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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 241 (June 1, 2009)

Monday, May 18: Tonight is our annual fishing dinner. The six of us who go fishing every year – Steve, Art, Leo, Sam, Harold and I – get together at Steve's house. Steve, who cooks all our meals on the trips, prepares a meal that would shame many restaurant chefs. Taittanger Champagne Brut to start, with carmelized onion and Stilton pizza, smoked duck bruschetta and crudités as hors d'oeuvres. The menu: fish and chips (last summer's Arctic Char) with Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche 2005; rack of lamb, mustard thyme jus, spring vegetable ragout and spaetzle, served with Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos 2004, followed by cheeses with Cos d'Estournel 1985 and Joseph Phelps Insignia 1997. Dessert: minted strawberries with biscotti, served with Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc Icewine 2002.

Tuesday, May 19: Met with Geddy Lee to discuss the event he, and possibly Alex Lifeson, will be hosting for Grapes for Humanity on Saturday, September 26th – a harvest picnic at Tawse Winery. Packed for the group tour I'm leading to the Rhône and Burgundy.

Wednesday, May 20: The worst part about travelling is travelling. After the 6:30 pm flight from Toronto to Frankfurt, our Burgundy/Rhône tour group arrives at 7:30 am local time. On the flight I had an oxidized Calloway Cabernet Merlot 2007 from Chile and a glass of Riesling 2008 from Baden.

Thursday, May 21: We have a five hour lay-over at Frankfurt airport, which is probably just as well, since it takes a long time to walk from terminal A to terminal B. Six of us stop for breakfast. Since my body time says it's 2 am I order Hungarian goulash soup and a Weissbier. A luxury bus awaits us at Lyon airport to take us to Hotel Grand Boscolo, one block from the Saone River. We are dining as a group at Brasserie Léon de Lyon in an upstairs room with a remarkably low ceiling. We have made arrangements to bring a selection of wines generously donated by Guigal for which we pay 15 euros a bottle corkage. Stephen Pauwels and I walk over to the restaurant to check it out and then sit down outside at the Grand Cafè des Négociants for a glass of Sélections Ott Domaine des Domaniers Rosé 2008. Before dinner the group meets in the hotel bar for an apéritif – Domaine de Bel Air 2006 Vin de Bugey and Léon Revol St. Joseph Les Medières (N/V). The restaurant at 1 Rue Pléney is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The walls are decorated with paintings of chefs preparing a variety of dishes. We start with Guigal St. Joseph Blanc 2007 (a rare white from the appellation, 95% Marsanne, 5% Roussanne – very fresh with notes of beeswax, white flowers and peach (89)). The first course is velouté d'asperges, rillettes de saumon, pistou au cress served with Guigal Condrieu 2007 (Viognier – very elegant, honeysuckle and peach flavours). Souris d'agneau confite, cannelloni d'épinards et ricotta, jus tranché with Guigal Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2004 (rich plum, prune and wild berry flavours, showing some age (89)) and Guigal Côte Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2005 (peppery blackberry, full on the palate, beautifully balanced (92)) followed by crème chiboust au citron, sorbet fruits rouges et fraises au sauce.

Chapoutier's Ermitage vineyard

Friday, May 22: After breakfast we leave at 9 am to drive south to Chapoutier in Tain. Antoine de Boysson, Chapoutier's Export Manager, starts the tour by leading us to the railway station to see the winery's Ermitage vineyards with their Hollywood signs. (There is some discussion as to why some producers call the wine Hermitage, others Ermitage. Apparently English wine merchants thought that the French were dropping the H when they spoke the name. Now the nationally-minded producers revert to the "cockney" spelling.) In the wine store at Chapoutier you can see on the floor inset under glass the different soil types from Côte Rôtie to Banyuls. Chapoutier has been biodynamic since 1989 and the evidence is clearly visual – their parcels of vines are much greener than those of their neighbours. The vines range in age from 35 years to 110. We watch a video explaining the lengths they go to to maintain the vineyards as strictly biodynamic. The tasting follows:

