Sunday, January 31, 2010

Larue Like Me

The very next day was a watershed day for it was my first visit to a cooperage, thanks to the brilliant forethought of Didier Larue, who was to be our next wine encounter. Despite our language barrier, I identify with Didier on multiple levels. Didier is a short man, as am I. He's thoughtful and generous, as I hope to be. He is improving every year, which is something I strive to do. We're both balding (I'd have a George Jefferson if I let it go) and we have extreme passion for the grape. See...kindred spirits.

Our visit to barrel-maker-to-the-stars, Seguin Moreau, was truly enlightening. Located in Chaigny, a stones throw from Chassagne Montrachet, this outfit makes approximately 90,000 high quality barrels every year. The process of taking wood staves and turning them into weapons of winemaking destruction is really a pleasure to view. From the shaping to the toasting to the laser engraving, watching these barrels come to life gave me a deeper connection to the wines from which they come. Very, very cool...

After the tour, we jetted over to St. Aubin to tastes the wares of Domaine Larue. I documented as much last year after tasting the 2008's from barrel, but they are the finest collection I've tasted from Larue. As always, the St. Aubin en Remilly and St. Aubin Murgers Dents des Chien are the standouts. These are 1er cru wines with supreme clarity and could certainly fool even the most experienced taster into thinking they were drinking big time Puligny. The en Remilly cuts like a knife across the palate with white fruits, thyme, crystallized ginger and cleansing, refreshing acidity. If the en Remilly is a razor's edge, then the Dents des Chien is ninjas steel. It starts off very linear and just fans out saturating the palate with citrus, clover, pain grille and baking spice. Broader, weightier, voluptuous and alluring, it is about as good as St. Aubin gets. In addition, Didier crafted two fantastic Puligny's, the Sous le Puits and the La Garenne. What an impressive showing for Didier's wines. Look for them in the Spring, as they are knockout wines.

After tasting the wines, we had a magnificent lunch in Pommard at Aupres de Cloches. Not sure if this place has a Michelin star or not, but the 6-course tasting menu we experienced was expertly prepared and melded to perfection with the wines we drank. Yeah, we drank at lunch...enough with the spitting!

2006 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Murgers Dents de Chien - MAGNUM
2002 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Murgers Dents de Chien
2003 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Sentier du Clou Rouge
1999 Domaine Ganoux Pommard Grands Epenots

I was fat and happy!

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Women & The Rockstar

Directly following our visit at Domaine Leflaive, we walked a few blocks to taste with Francois Carillon of Domaine Louis Carillon. Well, at least that's the name of it at present. 2010 marks a split between Francois and his brother, Jacques and each will have holdings and wines bearing their own name. Apparently, from the hap-hazard bits I could decipher, it has something to do with a woman. Shocking!

The wines of Carillon are a direct opposite of those from Domaine Leflaive. They were richer, which to me manifested itself gorgeously with the Puligny village and not so gorgeously with regard to the various 1er cru wines. They felt a bit heavy-handed in 2008 just slightly lacking cut, but there is certainly a wealth of fruit. That being said, the 2008 Carillon Bienvenue Batard Montrachet, tasted out of a tiny stainless steel tank, was the kind of stuff dreams are made of. They only make 600, er 599 1/2 bottles of this massively endowed Grand Cru that tips the scales of weight, while still seeming weightless. Expansive, wide and exuberant mango, nectarine, brioche, stones, white flowers and ripping acid cleanliness culminate with great force. An outstanding wine that only need a decade of rest to display its greatness.

As an aside, this domaine has also been bold enough to do extensive tasting of their older wines and have proclaimed that all of their wines from the mid-90's completely suck due to premature oxidation problems. They blame bad corks as the culprit and also say that the same wines out of magnum have no issues and are superb. Let's get a big bottle and test the theory, eh?

Now that two monumental visits are in the books, its time for lunch. We saunter over to Hotel Montrachet for a little refreshments, food and beverages of the typicity of the place. Meal...superb...wines...damn fine. After playing our usual blind tasting reindeer games, we finish up with a sublime cup of coffee, a perfect segue to the rendez-vous with the Vinifrance rockstar of the portfolio, Sylvain Bzikot.

