Friday, December 15, 2006

Back to Burgundy: Two More Restaurants and... the Wine of the Trip

Gourmet Magazine, usually quite reliable in my opinion, described La Table D'Olivier Leflaive as a great place for lunch, the tables filled with local vignerons. We went there for lunch on our last day in Burgundy and although we had a very nice time, on this occasion Gourmet got it wrong.

La Table is a technically a restaurant, yes, but it's more like eating at somebody's house. Somebody who happens to produce at least 15 different wines and serves you tastes of each wine during your meal. Somebody who also uses the occasion of your lunch to aggressively pitch their hotel, wine touring, and other related businesses.

The space was still being built out, but our table was comfortable and the decor quite pleasant. There were most definitely no vignerons - this is tourist group dining all the way. One huge table of Japanese tourists, another of US southerners, another table of Brits. And tourist prices too. Lunch for one was E50! Sure, it would have been E40, but that version included tasting only 5 wines, the entry-level Aligote and Bourgogne wines. E50 got you the "grand tasting" which included the village, 1er Cru, and Grand Cru wines.

I asked Msr. Leflaive during his obligatory 'meet and greet' at our table if there are any Oregon Pinots that he likes. He apologized, and said that he doesn't like them too much, too big and extracted, he said. But there is one that he likes a lot, although he couln't remember the name. "Saint something or other," he said. "St Innocent?!?" I asked. Yes, in fact, St Innocent. My favorite too.

We enjoyed our lunch, but 3 courses took way too long at 3 hours (and there was no way to speed things up - only one waitress for all of those tourists), and it was far too expensive for what you get. The food was tasty to be sure, but utterly simple, and there were no choices. They brought us a bowl of plain white rice and a dish of pork loin cooked with creamy mushroom sauce.

Tasting all of the wines was interesting though, and I gained some insight into recent Burgundy. The 2003 wines we tasted were flabby and unfocused - the heat really did cause low acidity, which really does impare wine! Not like I didn't believe this, but tasting a vertical of the Puligny-Montrachet makes this a personal experience, not just something I read in wine magazines.

We loved our dinner that night at Le Ciboulettes, a small bistrot just inside the walled area of Beaune. Incredibly cute decor and attentive and friendly staff set the tone for the whole experience. The expansive winelist reminded us that BrooklynLady had not yet had a whole glass of wine, as she promised that she would.

Well that was all the prompting I needed. I closed my eyes (but opened my wallet) and ordered a bottle of 1990 Voillot Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets. This was the wine of the trip for us. Clear and pretty light ruby color. Nose of earth and wet cement, like a cellar. Then opening up to reveal floral smells and wet mud. Very round flavors with almost no tannins left. Sweet stewed red cherries with some earthy mushroomy tones, and a lingering cherry and slightly bitter cranberry finish. This wine was power and grace, fruit and soil, youthful and mature, good and evil, peaceful and warlike, and whatever other incompatible terms you want to throw in. Just beautiful!

I have posted before about Voillot wines and I think that this producer represents a good value in the pricey world of Burgundy wine.

Two brief words about the food at Le Ciboulettes - utterly delicious. We had pumpkin soup with cumin, an unexpected and exciting flavor combination, mussels in seafood broth, veal with wild mushrooms, and braised pig cheeks. Of course there was a cheese course, and this one was every bit as good as Le Charlemagne's. Creme Brulee was also top notch. A wonderful meal with amazing wine for our last meal in Burgundy.

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