  • Chapoutier "Bellerouche" Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2008 (Grenache Blanc, Bourbourlenc, Clairette): pale straw; minerally banana, peach pit with a floral note; lively acidity, lovely mouth-feel with a lanolin finish (89)
  • Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Ermitage Blanc 2006 (Marsanne): almond, honey and toasty nose; rich, minerally caramel flavour; oily mouth-feel (88)
  • Chapoutier St. Joseph Les Granits 2006 (Marsanne): deeply coloured; peach, honeycomb nose; intense floral, almond and mineral flavours. Still young (90)
  • Chapoutier Rasteau Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2002 (Grenache/Syrah – no oak): fresh, black raspberry; youthful, fruity and firm (88)
  • Chapoutier "Occultum Lapidem" Bila-Haut 2007 Côtes du Roussillon-Villages: deep ruby; smoky, struck flint, animal note; black raspberry flavour with a firm finish (87)
  • Chapoutier "Petite Rouche" Crozes-Hermitage 2007: deep ruby; peppery blackberry and violets on the nose; very elegant, light on the palate with a firm structure (89)
  • Chapoutier "La Sizerrane" Ermitage 2006: deep ruby; leather, animal, blackberry, pencil lead; full-bodied, firm, dark chocolate flavour. A seamless wine (92)
  • Chapoutier "Les Granits" St. Joseph 2006: rich, spicy, peppery, blackberry with a red meat note; very elegant, black fruits, violets on the palate; firm structure and beautifully balanced (93)

I went to the tasting bar to taste the joint venture wine Michel Chapoutier had made with a Portuguese producer named Bento in Estamadura, Ex Aequo 2006 (Touriga Nacional and Syrah – blackberry, chocolate nose; mouth-filling sweet black fruit flavours with a thread of minerality (90)).

Lunch in Tain L'Ermitage at a restaurant called Le Quai overlooking the river. We started with La Tour l'Evêque Pétale de Rosé 2008 from the Côtes de Provence, served with salmon carpaccio, followed by tournedos with green pepper sauce, French fries and French beans wrapped in bacon, served with Domaine Gilles Robin "Albéric Bouvet" Crozes-Hermitage 2007. Profiteroles with ice cream for dessert. Then we drove to Jaboulet's cellars, The Vineum, at Châteauneuf-sur-Isère. The cellars are situated in ancient sandstone caves that date back to 121 BC, when they were first quarried for building stone. They were used in the early 20th century by mushroom growers. The humidity in the caves was about 90% then. During World War II they were occupied by the Germans, who held prisoners there. In order to cut down the humidity the Germans carved deep chevron-shaped channels in the stone to direct the water down the walls so that they could supply themselves with drinking water. Originally there were 17 hectares of tunneled cellars but now only 3.5 hectares are used.

Jaboulet's cellars in sandstone caves

  • Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Les Jalets 2007 (Marsanne; 6 months in oak) – medium straw colour; fresh, floral peach, minerally nose; full-bodied, dry with a lemony finish (88)
  • Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Mule Blanche 2007: medium straw; spicy, orange and peach flavour with a honeyed note (89)
  • Jaboulet Chevalier de Sterimberg Hermitage Blanc 2006: straw colour; spicy, vanilla oak, white peach with a floral note on the nose; full-bodied, lovely mouth-feel. Oak still sitting on top, needs time (90)
  • Jaboulet St. Joseph Le Grande Pompée 2006: deep ruby; meaty, peppery, chocolate nose with a black cherry and earthy-minerally flavour (87)
  • Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalberg 2006: deep purple, blackberry, pepper, vanilla oak with a truffle note; well extracted fruit with a licorice note and a dry, savoury finish (89)
  • Jaboulet Hermitage La Petite Chapelle 2006 (the second wine of La Chapelle): deep purple-ruby; rich, lead pencil, gamey, blackberry nose; full on the palate, firm structure, well integrated oak; long, dry, savoury finish (90)

Before dinner Stephen, Ted, Gordon, Deborah and I walked along the Quai of the Saone in Lyon to a bar called Les Lyonnais where we ordered a bottle of Domaine de Noizet Fumé Blanc 2007. Then to dine at La Mercière that bills itself as an "Authentique Bouchon Lyonnais." I order pig's foot and a bottle of Domaine Ott Bandol Rosé 2007. This is followed by a bottle of Domaine Matray Juliénas 2007 and Joseph Pichon St. Joseph 2007 which we have with the cheese. Each day on the trip I try to compose a limerick. The first limp effort was:

We drank so much Syrah and Marsanne
That we no longer struck to our original plan
What we drink tonight
Will be all right
If only we stopped before we began.