I've said it before. Sylvain Bzikot would be a complete wine idol of every Burg-geek in the world if you sat them down to blind taste his wares against the greats. He's that good. Aside from that, he has an aura as large and brilliant as the sun. Despite the fact that there is a distinct linguistic disconnect when we see each other (he speaks little to no English and I know just enough French to be wrong every time I attempt to converse) we are never at a loss of understanding. Sylvan unveiled an absolutely stunning set of 2008's for us to taste after sampling his 2009's from barrel. These wines are feverish and nervy, luscious and lively, lingering and a singluar word, captivating. You really can't take your mind off them for long when engaged with them as all thoughts, even ones outside of wine, take you back to the beauty in the glass. Haunting beauty...

Every wine presented was spot on. But if pressed for two to look for in the near future, seek out his 2008 Puligny Montrachet La Rouselle and his 2007 Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru, both arriving in a couple months. The La Rouselle marks a victorious three year battle importer/svengali, Olivier Daubresse, has had with Sylvain to bottle this special lieu-dit on its own. Formerly, blended into the village-level wine, the La Rouselle is dynamic, dreamy Puligny that could compete with any 1er cru. Crystalline mineral touches, medium bodied melon tones meld with hints of honeydew and show impeccable balance. It's amazing wine! All I have to say about Sylvain's Folatieres 1er cru is that I tasted the exact same vintage and site from Domaine Leflaive precisely 4 hours before so it was fresh in my mind. Sylvain made the better wine. Period.

JCB the 4th

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wine Diversion 2010 - The 6 Greatest Albums of All-Time

For your viewing pleasure (and because I know you can't live without this knowledge) I present to you the 6 Greatest Albums of All-Time. Well, at least these are my faves...

6 - Weezer - The Red Album - Ok, so before you think this list has no credibility, give this thing a listen. These pop songs with distorted guitars are so finely crafted, dripping with oxymorons, sarcasm and just life-affirming truth. It begins with a 2 chord stomp, "Troublemaker", that toyfully plays with rockgod/B-boy swagger. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is a Bohemian Rhapsody inspired touch of genius. "Heart Songs" hits home deep to me as an ode to adolescent musical inspiration and I did a lot of the nutty things in "Everybody Get Dangerous" as a kid. In my mind, Rivers Cuomo is one of my generations most under-appreciated songwriters.

5 - Jay-Z - The Blueprint - Since I've never been one to totally dismiss someone for being popular, any true fan of hip-hop can't deny that Jay-Z deserves a spot on the "Mt. Rushmore" of the art form. While he has crafted many bumpin' singles over the years, The Blueprint is his most complete work with lyrical flows that match the tremendous musical production. From the brilliant use of a Doors sample in "The Takeover" to the swingin' Timbaland-produced "Hola Hovito" to the Bobby Blues Bland-groove of "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" this is Jigga at not only his most lethal, but also perhaps his most poignant. Lot's of dudes can rap, but no one has the verbal skills of Jay-Z.

4 - Fishbone - Truth & Soul - This album's production may sound dated to some now, but this is the most important record that I've ever heard. It was released at a time when I wanted desparately to be in a touring band and when I saw a black kid with a bald head, a few dreadlocks aloft play a live set at City Gardens for $5 with the energy and destructive capabilities of a SCUD missle, my mind was forever changed. Once I got home and bought the CD (yes, kids, that's what we did back then) I was destroyed. Seering ska-soaked, punk-n-soul with attitude and real heart, made me listen so much I wore the CD out. The greatest band I've ever seen live, period, at their creative apex.

3 - Public Enemy - It Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back - From Chuck D's barking baritone delivery to the nonsense of Flavor Flav's antics, this is Panther Power punk. The Bomb Squad (whatever happened to these guys?) created a ground-breaking style of beats by making the track so dense that it almost sounded like cacophony incarnate but every sample has its place and is perfectly situated. Chuck's voice is so crucial in songs like "Rebel Without a Pause" "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos" and "Night of the Living Baseheads", it's like a call to arms. I'm ready, Chuck!

