Monday, February 28, 2011

Notes from a Sunday

In case anyone has been wondering, no, I haven't stopped drinking and enjoying wine. Since the beginning of the New Year, journeys in Friuli aside, I've just been struggling to find the time to write about it. With that in mind, I hope you'll forgive me the indulgence of a few quick tasting notes, as dinner with friends last night afforded the opportunity to dive into a few interesting bottles.

We kicked things off with a pair of 2005 Muscadets to accompany a killer pot of salmon rillettes my host had prepared, based on his adaptation of a recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon.  I had a hard time not polishing them all of myself -- the rillettes, that is -- and could easily have made a meal of them with nothing other than a baguette and salad for accompaniment.

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes "Clos du Poyet," Château les Fromenteaux (Famille Luneau) 2005
$15 on release.  12% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Not what I hoped for or expected when I socked away a few bottles on release.  The flavors are still appealing--fruity even, albeit moving slowly toward the oxidative apple-y end of the spectrum--but the structure has gone slack, losing all nerve and verve.  There's very little left in the way of mineral intensity relative to what I remember, either.  Here's a case where a producer's basic cuvée (which made my list of most inspiring wines drunk in 2010) has outperformed its "big brother."  Guess I'll be finding a reason to pour my remaining bottles sooner rather than later.

Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie "Le Fief du Breil," Domaine de la Louvetrie (Jo Landron) 2005
$15 on release.  12% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Martin Scott, Lake Success, NY.
After the somewhat disappointing showing from Luneau-Papin's wine, my host pulled this out of his cellar for sake of comparison and in hope of a little redemption for '05 Muscadet.  Regrettably, I can't say that Landron's "Fief du Breil" has fared much better.  Here there was far less fruit, a tad more minerality and a touch more acidity, but only a touch.  The most redeeming factor was an intriguing aroma, to me at least, of black licorice.  Still alive but no longer kicking.

While I could have, as mentioned above, made a meal of the rillettes, that wasn't happening.  Out came a main course of Birchrun Hills Farm veal tenderloins, teeny tiny potatoes, and not so teeny tiny brussels sprouts.  Oh yeah, and a couple of bottles of red...

Rosso di Valtellina, Ar. Pe. Pe. (Arturo Pelizzatti Perego) 2007
$27.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Castle Brands Fine Wines, Sausalito, CA.
Varietal Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, grown in the steep, terraced vineyards of Valtellina.  This was one of those wines where the hue--light, transparent ruby--is perfectly in sync with the aromas and flavors: rose petals and raspberry tea-lime aromas followed up by lean, red berry fruit and a dash of baking spices.  A really lovely, delicate expression of Nebbiolo, its structure carried almost entirely by a taut wire of acidity, backed up by the laciest of tannins.  Were this $10 less per bottle, it would be a great candidate for everyday enjoyment; however, between the hard-to-farm nature of the Valtelline vineyards and the quiet cult status of Ar. Pe. Pe., quotidian pricing is not feasible.

Sierra Foothills "Home Vineyard" Red, La Clarine Farm 2008
$24.  13.8% alcohol.  Vinoseal.
Check out these background notes from La Clarine Farm vine man, Hank Beckmeyer:
"2008 proved to be one of the most difficult years in recent memory for grape growing.  A severe frost in late April pretty much destroyed our crop.  We lost at least 90% of the young vine shoots, and many younger vines were killed back to ground level.

Amid this carnage, we still managed to harvest a very small crop of exceptional grapes.  This wine, a field blend of 50% tempranillo, 16% tannat, 20% grenache, 10% syrah and 4% cabernet sauvignon, was picked over a four week period, in three passes.  We foot stomped the whole clusters without any sulfur addition and let the fermentation proceed from there.   Our depression over the circumstances lightened as the wine's aromas filled our cellar.  By the time we bottled it, some 18 months later without filtration, we were very happy indeed.... 10 cases made."
I almost felt like I shouldn't be opening it, but that trepidation faded quickly once we pulled the stopper.  The first thing that greeted my nose was big, boisterous, juicy fruit.  Those aromas suggested jamminess but the wine delivered freshness, liveliness and spree on the palate.  Spice and wild berry fruit reign supreme, with soft structure, medium acidity and drink me now appeal.  I don't think we're talking about long-haul stuffing here, though, as Hank's notes suggest, it will surely hold its own for a few more years.  Either way, don't let the fact that there were only 120 bottles made get in your way of drinking and enjoying it with aplomb.

Finally, even though I'm sure it wasn't necessary, dinner at my friend Bill's never seems complete without at least one appearance from Burgundy.

