Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Tale Of Two Frenchmen Saving A Wine Girl's Day

(Andre Ostertag at his estate in January 2008)

So as I mentioned in the previous post, this week has basically blown…really rough both professionally and personally but like everyone else I must trudge on and make the most of each second…can’t really waste my days wishing they would slow down right? Spending one’s time reminiscing on the crappy stuff is not only painful but it’s giant waste of time…why go through it more than once?! I kind of lost it mid to late last week, hit my peak of horrific-ness Saturday morning and now…well, now it is time to shake the crust off and move the hell forward. Rather than share all the ugly, I wanted to shine the spotlight on the high point of my week…well, there were two but only one is fit to share with others…

Thursday evening as we were full swing into our commuter tasting, my Kermit Lynch Rep Kate came through the door, she is hard to miss….white blonde hair cut into a 20’s bob, inked in the arm regions and wears a smile that suggests sweetness but that twinkle in her eye that assures me she aint that sweet, in short…she is my kinda chick. She had with her not one but TWO Frenchmen and a bag full of wine, with the week I had been having I could not have been more happy to see her! Amy and I made sure the boys were fine with running the tasting, promised to answer the phones if they were ringing and scooted the group into the backroom.

I was pulling wine glasses from the rack and setting up our little makeshift “tasting room” and that was when I really took a look at the sleepy Frenchmen, (they had been up since 3 am) and realized that I had in fact seen them both before. In January of 2008 I was on the Kermit Lynch buying trip….a very different trip from others I had been on. On my first trip to France with Beaune Imports we spent time at each estate, often involving a meal and tasting older vintage wines, talking to winemakers and visiting vineyards. Kermit’s trip was much more “business” with the focus on the most recent vintages, little conversation with the winemakers and often times there were so many people to see that we would set up camp in a hotel banquet room and a revolving door of winemakers would shuffle in, pour, give a little information, and move over for the next….it was pretty grueling. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great trip just like I said, more business, geared more for the national distributors then for the wine geek. We did a few estates and the two men now standing in our backroom were among them.

I watched as the two gentlemen chatted amongst themselves, in French of course, and put their wines in order…away from the hustle and bustle of the “front of the house” with the music spilling out of the backroom speakers, the only conversation being in French, I felt like I was being treated to a mini vacation in the middle of my workday. I melted into my chair, pen and notebook at the ready…first up, Andre Ostertag from Alsace.

Domaine Ostertag was the first Domaine we visited on that Kermit Lynch trip so my notes on the many wines we tasted there are quite extensive, as the trip rolled on I found that many of my notes were little more than happy faces or stars with a line or two scribbled next to them. At Ostertag my energy was high and my palate very fresh, so my memories of both the wines and Andre, (winemaker) are happy ones. Andre had ruffled a few feathers in his region, and to be honest, with some of his importers by playing around with newer oak on some of his wines…there was a bunch of experimentation, some good and some bad but now the estate is making the wines they were hoping to. He still struggles a bit with being granted permission to use Grand Cru on his Pinot Gris from the Grand Cru vineyard of Muenchberg because the panel that makes these decisions, in some vintages find his wine not typical enough…so to combat that problem he created the A360P label. A360P is where the Muenchberg vineyard is located on a map, if he is permitted to use the words Grand Cru he puts it on the back label, I thought that was a pretty clever was to kind of give the panel the bird.

I sat there while the small, sleepy Andre cooed about his wines with his lovely French accent, I found him instantly endearing and his wines pretty brilliant, all so focused, plump but with sharp acidity so perfectly balanced. I flipped my lid over his Pinot Noir, the thing was stunning….loaded with violets, spice and lovely minerality, very Alsatian but with a little more stuffing, look for that wine to show up on the shelf at The Wine Country, it should be around $24. I was reminded how much I adore Andre’s wines and grateful that we have some in stock, we still have a tiny bit of his 2005 Fronholz and Heissenberg Rieslings, ($39.99) as well as the 2006 Riesling, ($25.99) and 2006 Sylvanner, ($19.99) all beautiful and some of the very best of the region.

When Pierre De Benoit from A.P. De Villaine began to speak I was at first distracted by his eyebrows…looked like a giant caterpillar was crawling across his forehead, but once I tasted his wines I was reminded why these are considered the best of Bouzeron, (a Burgundian village where they grow Aligote). The Aligote, the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir were all so delicate, pure and distinctive of their place. Powerful wines with finesse are the wines that drive me wild and the wines from both these estates were just that. I look forward to bringing in more wines from A.P. De Villaine but we do have in stock the 2005 Rully Blanc Les St Jacques, ($34.99), a lovely Chardonnay with tremendous texture and poise, tons of citrus and tart apple skin with a good chunk of minerals. I bought a bottle of that wine that evening to extend my mini vacation, a wonderful finish to a otherwise hectic day.

(Pierre De Benoit)

Thank you Kate, Pierre and Andre…..your visit made this wine girl’s day!!

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