Yes my Vinously Speaking readers, fans, stalkers, evangelists … I have committed a mortal vinous sin. Along with six others, I spent an evening drinking numerous high quality wines, nine to be exact.
The evening started out innocent enough. Frenchie Le Boyfriend was here in San Antonio visiting and I wanted to cook him a four course meal with wine pairings (nice wines that I had been saving for his visit). Taking advantage of the nature of this soiree, I invited fellow VS blogger Melissa Unsell, her boyfriend Brian, and another of our friends who runs Dough, one of my favorite restaurants here in SA, Fabien Jacob. My parents (I live with ’em) also joined us. So you see, the intention was only to drink a wine with each course and one as an aperitif … how the other 4 snuck their way in there remains a mystery.
Having “too many” great wines and falling passionately in love with each one … wow … the sensation is unreal. It’s an orgy of vinous emotions! Feeling that high on wine over, and OVER, and over, and OVER, and over, and OVER, and over, and OVER, and over again … it’s just indulgent, gluttonous even.
BUT IF VINOUS SINNING FEELS THAT GREAT … I DON’T WANNA BE A VINOUS SAINT!
So to make up for my vinous sinning, I suppose my penance should be to tell you all about these lavish wines no?
Well, we started out the evening with the Leon Palais “Blanc de Blancs” Brut, ($15 retail) a Cremant from the French region of Jura. For those of you wondering what ‘Cremant’ is … it is basically sparkling wine made in the same way as Champagne (aka the ‘traditional method’ meaning the wine goes through the fermentation process twice), but because said sparkling wine does not come from the Champagne region in France, it cannot be called Champagne, so it is dubbed ‘Cremant’ (krem-on). FYI here is a crucial lesson in vinous etiquette … if you are one of those who calls any sparkling wine “Champagne”, please stop, only call it “Champagne” if it comes from the Champagne region in France. It would be like someone calling anybody that wears a cowboy hat a Texan … and we all know that ain’t true. This wine was fabulous as an aperitif with aromas of pear, green apple, and citrus. We actually added a bit of black currant liqueur to it to make the French aperitif drink known as a ‘kir’ (keer).
To start off the meal, I paired a roasted four-colored bell pepper and goat cheese salad with the 2009 Picpoul Blanc from the Bending Branch Winery ($35 retail) (FYI this wine is actually made at a crush in California and once fermented, shipped back in barrels to the Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas to age). Nevertheless, this wine was delicious! Picpoul (peek-pool) is one of the lesser-known Rhone grape varietals used most often in the white wine blends of the region and rarely ever used on its own. It is used as a bouquet booster for those wine blends, so you can imagine the aromatics on this bad boy when it is used all by its lonesome! And I’ll be damned if this ain’t the best Picpoul I have ever laid my lips on (funny enough the literal translation “Picpoul” is ‘lip stinger’ due to its high acidity). This wine had all sorts of tropical fruit aromas, a bit of that citrus rind bitterness, pleasant minerality, hints of spices, and a racy acidity! If there is one ‘discovery’ wine purchase you need to make, this one is it … and also their Petite Syrah, which is a wine we tasted later in the evening and is talked about further along in this post.
The third wine up for the evening was one that was brought over to the US by Frenchie le Boyfriend, the Domaine de la Tournelle “Fleur de Savagnin” ($33 retail) also from the French wine region of Jura. Small side note – I am a HUGE fan of Jura wines but they are insanely difficult to come across, so if you are a San Antonio distributor reading this blog … IMPORT JURA WINES!! And don’t just import Vin Jaune (Yellow Wine), please import wines made from the Savagnin (sah-vah-neeyon) grape. They have all the aromas of a Vin Jaune, but al half the cost! For those who don’t know the aromas I am talking about, think maple, nutmeg, spices, nuts, cooked lemon, slight hints of caramel and butterscotch. And it is a perfect pairing with Comte cheese and walnuts! Mmmmm! I wanted to make a dish that paired with this aromas one can find on a Savagnin wine, so I decided to make a risotto! In the risotto I added Comte cheese, nutmeg, walnuts, a dollop of maple syrup, a pinch of brown sugar, and hints of rosemary. It was a huge success! This domaine is located in the village of Arbois in Jura. Together, winemakers Evelyn and Pascal Clairet have created a wine using biodynamic agricultural practices (aka extreme organic practices) to make rich “topped-up” (no oxidation) savagnin that shows unique aromas of nutmeg, maple, baked lemon, yellow and white flowers, honey, cider and minerality. Do yourself a favor and try your hardest to find wines from Jura and try them! If you can’t find them, ask your wine shop rep … the more we ask, the more they are bound to try and order some for wine shop shelves!
