Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

N.V. Champagne Raymond Boulard Champagne Rosé de Saignée, $39, SelectedEstates of Europe. I love drinking Francis Boulard's wines. I like writing about his wines too - he apparently lurks out there in the blogosphere, and read my posts on his Brut Nature and Petraea. His comments are edifying, funny, and I think, very humble and sweet.

In my understanding, there are essentially two ways to make rosé of Champagne: still red wine is added to the blend, or the juice of red grapes is allowed a short period of skin contact. With the latter method, some of the color (and also skin tannins, aroma, flavor, I would imagine) bleeds out into the juice. This is called the Saignée, or bleeding, method.

I have not been a big fan in general of rosés of Champagne thus far. My experiences have been hit or miss, and the hits have rarely moved me enough to get really excited. That changed with a bottle of Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée. So much more vibrant and alive than the others I had tasted, and my first Saignée (at home, where you can watch the wine unfold in the glass, etc.). Now I keep my eyes open for rosés made using this method,
so when I saw Boulard's non-vintage Saignée sitting there for less than $40, I pounced.

This wine has a spicy nose of pure and beautiful dark fruit and candied orange peel with lots of minerals and earth underneath. It is a nose of great clarity and vivid complexity. It kept my nose in the glass for literally minutes at a time between sips. The palate is richly fragrant with high toned currant and orchard fruit and a savory tea leaf component. There is a cleansing chalky finish with a resonant mineral depth that seems to be a Boulard calling card. We drank this with simple turkey burgers, but it seems as if it would support a variety of full flavored dishes.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Before Thanksgiving Tidbits

All good bloggers are supposed to tell you about the wines they will open for Thanksgiving. I don't think my wines are all that interesting, so instead I'll share a few random tidbits that might buttress your pre-Thanksgiving mood.

First of all

Did you know that wine can be corked even if it is sealed with something other than cork? At a recent southern Rhône Wine & Spirits tasting, the reigning critic Tara Thomas declared that a particular wine was corked, and it most certainly was. There was a second bottle present, so we tasted that one too. It, oddly, was also corked. Even more odd, the wine was bottled with a synthetic cork. How can you explain such a thing?!? Someone suggested that there must have been some sort of TCA outbreak at the winery. Shouldn't they have caught this before selling the wine? If screwcap and synthetic wine can be corked, what's the world coming to?


This reminds me of a funny scene I witnessed at my most local wine shoppe. Their selection is not really so great so I rarely go in, but it's possible to find little gems, back vintage wines that for whatever reason didn't sell and are well priced, and strangely good bottles of Champagne. Anyway, on this afternoon I witnessed the following exchange:

Man with two young kids: Excuse me, I bought two bottles of Yellowtail Chardonnay here last week and they were both corked.

Clerk (young, confused): Okay, bring them back and well exchange them for you.

Man with two young kids: I poured them down the sink already.

Clerk (older now, skeptical): Um, well, you're supposed to return the wine if it's corked.

....Silence...crickets begin to squirm...

Clerk (seen it all): Fine, bring in the bottles and we'll take a look.

Is it even physically possible for Yellowtail Chardonnay to be corked? Is this guy clueless or does he really need those two free bottles of Yellowtail? Economic crisis indeed...

And Lastly

Things are tight and they're getting tighter. Here are two reds that I want to wholeheartedly and most definitely recommend to you. They're both utterly delicious wines, true examples of their place, and very reasonably priced. The 2007 Paul Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny, $13, Dressner Selections, is a wonderful wine. Floral and bright on the nose with vivid fruit flavors and great acidity and a nice subtle earthy note, this performs way above its pay grade. A light and lively style of wine. Think bistro in Saumur over lunch. Trust me on this one.

