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.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Spectacular Loire Valley Wine Dinner

If you read this blog, then you know that the wines from France’s Loire Valley hold a very special place in my heart (and my cellar).  Our wine group dinner last week was centered on Loire Valley whites and reds. It was Emil’s turn to select the theme, wines and restaurant.  If this were baseball, I would have awarded him the Triple Crown, as he orchestrated an over-the-top event.   While Emil is no slouch when it comes wine, he recruited Matt Tornabene, wine connoisseur and owner of The Manhattan Wine Company to select, pour and talk about the evening’s wines.  He also chose Café Matisse for the venue.  I have extolled the praises of chef/ owner Peter Loria before; http://winewithoutnumbers.blogspot.com/search?q=cafe+matisse. Once again the food was delicious and a perfect compliment to the wines.  The service here, under the direction of Maitre’d Larry and his staff, is as spectacular as the food that is served. A BYOB restaurant, the wine service outdistances most restaurants with wine lists. Wine is decanted with a smile and there are always appropriate glasses to match the wine.

Lobster, Sushi Tuna “Satay” was composed of Soba Noodle Cake, Spicy Peanut Jus, Thai Cucumber Salad, Creamy Chili Vinaigrette, Caramelized Pineapple, Julienne Scallions

Matisse Burger, Blended Sirloin, Short Ribs and Brisket, Creamy Blue Cheese Mousse, Red Onion Jam, Hickory Smoked Bacon, BBQ Short Ribs, Yukon Gold Shoe String Fries, Spicy Tomato Aioli

Speck Wrapped Veal Tenderloin with Rigatoni w/ Pesto

Emil & Matt
The Loire Valley is often divided into three sections. The Upper Loire includes the Sauvignon Blanc dominated areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The Middle Loire is dominated by Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc wines found in the regions around Touraine, Saumur, Chinon and Vouvray. The Lower Loire that leads to the mouth of the river's entrance to the Atlantic goes through the Muscadet region which is dominated by wines of the Melon de Bourgogne grape.

Matt selected 5 Chenin Blanc and 2 Cabernet Franc from Middle Loire.  Both of these grapes produce age worth wines of depth, character, balance and soul as was the case with each one tonight.

2010 Eric Morgat Savennières, L'Enclos.  For the past decade Eric Morgat has quietly been producing some of the Loire Valley’s most interesting and complex Chenin Blancs.  It is the only grape he vinifies. The estate is situated along the north bank of the Loire River, in the Anjou-Saumur subregion of Savennieres.  Here the Chenin Blanc grape grows in soils of sand and schist unlike the limestone chalk soil of the Vouvray, 100 miles to the east. A strict manual harvest using small bins with strict selection in the vineyard is adhered too religiously. Fermentation and elevage in 400 liter Foudre for a year, without racking.  Several weeks before the following harvest the Foudres are blended into a cuvée, and the wine remains on the fine lees for another year.  After 22 months of aging the wine is bottled after a light filtration in the summer at the time of the rising moon.  Tonight’s wine was a beautiful expression of Chenin Blanc.  The wine displayed a wonderful crisp and stony palate with great acidity.   A joy to drink, it was the perfect start to the evening.  $40.  Manhattan Wine Company.

2012 Thibaud Boudignon White Anjou à Françoise.  A similar terroir of shallow soils on grey schist, ryholite (volcanic soil) and sand as in Morgat.  Mr. Boudignon crafts his wines using gentle pressing, indigenous yeast fermentation, barrel vinification (new and used French & Austrian oak)  and no malolactic fermentation.  Tonight’s wine had a brilliant fresh floral nose, a crisp & mineral driven palate the displayed intense focus, bracing acidity, with a textured and rather unique, almost tart-like finish that added a lovely dimension to the wine.  I was smitten by this wine. $49. Manhattan Wine Company.

