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Sunday Wine Lunch Group does French Masterpieces: ’96 Salon, ’55 Bourdy, ’83 Chave Hermitage

July 20, 2010


I always look forward to our leisurely monthly Sunday lunches as a wine and food vacation from a usually hectic week. The theme for this month’s lunch was bring a special bottle of French wine, in honor of Bastille Day the same week. Our aim was to fill out five flights: Champagne, white, lighter red, heavier red and sweet. We ended up with a few real masterpieces, and a lot of good wines, and Donato, as usual, served up some excellent food to accompany our flights. There was at least one standout in each flight, and our whole Burgundy flight was quite wonderful. The wines of the day, for me, were the ’96 Salon, ’04 Fèvre Les Clos, ’90 Lafarge Clos du Château des Ducs, ’93 Sylvain Cathiard Aux Malconsorts, ’55 Bourdy (2nd time I’ve had it, and the best of the two bottles), and ’83 Chave Hermitage.

Champagne Flight

scallop w/bread crumbs and asparagus “capuccino” with a touch of smoked trout

What a great bunch of Champagnes to start with. Our two ’98s were quite different–the Pierre Peters being the most accessible now; the Vilmart Cuvée Creation developing nicely in the glass, with hugely appealing vibrancy and vividness of fruit. All the fruit for the Cuvée Creation comes from a single vineyard in Rilly la Montange, where the vines are between 40 and 50 years old. The winemaker/owner Laurent Champs reportedly feels that the ’98, along with the ’90, is the best vintage yet of this wine, and I can see why.

Salon is, of course, the highly expensive and sought after Chardonnay-based Champagne that is made only in good years–roughly three times per decade. Since ’96 was the best year in Champagne for the past 20 years, a Salon from a great year like ’96 is something very special indeed. I continued to check in on my glass of this throughout the meal and it kept opening and developing, confirming that it is just at the beginning of a stunning career as a truly memorable Champagne. And this was only our first flight.

  • 1998 Pierre Peters Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Millésimé – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    Light medium lemon yellow color; yeasty, lime, baked lemon nose; baked lemon, mineral, citrus palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 1998 Vilmart Champagne Cuvée Creation – France, Champagne
    Light green-tinged yellow color; lovely, autolytic, vibrant, tart peach, lime, baked lime nose; vibrant, tasty, lime, chalk, mineral palate with delicacy and precision; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir; aged a minimum of 10 months in new oak barrels; disgorged June 2006) (93 pts.)
  • 1996 Salon Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs – France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    Bright light yellow color; lovely, autolytic, lemon, dried lemon, mineral nose; tasty, yeasty, tart lemon, baked lemon, mineral, clementine palate; long finish (96 pts.)

Chablis Flight

A few of us had been at Vin Vino’s Chablis tasting the day before, where the stainless-steel-raised Chablises from Jean Michel showed a lot of reduction, so it was interesting to see how even the 11-year-old Brocard, likewise seeing only stainless steel, similarly showed reduction and a remarkable lack of evolution after 11 years. I am not a fan of Chablis that sees only stainless steel on the basis of these recent experiences. By far the best of this flight was the Fèvre Les Clos, from an excellent year–’04–which has not completely shut down as yet. This should be quite gorgeous in another 6 or 7 years.

agnolotti with rabbit, veal and pork, and Piedmonte cheese sauce

  • 1999 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light yellow color; some reduction, baked lemon nose; reduction, tart lemon, lime, clementine, mineral palate, still quite youthful and unevolved; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 François Raveneau Chablis – France, Burgundy, Chablis
    Bright light yellow color; nice lemon, vanilla, minerally, floral nose; tasty, tight, tart lemon, mineral, lime palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2004 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light butter yellow color; nice, glittery, lemon, lime, green fruit nose; steely, tasty, tart lemon, mineral, lime palate; medium-plus finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Red Burgundy Flight

This was a truly wonderful flight. The Lafarge was fairly advanced, but not overly so (often a problem with ’90 Burgs in my experience), and still had a lot of grip. It is from a 1.41 acre parcel of Clos du Château des Ducs containing vines planted as far back as 1946. The ’93 Malconsorts was showing beautifully, with years and years to go yet. Aux Malconsorts is a Vosne Romanee premier cru that lies on the border of Nuits-Saint-Georges. It is the next door neighbor to La Tache. I wrote here recently about a dinner devoted to Malconsorts from different producers, where Sylvain Cathiard’s wines stood out as the best, and this ’93 was another great example of the high quality coming from this domaine. And the ’08 Esmonin Estournelles-St.-Jacques, although a baby, managed to hold its own, with beautiful fruit but good definition and structure as well.

Pappardelle w/wild mushrooms and lamb ragout

  • 1990 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
    Bricking medium red color with pale meniscus; cigar box, earthy, wild mushroom nose; tasty, tart red fruit, cranberry, mineral, tart raspberry, tobacco palate with focus and grip; medium-plus finish (94 pts.)
  • 1993 Sylvain Cathiard Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru
    Bricking medium dark red color with clear meniscus; nice forest floor, sous bois nose with a touch of brett; very tasty, focused, tart red fruit, rosehips, mineral, tart raspberry, forest floor palate with grip; medium-plus finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)
  • 2008 Frederic Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Estournelles-St.-Jacques – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
    Very dark cherry red color; ripe cherry, black cherry, framboise nose; tasty, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (needs 3-5 years) (93 pts.)