And you can’t miss Jura wine’s unique bottle shape and glass stamp!
Fourth up for the evening was a Burgundian dish I made known as oeufs en meurette (oo – on – mirette), basically a poached egg in a Pinot Noir reduction sauce with mushrooms, carrots, and onions. the ever-dreamy 2007 Surh Luchtel Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highland in California ($45 retail). The wine was mesmerizing with beautiful intoxicating aromas of dark red fruits, cinnamon and other exotic spices, mushroom and earthiness. Such a gorgeous wine!
Our fifth wine, which we paired with a delicious assortment of cheeses (Jasper Hills Winnemere, Lavendar and Espresso white cheddar, Gorgonzola, Basque Ardi Gasna, and Boschetto al Tartufo cheese) – was the 2008 Girard Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, CA. ($30 retail) It was swirling with aromas of black and red fruit, spicy oak, smokey stone, prunish notes, and hints of cedar, leather, cinnamon.
After dinner was over, we decided dessert was going to be another wine! We chose Bending Branch Winery’s 2008 Petite Sirah ($45 retail). The first thing I shouted out when I tasted this wine was, “It tastes like Thanksgiving in a bottle!” I then proceeded to tell everyone that I will not be cooking a Thanksgiving dinner this year, instead I will just serve this wine ;P It had the dark red fruit flavors of cranberry sauce and berry pies, earthy and herbal notes of a mushroom herb stuffing, hints of a maple roasted turkey, spices you find in sweet potato casserole, peppery notes you find on mashed potatoes and creamy like the Thanksgiving gravy! If you are not a cook … make Thanksgiving a whole lot easier by making it a liquid one and serving this wine! (Or be daring and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner!)
Most people would have stopped there, but we were on such a roll … so off to the wine rack I went to choose another stellar wine. (My family had saved up a lot of great wines for Frenchie Le Boyfriend to taste while he was here and we were falling behind, so it was absolutely necessary for us to do this :P) Our next choice of wine was the 2007 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Artemis” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley ($50 retail). This wine is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon ad blended with 7% Merlot, 2% Syrah, 1% Petit Verdot. This is one of those wines that line the cellars of many a wine lover. Its aroma profile is an enormous bowl of dark fruits/berries sprinkled with dark chocolate truffles and garnished forest tree branches, sprigs of rosemary and stalks of vanilla. Its tannins were like one of those ‘strong burly men’ but who deep-down, are actually big ole teddy bears. Truth be told this wine could have been aged a lot longer, but we were feeling impatient (and I don’t actually have a wine cellar collection started just yet, but those are just details). FUN FACT – If you didn’t know, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars have a claim to fame, it was Stag’s Leap Cabernet that won the famed “Judgment in Paris Tasting” in May 1976, beating out the French competition and putting Napa Valley on the respected vinous map. And the hilarious part was that all the judges in that competition were French! Must be why they “aren’t too fond of les americains :)
One expression I do enjoy is “if you’re going to walk on thin ice, you might as well dance” … and dance we did … by continuing out night of vinous sinning and opening up the 2008 Robert Mondavi “Oakville” Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa ($50 retail). This wine is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 1% Malbec and 1% Petite Verdot. I have heard it described “the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove” … or perhaps as Rihanna sings, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me” ?? This wine shares that similar “dark fruit/berry bowl garnished with chocolate and bramble” from the Stag’s Leap Artemis, but to this bowl I would also add fresh mint, black tea leaves, licorice and a kiss of minerality.
I wish I could say we stopped with the Oakville … well who am I kidding, no we don’t. We all decided ONE more wine was in order … we were CELEBRATING people! We decided to show the French some love and drank this Bordeaux garagiste wine, the 2003 Vin de BOB (Bob’s wine) from Chateau Bellevue Sur Vallee in the Bergerac area just outside of Bordeaux. The wine was like leather soaked in a a vat of delicious black currants, strawberries and black cherries. There was a smokiness to it that made me feel like I was donning a smoking jacket and entering a men’s cigar and brandy room of the 1900’s. Hints of minerality and earthiness helped to finish out this wine. BTW for those of you still stuck on what I meant by a garagiste wine … read this wikipedia article … next go find yourself some of these wines, they are phenom!
And that my friends was the totality of my vinous sinning. I feel guilty … guilty with ridiculous amounts of pleasure! A true confession is to acknowledge your sins, feel remorse for committing them, and then make a commitment to try your hardest not to commit them again. So I suppose since I am in no way sorry for indulging in this incredible act of vinous sinning, this confession is not a confession at all … but rather a mountain top proclamation that another night of Vinous Sinning shall indeed occur again!
Have you vinously sinned lately? Want to share the details? Lemme know. Let’s be vinous sinners together!