Hautes-Côtes de Nuits "Le Clos du Prieuré," Thibault Liger-Belair 2008
$30.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, AL.
The stewy, briary, kind of funky aromas that initially rose to my nose suggested the possibility of heat damage with this bottle.  With a little time in the glass, however, those suspicions faded, as the potency remained but greater fruit purity, cleanliness and focus emerged.  Astoundingly sturdy and concentrated for the vintage, especially given its origins on the Hautes-Côtes, with ripe, red fruit and a sense of physiologic intensity in its mouth feel.  (With a good grasp of French, or the help of your favorite translator, it's very much worth reading Thibault's notes on the 2008 vintage.)  Even more time in the glass brought out a slightly sour, olive pit pungency.  Somewhat more intellectual than immediately pleasurable, but nonetheless a cool wine with which to close out the evening.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post, and welcome back! I understand all too well the difficulty of finding time to write on the blog, so my sympathies!

You've reminded me that I'm overdue to taste La Clarine again, and it's neat to see that Ar.Pe.Pe bottle imported. Their cru wines sometimes show up but that's the first I've seen the Rosso here. And damn, that price is high. Yes, it's a challenge to produce, but the bottle is like 12 bucks in Italy - and that was at a restaurant in Sondrio! I suspect that anything less than $20 and nobody would make any money though.

Mo said...

No worries David, glad to read some good notes again. BTW, I LOVE these Muscadets from La Louvetrie; I don't remember I have seen anything older than two vintages from Landron, always had them young :)

David McDuff said...

@spume Grazie, Wolfgang. The La Clarine Home Vyd red was even better on night two: darker in flavor, more structured in feel and more obviously natty in aroma and overall character. Reminded me of Cornelissen's Contadino but with more guts. After your comment, I double-checked on the retail price of the ArPePe rosso; it's actually $30 on the shelf, $27 with a 10% mixed case discount -- and that's at a shop with very reasonable mark-ups.

@Mo - Thanks for your comment. Both the Landron and the Luneau/Fromenteaux were purchased on release and cellared until Sunday. I'm still sitting on a couple of bottles of the '04 Louvetrie. Guess I'll need to check in on those sometime soon, too.

Lisa said...

LOVE "spree on the palate" and "quotidian pricing."

I'm in a wine-drinking funk in Wilmington without you.


Crosser said...

"Somewhat more intellectual than immediately pleasurable" Well said. It seems to me that's part of the reason I appreciate les bourgognes.

Tista said...

Dear David,

Just read your Fief du Breil Post.
Funnily enough I opened 12 magnums of this Fief du Breil 2005 last month.
All were in mint condition and showing wonderfully, next to some 2008 Chablis from Vincent Dauvissat.
Hope your other bottles give you more pleasure,



TWG said...

The MFWT dry spell has entered it's third week.

Sean said...

Do you think the Fromenteaux might be entering a "dumb" phase? I just had a bottle of the Vielles Vignes & had a similar experience: not what I remembered upon release, not oxidative at all, but definitely apple-y, as you said, & lacking the delightful length & character I've found in other top producers' wines from that vintage. I don't recall that length in the Fromenteaux, but I do recall more verve & character.

I don't know much about aging Muscadet--I've got some from a few years back from a variety of producers that I'm letting sit for a while--but is there any sense for its entering a disappointing drinking window between youth & maturity?

Any word on that?

TWG said...

The MDFWT is in danger of being on hiatus a full two months!

David McDuff said...

It's more than in danger, Tom. So much so that it took me a week to find your comment, during which time the two month mark has come and gone.

Fear not, though. I'll be back. It's just a question of when. There must be light at the end of the tunnel.... Right?

Benji - Passionate about Margaret River said...

I think the Burgundy would be my choice from your lisy, although i would have to try some of the $12 Port as I agree this just seems amazing that they can make something so good for this money?

TWG said...

One more day and it's the three month anniversary of the great hiatus. try to relax this weekend.

TWG said...

One day from the fourth month of hiatus. After this I'll switch to quarterly reporting on the great hiatus.

TWG said...

Six Months!

George said...

Surely the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie were too old to be rewarding.

David McDuff said...

Nothing surely about it, George. These two were past their prime but there are plenty of Muscadet from top producers, sites, vintages, etc., that far outlive and outperform the standard perception of Muscadet as a wine that needs to be drunk young. Look for the library releases from Luneau-Papin should you feel the need to research.

TWG said...

Hiatus, the one year anniversary.

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