July 18th and is the subject of this post.

The night had no specific theme -- just bring (good) wine and they would be flighted on location. We were the first to arrive and were welcomed warmly by Israel (the Maître d'Hôtel) and his reception staff. We opted to wait in the reception area until the others arrived so that we would all experience the new locale simultaneously. When Ron, Bev, and Linda arrived, we were ushered into the room.

It is adjoining and to the left of the main dining room but it is a world removed. It stands in stark contrast to the the Chef's Table: Tasteful period decoration, quiet, privacy, enclosed, deficit of pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, no sous-chef testosterone on display. I was liking this place already. The table setup and the presentation of our wines further added to the allure.

Traditional setup for Queen Victoria Room
(Source: victoria-alberts.com)
Setup of the room for our event


Ron ordered a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blanc off the list while we wrestled with Israel about the wines that we had brought. His preference is to display/decant all of the wines up front while we are a little more cautious, especially as it relates to older Burgundies. Two of the wines that I had brought -- 2005 Masseto and 2006 Méo-Camuzet -- probably required decanting but we wanted to revisit that at a later time. Ron described the Champagne thusly: Toasty brioche; citrus with a touch of green apple; very refreshing.


At this time Israel stepped to the front of the room to officially welcome us and to introduce the menu. We would be having the same fare as the patrons who were currently at the Chef's Table but he understood all of the dietary restrictions in the room and those would be accommodated in the plates served. A total of 10 courses would be served. The Champagne was paired with the amuse-buche shown below, itself a study in contrasting flavors and textures.

Maine Lobster "jar" with Siberian Osetra Caviar

Upon completion of Israel's intro, we eased into a white Burgundy flight comprised of a 2007 Remoissenet Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatierres and a 1997 Remoissenet Montrachet. They both were gold in color with the Montrachet being just a little darker. The Montrachet exhibited a waxiness on the nose, a slight hint of tropical fruits, and tangerine. Andrew identified a creme brulée character. On the palate a dried-tangerine character with the waxiness on the nose manifesting as an oily texture. Long finish. The Puligny-Montrachet had notes of lime, sage, pepper, and a trace of phenolics. Lean and sharp on the palate with a long, balanced finish. The Montrachet was clearly the class of this pair. This flight was paired with the beautifully constructed Jumbo lump crab shown below.


Jumbo Lump Crab with Cucumber Gelée

We followed up the white Burgs with a red Burgundy flight: 1971 Remoissenet Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru, 1966 Leroy Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru, and 1983 DRC Richebourg. The Bonnes-Mares and Richebourg were disappointing and, thus, made the Leroy shine even brighter in comparison. The Leroy exhibited aromas of a musty closet, earth, and ripe red fruit. Great acidity on the palate along with a spiciness and a long dried-herb finish. Balanced. The Bonnes-Mares was pruney, piney, and resinous with balsamic and amarone tones. VA on the palate with a short finish. Unpleasing. The Richebourg was musty and moldy with notes of preserved dried cherries and orange rind. Disappointing on the palate. Disaggregated and lacking acidity. The lamb, which was paired with these wines, had a smoky, salty, herbaceous character which worked well with the wine that worked. The Leroy was the WOTF.


Hot "Smoked" Niman Ranch Lamb with Fuji Apple and
Curry Dressing

The Bordeaux flight consisted of that Old Faithful -- 1966 Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion -- plus a 1966 Talbot and a 1986 Comtesse de Lalande. Thanks to Ron's never-ending supply of '66 La Mish, we have drunk this wine on many an occasion and we are never disappointed. This wine generally presents dill, smoke, tar, black olives, and perfect balance. Tonight was no exception. The Talbot showed blood, iron, spice, mint, anise, and baking spices on the nose. I felt a misalignment between nose and palate. Ron characterized it as "very rustic." I tagged the Pichon as having bell pepper notes along with brown shoe polish, cinnamon, clove, and beer. I found it to be tight, tannic, and linear. The fruit is not there currently and it is an open question as to whether it will outlive the tannins. Definitely does not compare well with the other wines in the group. La Mish as WOTF.


Fennel Crusted Diver Scallop in a Salt Bowl

One of the wines we were looking forward to with great anticipation was the 2006 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Premier Cru Cros Parantoux; and this wine delivered. It was the subject of a post all its own.


Poached Chicken Egg with Corn Foam

Ron's notes on the 1995 Chateau Rayas which followed indicate cherry, raspberry, and garrigue characteristics. In his estimation it is "Grand-Cru-Burgundy-like" and no other CdP "is in the same league."


Marcho Farms Veal with Peas, Carrots, and Morels

The next flight was a very uncharacteristic grouping of two of our very favorite wines. We have had these wines where the Vega Sicilia was paired with other Spanish wines and where the Masseto was either grouped with other Super Tuscans or with other Merlots. Vega-Sicilia is arguably the greatest wine from Spain while Masseto is one of the great Super Tuscans, the best Italian Merlot, and one of the finest Merlots in the world. They were flighted together because of a perception of an underlying "Pomerolian" nature to both. According to Ron, the 1970 Vega-Sicilia Unico exhibited dried red fruits, licorice, graphite, earth, and spice box. Very focused with polished tannins. Elegant and silky. Balanced. First-growth-like. The 2005 Ornellaia Masseto was very rich and very young with plentiful chocolate on the nose and palate. Pomerol-like. Excellent length on the finish. Needs another ten years to fully realize its potential. Drinking now but patience will produce even greater rewards. These wines were paired with an Australian Kobe-Style Beef with Potato Sphere.


The final bottle opened was a 1998 Guigal Ampuis Cote Rotie. Ron pegged its aromas as smoked meat, black olives, coffee, and spice box and expressed a fondness for the wine.

Selection of Cheese from Trolley
Peach Quark Panna Cotta
Peruvian Chocolate Timbale with Roasted
White Chocolate Gelato


Our experience throughout the evening was wonderful. I have already described how pleasing the environment was and I would be remiss if I did not give a shoutout to the service staff. We had a husband and wife team rotating as the shot callers from course to course and they had a trying job. Not only did they have to announce the general course highlights, they also had to go to each seat with a dietary restriction and explain the contents of that plate. They did a really good job and contributed mightily to the success of the evening. The courses were brought in by uniformed waiters bearing covered plates on white chargers (not the horses). The covers were then removed in a choreographed fashion once all of the chargers had been placed on the table in front of the owning patron. No mistakes here.

At the end of the evening Chef Hunnel came over to our room to chat us up. He missed us. He looked lost.


Sorry Chef, but you know the rules.


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