Côte-Rôtie: How to find love on Valentines Day (2000 E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis)

Transitions have a way of focusing the attention on what’s important. Three weeks ago I gave notice at the University, and once again, will leave my home state of Minnesota for a job out East.  My thoughtful coworkers gave me a gift certificate to one of my favorite vineyards, Surdyks, and because I thought it was a milestone, I wanted to buy a memorable wine (Note: singular, not plural.  Sometimes, you just gotta).

The wine was a 2000 E. Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Côte-Rôtie (cote ro TEE for those, like me, who don’t pronounce French).  I’ve had one or two other Côte-Rôties in my day (and I was going for a third, but the Bacchus Wine Cellar in Georgetown apparently didn’t want to help this chick in yoga gear on a Friday night get one off of the shelf–they were too busy helping the women in heels with the done-up faces pick out $12.99 Pinot Grigios, but I digress.)  Before that long aside, I was going to say that my experience has been limited with this wine due to lack of knowledge and price point.  Today, however, I was going to jump in and get my feet wet, albeit in the shallow end of the pool.

One more aside: the wine is some of the most prized Syrah’s in the wine world.  Translated into “roasted slope” the region is one of very steep, south facing slopes with an ideal exposure to sun. DSC_0513

Back to the wine.  I decanted to the wine to bring some air into this, 13% abv and some 15 years worth of, bottled wine.  A few swirls and air sucking sips later, I was in deep like of this wine and the region.  Deep notes of dark cherry and blackberry fruit, the sweetness took a back seat to more savory and smoky notes of bacon and hickory wood lightly peppered with faint licorice and punctuated with wisps of vanilla.  The tannins were a great support in the third row of this wine, as well; tt wasn’t overpowering but was significantly better with the smoked porked served with dinner. It was a heavyweight fighter masquerading as a gentleman in an elegant tux.

The wine was listed at $170, but I snagged for $111.  The brilliance seemed to have been slightly muted, but it was only just on this side of a gentle downward trend. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls strikes a note for comparison: “There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow.”   Sometimes you just need a quiet day, light snow and relaxing night sheltered from the winter cold and be around family and friends to find love and live life–a day on the calendar does not love make (said as this was drunk on Valentine’s Day).

The same with wine: find what you like and celebrate it, even apart fro4of5m the celebrity status of certain wines, vineyards and years.  Thanks, dear friends, for the push and gift that enabled this great memory.

 

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The Gold Standard-Meursault, Les Vireuils, 2004

Like a symphony orchestra that gave me the chills with notes of lingering melancholia; or a poem I strain my ears to hear so that I might remember the words as I do old friends; or a sunset I dared not blink through in case I missed the next hue that would top what came before,  this Meursault (White Burgandy, Chardonnay) rivaled all great moments that have caused me to painfully concentrate on its moments of joy.

I know–that’s a lot of expectation to bestow upon a wine, but like all great and welcome surprises, I wasn’t prepared to be enamored.

The setting: I could wane about a terrible trip I had had leading up to this wine, but I prefer to recall the spectacular August night of Minnesota, with a well-cooked filet mignon and quiet company, this wine was a great point of punctuation to what rivals perfection.

The wine:  Meursault, Les Vireuils, 2004-Nicolas Patel hails from Nuit-Sant-Georges, the northern part of the Cote d’Or (“slope of gold”) in France’s Burgandy region, and as I already set the expectation earlier in this post, it was the perfect wine for the perfect night.

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Served chilled, but not overly cold, the wine was full-bodied, rich in texture and taste.  The wine was at first subdued butter, but surrendered to mineral tones that lingered on the pallet, and marked a delicate balance with it’s citrus and almond notes that came through the medium plus acidity.  While I could have had the wine on it’s own, it held its own in body against filet mignon (cooked in butter) and its acid and fruit flavors played well off of the steamed and season cabbage, of all things!

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The wine was a suspended note of gold wrapping that made me want to linger in the moment longer that what was possible.  Yet, as Robert Frost wrote of gold, it is the hardest hue to hold and ultimately, cannot stay.  But, the good news is the wine is still on the shelf, and will hopefully bring future good memories to bear.

The good (or bad?) bottom line: You can find this in Minnesota.  I found mine at Haskell’s, Maple Grove (Retail: $30-50, depending on sale).

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My story of Burgandy: Savigny-Les-Beaune

Like every person, every wine has a story.  Some are great epics, others merely small vignettes, or even, dare I say, a blog, a mention, or a passing thought.   What is inherent at the heart of any good tale is the character of our hero and the reason for his/her/its existence.

These days I find myself more and more intrigued by the story told by a Pinot Noir, and as of late and more specifically, by a Burgandy.   Like an episode of “The Game of Thrones,” there is a turbulent story of power and intrigue behind the French region and the history of its wine.   What remains after years of seclusion and then slicing and dicing of vineyards, the exiling of other grapes by fierce rulers, and disease and blight is a wine that is nuanced, perhaps a bit temperamental, and one that exhibits a story many will pay big money for if told correctly.

