Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Geek Speak (Written For The Wine Country Newsletter)

So in the last addition of The Wine Country newsletter I secretly put some feelers out, wrote about some of my little geeky wines and waited to see if anyone would take the bait. They did. This was not as much of a “Let’s see if they go for it” thing as it was research. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of introducing some new wines to the store, these are not wines that you just toss on the racks and wait for people to grab them. Truthfully with wines this unusual just tossing them on a shelf could end up backfiring on me which is why I have been hesitant to bring them in….but I love them so.

So the thing that really did it for me, pushed me to pull the trigger, (aside from losing my mind while tasting one afternoon) was the overwhelming response to two of the wines in that last feature; the 2006 Jo Pithon Anjou, ($18.99) and the 2006 Domaine de la Charriere Jasnieres ($19.99). Two somewhat funky Loire wines made from Chenin Blanc that are not at all polished or really all that easy. These are wines with layers of complex flavors, lots of minerality and some fun funky stuff going on. People not only gave them a chance, they came back for more. I was astounded and encouraged by how much people seemed to adore the quirky nature of those little wines, made me wonder what kind of response we would get from some extremely “unusual” wines. I was still dangling the idea around in my head when I sat down with one of our sales reps one busy afternoon. Randy and I tasted through the wines and I knew it was time to quit “dangling” and put these wines in people’s mouths.

The region of Jura while gaining popularity with sommeliers’ and the ultra fanatic wine collectors of the world, is relatively unheard of in most circles and seeing as the region represents about 1% of France’s total wine production it is little wonder why. Jura is in fact France’s smallest wine region, it is located between Burgundy and Switzerland and has four appellations; Arbois, Cotes du Jura, Etoile and Chateau-Chalon. There are five varieties grown in the Jura the whites are Chardonnay, (the most planted variety in the region) and Savagnin (nope not a typo) and the reds are Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir. The reds are savory and light but it is the white wines of the region that have more weight, fuller textures, bigger flavors and from which is made their most “famous” wine, Vin Jaune.

Vin Jaune is made by taking the best lots of Savagnin and aging them in old Burgundian barrels but not completely filled and as evaporation occurs a beneficial yeast forms over the surface of the wine, (much like the flor in Jerez where Sherry is made). This yeast layer which is called the voile, (the veil and some wines are labeled, Sous Voile, under the veil) combined with the acidity and aging a minimum of 6 years gives Vin Jaune its signature tangy, nutty, faintly salty flavor and tremendous complexity. While reminiscent of Sherry because of the oxidative qualities of Vin Jaune, the wines are not fortified and have a deeper, richer texture and complexity that is pretty mind bending.

Not all the wines in the region are Vin Jaune, and many of the Chardonnays coming from the Jura remind me very much of great white Burgundy. There is a bunch of intrigue and tremendous flavor to be found in this tiny little region, time to get brought up to speed on one of the hottest, most geeked out on, hard to find, intellectually stimulating wines on the planet. Tiny region, funky grapes, not polished or pretty or inexpensive but very rare, untamed, wild, unconventional, haunting and really damn thrilling wines to experience.

2008 Tissot Arbois Classique Chardonnay $26.99
The very first thing that came out of my mouth when I smelled this wine was, “It smells like Meursault!” Amazing depth on the nose, roasted nuts, minerals and a bit of holiday spice. On the palate the wine is broad, full and again reminds me of great white Burgundy but maybe just a touch dryer and with a linger that goes on forever. Cannot think of the last time a Chardonnay under thirty dollars brought me so much pleasure.

2007 Tissot Arbois Les Bruyeres Chardonnay $36.99
The aromatics on this wine had me completely captivated, took me twenty minutes to notice that I had not yet tasted this wildly beguiling wine. Intoxicating aromas of salted nuts, butter, cinnamon hard candy and minerals kept unfolding with each spin of the glass. The palate reminds me of Blanc de Blancs Champagne or Chablis in that doughy, stony, mineral rich way but the finish is a blast of salted butter and another rush of roasted nuts. You taste this sexy wine long after you have swallowed and that linger keeps you wanting more.

2005 Tissot Arbois Savagnin $41.99
This was Randy’s head spinning wine. Unbelievably expressive on the nose. Nutty, salty, full of browned butter, roasted citrus. The palate is so expansive and full it seems to almost grow in your mouth and wrap itself around your whole tongue. Drinks like a sexier and more refined Sherry andf would be absolutely stunning with chicken in morel cream sauce or a wedge of the regions famous cheese Comte. Not to be missed if you wish to really get a feel for the wines of the region.

2004 Berthet-Bondet Tradition Sous Voile $28.99
Classic Vin Jaune. Doughy, nutty, salty and showing plenty of oxidized aromas and flavors. Nice and full on the palate with a savory wildness that is true to the style. Delightful wine that would be lovely with a bowl of French onion soup or a plate of cured meat and cheeses.

