Wednesday, October 20, 2010

JD Headrick's Wines at Rouge Tomate

I was very fortunate to be invited to dinner by JD Headrick, the philosophical and articulate wine importer based in North Carolina. Headrick's portfolio is small, but well selected. But if you consider only his Loire producers, his portfolio is large - 20 producers. His wines are well distributed (it seems to me, anyway), and appear in many states, but they don't appear on retail shelves as often as you might think, based on the quality of the wines. Those who know Headrick's wines always seem to like them, and you'll see his bottles appearing on the lists at top restaurants on the east and west coasts.

Headrick has two producers in particular that are true favorites of mine, Damien Laureau in Savennières and Françoise Bedel in Champagne. He also has several excellent producers in wine geeky appellations in the Loire. This dinner was a great opportunity to taste new things by my favorite producers, and also to get acquainted with some of his producers who are new to me. Here are some notes on my favorites from that evening:

(2000) Françoise Bedel Champagne Dis, Vin Secret, about $60. Bedel is that excellent producer working in the far west of the Vallée de la Marne, closer to Paris than to Reims. The one who converted to biodynamic farming in 1982. Pinot Meunier does very well in this area and Bedel's wines are mostly Meunier. According to Peter Liem, this is one of two terroir-specific wines Bedel makes, both from limestone parcels. I love LOVE love the other wine, called Entre Ciel et Terre, and this was my first time drinking Dis, Vin Secret. It is 100% Meunier, mostly from the ripe and forward 2000 vintage, with about 10% reserve wines. It was a beautiful wine and a great value at the suggested price. Classy on the nose with the rich and slightly oxidative aromas that typify Bedel's wines, the wine hits that balance of lushness and focus on the palate, a combination that can be elusive with Meunier wines. The fruit is sweet and red, and underlined with a cooling stoniness. Very fragrant, it really lingers on the finish. Delicious in a visceral way, this wine also offers something to think about if you're one of those folks who looks down upon Meunier-based Champagnes. We drank this as an apertif, but I wish I had saved some for my excellent plate of scallop carpaccio with sturgeon caviar and butter-toasted poppy seeds.

By the way, Rouge Tomate is really good. I had previously dismissed it because the name reminded me of this rather dismal place in the Mitsuwa food court - Italian Tomato. Silly me.

2008 Michel Delhommeau Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Cuvée Harmonie, about $15. Delhommeau is a newer producer in Muscadet and his vines are on the black quartz called Gabbro, in the village of Monnière, right near Michel Brégeon's vineyards in Gorges. This wine was absolutely classic. Fragrant with lees-y citrus fruit and that anise seed hint that I also get in Brégeon's wines, well balanced and energetic, very mineral, and delicious with oysters. If this bottle is any indication, Delhommeau is a nice addition to the existing super-group of Muscadet producers, and if you're into Muscadet, you should find a bottle.

2008 Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Boucauds, about $28. This one took a little while to unfold and then was just lovely wine, and like the best wines from the area, much more about Sancerre than about Sauvignon Blanc. Very strong acidity and minerality anchors the fruit and the finish has a gentle creaminess to it. To me, this is not a wine for sipping before dinner. I drank it with the scallop dish and it was a very good match. It would probably be great with any kind of white fish in creamy sauce, or even lean pork dishes.

2007 Damien Laureau Savennières Les Genêts, about $28. What can I say, I love these wines. I have much more experience drinking the other cuvée, Bel Ouvrage, which is aged mostly in barrel. Les Genêts is aged mostly in tank, and the 2007 it is such a fine wine. Can I take a minute here and say that I LOVE 2007 in the Loire? This wine is floral and powdery on the nose, and continued to gain in complexity until we drank it all. Such vibrancy in the mouth, the wine really fills all cavities, and this is a lean wine we're talking about, it's not accomplishing this with excess, but rather with energy and grace. No question for me at this point, Laureau is my desert island Savennières.

There are other wines that I truly liked on that evening - two different Cour-Cheverny by Domaine des Huards, for example. The 2002 took a while to open up, very oxidative at first, but after about an hour it found a balanced and delicious place. The 2008 was all young craggly rocks, and you could drink it with oysters and then scrape the mud off a pig with whatever is left in the bottle. 2007 Claux Delorme Valençay, about $16, is a delicious blend of Malbec, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir. Lighter in body than the 2006, it continues to impress me as a full bodied wine that is fit for richer meaty dishes, and yet has a light enough mouth feel to be very good to drink on its own. If I owned a restaurant I would serve this by the glass so fast, your head would spin.

Every one of these are wines that I would eagerly buy for myself, or order off of a restaurant wine list. Okay, maybe not the Sancerre, but that's about me and my issues with pricing in Sancerre, not about this particular wine. I'm telling you, people - JD Headrick has good wines. If you like good wine, you should keep your eyes peeled.


jimmy said...

JDH is the man. Try the Jean Francois Merieau wines some time if you have not. Especially the gamay and the vouvray.

rhit said...

I thought the Delhommeau Cuvee St. Vincent was good, then I found the Harmonie! Awesome stuff.

NickG said...

When it comes to the Loire, JDH is indeed the man, and I've also wondered why his wines aren't on more shelves. The wines of Thierry Michon (Domaine St. Nicolas) and Domaine Noblaie's Chinon blanc are also worth checking out.

Wicker Parker said...

I adore Michon's wines across the board, his Fiefs Vendéens chenin in particular. God that's good.

Ben Wood said...

JDH is great stuff- The Cheverny Rouge is great!! Valencay is great as well- I just wonder why I did not get invited as well!!!


Veronica Stoler said...

LDH has fantastic wines and a great palate. I had the pleasure of tasting with him this summer and he is truly a great human being. Laureau Savennières just makes my stomach growl with anticipation! The Jean Francois Merieau wines are also excellent-a great bubbly named "Bulles" and an earthy Cot, perfect for Fall.

(Whole Foods on 97th and Columbus sells many of JDH's wines. As well as Terroir Tribeca and Blue Ribbon).