Saturday, May 23: Today we visit Les Halles, the Bocuse market in Dijon. It is more like a vast Pusateri's than a traditional food market, set in a very modern building with a low ceiling. The food is gorgeously laid out and expensive (apart from the cheeses). Deborah and I buy eight pieces of slate to bring home as individual cheese boards. Lunch at a bouchon called La Mère Cottivet with Gordon and Stephen. I order andouillette and Domaine Launay Saint-Amour 2007. In the afternoon our group has a walking tour through the old part of Lyon.

Prepared food at Dijon's Les Halles market

Since it is a holiday weekend nothing is open we can't visit a shop called Porto Porto Porto on Rue Duboeuf which boasts the largest selection of ports in France – 350 from 80 different vintages. We try to get in to a recommended wine bar on this street called George V but this too is closed so we settle for a bottle of Domaine Chêne St. Véran 2006 at an outdoor café called Le Palais Saint Jean. Bad decision. The wine was a little maderised. Back at the hotel we gather in Gordon and Ted's room for some cheese and wine. The Liverot and Pont Evêque are so ripe you can smell them down the hallway. Gordon opens a bottle of Chapoutier Chante-Alouette Ermitage 1999 (showing its age) and a bottle of Jaboulet Petite Chapelle Hermitage 2001. Most of the group is dining tonight at Le Bec, a two-star restaurant across the road from our hotel. There are five at our table who are all ordering à la carte. Deborah is in another room with nine others of our group who want to take the tasting menu. I order a bottle of Dagenau Pouilly-Fumé Clos des Chaudoux 2006. The waiter brings along an amuse bouche - seared scallop with a wild garlic foam. I have the wagyu beef with beef cheeks in red wine, caramelized shallots and potatoes mashed in olive oil and chives. I order a magnum of Georges Vernay St. Joseph "Dame Brune" 2003, which we drink with the main course and the selection of cheeses that follows. For dessert, chocolate soufflé.

Stephen Pauwels checks out the menu at Le Bec

Limerick of the day:

If ever you plan to eat at Le Bec
Keep your appetite in check
The food is gastronomical
The price is astronomical
But we're all in France, so what the heck.

Bacchus, the winery dog at La Madone

Sunday, May 24: We shop in the open-air market along the Quai for cheeses, fruit, pâté, salami and baguettes for a picnic lunch in Beaujolais. We turn off the autoroute at Belleville and head along country roads to Fleurie to find a producer, Domaine de la Madone. Their 22-acre property is dominated by a small chapel at 435 metres. One of their vineyards is called Domaine de Niagara – a rather laboured reference to an experiment to melt hail before it hit the vines. A tall pylon was erected that sent out electric charges so powerful that it was christened the "Niagara of electricity." But it didn't work and the experiment was abandoned. The owner's wife, who spoke no English, hosted the tasting.

  • Domaine de la Madone Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais-Villages 2006: fresh, light, cherry flavour, fruity and delightful (we bought four bottles for the picnic we would have by the chapel, overlooking the village of Fleurie)
  • Domaine de la Madone Tradition Fleurie 2007
  • Domaine de la Madone Domaine de Niagara 2007
  • Domaine de la Madone Fleurie Grille Midi 2007
  • Domaine de la Madone Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 2007
  • Domaine de la Madone Fleurie Cuvée Prestige 2006 (aged 12 months in older oak)

After the tasting we walked through the vineyard to the picnic area for our lunch.

The Solutré rock in the Mâconnais

Then we drove to Solutré, the dramatic rock formation in the Mâconnais, used by prehistoric man to herd wild horses over the cliff in their quest for food. Stopped in a local winery called Domaine de Courtesses, where we escaped the heat by tasting four wines.

