Friday, November 21, 2008

Wines at the Autumn Table

After spending 40 hours a week in a wine shop making food and wine pairing recommendations for customers, sometimes picking wines for my own purposes becomes a less precise, more gut, heart and whim based process. Such was the case when picking bottles from the cellar to carry along to a recent meal at Talula’s Table.

Sydre Brut Tendre, Eric Bordelet 2001
$12. 4% alcohol. Cork. (ex)Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
I could say that I chose this as a perfectly seasonal aperitif. In actuality, it went something more like this: “Holy crap! I can’t believe this one got away from me.” That meant time to drink up, so no better occasion than prior to an autumnal feast. I’d had Bordelet’s Poire “Granit” with some time under its belt before, but I really didn’t know what to expect from his regular Sydre bottling with nearly seven years under cork. Once opened, any question marks quickly dissipated. It was still amazingly alive, smelling of pithy red apple skins and displaying kombucha-like characteristics, both in its funky, slightly acetic nose and in its appearance, slightly cloudy and full of little swimmers. The nose became purer with airtime. Any hint of residual sweetness that was present on release had completely integrated into an incredibly dry cider, full of apple skin tannins that made for fuzzily astringent texture. Even though it cried out for a hunk of Pont l’Évêque, we happily settled for sipping it solo.

Champagne Premier Cru Rosé Brut, Aubry NV
$45. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Terry Theise Selection, Michael Skurnik Imports, Syosset, NY.
On the orange side of salmon to the eye, Aubry’s rosé gave a toasty, nutty nose of rose petals, dried herbs and early season strawberries. Disgorged in February 2007, this had already lost much of its fruit. Even though it was still enjoyable – in fact, it paired extremely well with saffron sauced oysters – I think I’d have preferred this nearer to its disgorgement date when its red-fruited flavors should have been more vibrant. On a related tack, Peter Liem had some interesting things to say about rosé Champagne just a few days back. Be sure to read through the comments, where he builds upon the quick point made about aged rosé in the body of his post.

Napa Valley Gewurztraminer, Stony Hill Vineyard 2006
$21. 12% alcohol. Cork.
I suggested a visit at Stony Hill Vineyard to my friends Scott and Marisa during their recent trip to Napa. They took me up on the suggestion and brought me back a bottle of SHV’s Gewurztraminer as a generous gesture of thanks. Stony Hill is a champion of the old school in Napa. From their tiny planting of Gewurztraminer vines they produce a fully dry wine, replete with smoke, spice and mineral extract carried on a lean (for Traminer), food-friendly (for Traminer) frame. Orange oil, muskmelon and peach preserves unfolded across the palate, with an ever so slightly unctuous feel on the finish, lifted by fresh acidity.

Südtiroler Lagrein Gries “Berger Gei,” Ignaz Niedrist 2005
$35. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Niedrist is something of a cult producer, farming a small estate in the hills of the Südtirol. Tiny quantities of his wines come into the country each year. While I often get to taste them immediately upon arrival, it’s rare that I get to drink them with any kind of time under their belts. I remember this being a bruiser upon release. In just a bit over a year, it’s really come into stride, so much so that my notes from the evening actually read, “Holy shit! That’s delicious.” Mulberry, damson plums and blackberry jam – all pretty typical characteristics of Lagrein – jumped out of the glass, backed up by really energetic mouthfeel and a lively acid profile. Bracingly clean and bursting with aromas of sweet red earth and crushed hothouse flowers. Absolutely tailor made for our final savory course of cocoa rubbed venison and cocoa roasted beets.

Saumur Blanc, Château du Hureau (Philippe and Georges Vatan) 2005
$12. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Fruit of the Vines, New York, NY.
Tremendous value and character in a $12 Loire Chenin Blanc. Slightly off-dry in style; also slightly hot but not so much as to mar its drinkability. It delivered vibrant fruit, with generously floral and grapey aromas. Typical quince and pear nectar on the palate. I really dig off-dry Chenin with the cheese course. This had an acid-to-fruit profile that made it work with just about everything in this night’s assortment. Though it wasn’t quite rich enough to balance the spice and strength of the blue cheese fondue, the cheese did bring out the funky, mineral side of the wine, providing hints of what the wine’s likely to taste like a few years down the road.


Jim's Loire said...

Years back the Château de Hureau 1990 was a revelation – showing how good Saumur Blanc can be.

David McDuff said...

Can you share any first hand experience as to how this holds up to aging in a decent vintage?

Edward said...


Reading your note for the Bordelet and thinking back on the two bottles I've tried, and I wonder if we are seeing two sides of the same coin. I think the descriptors you use are similar to what I found - it's funky, unfiltered and clearly alive.

The first bottle I tried was totally out of left field, it was the first French cider I'd tried, with everything else (cider wise) to that point had been sterile and 'pasteurised'. The Bordelet then was eye opening and surprising. I tend to be a bit of a brett nazi and tend to assess cider still through the prism of a slightly technical wino. I think your approach seems more holistic, seeing the charm beneath the funk. The bottle of Etienne Dupont is similar in profile, but closer to the squeeky clean end that I seem to (currently) prefer. I will try another one of the Bordelet ciders and perhaps as you say, maybe I'll let it slumber to see what emerges.

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