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.

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