2002 Berthet-Bondet Vin de Paille Vin Liquoreaux (375 ML) $44.99
Produced much like Italy’s beloved Vin Santo, by letting the grapes dry on racks for about three months before pressing. The result of that drying time is a fiercely extracted and intense aroma and flavor. Made from Chardonnay, Savagnin and Poulsard this wine is packed with dried apricots and quince, salted nuts and the palate is very much like apricot jam. A wine to serve after dinner with nuts and strong cheeses.


Rieseled said...

Hey there--great timing! I take my wine exams in under a week and today was "France" on my study schedule. One note: I think there are 2 other ACs in Jura: Macvin du Jura AC & Crémant du Jura AC.

Have you ever been there, would you recommend it? I've got the chance to visit Burgundy or Jura, and I'm on the fence. Would love to hear your thoughts. Any advice from the been there-done that gal o'wine? :)

Anonymous said...

The Loire Chenin Blancs have me intrigued. I'm adding those to my list, along with the Joguet Chinon Rose, to pick up on my way through town next time!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

In a shocking display of stupidity, I haven't had much Tissot. I used to carry some in my car for when I had a cold, but...OK, that's a lame joke.

I must try some Tissot. I'll call you. And then after the heavy breathing, I'll order some. You have impeccable taste. My taste is totally peccable.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

Kathy said...

Nice, Sam! Jura is just exactly that good and will be a lifesaver as those vines climb up the climate change mountain from Beaune. Look for it to be called Cote d'Or-Est.. I'm usually there during Coat Mink season so this isn't happening soon.

For Paula, Jura vineyards are only an hour or so from Beaune. Why would I stay in Burgundy? Chablis is one good reason (it's farther from Chablis to Beaune than from Lons-le-Saunier but a good stop from Champagne.) Beaune has some great restaurants and lots of music. Friendly vignerons. Fantastic cheese.
Reasons not (we're talking about fun, not just wine): Very crowded in July/August...very. The wines are expensive and you could get run over by a Mercedes. Somebody might teach you the light bulb song (is that on the exams?).
Anyway, when its clear you can see the Alps from Beaune and maybe these are very good reasons to choose Jura... especially with the opportunity to go in the very short summer.
Back to Sam for more real deal on the wines.

Samantha Dugan said...

First of all welcome! I so love seeing new faces, adore the regulars but it is nice when someone new stumbles upon me. You are right of course there are 2 other Jura AOC's, (I have to admit I did not know Macvin du Jura) and we even carry the Tissot Cremant du Jura, (really brilliant wine) at The Wine Country. Thanks for pointing that out.

As far as where to stay, I am desperately in love with Beaune, even have it tattooed on my body. The wines seduce me, the people charm be and the food is some of my favorite in all of France...rich as hell but dude. I have not be to Jura yet but I think Kathy has given you some fantastic tips. So my answer is Beaune, my answer is almost always Beaune.

Thanks for hanging in there with the comment nightmare that Blogger has been the last couple days. Be careful with Loire Chenin, there is a lot of crap out there look for Chidaine, Champalou, Huet and if you can still find any, Pithon. The wines are intriguing when done well and insipid when not...you have to come visit us lady!

Ron My Love,
I've grown so used to the heavy breathing I am not sure I will recognize your voice. I happen to love the wines from Tissot, well Jura wines in general but I am always cautious who I sell them to. You, well you can take it...and I think it will flip your wine geek switch. If not and you need help reaching it, I'd LOVE to help....

Another new face for me...woo hoo! I have of course seen you over at my beloved HoseMaster and seeing as he and I are a package deal....or so it seems, I welcome you to my humble blog. Thank you so much for the tips for Paula, could not have said it better myself lady.

Rieseled said...

Thanks so much for the tips Kathy and Sam! And Sam, thanks for the welcome as well. Love all the advice, so much so that I'm back for more :)

Chabilis is a must; Jura is creeping up; Beaune is a must. But we've only got 4 days before heading back to Berlin. Does it change any of the advice if I say I'll be starting in Alsace (have a 2 week internship at Rémy Gresser), meeting the love in Paris, and then heading "down" from there?

And for Sam, the queen of sensual, any restaurant recs? Wine, food, and 4 days sans enfants for the first time in 8 years...we plan to enjoy. Thanks so much!

Kathy said...