  • Domaine de Courtesses Mâcon Solutré 2007
  • Domaine de Courtesses St. Véran 2007
  • Domaine de Courtesses Pouilly-Fuissé 2007
  • Domaine de Courtesses Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2006

Not a very inspiring line-up but refreshing nonetheless.

We drove to Montagny-les-Beaune and checked into the Hotel Le Clos, a charming old hotel set in beautiful gardens. On the terrace we gathered for a bottle of Vervier Pouilly-Fuissé Les Guilloux Vieilles Vignes 2006, Guigal Hermitage Blanc 2005 (full-bodied, honeyed peach, beautifully balanced (90)) and Guigal Château d'Ampuis Côte Rôtie 2005 (deep ruby-purple colour; vanilla oak and black fruits, pepper and violets on the nose; youthful, full-bodied, dark chocolate flavour with lively acidity. Needs time (91)).

Dinner at a charming restaurant a few paces from the hotel, Le Berger du Temps. They serve a plate of tapenade, beans in coriander, pickled cabbage and lentils before the meal. I ordered a bottle of Labouré-Juillot Rully 2007 for my dish of a dozen snails in garlic butter, followed by a bottle of Manuel Olivier Cuvée Tradition Hautes Côtes de Nuits 2006 with the pigeon. At the end of the meal they offered the ladies a tiny glass of an apple liqueur and the men a Marc de Bourgogne.

Limerick of the day:

If you climb the rock of Solutré
You may hear the ghostly horses bray
They'll draw you to the edge
And stampede you o'er the ledge
To revenge their forebears today.

Bernard Repolt of Remoissenet

Monday, May 25: This morning a guided tour of the Hospices de Beaune, fascinating displays of medical instruments and the dormitories for the poor and the rich (the latter had paintings on the walls). Lunch at an Italian restaurant in a courtyard next to Ma Cuisine (a recommended restaurant) – La Tavola Calda. I ordered a bottle of Domaine Val d'Astier Rosé 2008 from the Côte de Provence for Tagilatelle in a tomato and pancetta sauce. Walking around Beaune after lunch Deborah and I ran into Gordon Pape sitting outside a wine shop nursing a glass of Raymond Dupont-Fahn Auxey-Duresses 2007. We joined him and I ordered a glass of Meursault-Purozots 2005, though I neglected to look for the producer's name. In the afternoon we walked over to Remoissenet for a tasting led by the firm's managing director, Bérnard Repolt, whom I have known for 25 years since his days with Jaffelin (Bérnard selected the barrels with Karl Kasier for Inniskillin's Alliance wines in the early 1990s). Bérnard showed us the 15th century Bayeux tapestry behind which was a large walk-in safe. He explained the former owner of the company, Roland Remoissenet, now 78, had forgotten the combination so they could not open it. The safe company, for security reasons, would not divulge any information as to how to crack it. Bérnard led us down to the cellars where we began the tasting:

  • Remoissenet Bâtard-Montrachet 1997: an intriguing nose of grilled nuts, cream and forest floor; a thread of minerality running through with fine acidity (94)
  • Remoissenet Puligny-Montrachet "Les Champs Gain" 1991 (in magnum): apple, pear and orange bouquet; lovely balance, well integrated oak with a caramel finish; mouth-filling with great length (92)
  • Remoissenet Beaune Marconnets 2007: good solid ruby colour; black raspberry, violets and sweet rhubarb on the nose; spicy. Smoky notes, great concentration, sweet, juicy fruit with lively acidity and soft tannins (91)
  • Remoissenet Beaune Marconnets 2006: cherry with evident acidity, firm structure and tannic finish (87)

Then Bérnard invited me down to the lower cellar, where all the library wines are stored, to choose a wine from the 1960s, '70s and '80s. These wines have never left the cellar.

