Posts Tagged ‘La Gaudrelle Crémant de Loire’

A Horizontal Tasting of Chablis

July 25, 2011

Some weeks back I spotted an offer from September Wines that I couldn’t resist. Steve Flynn, the owner, happened across a few cases of two aged premier cru Chablis, lost and forgotten in the climate-controlled warehouse of one of his distributors. They were 1999 Mile de Noyers, one from the Les Lys vineyard, and another from Côte de Léchet. At $20 a bottle, I bought two of each.

Chablis, considered part of Burgundy, is a non-contiguous region about 100 miles to the northeast of the Côte d’Or, halfway to Paris.  The cold climate produces wine, made exclusively from chardonnay, that is generally more acidic and less fruity than its southern cousins, with characteristic flinty notes.  It is also less influenced by oak, although the grand and premier crus do see some barrel aging.

In addition to the mighty crus, the two other rankings of Chablis are the basic Chablis and the lesser Petit Chablis.  There are 7 grand crus, all located on one southeast-facing hillside, and 40 premier cru Chablis sites.  Ordinarily, a premier cru Chablis will drink at its best after 5-6 years. I was at a loss to predict what 12-year-old Chablis would taste like. So Margaret and I planned a dinner to find out.

On Saturday night, despite the continued heat, Ellen and Mercer came over, bearing a cold tomato soup and J. Lassalle Brut “Cuvée Préférence”. We’ve been sampling this grower champagne for about 6 months and noticed that as it ages its lime notes have gotten louder and the overall texture more creamy, yet it remains elegant and delicious.

Margaret put Mercer to work frying up squash blossoms dredged in flour and seltzer, while Ellen ladled out the soup and I opened both wines and poured, starting with Les Lys. The blossoms, crispy, hot and salty, were exquisite. Between mouthfuls of soup, I found myself reaching for more until they were all gone. 

The Les Lys tasted something like pear, and had overtones of honey and toast. The Côte de Léchet, more characteristically, tasted of apple and had a freshness that belied its age.

With the main course of sea scallops, pureed sweet potato and green beans, I returned to Les Lys, preferring the softer wine with the briny shellfish. With salad and cheese — gouda and fontina — the Côte de Léchet seemed to work better for me, the acidity cleansing the fatty cheeses from my palate between mouthfuls. Opinion around the table was mixed. Ellen, who compared the Les Lys to Chassagne Montrachet and the Côte de Léchet to Puilly Fumé, shared my view; Mercer gravitated toward the Côte de Léchet; Margaret seemed pretty happy with whatever was in her glass. There was unanimous agreement, however, that the wines were delicious, and not a little surprise that they were so different.

We took a rest before dessert, enjoying La Gaudrelle Crémant de Loire before returning to the table for a ginger plum tart. To beat the heat, Margaret had baked it early in the morning. She served it with a dollop of vanilla frozen yoghurt, as I poured the final wine of the night, 2008 Domaine de Beaumalric Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. This vin doux naturel from southern France is made by the addition of 190-proof grape spirits during fermentation, resulting in a sweet wine of about 15% alcohol. It had a floral nose and showed good balance, delightfully topping off the evening.

Considering all we’d had to drink, the four of us also showed good balance.  At midnight, Ellen and Mercer walked home, while Margaret and I got horizontal, leaving the dishes until morning.


Memorial Day 2011 — Part I

June 2, 2011

Another Memorial Day weekend in Old Chatham with Carol and Ken, and the line-up of wine was as extraordinary as ever. I started opening bottles the moment they arrived, beginning with La Gaudrelle Crémant de Loire. Our love affair with crémant continues; of the 7 French crémant appellations, only two, Bordeaux and Crémant de Die, have not yet crossed our lips – and the weekend had just begun.

This Crémant de Loire is made with chenin blanc and chardonnay, and is deliciously crisp, all minerally and redolent of white flowers. We sipped, discussed the activities of the weekend, then opened our second crément, Crémant d’Alsace by Frederic Mallo. The long, dry growing season in Alsace, between the Rhine and the Vosges Mountains, cause the grapes to ripen slowly, allowing lots of time to develop the aromatics that Alsace is famed for, especially among the whites, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Sylvaner and Pinot Blanc. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that all of them were in our crémant.