Thanks for the welcome, Sam. I lurked and covet your writing.
Paula, so let's get real. What you want is a great bed. Call it Sex in the Cité.
In Chablis, I recommend Larouche (especially a room with a balcony but I don't know your budget). http://www.larochehotel.fr/) Great restaurant and wines, too.
In Beaune, look for a gîte (run by the English) in or on the ring road of Beaune. That way, you can walk into the city by foot. However, you're arriving in very high season (why doesn't anyone but me visit in mink season?)
There are a few hotels I'd recommend if I could remember their names, my memory is in Austria until next week.
You will be surprised, perhaps, at how many American voices you will hear in these hallowed streets and cellars.
I was sitting outside as my memory did a tasting in Chablis - which is about as big as a shopping mall - and heard "American" so I queried. It was a family of retailers from New Orleans. They had lost everything in the hurricane. But vowed to continue and were there to buy. I hope they did.

Samantha Dugan said...

I must confess that when in Beaune I have let those in charge lead me and so sadly I had very few notes on the names of the places I have eaten. I did however contact Me Miguelito aka Michael Sullivan of Beaune Imports, (the reason Beaune is tattooed on my flesh) he lived there for awhile, married a woman from there and is there a couple times a year...oh and he has remarkable taste, (except in friends clearly!) and he sent me this. Cannot think of another human I would be more likely to take advice on eating from...

Les TonTons 22 Fbg Madleine, Tel: 03-80-24-19-64 A very nice, small restaurant with an excellent wine list. Almost all organic ingredients.

La Bouzerotte. Located outside of Beaune in the small village of Bouze-Les-Beaune. They serve good simple food. Follow the sign to Bouze-Les-Beaune from the ring road. Reasonably priced.

Ma Cuisine. Located in the Passage St. Helene just off the main central square (Place Carnot), this has become a local favorite with people in the wine trade. Good food, and very reasonable prices on the amazing wine list. Reserve in advance. Closed often.

Le Charlemagne. Tel: 03-80-21-51-45 Located in Pernand-Vergelesses as you enter the village, there are stunning views of the Charlemagne vineyard from the dining room. This is the restaurant that everyone was talking about in the summer of 2002. Run by a French guy who worked for a couple of years in Japan and his Japanese wife. There are some interesting east-west combinations that work, but we found the food only pretty good. The wine list was ho-hum as well, but there are a few good bottles.

Bissoh. A fairly interesting (for France) Japanese restaurant located just outside the ring road. Don’t have the address, but easy to find. Very good eclectic wine list. 03-80-24-99-50

La Ciboulette. Rue de Lorraine. Quite good, reasonably priced.

Le Gourmandin. Place Carnot. A good bistro.

La Garaudière. Located in the village of Levernois. Follow the directions to Verdun, turn left towards Levernois and follow the signs. Grilled meats in a nice setting.

L’Ecusson. I’ve had a couple of good meals recently at this one-star restaurant located off Place Madeleine.

Hostellerie de Levernois. Crotet. They had two Michelin stars until this past year. It’s still quite good and they are making an effort to get the second star back. Located in the village of Levernois outside of town on the Route de Verdun.

Jardin des Remparts. Located right near the Hospices de Beaune on the ring road. This one-star is well liked by our local friends. I haven’t been there since they got their star.

Vieux Moulin de Bouilland. This one-star restaurant can be very good, but sometimes a little too experimental for my taste. A beautiful spot in the charming village of Bouilland which is in the hills beyond Savigny-Les-Beaune.

Caveau des Arches Located on the ring road near the intersection with Rue d=Alsace. This is a nice restaurant located in a cellar serving good renditions of traditional Burgundian fare for reasonable prices. The wine list has some decent finds as well.

Verdun sur le Doubs. This little town 15-20 km. east of Beaune is very well known for its river specialties. These include La Fritture (deep fried smelt), frogs' legs (in the springtime) and the famous Pocheuse. This is sort of a northern version of Bouillabaisse but with cream and white wine rather than saffron and tomatoes. There are two old style restaurants on the main square, one of which is called Les Platains. They are both equally good. Your hotel manager certainly knows them both very well.

Caves Madeleine. 8 Faubourg Madeleine. 03-80-22-93-30
A very happening wine bistro. Good, down to earth food with wine at retail + pricing.

Rieseled said...

Thank you thank you thank you!

Rieseled said...

After a long discussion with my other half, who was willing to see Burgundy so long as "the focus wasn't on wine" (um, no), we opted for Jura instead.

4 days drinking, eating, then hiking to work off the meal and wine from the night before. Amazing place; incredible wines. And the art of food and wine pairing is inspiring. Visited Tissot (Jacques and Stephane), Rolet, Tournelle, and an amazing wine shop "les jardins" in Arbois run by the former sommelier of JeanPaul Geunet, and the crowing glory: Jean Macle.

I'm in awe, in love, and inspired to do good in the world. Sadly, though the 8 hour train ride allowed us to relive our memories over a bottle of the local cremant, it seriously impeded the amount we could bring home.

Highly, highly recommend a journey there!