Our monthly wine group met last week at The Pluckemin Inn, Bedminster, NJ. The food here is terrific. Highlights of the evening included Yellowfin Tuna Crudo with sea beans, hearts of palm, grapefruit, avocado, yuzu koshu paste; Day Boat Scallops with caper, raisin, pine-nut, arugula, crispy shallots, brown butter; Risotto with artichoke, parmesan, black truffle, pancetta, pea shoots; Neiman Ranch Pork Chop.
The real highlight of the evening was the wines that Emil, with some assistance from Pluckemin Inn wine director Brian Hider, chose for the evening. Emil transported us to the Loire region of France, which in my opinion produces some of the most remarkable and reasonably priced wines on the planet. Wine critics such as Robert Parker rarely focus on these wines and therefore many are not assigned points, which helps to keep the price down. The primary grapes of the Loire are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc & Melon de Bourgone (whites) and Cabernet Franc (red). They produce wines of depth, character, balance and soul and in the case of Chenin Blanc and Cab. Franc they can last for ages.
We began the evening with three stunning whites.
2011 Gerard Boulay Sancerre La Comtesse Monts Damnes. Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, the grapes come from the oldest vines in Mr. Boulay’s section of the Monts Damnés (fifty to seventy five years of age) and are barrel-fermented in old wood and bottled unfiltered. The wine possessed a stony minerality, wonderful purity, richness and balance and a lengthy and perfumed finish. $50
2004 Domaine Huet Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg. I have written about the Vouvrays of Domaine Huet more than any other wine in WWN (16 times to be exact). Of the many estates in the Loire Valley who's wines I have tasted, Huet in my opinion has no peer. In a word the wines are simply awesome. The Clos du Bourg vineyard is acknowledged to be one of the greatest vineyard sites in all of Vouvray. Tonight’s bottle did nothing to alter that statement. The wine was impeccably balanced, full-bodied & seductive on the palate and finished with a lengthy and earthy elegance. This wine, as good as it was, is still about 5 – 6 years from entering its peak drinking winedow, Price, $27. Unbelievable.
2002 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulée de Serrant. Located about 100 miles due west of Vouvray is the Savennieres. Here the Chenin Blanc grape grows in a stony slate-like soil, compared to the gravel and clay soil of Vouvray. Like Vouvray it is high in acidity with wonderful depth and complexity. The top enclave of Savennières, Coulée de Serrant, consists of a single estate run by Nicolas Joly, one of the leading proponents of biodynamic viticulture. One sip of this wine was all I needed to appreciate the accolades that are lauded on Mr. Joly. The wine had a beautiful transparent golden hue, a seductive and addictive viscosity on the palate with great focus and balance and a monster finish. Liquid soul! Very hard to find I am told. $85
As I mentioned above Cabernet Franc is the primary red grape of the Loire. Saumur-Champigny is a red wine appellation of Saumur in the central Loire Valley wine region of France. We had three spectacular wines from the Saumur.
2004 Domaine de Nerleux Saumur Champigny – Les Loups Noirs. Located just below Saumur, in the central Loire Valley, Domaine de Nerleux (Old French for “Black Wolves’) dates from the 17th century and has been in the same family for eight generations. This wine was stunning. It possessed a big earthy bouquet, ripe and focused fruit on the palate and finished with length and elegance. This wine should last from many more years. At $35 a bottle this is a profound bargain.
Clos Rougeard is considered the reference point for Cabernet Franc in Saumur and Saumur-Champigny. These incredible wines, made by the Foucault brothers, are considered a cult wine in France and every 3 star Michelin restaurant there scampers to get a small allocation. The wine is practically unheard of in the states, however 56º Wine and the Pluckemin Inn Wine Shop usually get some each year.
Quite simply these wines are some of the best red wines I have ever tasted. The vineyards have been farmed organically for generations. The wines see extended fermentation (18-24 months) in oak before being bottled unfiltered. Tonight we drank the 2008 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny ($50), the estates entry level Cab Franc, and 2008 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny “Les Poyeux” ($100), one of their signature wines. Both wines were a stunning preview of what these wines will be given 5 to 10 years of cellar time. I have read that 2008 was a difficult vintage in the Loire Valley, however these two wines give credence to the claim that great producers produce great wine even in difficult years. Both wines possessed a compelling earthy bouquet with glorious fruit and on the palate were full-bodied, round, focused and elegant from start to finish. The “Les Poyeux” (my wine of the night) simply soared from the glass and threw a party for the olfactory and gustatory senses. Charles Joguet, the great winemaker of Chinon, once said: “there are two suns. One shines outside for everybody. The second shines in the Foucaults’ cellar.”