And the 2000 Jean-Michel Gaunoux Volnay 1er Cru Clos de Chênes costs $25 at Garnet Wines in Manhattan, witht he 10% discount you get on everything in the store until December 7th. Why would I buy this wine from a so-so vintage, knowing nothing whatsoever about the producer? Leo, a commenter recently suggested that I "try everything Chadderdon brings in." Got me thinking - I do this with a few importers, but very few. Why not try other Chadderson wines? I love everything I've tasted so far (Huët , Dirler, Boxler, and there's more), so why not roll with it? Paid off in spades this time, I'm happy to say. This wine is excellent - mature, spicy, clean, complex, and well balanced Volnay at $25. If you live in NYC it's honestly worth a phone call or a trip to Garnet to grab one or two of these.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, I wish you the best. Enjoy your friends and family and whatever wines you open. I'll be pouring 2005 Boxler Sylvaner and 2007 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Gamay at my Thanksgiving dinner this year. See that - I said I wouldn't, but I went and told you anyway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Best Wishes to Joe Dressner

I have to share some distressing news with you. Will you join me in sending your most earnest get-well-soon vibes to Joe Dressner, wine importer extraordinare, who recently discovered that he has a brain tumor. Joe, as most of you know, has spent the past 20 years paving the natural wine road from France to America. His wines are wonderful, and are treated with minimal sulfur. Some say Joe's personality could use a little sulfur treatment, just to kill unwanted microbes. I disagree - I think he just gets frustrated with how backwards and ridiculous everything can be. In any case, he's not really sure yet how serious this is, but he's handling it so far as you would expect - with humor, and dark humor at that. I want to take this moment to send my best wishes to you Joe for a comfortable and speedy recovery.

Why I Hate/Love New York

I'm not going to sugar-coat it for you, folks. I grew up here and I understand its appeal, but New York City makes me crazy sometimes. Maybe my biggest pet peeve is the prevalent attitude in so many high-end restaurants: you're lucky just to be here, so throw those "service" expectations out the window and be grateful that you are present. There are other people waiting, you know - you can leave if you don't like it. Places like that make me so cranky.

The other night my old pal Deetrane and I had a night out together. We decided to check out The Ten Bells, a natural wine bar on the Lower East Side. I called them at about 2 o'clock to make sure they'd be open and was told yes, 5pm. When we arrived at 7pm the place was closed for a private party. Hmmm, they might have mentioned that when I called.

If it's my wine bar I tell these people "I'm sorry about this but I cannot seat you now. If you come back later tonight or another time I'd like to buy your first glass for you and your friend," or something like that. There are businesses that would handle the situation in this way, but less so these days in NYC, it seems to me. This guy behind the bar - "No, we're closed," and that's it. No apologies, basically gave me the finger attitudinally, if you know what I mean.

So we left. I was annoyed - how do these places get away with having so little regard for their clients? Deetrane, as he does with most things, took it in stride. "We'll go to that restaurant you were talking about," he said. By this he meant Little Giant, the place on the corner that I'd also heard good things about.

They could seat us but only if we were willing to squeeze in between two other tightly packed tables - the roomier open tables (that remained open until we left) were for some reason not available. We decided on the dishes we would order and Deetrane very wisely selected the 1989 López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia, the regal white wine from probably the last traditional producer in Rioja. At $78 (more like $40 retail), this was a bit of splurge, but we were celebrating being out together and my recent birthday and it seemed like the perfect pairing for our food.

10 minutes went by, our appetizers arrived - chicken liver mousse with a fig and onion compote, grilled bread, toasted hazelnuts, and sunflower sprouts, and the house pickle plate - baby carrots, jicama, golden beet cubes, red onion slices, and other savories. (Two Jewish guys eating dinner on the Lower East Side - did you think we would order the warm spinach and mayo dip?) Where was our wine? The waitress appeared with the wine list and told us that they had the wine, but not chilled. Would we like something else? No, our hearts were set on the Viña Tondonia, so would you please chill it for us? Another 10 minutes went by before she returned with the chilled wine. Shouldn't a three minute spin in an ice water bath have been sufficient?

If that's my restaurant, these customers are sent a couple glasses of Prosecco or something while they wait for their wine to chill. This is not the Greek diner on the corner. This is one of those hip joints on the Lower East Side where dinner runs at least $100 for two people. Are my expectations out of whack? Am I too cranky for NYC?

But here's the thing - when the wine arrived and when we drank it with that richly flavored and silky light chicken liver mousse on grilled bread, maybe a toasted hazelnut or a bit of fig was good. I mean really good. A great dish and a great wine pairing. The combination of saline-fresh and rich tropical aromas in this fantastic wine worked perfectly with the chicken liver mousse. Deetrane was so excited - "Dude, put some of this fig on top, take a bite, and then have a sip of the wine!" And so I did, and I was glad for it. So glad that it didn't bother me when the Swine of the Week (braised pork butt) came out cold. Whatever - this is a restaurant, they can re-heat it. And so they did. And it was also good. The scallops were even better, perfectly cooked and generously portioned. And the wine worked perfectly with these dishes too.

