Thursday, March 29, 2007

Odds and Ends

I want to follow up on the Real Wine Attack tasting with a few thoughts and a couple more tasting notes, but this time from home, wine with dinner.

Domaine du Closel makes some of my favorite wines, not just white wines, or Loire Valley wines, but some of my favorites, period. Their top cuvee is Clos du Papillon, a rich and complex wine that is usually delicious young but can age for decades, revealing interesting secondary aroma and flavor characteristics. Les Cailladieres is their second wine and it is often a bit sweeter, not demi-sec sweet, but sweeter. Les Caillardieres tends to improve with age for about 5 years or so. I usually buy a few of both wines in each vintage. La Jalousie is their young drinking wine and each year I taste it, but I have yet to be super impressed. And at $15-20 depending on the vintage, I don't think it's a great value.

At Chambers Street last Saturday I tasted the 2005 La Jalousie and I liked it a lot, enough to bring a bottle home and give it the old dinner test. Brooklynlady and I enjoyed it on Sunday night with roast cod (the fish people are back at the farmer's market in Brooklyn - yeah!) and turnip puree. I diced and fried some hot sopressata sausage, rendering the fat for searing the cod, and mixing the sausage bits into the turnip puree. Even Brooklynlady, not a huge turnip fan, made hers disappear quickly.

This is the best Jalousie I have tasted. It needed about a half hour to open up, and then it was brilliant - well delineated aromas of flowers, stone fruit and citrus, some wax and some honey. A rainwater-pure palate echoed those aromas, and offered an lovely mineral finish. The wine was beautifully balanced with good acidity. It complimented the cod dish very well to, and continued to improve in the glass, and in the fridge overnight too. All of the sudden, for $20 this wine seems like a bargain...

I have very little experience with Rhone wine, a bunch of scattered tastes here and there really. I discovered Eric Texier's wines on Saturday at the tasting. Apparently it is quite difficult to find his wine, as many of his bottles achieved cult status a few years back. So maybe I'm not telling you anything new. But the wines were new and exciting to me. I also really enjoyed meeting Msr. Texier and appreciated his attitude toward making wine.

We were tasting through his wines, and I noticed that the Cote Rotie was noticeably lighter in color than the Cote du Rhone Brezeme. I have tasted only one Cote Rotie prior to this, and it was an inky dark wine. I said something to my pal about the color and Msr. Texier said:

"The dark inky wines you see coming out of Cote Rotie, the wine makers are doing something to those wines. Cote Rotie is very mineral soil, and the soil gives grapes with perfume, with mineral character. To extract that dark color is to make a wine that the soil is not giving. My wine, this Cote Rotie - this is what the soil gives."
I don't know how exactly to evaluate this comment, and I am not trying to start some debate about natural wine making or something. I just liked the feeling of what he said. It made me feel that Texier is concerned in a pure way with growing grapes and then fermenting their juice into wine, and that resonated with me. His Cote Rotie was absolutely delicious, the finest northern Rhone wine I have ever tasted - amazing balance of flavors and dynamism. And it smelled intensely of dark plums and dusty earth, very herbal too, and irony minerals. In its lightness of color and texture it reminded me of a great Burgundy - the lightness of color and texture belie the intensity of the wine.
And lastly for this week, I had the opportunity to drink a mature Burgundy the other night, something I haven't done since Christmas Eve. Deetrane and I had a bet about the gender of my daughter before she was born. I said "girl," he took "boy," and we bet a bottle of good wine, the loser's choice. Strange terms for a bet, yup. Anyway, I won the bet and Deetrane paid up in the form of a 1997 Domaine Rene Engel Vosne-Romanee. Here is Burgundy report's profile of the producer, and here are his tasting notes regarding Engel's wines.

I don't often drink 10 year old wine, although I aim to change that gradually by cellaring wines myself. Enjoying this wine with a simple dinner of flank steak with braised swiss chard reminded me of why I am devoting precious square footage in a Brooklyn apartment to wine storage. The secondary aroma and flavor characteristics that emerge with age are just fascinating, and mature Burgundy when well crafted is thrilling. Even a humble village wine, not some 1er or Grand Cru - wine I can afford when released.

This 1997 Vosne-Romanee was bright raspberry red with some signs of orange rust at the rims. Sort of like the patches of gray hair on the sides of my head. The nose was rich and deep, completely intoxicating, and it got better and better over a few hours. The nose was so expressive and so layered, it reminded me of the inside structure of a major league hardball: tightly coiled ball of cooked red fruit, with layers of savory herbs (rosemary?) and animal fur wrapped around it, and then mineral earth. Palate of soft cooked sour cherries with prominent herbs and dried leaves, and a mineral finish with vibrant acidity.

So well balanced! So intense and interesting! So many things happening at once, and all so convincing - the red fruit, the animal, the herbal, the leafy earthiness, the mineral...and all so well integrated, performing in harmony. I could drink this wine every few days for the next year and be so excited to do so. So I have to choose my Burgundy bottles wisely now, and be patient in aging them. This was just too good.


Anonymous said...

Although my sense are not as sharp as yours, I was also appalled by the lack of color on the Cote Rotie. At the time, I didn't know the pourer was Eric himself. He went on great length of stressing this Cote Rotie as being 'as natural as it gets'. All I tasted at the time was the fruit and the lack of bacon flavor (oak) that I am used to in other Cote Roties. All in all, with the little time I had with this wine, I think it will be an interesting wine when it settles down in 3-5 years.

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Andrew,
Please don't confuse writing about what I sense with having sharp senses, certainly not to deride your own senses. I would never claim to be "right" about this stuff.

Wasn't it amazing, how much intensity of aroma and flavor there was in that light Cote Rotie?

If I had a bottle I don't know if I could wait 5 years...

Joe said...

I cannot find the Texier wines here. No Engel here, but it sounds like something I should seek out in NYC in two weeks. Had the Papillon before - long time ago - it was excellent. How are you storing that wine in the appartment, by the way?

Brooklynguy said...

hey joe,
Chambers has the Texier stuff, and although quantities are small, there will be something for you to try when you get here. i have not seen the Engel wine in stores - deetrane got this in an internet auction. And I learned that the Engel estate is selling their grapes now, as the wine maker passed away at a relatively young age, sadly.

last summer we finally broke down and bought a wine fridge. it was reaching 80 in the apartment. it fits about 100 bottles, and its funny how quickly you grow out of it...

Joe said...

I will definitely go to Chambers next week. I am not sure I trust deetrane's alternative wine shopping strategies, so the Engel is out. My first cellar held 80 bottles, then an entire revamp took me to 270, some additional racking 360. I now have over 500 bottles jammed into that space (8'x4'x5') - it's getting crowded. I think that fridge will be on craigslist soon...

Brooklynguy said...

Hey Joe,
There is so much good stuff at Chambers right now that it's a little frustrating - you cannot get everything you want. Let me know if you want my faves in each category: $10; $20, etc.

i do need more room. although i should drink half as much wine as i do, so that might be a healthier alternative.