’55 Bourdy interlude

This was a rare and exotic bird, and definitely one of the masterpieces of our gathering. Bourdy is considered the grand cru of the Jura, and the Bourdy family have been making wines since the 1400s. Their reds tend to be very long lasting, and this ’55 exhibited both the power one would expect from a higher than usual percentage of Trousseau, but also exotic and nearly undescribable flavors. This was the second time I’d tried this wine, and this was an even better bottle. I loved the velvety texture and the evocative scents, and found the palate surprisingly grippy. It also worked very well with our grouper. Two of us at the lunch, including me, were born in the same year as this wine, and we were left wondering if we had developed as well as it had. This was definitely a treat to taste, and the group was an ideal one to enjoy it with.

seared grouper over faro, with micro greens, olives and capers

  • 1955 Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Rouge – France, Jura, Côtes du Jura
    Light medium bricked orange color with clear meniscus; exotic, curry, cardamon, roast rabbit, gunflint, evocative nose; tasty, velvety textured, cardamom, tart cranberry, green tea, smoke palate with a touch of tobacco and grip; long finish (old-vine blend of Pinot Noir, Poulsard and Trousseau planted in the late 1890s; the proportion of Trousseau was higher than usual in ’55) (97 pts.)

Big Red Flight

This was a diverse but tasty flight. What’s not to like about a maturing Clos du Caillou from a good vintage? And how wonderful is it to be able to taste sublime aged Syrah from, in my view, the greatest Syrah producer and the ultimate Syrah terroir? I particularly loved the nose on our ’83 Chave, and it was definitely another high point of a very satisfying day. The Tardieu-Laurent was in tough company with the Chave, and quite young, but it still showed very good fruit and polish, if a bit more new oak than I would prefer at this stage. Tardieu-Laurent is a negociant partnership between Michel Tardieu and Burgundy’s Dominique Laurent, and their Hermitage is sourced from at least a few producers, picked up at the end of the alcoholic fermentation and then stored in new oak casks for 20 to 24 months.

We decanted the ’95 Calon-Ségur for at least an hour and a half, and it showed well for what is supposed to be a pretty backward wine. 1995 was an extremely late harvest for Calon-Ségur, and it started out with lots of tannin and has taken many years to come around, but I think it is starting to be approachable. I particularly enjoyed the pencil lead on the nose.

Niman Ranch filet mignon over eggplant with fingerlings and Barolo reduction

  • 1998 Le Clos du Caillou Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Caillou Reserve – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Dark red violet color with pale meniscus; big plum, cherry, kirsch nose; very tasty, ripe plum, cherry, black fruit, baked cherry, baked plum palate with grip; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2004 Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Dark red violet color; olive, red currant, horsey, oak nose; smoky, tart red fruit, currant, olive, green peppercorn, tar, oak palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 1983 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Bricked medium dark orange red color with pale meniscus; smoky, dried meat, earthy, tobacco, sexy nose; tasty, smoke, cigar box, tobacco, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 95+ pts. (95 pts.)
  • 1995 Château Calon-Ségur – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Estèphe
    Very dark red violet color; pencil lead, olive, herbaceous, tobacco nose; tasty, green olive, herbaceous, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Sweet Flight

This was a lovely finish to our great meal. The ’90 Suduiraut was in good shape, and appealing as usual. I also very much love the Cady Cuvée Eléonore SGN, and find different nuances to it every time I drink it. I think Philippe Cady, who has become a real star of the Loire, makes delicious wines and his top cuvees are still surprisingly affordable. At any rate, I slightly preferred the Cuvée Eléonore to the Suduiraut because of Cuvée Eléonore’s refreshing, buoyant acidity. Both worked well with our dessert.

panna cotta

  • 1990 Château Suduiraut – France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    From 375 ml – medium orange color with golden lights and clear meniscus; coconut, botrytis, vanilla nose; tasty, tangy, coconut, baked apricot, creme brulee palate with focus; long finish (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Domaine Cady Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin de Luigné Cuvée Eléonore SGN – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin de Luigné
    Medium orange color; apple, baked apricot, apricot honey nose; tasty, poised, rich, baked apricot, apricot honey, ripe orange palate with refreshing acidity; long finish 94+ pts. (94 pts.)
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Larry Stein permalink
    July 21, 2010 8:26 am

    I was picking up wine at a Friend’s house on Monday. He’s ITB (National Sales Manager for Loosen Bros. operation) and subscribes to the major wines publications.

    I mentioned the Clos du Caillou CdP which I purchased from him when he worked at North Berkeley (yes, I did get a hefty discount).

    In the FWIW category, he opened a recent WA where Parker did a ’98 CdP retrospective. Parker said the Clos du Caillou was the most unevolved of the wines he tasted. I can certainly agree with that!

  2. July 23, 2010 6:11 am

    Wow! Well done, I guess the next best thing to being there was reading your report. What a great set of wines and foods. Donato Enoteca looks like my kind of place. I’ll have to make it out there the next time I’m in Cali.

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