Still though, if this is my restaurant these people are sent dessert. Not "would you like to see a dessert menu," not "how about some more wine." After the wine-wait and then the cold pork just send them the sticky toffee pudding and see if they'd like some coffee. Then again, maybe this is why I don't run a restaurant.

The food and wine were good enough to make us (me, really) forgive and forget, so we actually went to The Ten Bells again for an after dinner glass. It was loud and thumping, dark and inviting, quintessential Lower East Side energy. They offered essentially the entire Dressner portfolio, a lot of it by the glass. Other goodies too, like Gonon St Joseph, Brick House Gamay, Binner Pinot Noir...what fun! And it happened to be Beaujolais Week, all wines $9 by the glass or $45 for the bottle. I'm talking about Lapierre, Descombes, Desvignes, Tete, and various other superstars of Beaujolais. We stared with two half-glasses of the excellent 2006 René Mosse Anjou, an oxidatively delicious Chenin Blanc. We moved on to a bottle (some friends had joined us by now) of the 2007 Descombes Régnié. Snappy and vibrant, especially the last glass. This was quite good, although nowhere near as good as the bottle I had at home the previous week.

So in the end, we had a blast, we drank great wine, and ate very tasty food. You have to love New York - this is a place where on this one block in one neighborhood, and on so many blocks in so many neighborhoods, you can enjoy eclectic wine and imaginative food in two different and equally vibrant settings. Maybe the moral of this story is this is New York - expect some attitude. Try to get past that and enjoy it anyway. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't. Like I said, restaurants make me cranky.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs, $38, Petit Pois/Sussex Wine Merchants. There are many non-vintage Blanc de Blancs out there at higher prices that do not deliver the goods as this wine does. That said, I think the price is now in the mid $40's in NYC, anyway. Even at that price, this is one of the finer non-vintage Blanc de Blancs that I've had.

My first experience with Diebolt-Vallois was a flawed bottle and maybe because of that I've been slower to warm to this producer than I might otherwise have been. Silly me. The more I drink, the more I understand that Diebolt-Vallois makes a truly fine Blanc de Blancs. I've never tasted their top wines, the Fleur de Passion or the Prestige, but that will hopefully change when I visit the estate in a couple of weeks.

This wine is so gentle, so graceful. It has a kick, but a gentle one. It begins with racy citrus fruit and a mouth filling fragrance of lady's perfume, spreads out and reveals a fine chalky base, and finishes sparkling clean with a lingering blend of fruit and chalk. The overall effect is perfectly balanced and quite luxurious. This is a wine that can make you feel good about yourself.
The wine that this most reminds me of is José Dhont's Blanc de Blanc, and I say this understanding that Dhont is in Oger and Diebolt-Vallois uses fruit from Cramant, Cuis, Chouilly, and Epernay. Maybe if I were to taste them side by side I wouldn't think so, but my memory of the feeling of Dhont's wine is similar to this: graceful, feminine, highly perfumed and elegant, something to luxuriate in.

Buried on the lower right side of the front label, stamped and only faintly visible, there is an "06." I assume this indicates the wine was bottled in 2006 and based on the 2005 harvest, possibly with some reserve wines too. My assumption is based on Peter Liem's post about the Cuvée Prestige, and the formula he discusses might not be the same for the Blanc de Blancs. Wouldn't it be great if Champagne labels always contained information about vintage and disgorgement date?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brooklynguy is Going on a Trip

Big announcement - my wife, the ever generous and understanding BrooklynLady, has decided that I should go on a trip before our second baby comes at the end of December. She felt that I won't be going anywhere for quite some time after that, so I should go now. Can you believe that?!? She even used her vast store of airline miles to get me the ticket. What a wife, I tell you, I am truly a lucky man. I have to find some sort of bauble over there to buy for her as a present...

