About this Blog

The blog focuses on the essence of wine and food, not how many points or stars it receives. The opinions are mine and should be taken only as that, an opinion not gospel.

Like many collectors, initially I was very much influenced by wine ratings. I purchased wines based on points, even if I had never tasted the wine. And it was much worse than that. I would drink a wine with a high rating, not like it, yet since it was highly rated I’d rationalize that I did not yet appreciate the wine, or that my palate was not sophisticated enough to understand the wine. How’s that for lunacy? As a result my cellar grew in all directions while my palate narrowed. By the time I realized the style of wine that I enjoyed, my cellar abounded with wines whose styles I did not enjoy. All of these wines were very highly rated, just not my cup of tea, or glass of wine to be more accurate. Fortunately I was able to sell many of these wines to those who either enjoyed them or wanted highly rated wines. Don’t misunderstand, I am not against wines with high ratings, in fact I own many. It is just that I now purchase wines based on the producer, the style and my palate, not the rating. Nor do I shun reading reviews. I very much respect Antonio Galloni, Alan Meadows, Eric Asimov and John Gilman and read their reviews routinely. I pay attention to what they write, not the points they award.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Glorious Old Burgundy

This past Tuesday evening our wine group met at The Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ for our monthly wine dinner.  Jeff was in the queue for the wine this evening and he absolutely wowed us.  Jeff, probably the most knowledgeable member of the group, has been collecting wine for quite a while.  He is also rather adept at finding amazing bargains at wine auctions.  For this evening's tasting he selected 5 older Burgundies starting with the 1978 vintage for us to enjoy.   Each wine was amazing and a real testimony to how well Burgundy wines, at all levels, can age and how glorious they can be in their later years.

We began with 1978 Prince Florent de Merode Pommard Clos de la Platière.  A Villages level red, the wine showed beautifully.  I was impressed that a wine at this level with 30+ years if age on it could drink so well, but alas it did.  It was still vibrant with a great sense of place and should continue to drink well for another 5 - 10 years. 

We followed this with a wine from one of my favorite Burgundy producers, Camille Giroud.  The wine was 1969 Camille Giroud Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens. The wonderful earthy bouquet on the nose was echoed on the palate with an earthy purity and layers of complexity.  The wine continued to evolve over the course of the dinner and finished with length and elegance.  A wine that should continue to drink well for many years.

Cult California wine producer Ann Colgin and her husband, Burgundy guru Joe Wender, headed a group that purchased Camille Giroud in 2002.   The job of winemaker was given to David Croix who arrived with a stellar recommendation from Benjamin Leroux of the Domaine du Clos des Epeneaux. As Becky Wasserman says on her website, David Croix is “representative of his generation: clarity of terroir rather than a house style, and an intuitive feeling for both appellations and the nature of individual vintages”.  David also has his own vineyard, Domaine des Croix, which produces top-notch Burgundies ala Camille Giroud at a lower price point.  Usually available from 56º Wine, Bernardsville, NJ.

Wine number three was 1964 Domaine Parent Pommard 1er Cru Les Épenots. This old world Burgudy had lots of terroir and complexity on the nose and palate, balanced fruit, soft tannins and a lengthy and elegant finish.  A terrific wine.

We then moved on to 1961 Michel Gaunoux Corton-Renardes Grand Cru. This was drop-dead gorgeous.  Incredibly young for a 50 year old wine, it possessed a gorgeous translucent red hue and a very seductive bouquet.  On the palate it was full-bodied with a brilliant focus and balance along with a monster finish.  A wine with soul.  The consensus wine of the evening and a wine that has many more years of life ahead.

The final wine of the evening was a 1959 Bouchard Père et Fils Charmes-Chambertin. Tons of terroir here with an impeccable balance.  While there is very good purity and complexity on the palate, the finish was a bit short suggesting that the wine may be in its waning years, but it is immensely enjoyable now.
Left to right, '78; '69; '61; '64; '59

Some of the wonderful dishes we ate with these stunning wines included Tempura battered softshell crab with a zucchini Gremolata.

Homemade Maccheroni Pasta with fresh porcini mushrooms (from Minnessota), favas, pecorino & rosemary.

A perfectly cooked Niman Ranch Pork Chop with favas, peas, guanciale, spring onion, romaine.  

While I am not a fan of duck, three of the guys raved about the Muscovy Duck Breast with organic grains, pistachio, Swiss Chard and Bing cherries.  In fact they all said it was the best duck they had ever eaten.

Final thoughts.  This was my first experience with a line up of older Burgundies and I was very impressed by how well all the wines fared.  All were drinking very well, especially the 1961.  Recent experiences with older vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco have not been as impressive, in fact most were a bit disappointing.   Does Pinot Noir age better than Nebbiolo?  I am not ready to make that statement; rather I am ready to keep trying these older vintages from both regions in search of the answer.

Alas the only downside to the wines is that their availability will be a challenge.  On the plus side, the next night I had a gorgeous bottle of a 2009 Domaine Dujac Morey St. Denis at Union Square Café.  For a Villages wine this was gorgeous.  It possessed a fantastic translucent hue, with ripe and elegant fruit and a 45 second finish.  2009 is a superb vintage in Burgundy with many of the Bourgogne and Village level wines drinking very well in their youth.  Much more readily available at about $70 retail. 

I’d like to extend a special thanks to Brian Hider, Wine Director of the Pluckemin Inn for tending to the evenings wines with the professionalism that he is know for.

Finally, thanks again to Jeff for just an awesome selection of wines.



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