Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday Night Bubblies & Burgs
It's always a treat when friends from out of town visit. What better excuse to open some Champagne and Burgundy? Granted, I've been known to open both at the drop of a hat, so it's not like I really needed much of an excuse... So we welcomed our travelling companion and a few other friends with open arms and open bottles on Saturday night.
We began the festivities with some NV Champagne Chartogne Taillet, a lovely and elegant wine with tiny prickly bubbles that starts off shy but then builds on the palate with some lemony toast and light nuts to a great finish. This was so good, it disappeared rather rapidly. I was thrilled to try this producer as I'd heard very nice things about them.
When that bottle disappeared, I grabbed the next available (and last! Sacre bleu!) Champagne in the fridge, a half-bottle of NV Nicholas Feuillate Rose. This too was delicious, with light cherry and berry notes mingling with toasty aspects and good acidity to firm it up. Nice if a bit light, I prefer my Roses to have some more "oomph" to them but this does nicely when I'm in a bind.
So we sat for dinner, and the two roast chickens I'd made were carved and presented, alongside roast potatoes and onions (which had been under the chickens to soak up the fat and butter drippings), and a sautee of wild mushrooms and garlic. What better to drink with such a meal than Burgundy? Actually, that shouldn't be a question, it should be a fact.
I poured the 1993 Ampeau Volnay Santenots, a wine that I'd enjoyed several times in the past. To my horror, the smell of funk filled my nostrils, and we realized that this wine was corked. TCA had reared its ugly head. Damnit!
OK, the next wine looked and smelled OK, a 1998 Mongeard Mugneret Echezeaux Vieilles Vignes. Beautiful color, lovely smell, ooooh that's good. Big on the palate, with tons of dark but elegant Pinot fruit and slight hints of sous-bois and some bracing acidity, this would end up putting on weight and becoming more and more complex as the night wore on. Yummy!
The second flight arrived, a duo of 1985s, a favorite vintage of mine in Burgundy: 1985 Prince de Merode Corton Bressandes and 1985 Dubreuil Fontaine Corton Bressandes. Both were delicious and showed well, however the Dubreuil definitely had more going on, was more complex, and carried itself with more vigor than the Prince. It was definitely the better wine this night.
Our third flight would be a single bottle, generously offered by one of our guests. The 1964 Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur Clos de Vougeot "Musigni" was beautiful to look at, to smell and to taste. This wine, from a small parcel of the huge Clos de Vougeot vineyard which abuts the fabled Musigny vineyard, filled the nostrils with spicy, dark berries interlaced with hints of mushrooms. The bottle had been topped off at the winery, which explained why it sometimes seemed so young and vivacious despite its age. The mouthfeel was pure velvet and silk, a real joy to have roll over the tongue.
After "ooohing" and "aaaahing" over these wines, it was time to serve the next dish: the cheese course, of course! Out came our cheese platter, with 3-year old Comte, a Chablis-finished Epoisses and some Ossau Iraty from the Basque region of France. Man, that Epoisses stank!
Not one to serve reds with cheese, I grabbed our two whites, which had been open and breathing for several hours: a 1999 Domaine Chantemerle Chablis Fourchaume and a 2000 Pernot Bienvenues Batard Montrachet. These two could not be more different, but I say Vive La Diffèrence! The Chablis had those classic iodine, seashell and crisp lemon flavors, on a vibrant structure that had minerality to spare, and was lean and precise. The Bienvenues, on the other hand, just filled the mouth from the get-go, a huge wine that offered tons of white flowers, lemons, and almond notes on a massive frame that was both sensuous and powerful, whose finish went on and on and on and on... Oh, wow, I can still taste it...
Tarts appeared for dessert, and we poured a half-bottle of our visiting friend's wine, the 1983 Chateau Gillette Crème de Tete Sauternes. A sweet wine from Bordeaux, it was fantastic, with sweet honey and lemon and pear and hazelnut vying for my attention, all balanced out with a bracing acidity.
We took our time eating and drinking the wines, laughing for many hours, and ending in the wee hours of the night. But it's times like these when you realize that wine is truly a bonding agent. It isn't just convivial. It has brought me together with a diverse group of fun individuals from all over the world and all walks of life, whose over-riding similarity is their unbelievable, and sometimes truly obscene, generosity. This evening was a perfect example of this.
And it has made our lives that much brighter.