TN: Dinner with the fellahs: Muscadet, Vouvray, Cornas, St. Joseph and Primitivo

It’s become tradition that when Manuel Camblor is back in town, I’ll find the time to give him a home cooked meal, so last night he, Michel Abood and Keith Levenberg graced Chez Brad for a relatively light summer meal as I’m trying to eat a little healthier these days. On the menu was a corn, fennel, zucchini, blistered grape tomato, bacon (light on the bacon) and lobster salad on a bed of wild arugula with a citrus vinaigrette and a flank steak with ratatouille. What goes with food? Wine, of course and luckily, despite threats to shock and horrify me, my guests brought along some very tasty beverages.



2007 Grand Fief de L’Audigère- Muscadet, Sèvre & Maine
Michel brokers this wine and has been keen on having me try it. It’s quite pleasant, but to my tastes, not really typical Muscadet. It’s very friendly and fruit forward with a tropical fruit character and relatively lowish acidity for a Muscadet. I wish it had a bit more mineral and a little less pineapple, but it’s quite pleasant and perhaps a good introduction to Muscadet for those that worry French wines are thin and sour. That said, you should all run out and buy it so Michel can start bringing good wines to dinner. [wink.gif] B/B+.

2002 Huet- Vouvray Demi-Sec, Le Haut-Lieu
Okay. I’m a little perplexed. When exactly are these '02’s going to shut down? They should be tight as nails at this stage, but this bottle was belting out arias like the fat lady with the horned helmet. Just explosive on the palate. Quince and mineral still dominate and it has yet to take on any secondary characteristics, but there is so much depth and length to this wine. It was beautiful with the lobster and corn salad and I don’t know if it was because I was really thirsty from cooking up a storm, or if the wine was just so scrumptious, but I found myself chugging this wine. A.

2001 Thierry Allemande- Cornas "Sans Soufre"
Nothing on the label that designates that this is a sans soufre bottling, you just have to know. You may need to know the secret handshake to get this, too. Always a little risky cellaring a sans soufre bottling, but this is showing brilliantly. It’s quite expressive on the nose and palate with a little bit of lift from VA, but not to much to get your panties in a bunch about. Just beautiful black olives, sweet black fruit, garrigue, meat and spice with perky, but not too tart acidity. What I like about Allemand is that he always manages to get just what Cornas is, but then presents it in a more suave and polished package, though not in a modernist winemaking way. It’s a truly unique trick that, in my book, makes him one of the most exciting winemakers in the world today, though I guess I shouldn’t say that too loud as the prices have been getting really steep as of late. Low A.

1994 Noël Verset- Cornas
If Allemand represents the more modern end of the traditional Cornas spectrum, Verset may well represent the other extreme. It’s really hard not to smile when you have a Verset. It reminds me of one of my favorite books when I was a kid, Where the Wild Things Are as this is just unrestrained, funky and wild Syrah. Whereas the Allemand had black olives and riper black fruit with round edges, this is a lot more herbal, the olives are green, the fruit is red, there’s a bit more animal and the structure is a bit more jarring. I really wish I had some Verset left in my cellar. Drinking really well now. Solid A-.

1989 Gonon- St. Joseph
There’s a bit of bottle variation with this wine. This is the fourth time I’ve had it in the past three or so months and two times it’s been a little lackluster, but last night’s showing evened the score up. Right away you could tell it was going to show well by its effusive nose. There’s plenty of sweet cherries, leather, game earth and sweet brown spices. The mouthfeel is gorgeous. Just so silky and elegant, but with weight behind it. It’s a little more earth/leather dominated on the palate than on the nose, but there’s a vein of sweet fruit that’s just really enjoyable. You hear this analogy all the time, but it’s like curling up on an old, softened leather couch and getting lost in comfort. Drink up. A/A-.

2006 Christano Guttarolo- Primitivo Gioia del Colle Anfora, Puglia
My good friend Joe Dressner brings this in and I must confess that many of the wines in his Italian portfolio are a little extreme for me. I thought I was in for it when I first tried this wine as it was terribly funky and full of piss and vinegar when we first opened it up. Four hours later, when we had finished our Northern Rhones and were looking for something else to drink, we came back to it and what a transformation! Yeah, there was a little funk left, but in a good way. But what had developed was just a beautiful and pure raspberry preserves character that was intermixed with pomegranate, nettles, fennel and earth. So often one finds Primitivo that’s just overripe and limpid, but this was crunchy and bright and not heavy at all. Really quite nice. A-/B+.

Some pics from the evening:

The fellahs.

Michel tests how far up will it go.

Lobstah and corn salad.

A lovely match.

Manuel cuts the cheese.

Longan fruit.

Manuel gets all artistic.

The lineup

Great notes, you nailed my thoughts on most of those wines and I don’t have anything to add.
The Sans Soufre was a nice surprise because the last time I had it, it could fairly be called a fruit bomb it was so primary. Now it is showing some nice tertiary stuff and really exhibiting its Cornas soul.
The lobstah rocked!

Hey, what happened to the Cote-Rotie?

Good catch! I meant Cornas.



Wow. What’s going on? First Jay seems to be in agreement with me on most of the wines at Sunday’s dinner and now you. I’m thinking I should buy some lottery tickets!

We all know you and Dr Jay Miller share palate, that’s the only explanation… [diablo.gif]

Your notes pretty much sum up my thoughts too. I really liked the Allemand, though compared to the Verset it was much more polished, but in a good way. And yeah, my Gonon rocked.