Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, September 22, 2008

Deepest Darkest France

For a long time, I thought that inner Laurelhurst, in Seattle, was the darkest place on earth, but nothing really interesting ever turned up there. Then, having read Konrad's Heart of Darkness, we thought the heart of the Congo was the darkest place. Then we discovered Salers, deep inside the Auvergne, in the rural, rustic heart of France. There we discovered Pouinti and the fabulous terrines and pates of France, to say nothing of the wonderful aperitif called Salers. Sunday night, with Chef Yves gone, we ventured out into the countryside in search of l'Hermitagerie in a slow moving caravan of four cars. After many false starts and turns we alighted in front of "Topgarage" to telephone ahead. South of St. Vincent, turn to the right toward Julipe, turn to the left at the sign, follow the narrow road around just as the sun is setting.There deep in a forest we see lights and, Voila!, we are there.

Inside we are presented with a bright cheery room with a tartan plaid on the ceiling. Although the staff spoke no English, they were extraordinarily amiable and competent. Despite being a group of sixteen, we were able to choose individually from an incredible menu some highlights of which include wild boar terrine, skate, Coq au Vin Sarthois with chicken, ham, mushroom and escargot. The cold smoked foie gras was mind-blowing as was the venison in juniper and black pepper sauce.

The wine list had exhaustive selections of local and regional wines and even included wine from other parts of France such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone. There was even a bottle from Chile. As had become our custom we started with sparking wine of the region, in this case, a "Petillant Du Loir" from Diane de Behaute - an incredible dry bubbly with good body and flavors. Next we had the best Jasnieres of the trip - 2005 Jasnieres Gigou - perhaps the most balanced white I have ever had. Made from the chenin blanc grape, but dry and balanced like a chardonnay without the oak and tropical fruit. Cool, fresh and stony - truly a masterpiece that would rate at least 91 on a scale of 100. Finally, with the Venison, a 2005 Bourgueil Lame Delisle Bonchard, Domaines des Chenaies" - the biggest Bourgueil we tasted with the body of a Chinon. Big ,dark, red, lots of fruit, good backbone - truly amazing, rating at least a 92. All these wines were around the amazingly reasonable restaurant price of 20E. After dessert we wended our way down the same narrow country roads lit by a half harvest moon. What a magnificent secret tucked away in the woods. What a great recommendation form Timothy Corrigan. The best source of Bourgueil and Chinon in the states is Kermit Lynch.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Dinner From Yves

Last night we enjoyed langoustines with Muscadet and Jasniere, followed by veal with Cepes and potatoes. The Bourgueil worked but was a little on the light side, The Chinon was bigger , though only medium bodied - perfect withe veal and cepes. Virtually all the wines went well with the spectacular cheese course. Coteaux de Layon was heavenly with Yves Strawberry tart. Not too heavy in the way that some Sauternes can be. Yves, Melanie and Cami, pulled it if with smooth service for eighteen people. Can't wait to see what Yves will come up with tonight. I will be giving a brief class to the group on Loire Valley wines, but I am hoping to use some of the Gaillac and Madiran , I couldn't help buying, too! These southwest wine are so good and inexpensive and so hard to find in the U.S.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Le Chateau De Mon Ami

I met Tim Corrigan when he was a mere boy of eight. I told him then that he would do great things. Now, an internationally famous designer, he invited his charming mother and sevnteen friends to spend a week at his Chateau, Le Grand Luce. And Grand it is with twenty to forty rooms. We feel like Cinderella and Cinderello for a week. The greatest thing of all - it's central location in the Loire Valley and the opportunity to taste all those wonderful Loire Valley wines.

I have mentioned in the past that I learned most of what I know about wine from my mentor, Fritzy Haskell, of Haskell's Liquors in Minneapolis. Back in those days there was very little interest in wine in the U.S. , but Fritzy had a passion for wine which she supported by selling liquor. She was so passionate about the wines of France (there was hardly any California wine at that time, especially, outside of California) that she arranged the wines of France in her shop the same layout as the geography of France. In other words, Loire Valley in the upper left, Chablis, Champagne and Burgundy in the upper right, Rhone wines in the lower right, and Bordeaux in the lower left. The Loire Valley wines stretched all the way across the shop from dry Muscadet in the"west" to dry Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Quincy in the "east" In between were the sweeter whites of the Loire - Coteaux de Layon slightly to the "west" Vouvray slightly to the "east" and in the middle the glorious Cab Franc based reds of Chinon and Bourgueil.
Throw in some Savenniere, some Rose , Saumur, Quarts de Chaume, and a few others and you had the wines of the entire east-west length of the Loire available right there in the Midwest in the med- twentieth century along the north-south banks of the Missisippi River. I have never seen such an extensive collection of Loire Valley wines anywhere, not in any of thirty five countries, nowhere in the states, not even in the Loire Valley.

To celebrate our visit to Le Grand Luce, we toasted Tim Corrigan with some Kir Royale made with some gentle soft Vin Mousseux purchased right next door to the chateau A light supper was accompanied by some chilled red Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil. Last night our cepes omelettes, perfectly prepared by our Condon Bleu trained chef, Yves, were accompanied by some soft 2005 Jasnieres white. Tonight a more formal dinner. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rombauer Bordeaux?

Remodeling is almost the same as moving, but more disconcerting. Our last bottle of 1995 Rombauer Merlot eased the pain. This seamlessly smooth wine tasted like the grapes had been raised right on the border between St. Julian and Margaux.- the supple elegance of Margaux combined with the velvety, soft texture of St Julian. Is this really an American wine ? Is it really 13 years old?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Syrah's Cousin

You could think of Syrah as a big sister, but compared to Mourvedre it might be a little sister. "Mary, Mary, quite contrary, eating her curds and whey..." Mary may like her cheese, but she certainly wasn't contrary to the notion of tasting a little Mourvedre. In fact, we all enjoyed tasting five Mourvedres and the striking thing was how good they all were. The 2006 Cotes a Cotes blend from L'Aventure, a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 30% Syrah was the favored wine, perhaps because of it's smooth, delicious, fruit forward nature. Despite it's 16.5% alcohol, it was elegant, smooth and seamless. The 2005 Mourvedre from Tablas Creek was equally delish in the same fruit forward way. The other three Veds were wonderful in more complex ways. The 2002 McCrea Sirocco was much more complex and complicated than the two California babes. The 2003 Cline Ancient Vines, also from California, was a more intellectual type than her cousins from farther south. It seemed as if she had been chewing on a lead pencil for a long time. The 2003 Callaghan Mourvedre from the Buena Suerte Vineyard in Sonoita, Arizona, was clearly the cowgirl of the bunch with notes of spice, tobacco and a little sweat mixed in. Could this be the woman from Alaska visiting Senator McCain in his home state? Ya see, empirically speakin', she did finish last with almost three quarters of a bottle left at the end of the evening. Spicy and complex, perhaps her tart finish led to a pregnant moment of surprise or should we say, shock and awe?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Washington Syrah

Which is worse - moving or remodeling? At least we've been tasting some wine, if not writing much. The past two days we tasted 2002 Isenhauer Walla Walla Syrah and 2001 Three Rivers "Alder Creek" Syrah. What a contrast? The Three Rivers was smooth and pleasant, but a little old tasting and simple in it's smooth fruitiness. The Isenhauer was exciting with great complex pepper and spice flavors - really classic Syrah. The Isenhauer could almost pass as European, and it certainly had Walla Walla character compared to the more subdued quality of the Yakima Valley wine
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