  • Remoissenet Chambolle Musigny 1978: brick red, barnyard nose; very elegant sweet fruit, great balance with a silky mouth-feel; rich and concentrated (95)
  • Remoissenet Grands Echezeaux 1983: tawny brick colour; drying raspberry nose; very elegant still, velvety on the palate with a caramel flavour and good length (90)
  • Remoissenet Gevrey-Chambertin Les Combottes 1968: still youthful; tawny ruby colour; barnyard; earthy, sweet drying fruit riding on lively acidity; firm structure (90)

Doug MacMillan, Pam Cohen and Deborah Benoit with three decades of Remoissenet wines

Dinner in Beaune at Le Gormandin: Foie gras, skate in a cream and caper sauce and Époisses. The wines: Rudolph Demougeot Clos St. Désiré Beaune Blanc 2006 and Domaine Laleuve Piot Chorey-Les-Beaune 2005.

Pierre Vincent, Clos de la Vougeraie's winemaker

Tuesday, May 27: This morning we took the bus to Primeaux-Prissey to visit Clos de la Vougeraie. The winemaker, Pierre Vincent, drove with us to the company's Clos Blanc de Vougeot vineyard next to the Clos de Vougeot, showing us the difference between the soils of the two clos – the Chardonnay vineyard (2 hectares separated from Vougeot by ten meters) has more limestone and is lighter in colour than the more reddish clay of the Clos de Vougeot. The Vougeot vineyard is 50 acres with 88 owners. Clos de la Vougeraie owns two parcels here of 1.2 hectares and 0.3 hectares. Back at the winery Pierre Vincent led us through the following wines (following Burgundian tradition of serving the reds before the whites):

  • Clos de la Vougeraie Savigny-les-Beaune "Les Marconnets" 2007: floral, cherry and strawberry on the nose; elegant, light on the palate with a firm finish (88)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Gevrey-Chambertin "Les Evocelles" 2007: minerally, spicy plum and red fruits bouquet; richly textured, fine acidity with good length (91)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Vougeot "Les Cras" 2007: spicy strawberry nose; minerally, vanilla oak, sweet strawberry-raspberry fruit; velvety mouth-feel with a lovely integration of oak and fruit (92)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot 2007: spicy, earthy, truffle nose; fills the palate; tight and taut; will improve with bottle age (91)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Beaune Blanc 2007: light straw colour; spicy apple nose; crisp green apple flavour, lively in the mouth; good length with a lemony finish (89)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot 2007: green apple nose; minerally, green apple and lemon flavours, very elegant; beautifully balanced, with a vanilla oak note and a toasty finish. Great length (93)

Chateau de Gilly

Lunch at Château de Gilly, a former monastery in the village of Gilly-les-Citeaux. The menu: terrine de jarret de porc persillé with Clos de la Vougeraie Puligny-Montrachet Corvée 2001, followed by salmon and a cheese platter with Clos de la Vougeraie Gevrey-Chambertin 2001, then baba au rhum. Next stop the Jean-Claude Boisset winery in Nuits St. Georges. We were led down to the cellars for a barrel tasting of the following wines:

  • Jean-Claude Boisset Chassagne Montrachet 2007
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Fixin Blanc 2008
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Beaune Les Grèves 2008
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny 2008

Then upstairs for a tasting of bottled wines:

  • Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Blanc Hauts Côtes de Nuits 2007: fresh, spicy pineapple and lemon flavour (87)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset St. Aubin 2007: minerally, citrus nose, spicy; lively acidity with an apple flavour (88)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Meursault Les Clous 2007: creamy, lemony nose; full-bodied, lively on the palate with well integrated oak (89)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2007: simple, dry, tight with a green note (86)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny 2007: peppery raspberry, earthy; needs time (87)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 2007: beetroot and raspberry nose; earthy, dry, still tight (88)

Dinner at Le Berger du Temps next door to the Hotel le Clos, after a walk to the local lake that they fish and wind-surf. The owner's wife is a leaner; she puts her hand on your shoulder and leans on you. Intolerable. I ordered the snails (12), chicken and crayfish and Grand Marnier soufflé. The wines: Labouré-Juillot Rully Les Saints Jacques 2007 and Domaine Guyon Chorey Les Beaune "Les Bons Ores" 2004.