Where am I going? I'm going to France. To a little place called Burgundy and another little place called Champagne ! ! ! This gets three exclamation points, for those of you who are counting. I travel with Peter Liem and a friend of his to visit producers and drink wine, to eat at all sorts of restaurants, and who knows what else.

I'm obviously going to write about the trip when I return, but I just want to give you a sense of what I'm talking about here, the types of producers we'll be visiting in Burgundy. Just a few of them, not the exhaustive list. I'm talking about Rousseau, Mugnier, and Dujac, where we will stay for dinner afterwards. This is not fantasy - this is real, people. I guess it is fantasy too, in a way. One little tragedy - I will not be able to make it from Paris in time to join them at the Romanée-Conti appointment. But such is life, and the whole trip is an incredible gift. Imagine that though, beginning several days of drinking in Burgundy with an appointment at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti...

In Champagne I know we'll visit René Geoffroy and Diebolt-Vallois. Not sure about the rest yet. And that's just the wine - what about all of the food? This is the time of year when everyone has their fireplace going during the day and they burn the old cane in the vineyards. It's a sweetly smoky and sensual experience just walking down the road.

I leave right after Thanksgiving, the same time of year as when I first visited Burgundy two years ago. Need I tell you that I am chomping at the bit?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thoughts on a Northern Rhône Tasting

I recently participated in the Wine & Spirits Northern Rhône tasting panel. Blind tasting 12 flights totaling 39 wines, 13 producers, and lots of discussion with a panel of articulate and experienced people. Of course there is no substitute for drinking wine at home with a meal, but this was a great learning opportunity, especially since I have so little experience with these wines. For me it was like taking an intro course in college - you learn what it is that you want to learn more about.

Here are my impressions, in broad strokes:
  1. I want to drink more white Rhône wine.
  2. Most of the reds were just too enormous for me. Granted, these are young wines, but even within that framework I found most of them to be huge and unsubtle, at times candied, just beasts. There were honestly only 2 that I would seek out and buy.
  3. Could it be that I'm just not a big fan of Syrah?
  4. Where was Dard et Ribo???
Here are some of the big shots that just didn't do it for me:

2004 Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante-Alouette ($90)
2005 Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne ($115)
2005 Delas Frères Hermitage Les Bessards and Marquise de la Tourette ($?)
2005 Delas Frères Côte-Rôtie La Landonne ($129)
2004 Domaine Belle Hermitage Blanc ($107)
2004 Domaine Belle Hermitage ($107)
2004 Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde ($70)
2005 Michel & Stephane Ogier Côte-Rôtie La Rosine d'Ampuis ($129)

This was blind, mind you. I'm not saying these were bad wines. I just didn't care for them and when I learned of their price tags I felt funny inside, glad not to covet.

Here are some of the white wines that I enjoyed:

2007 Guigal Crozes-Hermitage ($22) - such a lovely perfume, and nicely balanced.
2007 Chaptoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche ($30) - great perfume, great fruit, oily texture that retains some energy.
2007 Guigal Condrieu ($55) - my favorite of the whites. Complex and just delicious.

It's easy to fall for the nose on these whites with their luscious tropical and floral aromas. But they sometimes leave me wanting more on the palate - more acidity, more depth, more something. Particularly the Marsanne/Roussanne blends. Tasting these wines, though, renewed my interest in whites from the Rhône, and I already bought a nice bottle that I'm looking forward to drinking. Tell you more after I drink it.

There were honestly only two reds that truly excited me:

2006 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage ($33) - Clean and pure fruit, herbs, olives, bacon in the background, good balance, a wine clearly meant to drink with food.
2004 Michel & Stephane Ogier Côte-Rôtie Terres de Seyssuel L'Ame Soer ($58) - This was the one wine in the whole tasting that everyone at the table agreed on. It was excellent.

Most of the reds smacked of something unnatural to me - how can a wine be that intense and punchy, how can it "jump out of the glass" like that? They were more curiosities than something that I wanted to drink with a meal. But hey...what do I know. Maybe they just need time to settle down.

I will say this:

I drank that 2006 Graillot Crozes-Hermitage in October when I had dinner at Prune with Lars Carlberg of Mosel Wine Merchants. I thought it was great back then too. At this price point, this is a wine that I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in the Northern Rhône.