2 - Sam Cooke - Live at Harlem Square (1964) - No one, and I do mean no one, has ever sang a song like Sam does. When he first came on the scene, he was a crooner in a tight suit and so clean cut. But the REAL Sam Cooke is on full display in this live performance in front of an all-Black crowd in Miami. Sam takes 'em to church with soulful, raspy renditions of his poppy singles. Listening to this you can feel the sweat in the room, you can hear the urgency in his voice and the passion of the real man. Rod Stewart has probably listened to this as much as I have as his vocal styling throughout his career is a dead-red replication of this album. Sometimes, I wish I was born back then (except for the racism and stuff) just so I could have been groovin' in the back of the room. I still, after 9 million listens, get the chills every time "Bring It On Home" breaks in. Whoa!

And in the Number One Spot!

1 - Stevie Wonder - Songs In the Key Of Life - Nothing will ever displace this album...ever. Forget for a moment that it was the soundtrack to my childhood, always playing at my home on Saturday morning when my mother was cleaning the house and still on when my father got back from the golf course. Song after song after song of greatness from the most important singular artist in my lifetime. He paints a picture more vivid that anyone despite having never seen many of the things he describes. "Village Ghetto Land", "I Wish", "Sir Duke", "Isn't She Lovely", "Knocks Me Off My Feet", "Saturn", "Ebony Eyes" God, there really isn't a collection of music that I've ever come across that is so completely organic, honest and filled with the reality of the human experience. To me, the greatest work of art of all-time.

I promise to get back to the Burgundy trip, pronto.

JCB the 4th

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Promise (slightly) Unfulfilled...

Well, I know that I told you I would be sending daily updates from the vineyards of the Cote d'Or, but alas, I never brought my computer. Why? I always have a tough time at our hotel (Le Montrachet) getting and maintaining an internet connection, so instead of lugging my burly laptop to Burgundy, I decided at the last minute to just focus on the sights, sounds and smells (oh yes, there are many) of Bourgogne and to detail as much as possible. Some of my travel companions look at me with a perplexed brow when I'm banging away on my Blackberry, but it really is an efficient tool to record every tasting, wine and dish that we enjoy. As for Tweeting, stupid T-Mobile wanted to charge me a king's ransom to tweet out the wines from France. Le Batards!

So if you read our 56 newsletter, you know that Lamy Pillot was an impressive visit that lasted from mid-afternoon to well into the evening culminating in a delcious dinner in Beaune at Le P'tite Paradis. Chris did a great job of describing the whole scene on his blog, Down to Earth Wine. The following morning, we were to see one of the most storied white wine estates of the world, the irrepressible, Domaine Leflaive...

We had a glorious tasting at Domaine Leflaive and Antoine Lepetit couldn't have been more gracious. He answered all of our questions about the processes with accuracy and thought, allowed us to sample their dynamic 2008's from tank as the are close to being bottled and even explained what "Sous le Dos d'Ane" means, their fantastic singular Meursault. "Donkey's back" is the answer as neither Chris nor I could find a good translation for the life of us before now. One surprising tidbit is that many 2008's were extremely slow to complete malo-lactic fermentation. Thus, we were unable to taste the Puligny Montrachet AC or the Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru. We did go Bourgogne Blanc to Grand Cru and it was really amazing!