In the Oxford Companion to Wine, Janis Robinson writes, “If Cabernet produces wines that appeal to the head, Pinot’s charms are decidedly more sensual and transparent.”

Enter, the winephoto-100 of the day: Bourchard Pere & Fils’ 2010 Premier Cru Savigny-Les-Beaune from Les Lavieres. That’s a mouthful even I don’t understand on the surface. (It being French and all).

Below the surface and the cork is also a wine of mystery, but one quick to unfold and very expressive.  At first pass (it was a long day—I skipped the nose and went for the throat), the wine exhibited notes of baked tart cherry (almost with a currant flavor behind it), oak and spice.  Diving in a little deeper and letting it open up, I also found flavors of raspberry, leather (a light leather coat that has seen some air, versus a heavy sofa kept inside), white pepper, and savory notes of smoked meat.  It had a beautiful, complex flavor, bright fruity notes, medium acid and a long, lovely finish.

This wine was, as Robinson points to, very sensual. To me, it would be a crushed red-velvet dress or smoking jacket one finds in a thrift store—a treasure that is comforting, extravagant but a bit dusty at the same time. You buy it because there will be a night perfect for it’s subtle drama.

I was sold. I bought a bottle.   And I probably will buy more, even if it’s to drink alone during a cold, stormy Minnesota winter’s night.  At $49.99 it is not a cheap wine to drink on a daily basis, but it will be a night worthy of whatever story you choose to tell, be it sonnet, saga or a little salacious narrative.  Sante!

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The Pope is always in style: Chateau Cabrieres, Chateauneuf du Pape 2010

While anything surrounding the Church and the Pope can always be considered controversial, I have found that the wine from the Rhone Valley in France, particularly the Chateauneuf du Pape, often finds common ground in those who love wine. And even with those who don’t know they love it.  (I also really enjoy a Cote du Rhone wine, but that is for another post).

“The Pope’s New Castle” wine was named for Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux who relocated the papacy to the cit of Avignon in 1308, and his successor John XXII, who later erected said castle in this region of France where both these religious leaders found God-like qualities in the local wines. (Okay, I’ve taken a writer’s license to embellish here a bit. But not much–the wine IS good). Chateauneuf’s can be a blend of 13 different Rhone varieties, but they are comprised primarily of Grenache, Syrah and include Cinsault and Mourvedre among others.

Just like all popes are not created equal in the eyes of the masses, neither are all Chaeauneuf du Papes, but the one in question for today, Chateau Cabrieres 2010 could make a choir of angels sing its praise.  And of course, I’m angelic, if nothing else.

The wine: photo-99In a word-divine. The wine is a great balance of fruit and complexity with notes of deep cherry and rasberries, softened by flavors of vanilla and deepened by soft, spicy notes of white pepper.  The wine is both elegant and rich at the same time with a nice, long finish, and it is very drinkable on its own or with rich foods, such as turkey, roasted vegetables, and stuffing. (What? I was eating light for the Holidays).

If you’ve ever entered a large cathedral, it can be daunting to take in all the pomp, circumstance, and pagentry of the Catholic tradition–drinking a glass of this is like finding a seat in a small, aloof alcove underneath a stained glass window where the light shines down directly in front of you. It is quiet here, but charged with a serene energy. This wine feels like this for me.

I was eager to try this one out, but in hindsight after the second glass, believed this wine would have been even better by opening the bottle sooner and letting it “breathe” or by decanting it.  A 2010 wine, this is still a young wine with a good amount of tannin in it, so you can drink it now or save it a bit to enjoy in a year or two.  Be good and give as a gift, or selfish and enjoy the whole bottle yourself.  Definitely a wine for the time and ages. And angels.4of5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hooray for Vouvray: Why save French for Friday?

I woke up this morning and realized I needed to get a run in before I conquered (translation: show up to) the Twin Cities 10 miler  (Minneapolis run that corresponds to the marathon.)

I didn’t want to run, but I just did it knowing I’d feel better afterward.

You know–sometimes we have that bottle of wine in the fridge or the shelf that’s the same: we are saving it, we just don’t know why.

The Foreau Domaine du Glos Nadin Demi Sec Vouvray (translation: Chenin Blanc from France that borders Champagne) is that wine.photo-88

Originally, I bought this for current roommate, Jill, to go with a cherry-apricot bread pudding with salted caramel sauce dessert.  Upon first sip, I felt jubilant: I WAS RIGHT.  This would have been GREAT with that wine.  On the other hand, I felt sad that we didn’t get to the wine with the dessert.  Small, first-world losses, I know.

I also felt sad because it was slightly sweet upon first sip, too.  I picked it to go with horseradish-beet crusted salmon.  Tasting it with the sauce, however, I felt this was a great pairing to spicy sauces.

