Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wines of Catherine and Pierre Breton

Red Hook Brooklyn was a mostly Italian neighborhood of stevedores back before Robert Moses plotted part of the elevated tracks of Brooklyn Queens Expressway so as to isolate Red Hook from the rest of north Brooklyn. One of the largest public housing projects in the US sits in Red Hook. It has been for years one of the most isolated, poor, and blighted parts of the city. There is no subway stop there, no grocery store, hardly any commerce at all in fact. Walking around can convey a surreal 'ghost town' kind of feeling.

As is common in New York, a combination of artists and other intrepid souls in about 2000 began moving to Red Hook for the low rents. Soon there were a few art galleries, a bar or two, and even a couple of restaurants. Now Red Hook is a bona fide hot neighborhood, with property values rising, several good restaurants, and plenty of attitude and hype.

A few years ago a Frenchman named Arnaud Erhart opened a restaurant in Red Hook called 360, and he served a 3 course prix fixe menu for a startlingly low price of $25. Then again, you had to go to Red Hook to get there, so the price is fair. But the food was excellent. It quickly became Red Hook's first destination restaurant.

I've had 5 or six meals there in the past few years, almost every one of them excellent. A few years ago I took my then girlfriend BrooklynLady to 360 on a date and we had a great meal. The wine list is called "eccentric" by reviewers, which means that there are no bottles from Bordeaux or Burgundy, even though almost every bottle on the list is French. Mr. Erhart loves wine from the Loire Valley.

BrooklynLady picked a 2002 Catherine et Pierre Breton Clos Senechal to go with our dinner that night and we loved it. C&P Breton make Bourgueil (boor-geye) wine, beloved in France as everyday drinking wine, and largely unknown here. These wines are made soley from cabernet franc. We have since then taken every opportunity to try other Breton wines - there are many cuvees, some meant to drink young, others aged in wood and meant to be cellared for at least a bit. Louis Dressner's website offers great explanation of the various cuvees from this producer.

I have only tried Breton's young wines once, and it was at a tasting so I did not have them with food. I have now had their ageworthy cuvees a couple of times and I really love them - they work so well with food, they offer such juicy and complex flavors and aromas, and they are such a good value in fine wine. The most expensive bottle I have yet to see in a store is $25. The only negative comment I have is that the wines, including that very first one at 360, tend to fall off after an hour open. The beautiful fruit flies away leaving a graphite and iron flavor.

Tonight after running around Prospect Park (I don't want you to think I'm some lazy type of sloth - I jog 3 times a week pal) I made a simple celery root and potato soup, and heated up the braised beef and turnips that I made the other night. We opened a bottle of one of my favorite Breton wines, Les Perrieres.

I love this wine! It is a banquet of raspberries, spices herbs, and minerals. It doesn't overpower the soup, and it dances with the braised beef. So far the fuit is holding up too, and its been open over an hour. Keep your fingers crossed...

2002 Catherine and Pierre Breton Les Perrieres, $25.
Somewhat murky opaque purple, right to the rim. Smells like the monkey cage at the zoo when you first open it, but afte 10 minutes this blows off. Aromas of forest soil, pine, and red fruits, with a bit of woody vanilla in the background. Vibrant and juicy flavors of raspberries and blackberries, with Dannon boysenberry yoghurt. Layers of herbal and vegetal flavors. Some turned earth too. The finish is blood and iron. All of this is buoyed by vivid acidity and a reasonably low 12.5% alcohol level. You could drink this wine on its own (and you might want to this first time - its that interesting) but have it with some deeply flavored food. Bill me if you don't like it.


Anonymous said...

Their wines showed incredibly well at the Wine & Spirits Top 100 tasting in San Francisco, about a week ago.

This is one of my favorite Loire Valley wineries. We visited back in 1999.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Jack - Which C & P Breton wines were they pouring? We should have visited when we were there. We have to go back.