And this:

I asked Lyle about the Graillot wine last time I was in Chambers Street. He gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up, but not the way he raved about this other wine, a 2006 St Joseph by Pierre Gonon ($30). Referring to the Gonon, he said, and I quote: "If you walk out of here with only one wine today, buy this wine." So I did (although I did not walk out with only one wine).

To make the Gonon wine feel more comfortable in my house I made a pot of real "grandmère cuisine," a stew of French green lentils and vegetables with chunks of bacon. Let me tell you that Lyle was completely and absolutely right about this wine - it was wonderful and totally compelling (I already purchased more for the cellar). Great ripe fruit, lush, dense, and very energetic. Good acidity and quite complex with pepper, herbal and animal notes - notes that become far more distinct on days 2 and 3. Incredibly pure with a real stony mineral sensation. Balanced and clean and very satisfying at 13% alcohol. Drinking beautifully now, but it's obvious that there is something lurking beneath the surface that will only come out with another 8 or so years in the cellar. This is a superstar at it's price point and well worth seeking out.

Lye recently wrote about this wine too, by the way, and the comment he received mentions Graillot's wines. Small world?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

2005 Dirler Crémant d'Alsace Brut, $23, Chadderdon Selections. In my self taught learn-by-drinking Alsace wine course, thus far I've found that my two favorite producers are Dirler and Boxler. Boxler makes lush wines that sometimes have a bit of residual sugar, and Dirler makes lithe and bone-dry wines of powerful intensity. Totally different styles, from what I've tasted, anyway.

This stylistic difference applies also to their Crémants, but with a role reversal. Both producers' new releases are non-dosage wines. Boxler's (drank in September) is made from a typical Alsace blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and other highly aromatic grapes, yet comes across as lean and refreshing wine that showcases the purity of delicate fruit. Dirler's Crémant is all Pinot Blanc , and is a more full bodied and rich wine. Although I appreciate both styles of sparkling wine, I think that Dirler's is more successful.

This wine has rich freshly-baked bread aromas upon opening. With a little air time there are also aromas of baked apple and ripe fruit, and there is a noticeable mineral underpinning. There is something in the nose that reminds me of some Blanc de Blancs Champagnes that I've tasted, and it's the combination of rich bread and baked apple fruit. On the palate this wine is really just gorgeous, with ripe pear and citrus fruit, an herbal edge, good acidity, and a sense of purity and freshness that tempers the richness. Very well balanced and completely delicious - honestly one of the best non-Champagne sparkling wines that I can remember drinking.

It's interesting to think that Dirler can achieve this kind of richness and ripeness without any dosage at all, and the wine is still impeccably balanced. No surprise at all that these grapes are grown using Biodynamic principals and vinified with absolutely minimal chemical intervention - the wine is so clean. This one is a candidate for under $25 sparkling wine of the year, as far as I'm concerned.

More Dirler, please.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Burgundy Confusion: Episode 94

I drank two of the best whites Burgundies that I've ever had last week, and neither of them seems to fit into a conventional mold. One of them was a 1994 from the Mâconnais. A 14 year old white wine from what is probably the least distinguished part of Burgundy. The other was a 2004 from the more expensive real estate of Puligny-Montrachet.

A couple weeks ago when I was bugging Joe Dressner about helping me find a specific wine for a dinner, he out of the blue and very generously gave me this bottle, the 1994 Domaine de Roally Mâcon-Montbellet. A very intriguing bottle. 1994 was not a particularly good year in Burgundy - how much can you really expect from a 1994 white from the Mâconnais? Depends on the grower and the specific plot of land, I guess, and in this case, you can expect a lot, as it turns out. This was absolutely fantastic wine, truly memorable. 14 years old and fresh as a daisy with crystalline purity. There are generous aromas of honeycomb, orange peel, and wet rocky minerals. Slightly off dry on the palate and very rich, this wine is all about fresh fruit up front, then there is a honeyed mid-palate with a nice herbal character, and a mineral finish with lovely minty notes and great acidity.

Henri Goyard made this wine although Jean-Claude Thevenet is now the wine maker at Domaine de Roally. Although you will not be able to find this wine in retail stores, the 2005 is currently available, it's under $30, and it should age at least as well, if not better.