2012 Richard Leroy Les Noels de Montbenault.  Montbenault is a 2 hectare parcel within the appellation Coteaux du Layon Faye de Anjou, situated on the top of the hill with superb exposure. The soil is volcanic and the vines are 50 years old, making this is one of the great terroirs of the Coteaux.  Bottling occurs one year after the vintage with no chaptalization (added sugar).  Production is limited to 1500 bottles.  Tonight’s wine was round and delicious wine, with crisp, soft elegant palate and lengthy finish. $49.  Manhattan Wine Company.

2011 Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Clos de Guichaux. Romain Guiberteau, a disciple of Dani Foucault (Clos Rougeard), made his first wine in 1997. The Clos de Guichaux vineyard is composed of a shallow clay and limestone topsoil over chalk bedrock. Whole cluster pressing. No chaptalization. Native yeast. VInification and 10 month ageing in two to four year old large 600L barrels. Light filtration. Production is limited to 575 cases.  This is a wine with great pedigree and potential. Tonight’s bottle was tightly closed upon opening.  It began to open a wee bit after 2 hours in the glass. Probably needs 5+ years in the cellar.  $44.  Wine-Searcher.

2008 Montlouis-Sur-Loire, Le Volagré, Stephane Cossais.  Stephane trained under the legendary Foucault brothers.  After tasting a bottle of their 1996 Brézé, Rougeard’s iconic dry Chenin Blanc, he was convinced that his calling was to make a wine of this style, not the reds for which the Foucaults are largely known.  He began making his own wine in 2001, but was not proud of any until 2004.  He was poised to become the greatest winemaker in Montlouis when he passed away unexpectedly in 2009 of a heart attack, leaving his last two vintages still in barrel.  Tonight’s wine, his final wine, and was simply brilliant, possessing an enticing fruity and stony bouquet with a crisp and gloriously fresh palate.  The monster finish was elegant and lengthy.  $50. Manhattan Wine Company.

1985 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.   In my opinion this is one of the finest estates in the Loire.  Their wines are crafted with tons of soul, making for an exciting drinking experience.  Les Picasses is the most classic and age worthy wine from the domaine. It comes from a limestone terroir, where the vines have reached a respectable fifty years of age. The fruit is hand-harvested and fermentation is carried out in stainless steel controlled to less than 30°C, followed by a maceration of 25-30 days.  The resulting wine goes into large foudres where it will rest for between 12 and 14 months before bottling.  Tonight’s wine, 100% Cabernet Franc, was absolutely stunning.  It exhibited a deep earthy bouquet with great length and purity on the palate and on the finish. Round and delicious. A wine with soul! $75.  Manhattan Wine Company.

1989 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses.  Matt thought the wine was slightly corked.  You could have fooled me, as I thought it was quite good, albeit not a match on this night for the ’85. I have had the ’89 a couple of years ago and found it to be on that night on a par with the ’85. Bottle variation is something we all learn to live with.  $70 Manhattan Wine Company.

2009 Clos Rougeard Samur-Champigny Les Poyeux.  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 (rumor has it that only 3 are successful).  US allocations are miniscule, and acquiring the wine takes more than a bit of luck.  I have been fortunate to acquire a mini stash. 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.”

Quite simply these wines are among the best red wines I have ever tasted.  I would put them up against any red wine on the planet.  The vineyards have been farmed organically for generations; with the wines see extended fermentation (18-24 months) in old oak barrels before being bottled unfiltered.

The Saumur-Champigny “Les Poyeux” is one of their signature wines.  “Les Bourg” being the other. Tonight’s wine simply soared from the glass and threw a party for the olfactory and gustatory senses. It began with compelling and enticing earthy aroma, before gracing the palate with impeccable balance, seductive elegance and a long velvety finish.  All of this and still the wine is in its infancy and will reward 5+ years of patience.

We finished the evening with a 1976 Dujac Morey St. Denis, that Jeff brought along.  What a lovely aged burgundy with the bouquet, fruit, balance and finish hitting on all cylinders.  Jeff explained that he did not believe Dujac made a premier cru that year so this wine probably included a mixture of village and premier cru grapes.  Most likely explains why it drank so well despite being a village wine and a difficult vintage.

Our sincere thanks to Emil, Matt, Peter and Larry for a wonderful evening.

A happy and contented group (Emil is taking the photo)


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