We gathered ourselves up for dinner at the Old Chatham Country Store, the only meal we ate out all weekend, and drank a bottle of 2009 Washington State Chardonnay from Chateau Ste. Michelle with our fish, orzo and pork chops. It was a soft, appealing wine, slightly fruity with a touch of spice.

Three bottles on Day 1 seemed decent pacing to me. None of us is as young as we used to be.

Lunch on Day 2 was the traditional weisswurst on the grill. We’d spent the morning at the garden center and supermarket, and once back at the house, we cracked open our old favorite, Mas de Gourgonnier, a $15 rosé from Les Baux de Provence. Margaret and I fell in love with this wine when we visited the vineyard the summer of 2000, and drank it almost to the exclusion of all other rosés for years, until, due to a bottling mishap, it disappeared from the market. The 2010 vintage had the familiar strawberry pink color, but the fruit flavor was more subdued than I remembered. Largely Grenache, blended with the usual suspects, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre, and an unusual one, Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is dry and clean.

Following the Mas was another 2010 rosé, this one from Domaine Houchart, with the new appellation, “Cotes de Provence, Saint Victoire.” Owned by the Quiot family, who for 350 years toiled in the vineyards of the Rhone, Domaine Houchart is made from a similar blend as the Mas, but offered a more subtle palate, with a more pronounced terroir, and, at $10, is the clear value. In fact, I am ready to declare the 2011 rosé hunt over, and Houchart the undisputed winner, except that Carol and Margaret preferred the darker, more flavorful Mas.

As a coda to lunch, we opened a special bottle Ken had found, 2002 Domaine Huet Vouvray Petillant. Vouvray is a tricky wine, it can be dry or sweet, still or sparkling, and, when sparkling, made from the traditional method – second fermentation in the bottle, as was our Crémant de Loire — or from méthode ancestrale, which involves bottling during the first fermentation, resulting in lower pressure. These wines tend to be sweet, although our wine got a second measure of yeast just to make sure all the sugar was consumed. Brut dry, rather elegant, nicely aged for softness, twice the price as crémant and still less than champagne, this Vouvray sparkler not only capped a wonderful afternoon, it readied us for the evening meal, where champagne was served with lobster.

A Tuesday Night with the Neighbors

March 2, 2011

This morning, after I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher, I moved last night’s frying pan from stovetop to the sink. With the hot water, there rose to my nose the Hamburgers Diane Margaret made for our neighbors last night. The five-year-old Rachel said she didn’t like mustard, so Margaret grilled her burger plain and served it on a bun with ketchup. In her glass was sparkling cider from Spain. It was a pleasure to have a smart young cutie running all over the house again for a few hours.

The adults started with Crémant de Loire, the same crémant from La Gaudrelle that we drank at the Penn Club last week. We’d order a mixed case from September Wines: this, the gran reserva and the moscato.

The bright acidity of the crémant contrasted nicely with our first course, parsnip soup with toasted almonds. The creamy texture of the soup played with the creamy bubbles, and the crémant’s spicy finish enhanced the peppery puree.

With the main course we drank 2008 Coppola Diamond Collection Ivory Label Cabernet Sauvignon. I have no idea where this bottle came from; I think someone brought it to last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Party. I would have opened it Sunday for the Oscars, but we weren’t up to it. California Cabs, especially Napa and Sonoma, have an oversized reputation that attracts oversized egos with oversized fortunes. Think sports heroes, successful dentists, art collectors, and movie celebrities. Their wine is typically well-made and very expensive.

Our wine last night was deep garnet in color, ripe and juicy, with the warm flavor of dark stone fruit and raspberries. The finish was short and sweet, with no tannic bite. While Coppola makes some very expensive stuff, his full line of bottlings, from bubbles to port, includes well-priced, eminently drinkable wines, like this one, at under $15. Thank you, whoever you are.

Ellen and Danny brought us a Napa Zinfandel, but last night being a school night, and Rachel about to crash, we didn’t get to it.