Before I continue with the Germany report in the next post, some quick notes from a fun byo group dinner last week:
We got off to a great start with a vertical of William Fevre Les Clos. First up was the 2007, which I was looking forward to trying in order to track its progression. A bottle I had last sunmer alongside an 07 Fevre Les Preuses showed just a touch of oxidation compared to the completely fresh Preuses. On this night, the first taste was happily, not flawed. However, the rich, ripe palate did show hints of butterscotch. Is it too much age for an 07?
We got our answer with the next wine – by comparison, the 2004 Fevre Les Clos is fresh and crisp. It’s more of what I look for in Chablis, and though I might rate these first two wines at roughly the same quality level, style-wise I easily prefer the 04. This is especially notable considering that 2007 has been my favorite vintage for white Burgundy pretty much since its release. The ’07 I rated last summer at 92-93 last summer has slipped to a straight 92 for me a year later, and while it’s perfectly delicious and should be for a while, it’s just not as fresh as it should be, especially considering how lively the acidity of 2007 is – that may be all that’s keeping this wine together as well as it is.
Things get even better when we step over to the 2002 Fevre Les Clos, which is the most complete wine of this vertical. It’s fresh and clean, with just a dollop of richness that plays as more age-appropriate than the butterscotch hints on the 2007 (though if a Burg enthusiast with more experience with aged Chablis were to argue that this should be showing a tad younger too, I would not argue.
All of these bottles of Les Clos exhibited typical Chablis aromas of saline mineral and oyster shell, but the funk factor got a bump up in the 2000 version, up to what one of my dinner companions described as blue cheese. On the palate, this was again, correct Chablis, with a slight herbal edge. It seemed about right considering the vintage, but couldn’t match the charm of the 2002 tasted alongside.
Next. I tasted a 1985 René Collard champagne, yeasty and showing some age, but held together still by an admirable acidity. The last white to hit our glasses before the reds was a showstopper: the 2000 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues Batard Montrachet made an entrance amid a cloud of flinty smoky mineral, giving way to an opulent yet elegant palate. Close call between this and the ’02 Les Clos for best wine so far. The richness in the Leflaive made for some nice counterpoint to a spicy grilled octopus app.
And onto the reds, for which the loose theme was Burgundies, augmented by pinots from other regions, and anything else consonant that people might want to bring. The first two: a 2002 Mongeard Mugneret Vosne Romanee Les Orveaux, and an 02 Clerget Volnay. The Clerget is corked, so into the flight goes Matt N’s Blind wine 1. Mongeard Mugneret wines that I’ve had before have been slightly modern but still correct Burgundies – a style that doesn’t always appeal to terroir-focused Burg purists, but can appeal to drinkers who may be more used to New World pinot, perhaps cab, or other wines that are generally less austere. Here, the 2002 Les Orveaux showed damp earth and leather on the nose that you might expect from a correct Burgundy, with ripe fruit and good acid befitting a quality vintage.
Blind wine #1: Alongside the Vosne, this clearly feels New World – vanilla oak and fruit uncomplicated by earth or leather-type notes. The fruit is not over-the-top but there’s just a hint of cola if you listen hard. Based on this, I guess California, and Rhys. It turns out to be Oregon, and Domaine Drouhin Cuvée Laurene. I’m satisfied with my guess, but after the reveal I go back to the wine and detect some signature Oregon pinot loaminess on the nose that I should have picked up on. Blind tasting is always a learning experience.
The next flight are two blind wines brought by Josh K. We are told that they are both 2006 Burgundies, one 1er Cru, and one Grand Cru. Josh further adds that I have had one of these wines before, because he’s seen a note from me on it. Intriguing. Now to figure out which one it is.
Wine A of the flight shows red fruit on the nose and palate, and floral aromas that are quite engaging despite the feeling that the nose is tight and has a lot more to show in the future. The mouthfeel is notably smooth, despite some considerable tannin on the finish. There isn’t much earthy complexity, but it’s clear there’s good material here. I have a hunch as to what it is, but before I settle on an answer I must look into…
…Wine B of the blind flight. Early on, Justin C suggests that this wine is ever so slightly corked, but most of us don’t get TCA, including me, though I do get a slightly green woodsy note. Ripe perfumed fruits show on the nose and palate, of a slightly lusher variety than what you get from Wine A, with even a touch of raisiny quality, together with some earth. When I come back to the wine for a second sniff, I get it – that faint first whiff of TCA. The next sniff, I”m not so sure. The mouthfeel is fairly smooth, so I guess that the wine is another Chambolle or a Morey St. Denis, from a producer who uses stems. It turns out to be 2006 Henri Boillot Volnay Fremiets 1er Cru, and I’m satisfied with my guess – at least it turned out to be a village known for softer, silky wines.
And Wine A? It turns out to be what I guess it is – 2006 G. Roumier Bonnes Mares. The wine is showing a bit more developed than when I last tasted it in 2011, but still way early in its development. But call me a believer, this is going to be a terrific wine when it hits maturity.
The next flight are two wines that I brought. 2001 Jadot Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Feusselottes is expressive on the nose at first, but feels flat compared to the wines from the 2006 flight before it. Slightly green and a touch light in feel, perhaps this wine is all I should.expect from a vintage like 2001, but the wine gets a bit lost in this lineup.
Not so with the next wine; poured blind for a group of wine biz pros and serious wine drinkers who are largely Burgophiles, this wine passed for burgundy with almost everyone. Matt N sniffed it out though, calling this as California and guessing Rhys, a pretty good guess based on style; other comments about the wine included “damn good, whatever it is”. Opening with flinty, smoky aromas, this wine does read like a burg on the nose… except for a slight sur-maturité to the fruit that is a sign for me of the Santa Barbara origin on the 2000 Arcadian Pisoni Vineyard pinot noir. The Allen Meadows melted vinyl descriptor might even fit to a tiny degree, but not enough to be a fault – just enough to make this a lush, pleasing wine, in its prime now.
We finish with an ‘89 Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten auslese riesling, and the floral nose leads to an interesting if less than integrated feeling palate. Its age shows a bit in the form of apricot flavors that feel separate from the noticeable (but not quite sharp) acidity that keeps this wine lively.
One curiosity that occurred at the outset of the dinner: when I picked up my water glass, I got a strong smell of TCA. I looked around at my dinner companions, but decided it might be too pretentious-sounding to declare that the water was corked. I got up to tuck my bag away in the corner, and by the time I had returned I heard a few of the other attendees discussing the water, and I knew it wasn’t just me. Yes, water can be contaminated with TCA, and the sommelier at L’Apicio promptly replaced the water for us all. The service all around was excellent, and the food similar in the level of deliciousness delivered at L’Artusi (if a little less consistent), its sister restaurant from the same group, also responsible for Dell’Anima. Standout dishes included the roasted mushroom polenta, spicy with chilies, and the charred octopus that was so tender that I was able to split it with a spoon. Just writing about it now flashes me back. Yum.
Next post: back to my Germany series, with a visit to Weingut Robert Weil