Monday, February 4, 2008

Mushrooms and Feet...

I had the good fortune recently to be invited by Kathleen Ventura and Dennis Lapuyade of Bar Cesar restaurant in Oakland to taste a selection of Burgundies for potential inclusion on their wine list. I brought along a couple of Pinots from our sister brand - La Rochelle - for kicks.

The tasting was fascinating for a couple of reasons; the most obvious of which is that I don't really anything about Old World wines. I commented to one of my partners, Phil Tagami, that the Burgundies (representing a number of Domaines and the 1991 - 2003 vintages) required a whole different vocabulary than CA and OR wines do.

My notes included comments such as mushroom custard, crab bisque, mint jelly, feet.... Even more to the point, these French Pinots have a shape to them that is very different from our own wines...much more austerity when young, a wonderful bracing acid that runs completely through the wine, and an emphasis on non-fruit aromas and flavors.

I enjoyed the wines, didn't love them, not like I love Pinot from the Santa Lucia Highlands or the Umpqua Valley of Oregon. Our wines (I mean New World here) have a vibrancy and exuberance to them that is missing from Burgundy. The French wines may have been more interesting in an intellectual sense (it's more fun than you think to separate the feet from the crabs) but they were not nearly as viscerally satisfying as the younger, more opulent Cali wines.

Thanks Dennis and Kathleen for letting me learn a lot more about the other wine world and for sharing the fantastic food at Cesar (which includes, at their Berkeley location, the greatest french fry I have ever had). BTW, my favorite Burgundy of the night was the 2001 Nuits St. Georges, Clos des Corvees Pagets, Robert Arnoux.

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