Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Polaner Spring Portfolio Tasting, 2008

I went to the Polaner Spring Portfolio Tasting today at Gotham Hall in Manhattan. My plan was to taste through the Dressner producers, as I cannot make it to the big Real Wine Attack tasting at Chambers Street this year - that they scheduled it on Passover is a clear affront to wine-loving Jews all over the world.

In three and a half hours I made it through most of Dressner and some other interesting wines too. But of course I missed some great stuff. Too many great people to meet with and interesting wines to linger over, growers/wine makers to talk with.

Here are some highlights:

Domaine François Pinon, Vouvray - loved the entire lineup. I definitely have not spent enough time at home with dinner and M. Pinon's wines. The Vouvray Brut was tasty as usual, but my goodness, the 2004 Vouvray Brut (only in magnum for some reason) was just fantastic. Should retail for about $60 and well worth it. I may have to grab one for Thanksgiving this year. It's richer, more profound than its non-vintage cousin, and just felt beautiful in the mouth. I also really liked the 2007 Vouvray Tradition, a forward and balanced wine that smacks of flowers and ripe fruit. And the new wine, the 2007 Vouvray Silex Noir (from vineyards with black silex streaks under the soil) was very nice too - more mineral than the Tradition. Even the 2006 Vouvray Tradition, with its oddly funky nose, was quite nice to taste. Most impressive (said in Darth Vader voice), François Pinon, most impressive.

Thierry Puzelat / Clos du Tue-Boeuf, Cheverny - a bit of a thrill to hang out with Thierry Puzelat, even if only for 10 minutes. It was so easy to picture him in a black leather jacket holding court at some hip Paris wine bar, groups of attractive young women whispering about him to each other. Heck, I'm a deeply committed heterosexual, and I found the guy kind of attractive. Did I just say that? On to the wines...The whites were a revelation, honestly. My first time tasting a wine of 100% Menu Pineau, one of those old Loire grapes that has mostly faded from memory. Not with M. Puzelat. His 2006 Touraine Blanc Brin de Chèvre Menu Pineau smelled of citrus oils, smoke, and shoe polish, and tasted great! Clean and pure, a set of flavors that I cannot describe, but totally different from what I'm used to, and wholly delicious. If you're into Loire whites, this is one to try. Puzelat recommended smoked fish as an accompaniment, or sashimi, both of which sound perfect. The 06 Cheverny Frileuse VDT (Vin de Table, what happens when the French wine authorities say the wine is not typical of Cheverny, and therefore cannot be called Cheverny) is a blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Rosé (I've never heard of that grape either). Just gorgeous - such clean and pure fruit, so well balanced, such great aromas left in the mouth. And the 06 Touraine Blanc Buisson Pouilleux Sauvignon Vielle Vignes smelled like the Menu Pineau, but tasted like Sauvignon Blanc, in a way. Puzelat explained that when you work naturally and add nothing to the grapes, the soil actually can be more important in the final flavors than the variety of grape. This wine is living proof. I liked all of the reds too, but I won't write about them here, except to say that the 2006 Touraine Gamay "Pouille" is aged in neutral barrels for a year before bottling and it achieves a complexity and lusciousness that you'd expect from the finest Cru Beaujolais. Very impressive indeed M. Puzelat!

Domaine de Roally, Mâconnais - This is Gauthier Thévenet, son of groundbreaking Jean Thévenet of Domaine de la Bongran in Viré Clessé. I continue to find that I love any wine that any member of the Thévenet clan has anything to do with. The 2005 Domaine de Roally Viré Clessé has an intoxicating nose that screams "pure Chardonnay!" The grapes fermented very slowly for a year in the cold cellar. The nose shifts back and forth between white flowers, ripe yellow fruit, and stony minerals. And it's just delicious, too. I assumed that because of the firm structure, the wine should be aged for a while, but Gauthier Thévenet the owner of the Domaine said that it actually is better for young drinking - from now and over 5 years or so. The Bongran wines are better for long aging, he said.

Marc Ollivier's Muscadet's at Domaine de la Pépière were great, as expected. The 2007s were very new and tough to evaluate, although the "regular" 2007 Muscadet sur Lie de Sevre-et-Maine displayed its flowery and mineral charms even at this tender age. The 07 Clos des Briords was not as giving on this day, but all of the parts seem to be in place. The 2006 Cuvée Eden was just beautiful, perfect for drinking right now. And the 2005 Granite de Clisson is still the same deliciously fascinating mineral fortress that it was when I tasted it a few months ago. That wine has YEARS to go.