Now what about this Puligny-Montrachet? The wines are all so expensive, and high quality at the village level is not easy to find. So please explain to me how it is that this village wine by Louis Carillon was so great. Is it because 40% of the grapes from from the 1er Cru vineyard Enseigneres? Is it because the Carillons make practice so carefully in the vineyards, using minimal if any chemical treatments? Who knows. But this village wine (at literally half the cost of the wines in Carillon's lineup of 1er Crus) was honestly fantastic.

The 2004 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet, $40, Rosenthal Wine Merchants, had a beautiful scallop in brown butter, mushroomy earth nose upon opening. Very delicate, very intense. It changed a lot in the glass - after an hour it was bright citrus fruit that dominated the nose. Light and energetic through the mid-palate with a delicate mineral finish, this was just lovely. The next day the wine was perfectly integrated, the earthy notes and the bright citrus notes mingling together harmoniously. And the finish was the epitome of Puligny mineral-ness. I can see why people throw it all away chasing beauty in Montrachet. I can't and won't do that, but I will buy more Carillon village Puligny if I see it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV André Clouet Champagne Silver Brut Nature, $45, Village Wine Imports. This is 100% Pinot Noir and without dosage. I don't think I've ever had a non-dosage Blanc de Noirs before. Maybe a Cedric Bouchard wine? There are several Clouet wines that have hit NYC retail shops in the past month and because of the novelty (to me, anyway) of the Brut Nature Blancs de Noir, I had to try this one first.

I don't have a lot to tell you about Clouet wines - there is no website that I could find, no profile, no back story. The estate is located in Bouzy, in the southern part of the Montagne de Reims, near Ambonnay. There is no disgorgement date or any other information on the label. Anyone who has something to add about this producer, please feel free to do so in the comments. I do know this: there are printers in the Clouet family, and the intricacy and beauty of their wine labels attests to this. You should see the label on the vintage wines...

This wine has a classic and very pure nose of juicy dark fruit with a pleasant biscuit character and a definite chalky undertone. It is a broad and airy nose with good depth and resonance. With further airtime the individual components of the nose seem to become more pronounced, lifted up from their chalky background. The palate is bold with lots of muscular and spicy dark fruit, and the finish is fragrant with fruit and a delicate note of toffee. This is very rich and very lean at the same time. I imagine this would be great with oysters but also with, and bear with me here, a lean cut of venison with a simple red currant sauce.
All of that said, I did not love this wine in the same way that I love some other dark fruited wines of the Montagne de Reims. I wonder if this is a bottle age issue (this probably would do well with some time), or a style issue. Perhaps Maybe I should taste more of Clouet's wines...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Burgundy Confusion: Episode 74

They say it's all about the producer in Burgundy. A village wine by a great producer should be better than a lesser producer's Grand Cru. Vintage might not be as important as the producer. I absolutely believe this to be true, yet it's not always that simple.

The other night I drank a Chambolle-Musigny that was fine, nothing special. The fruit was bright and pleasant, the texture was right, and the wine tasted good, but there was nothing particularly interesting about the wine. Not something I would buy again, as there are so many better wines out there, and this one wasn't cheap at about $55.

Later in the evening at a friend's house we drank a humble Bourgogne that was just excellent, and less than half the price. There was a lot of barnyard up front, maybe carbon dioxide that needed to blow off or something. And when it did blow off, the wine was a delicate thing of beauty. Clean and pure red fruit with subtle earthy notes underneath. Graceful and elegant, well balanced, just delicious. I wanted a plate of duck breast with wild mushrooms, and I'd already eaten dinner.

In my mind there was no real comparison between these two wines - I'd take Bourgogne every time. In fact, I scoured the web until I found a retail shop in Manhattan that still carries it and reserved a few bottles.

The confusing thing is this: the Chambolle-Musigny was a 2004 by none other than Georges/Christophe Roumier, the legendary producer whose wines are collected by the most fancy-pants of wine folk. And the Bourgogne was a 2005 by Réne LeClerc, a good producer, but not as highly thought of. I've heard his wines described as "rustic," or even worse, as "tax and spend" or "soft on national security."

How anyone of modest means buys anything from Burgundy with confidence is really beyond me. I want my $55 back. I'll settle for a couple of bottles of the LeClerc Bourgogne and a medium rare duck breast with wild mushrooms.