Wines Tasted:

2008 Bourgogne Blanc
2008 Meursault Sous le Dos d'Ane 1er cru
2008 Puligny Montrachet Clavoillons 1er cru
2008 Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er cru
2008 Batard Montrachet Grand Cru
2008 Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru

2007 Puligny Montrachet AC
2007 Puligny Montrachet Les Folatiers 1er cru
2007 Bienvenue Batard Montrachet Grand Cru

Since the 2007's will be coming to our market very soon, it was great to get a chance to taste them from bottle. All three were stunning wines in their respective category, representing the pinnacle of the Chardonnay grape. The Puligny village is not to be missed as it is wide open and classic Puligny with tropical fruits, orange peel, nuts and mocha hints. The Folatiers is always a lush and forward drinking site and the 07 is gorgeous with expansive, voluminous citrus fruit, stones, chalk, white fruits and vanilla bean. Finally, the Bienvenue is like a statuesque beauty, all regal and dressed to the nines. It jumps from the glass with melons, spice, tangerine, smoke and white corn with real class and superior length. Truly a jaw dropping tasting and a true honor to be in the hallowed halls...

Next up...Carillon, Bzikot & crazy meals!

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Here We Here We Go!

Burgundy trip is a go, T-minus six days to liftoff. This year, the list of wineries confirmed to visit is as follows...

Domaine Bzikot, Puligny
Domaine Lamy-Pillot, Chassagne
Domaine Borgeot, Santenay
Domaine Larue, St. Aubin
Domaine Jean Michel Guillon, Gevrey
Domaine Maillard, Chorey
Domaine Albert Grivault, Meursault
Domaine Leflaive, Puligny
Domaine Joseph Roty, Gevrey

The plan at present is to document each day as best I can in the short spells of down time that we have. I also intend to bring you a little video as well (thanks Rich!) to paint the portait a touch more vividly.

To warm-up, last night I roasted various chicken parts, made a little rice pilaf and sauteed a bit of broccolini in olive oil and garlic and washed it down with the 2006 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze. To classify this as just Macon is akin to classifying Freddie Mercury as just a singer. It's so much greater than that (as is the late Mercury) and the only thing separating this from 1er cru is the dirt. All the tell-tale Domaine Leflaive creme brulee, citrus oil, creamy-yet-not-oaky-and-still-precise character is all there. Can't wait to see the whole operation...
JCB the 4th

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Guess Who's Back?!

I'm back, People!

The hiatus of Le Monstre was one part holiday hub-bub, as it is the busiest time of the year at 56. The other two parts were due to Blogspot shutting me down for a week or so, slapping this as a spamblog. What the hell? I put a few links to our business and all of sudden I'm a spammer? I am trying to make a living for cryin' out loud, but I'd like to think that there's a little more entertainment and artistry going on here than that moniker suggests. If there wasn't, you wouldn't read this more than once anyway. Believe me, no computer generated spam-bot can do it like I do. Well, maybe except for my IPod, which I referenced nearly a year ago when this blog began. My IPod is a freak. Seriously.

And she'll be put to the test in less than 10 days as I head back to Burgundy, the scene of the very first posts here. I'll do my best to give you a blow-by-blow as the tastings unfold. And as long as I don't have too much Chassagne with dinner, I'll wake up early and do just that. It's sure to be interesting this year as the focus will be the now bottled 2008's (unheralded vintage) and the in barrel (super heralded vintage) 2009's. I'm really excited to try both. Really? Excited to try 2008's? Yes, because experience has shown me that there are many jewels among vintages that the wine press officially labels as "just ok". One only need look as far back as 2006 and 2001. Both came alongside great years (2005 & 2002) and got lost in the process. 2001's are glorious wines right now and 2006 will mirror that with time. You heard it here first!

Since its been a while since we've seen each other and I've consumed too many tasty wines to give you the laundry list, here is my fave Pinot for drinking right now that I had just last night with leftovers. It's the (link provided, so sue me!) 2007 Domaine Maillard Bourgogne Rouge. This is flat-out delicious Pinot right now just drinking brilliantly. Kudus, Pascal! See you in a couple weeks!

Le Monstre's New Year's Eve Wines

1976 Josef Fries Noviander Honigberg Riesling Auslese
2002 Daniel Rion Vosne Romanee Les Beaux Monts 1er cru
2004 Vimart & Cie Champagne Brut Rose "Grand Cellier Rubis"

The l'enfant terrible is back for the 2010!

à bientôt

JCB the 4th