Limerick of the day (a reference to Stephen Pauwels, who tells the group that every distance is a ten-minute walk):

They say that Einstein and Hawking could bend time
And so can Steven Pauwels, I opine
Ten minutes at most
Says our genial host
But length doesn't matter when you've had enough wine.

DRC's winemaker Bernard Noblet

Wednesday, May 28: Great excitement this morning. We are to visit in Vosne-Romanée. We are met by the winemaker, Bérnard Noblet, who leads us down to the cellar and explains in French the history of the winery. We taste blind two wines and he makes us guess what they are. Ted Turner guesses correctly the vintage of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grands Echezeaux 1999 (intense, deeply coloured with a nose of blackcurrants, rich and concentrated, very elegant. A seamless wine that lingers on the palate with blackcurrant and blackberry flavours. Still very youthful (94)).

Then Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet 1993 (deep golden colour; with a nose of caramel, butter and macadamia nuts. Lively acidity, mouth-filling with an elderberry note on the finish. Great length (94)). After the tasting, Aubert de Villaine, the proprietor of DRC, arrives to lead us up to the Romanée-Conti vineyard and shows us the winery's adjacent holdings.

Tony presents Aubert de Villaine of DRC with Mission Hill Vidal Icewine

Lunch in Beaune at Le P'tit Paradis. I ordered a bottle of Sèlections Ott Rosé Les Domaines de Petit Mouret 2007 for the terrine de lentilles et foie gras and galettes d'agneau confits aux épices et sauce au yaourt. Dessert: parfait glace à guimauvre son coulis de fraise. This was the best meal I had on the tour, beautifully prepared and inventively presented. At 5:30 pm a visit to Joseph Drouhin, where Jean-Francois Curie, the company's marketing director, toured us through the labyrinthine cellars and then conducted a tasting.

  • Drouhin Côte de Beaune Villages 2006: ruby coloured; light, simple and fruity and quaffable; cherry flavour with good acidity (87)
  • Drouhin Chambolle-Musigny 2006: ruby; minerally, raspberry with a light oak note; elegant but firmly structured, velvety on the palate with good acidity (89)
  • Drouhin Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts 2004: deep ruby; minerally, earthy, spicy; full on the palate, firmly structured , minty, blackberry and elderberry flavours with a tannic lift on the finish (90)
  • Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin 2001: ruby; earthy, raspberry nose with a hint of violets; still tight and firm but lush blackcurrant tones promise well for the future (91)
  • Drouhin Meursault 2007: bright straw; minerally, apple bouquet; creamy mouth-feel, with a buttery, hazelnut flavour; good length (89)
  • Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet 2007: bright straw colour; minerally, lemon, apple and vanilla oak nose with a note of fennel. An off flavour of peanut shells (lady bug taint?) (86)
  • Drouhin Clos des Mouches Blanc 2007: bright straw colour; spicy, oaky, truffle note; full-bodied, apple, pineapple and vanilla oak flavours with a toasty finish. Rich with a lovely mouth-fell and a custard-like finish (94)
  • Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2003: mature, buttery, macadamia nut; full-bodied and mouth-filling, soft and spicy with a long caramel finish (93)

Jean-Francois Curie in Drouhin's cellar

Dinner at Caveau des Arches under the ramparts of Beaune. Drouhin St. Véran 2007 with tuna tartare as an amuse bouche, followed by sautéed foie gras on caramelized apple; then Drouhin Clos de la Roche 2000 in magnum served with Charolais beef followed by Époisses, then strawberries, ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Limerick of the day:

I'd like one, but I've never had a Clos
A walled-in garden where grapes will grow
Sounds a bit phony
And what's more, I don't have the dough.