The wine: at 13% alcohol content and with a demi-sec label, this wine has great acidity to be a dessert wine, aperitif, or ability to be paired with salty or spicy food.  The viscosity is like velvet silk on the tongue.  On the nose, it had a little apple and honey flavors.  On the palette, it was rich with honey and honeysuckle, mineral, almond and a slight hint of lees (or yeasty) flavors.  The length was long, the acidity medium-high, the pairings: amazing.

This is a great, great, great example of a Vouvray.  Um, hooray for a versatile wine that should appeal to most. I would gladly drink the entire bottle–it is a great example of what a Vouvray should be.  Just open it and enjoy–Nike would be proud of this wine slogan.

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La Dame Rousee roused my spirits

Ever start a new job and think, really? How did I not know it was going to be this busy right away?  In a way, it’s great to wrap oneself up completely in a task, a meeting, conversations and thought.  In another way, the art and practicality of breathing becomes laborious.

Enter a Cotes-Du-Rhone, primarily a Syrah/Grenache blend.   Two or three years ago, I would have thought something ‘unbranded’, or ‘not of a California’ title would have been weak or off in taste.  Now, I’ve come to appreciate a region probably often under-appreciated, except for it’s glittery older sister, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Now I know better, as all older women do, that a table wine can be the star of one’s night and help catch up with the day…and breathing.

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 The wine: The Cotes-Du-Rhone, “La Dame Rousse” by Domaine De La Mordoree  seemed like it would be lackluster in the store.  It was in a bin, it was on sale for $16.99, had a red game bird on its label and displayed the ever popular vintage, 2012. Le sigh.

Opening the bottle up, getting a whiff of the faint fruit, vanilla and cedar notes, I  thought–okay. This is fine for tonight.  On the palette, the red cherries and deep black current came out, as did the spice.  Perhaps it was due to the 14.5% alcohol content, but the flavors seemed as if someone started to draw a blueprint, but then erased it and you can still see the outline and most of the details.  The wine was medium on tannins and on length.  I would have given it a nice 5/10 or on my scale, a 2.5.

Then I read the description of the wine on the winemaker’s website, and noted it said to pair it with deli meats and cheeses (I had not eaten dinner yet),  so I quickly added a smoked gouda to the line-up, and the distant taste and punctuated alcohol all of a sudden become a silky fruit roll up around the tongue, forming a nice lilt around the mouth–like it wanted to frolick in some flowers or chocolate syrup,  but instead, did a small pirouette in silent joy.   Understated, I think, defines a nice CdR.

It was a good, pairing wine (something that perhaps should not stand alone).  I would definitely have a few glasses, but my alarm is going off bright and early to work out, so will not miss the workout for this one.   It was a great chance, though, to catch my breath.

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Foe or Friend of Boredeaux: Baron De Fontsegur 2011

Bordeaux is the largest, and some argue, the most popular wine producing region of France.  I personally love it and am willing to forgo a year of Ironman (and maybe all long distance sports) to travel and explore the region in more, intimate depth (a bike, however, will be involved).  My background in working with the US budget has always left me impressed with numbers, and Bordeaux is no less impressive in the wine world.   Known for the wines on  the Left (Cabernet Sauvignon dominant) versus the Right Bank (dominated by Merlot), the region has more than 50 appellations on nearly 300,000 acres of land.  That’s a lot of wine.

And some of it is really, really good.  Beautiful.  Artistic, even,like a Shakespearean sonnet, an aria by Mozart, or a simple sunset over a quiet Minnesota lake.

This wine, however, from the Entre-Deux-Mers region near St. Emilion (Merlot dominated, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc added) is not one of those masterpieces.

If you’ve ever forgotten to put sugar into a pie or a pancake mix, or have had orange juice after brushing your teeth, this wine is reminds you something important has been forgotten, or perhaps forged (and forced) in the wrong order.  It is a shallow blackberry and cherry pie where the fruit has been picked too early–and converted to wine before the sugars have matured.  It is tart and absent of fruit-forward flavors, let alone complex ones.  Even with aeration, this wine is looking for something to open it, but like the poem’s of a teenage girl just on the other side of puberty, the soul and painstaking formulaic beauty of age is missing and its expression is limited by its core ingredients.

Because fruit and depth are lacking, I had trouble finishing the glass.  However, I did venture to a region that does sophoto-79mething right: Wisconsin and beer–and turning to the Spotted Cow was just the right touch to turn the tide from a bad glass of wine.  But more on that beer later.  The wine may have been tonight’s foe of Bordeaux, but the Cow showed itself to be a true friend.

Drink the wine.  It is a fine for a night around the table.  Fine to share. But, savor any beer from the New Glarus Brewing Company.  (Again, more on that later, especially as friends and family work on getting to and finishing Ironman Wisconsin).

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