I would write about all of the amazing reds I tasted, but if you're reading this at work you're about to get fired. Back to work, pal. Bernard Baudry, Domaine Filliatreau, Catherine et Pierre Breton, Michel Tête, Georges Descombes, Desvignes, Brun, Maréchal, and Lignier-Michelot, and more tomorrow.


David McDuff said...

Man, do I need to get out of Philly more often. This kind of tasting, at least one with such a great lineup, just doesn't happen in this vinously backward, PLCB-controlled corner of the world.

Brooklynguy said...

hey david - what is PLCB? come to nyc more often! you seem to taste your fair share too though.

bill l said...

pennsylvania liquor control board. the state run sytem in pa. a complete joke.

did you get any fell for the availabilty of these wines? will they show up soon at chambers street? man, i'd love mag of sparkling vouvray!

Steve L. said...

Wait a minute--Pennsylvania has state-owned liquor stores?? I thought that was limited to Utah. Why do Pennsylvanians put up with that? (I'm genuinely curious.) Man, there are about 17 different Americas out there. About the notes--terrific. You put Roally on my radar. Lokking forward to the reds. Hope you got some Breton 'Clos Senechal.'

Brooklynguy said...

bill - ah yes, the state controlled board. darth vader heads that up, right? all of the wines at the tasting are coming to nyc, or else they wouldn't be presented - that's my understanding. i asked M. Pinon about the 04 vouvray too, and he said he thinks chambers street will carry it. i didn't ask about the production quantity. if you're set on getting some, maybe it's worth calling chambers st.

hey steve - more than 17, perhaps. after watching the debate last night and seeing those people who sent in video questions to the candidates, i felt truly frightened. glad the notes work for you, reds asap. i did taste the senechal, and liked it very much. hard to learn much about a wine like that at a tasting though. it demands more time and focus.

RougeAndBlanc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RougeAndBlanc said...

I have a feeling the majority of these producers will show up at the wine attack also. I am also not surprised this wine attack will be crazier than the last one. For your benefit, you might be better off attending the trade tasting. Your notes are actually quite useful by giving hints on which producer I shall visit first.
Have a good passover.

David Baer said...


Glad you could make it to my final event with Polaner before heading off to PDX (next week)... and thanks for sharing your great experiences on Tuesday with your readers.

Since I was busy running around managing the event, I had very opportunity to taste, so I'll have to taste vicariously through your notes.

Brooklynguy said...

Andrew - have fun at the tasting. i wish i could go, but alas...looking forward to your notes.

hi david - you did an amazing job setting that up. so easy to navigate with plenty of room in the aisles and at each table, and such a great atmosphere. such a pleasure, if that didn't come through in my notes. it's a real shame to lose you as a new yorker, but i understand completely why you're doing what you're doing. best of luck, stay in touch!

David McDuff said...

Yeah, I suppose I do taste my share but it's nearly all under my own aegis, along with the cooperation of a couple of good tasting buddies. I don't generally write up work-based tastings unless there's a producer visit involved. And while there's an occasional worthwhile trade tasting, like the Thiese Champagne lineup I wrote up a while back, most of the best importers/distributors don't bother with Philly. The state is huge, the wine market is mostly crammed into Philly and Pittsburgh, and restaurants are the only real buyers. The PLCB stores are focused on quantity and bottom line, not on quality.

Steve L.,
Why do Pennsylvanians put up with the PLCB? For the same reasons that Americans put up with their current political leadership. They may want it gone but they're too lazy to start a revolution. And that's what it'll take to get rid of PA's state system. It's way too entrenched in the state legislature, revenue streams and unionization to go away anytime soon. On top of that, shipping into PA is still problematic. At least the folks in the SE part of the state have NJ, DE, MD and/or NY, all of which are free markets, relatively close at hand.

Steve L. said...

Thanks David. In California we'd probably try addressing such an issue via a statewide ballot proposition, bypassing the legislature entirely. (We have entrenched special interests here, too.)

Brooklynguy said...

david - i understand completely, same for me (although my work doesn't involve tastings). i guess it's easy to understand why they don't come to philly if the people who would attend the tasting are not the same people deciding whether or not to purchase the wines. A revolution might be in order...