The Maille mustard shop in Dijon

Thursday, May 28: The bus took us to Dijon, where we walked around, shopping at the Maille mustard shop (the company dates back to 1747). Deborah did plastic damage at Galeries Lafayette. Then to lunch at Le Bistrot des Halles in the market area. I had the set menu of Bavarois de courgettes and Banquette de veau and crème fraiche. Ordered a bottle of Clos de Jeu Marsannay 2007 (which was disappointingly thin). Back on the bus to drive to Chablis and the Hostellerie des Clos. Bixente Alaman, export director for Jean Marc Brocard, arrived with wines for a tasting and to serve with dinner. At the tasting in a private room in the hotel we sampled the following two wines:

  • Brocard Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2007: pale straw; white flowers, green apple nose; very crisp, lemony, green apple flavours (89)
  • Brocard Chablis Montmains 2007: very elegant, white flowers, citrus nose; white peach and citrus flavour, crisp and refreshing; great length (91)

The Ramparts of Chablis

Dinner in the hotel at a long table with Bixente Alaman at the head to introduce the wines. We start with an amuse bouche, a small glass of chilled gazpacho followed by a dish of twelve snails in a cream and parsley sauce (very tender), served with Brocard Chablis Fourchaume "Vaulorent" 2007 (quite deep in colour; a rich nose of white honey, apples and a floral note; minerally, lively acidity and a long finish (92)). Next Brocard Chablis Bougros 2007 (straw colour; creamy, minerally nose of grapefruit and apple; lively acidity carrying flavours of apple and lemon with a lingering finish of tangerine (92)). The main dish is perch-pike in a light cream sauce, served with Brocard Chablis Les Clos 2007 (still tight but has all the elements for a great wine: white flowers, apple and white peach flavours; minerally with a citrus finish (92)). A mint and lime cordial is served before the cheese tray, from which we select our choices. With the cheeses, a magnum of Brocard Chablis Vieilles Vignes 1997. Unfortunately, the first magnum is corked. The second is sound, mature and nutty, soft on the palate with honeyed notes with a minerally finish (90). The meal ends with nougat parfait, almond tuilles and macaroons.

Limerick of the day:

We're beginning to miss the pets we own
Languishing ownerless at home
So buy a gift for the cat
Perhaps a cute hat
And give the poor dog a Beaune.

Friday, May 29: This morning a tasting at William Fèvre, whose tasting room is right next door to our hotel. We are told that this is the oldest Chablis house. They own 16 hectares of Grands Crus vineyards, 12 hectares of Premiers Crus, 200 hectares of Villages Chablis and buy in wines for their Petit Chablis.

  • William Fèvre Chablis Domaine 2007: pale straw with a green tint; minerally, citrus, white flowers on the nose; very crisp and dry with sharp acidity (87)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Montmains 2007: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, green apple and a floral note; lovely mouth-feel with a roundness in mid-palate from the oak (89)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Fourchaume Vaulorent 2007: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, citrus, white flowers on the nose; very elegant and lemony with good length (91)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Le Clos Domaine 2007: pale straw-line; intense, minerally, green apple, white flowers and a spicy note from the oak; crisp and elegant, beautifully balanced with a note of white pepper on the finish (93)
Tony with Leslie Caron

After the tasting we drive to the village of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne and lunch at an auberge called La Lucarnes aux Chouettes, which is owned by Leslie Caron of Gigi fame. The wall of the bar is covered with her movie posters and photographs of her with a variety of leading men. As we lunch outside under the trees she arrives with her small dog. She graciously poses for photographs with members of our group. The menu: langoustine mousse, galette of lamb wrapped in lettuce leaves and layered with aubergine, followed by strawberry and rhubarb tart with ice cream. I order La Chablisienne Vieilles Vignes 2007 and Ferrari Domaine St. Germaine Irancy 2006. After lunch we drive to Fontainbleau and walk around the grounds before heading to Paris, where we book in to the Sofitel Hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport for our early departure in the morning. A rather boring meal at the restaurant there. I had overcooked spaghetti with meat sauce and a beer.

Limerick of the day:

So long Dijon, it's been good to know you
Bye bye Chablis, where we knocked back a few
We did the Rhône
And ate up Beaune
How we packed it all in, I haven't a clue.

Saturday, May 30: Up at 5:30 am to pack, breakfast and get to the terminal for the flight to Düsseldorf and then to Toronto. A very satisfying trip.




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