TN: Varnier-Fanniere, '02 Milan, '05 Gueguen, '03 Prager, '00 Drouhin, '99 Calera

END-OF-SUMMER BOUNTY WITH WINES - Chicago (9/18/2010)

Some friends and I got together to enjoy some home cooking and wine.

Champagne
For this course, we snacked on some thin, crispy crackers topped with a slice of fuji apple, homemade lemon creme fraiche, toasted walnuts, and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar. It proved to be an excellent match for the Varnier-Fanniere in particular. Once we finished that bottle, we moved on to the Milan, my first experience with this bottling. It is a very special wine, such energy. It easily outclassed the first bottle, which is not to say that it wasn’t delightful too. I was cooking during most of this course, so my notes are more of sketchy impressions.

  • N.V. Varnier-Fanniere Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvée St. Denis - France, Champagne, Avize, Champagne
    Giving aromas of yeastiness and yellow fruit. Not sure I smelled the pencil I was told was characteristic of Avize though. But there was something distinctive about the nose for sure. Pity I seem to be adjectivally challenged to describe it. On the palate this was light-weight but rounded and gently textured, inviting the next sip with its sheer tastiness.
  • 2002 Jean Milan Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Terres de Noel - France, Champagne, Côte des Blancs, Champagne
    Extremely minerally nose, not really about fruit at all. On the palate this is very tight, coating the palate with focused acidity. Tons of depth to the fruit, this is an exhilarating drink now for its structure and potential, but it is tightly coiled and needs time to unfold.

Whites
For this course we had risotto with spinach, arugula, and roasted orange plum tomatoes. The maters were super-sweet and added a lot of richness to the dish. It was a very successful risotto, IMNSHO. The flavors were a better match for the Chablis, but the Prager was the better wine. So we went back and forth about which we preferred with the food.

  • 2005 Frédéric Gueguen (Domaine des Chenevières) Chablis 1er Cru L’Homme Mort - France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    I think there may have been something off with this bottle, possibly incipient prem-ox. The nose had some metallic elements to it, very distinctive, but I’m not sure I liked it. But on the palate this showed flaccid and loose-knit, maturing fruits, without the firm acidity I crave in Chablis. I would chalk it up partly to vintage perhaps, but this was a shadow of the '05 Cote de Lechet, which was nicely structured and young just a year ago. So, not necessarily unpleasant and no obvious oxidative signs, but I fear that’s where this one is headed.
  • 2003 Prager Riesling Smaragd Klaus - Austria, Niederösterreich, Wachau
    Very petrolly on the nose, with some orchard fruits as well. The palate is round and rich, but without approaching flabby. There’s lots of depth to the flavors here, and I think this is probably in its prime drinking window.

Reds
These wines were served with cedar plank-grilled King salmon and assorted grilled vegetables. How nice when the late season crops are all at their ripest and sweetest! Both wines were excellent, the Calera upstaging the Drouhin with its additional complexity and acidity. My feeling was that some of the shortcomings of the Drouhin would not have been nearly as evident if it had been drunk on its own. It was a delightful bottle, to be sure.

  • 2000 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Louise - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark ruby, verging on purple. Very dark-fruited on the nose, with a dash of turned soil to complicate things. Given the vintage, this has unsurprisingly low(ish) acidity in the mouth, contributing to a broad, fruity texture. The fruit is of great quality though, plush, velvety, and long on the front of the palate. There’s some tannic structure left as well, thought it’s mostly buffered by the fruit. I think this wine could age more, but it’s an attractive drink at the moment and I doubt I would wait on it if I had any in the cellar.
  • 1999 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan
    Brilliant light ruby color. The nose fairly leaps out of the glass with enticing, autumnal secondary notes and bright red fruits: sour cherry and cranberry maybe. The palate has relaxed into a wonderful marriage of fruit and acid here, with its juiciness drawn across the whole length of palate by a brightness that is totally integrated with the fruit, making this at once smooth and light in weight. Some firm, chalky tannins make an appearance on the back end too. This could surely age more, as the balance of structure and fruit is exquisite, and there’s still more to resolve. But if you have several, do yourself a favor and try one now.

Posted from CellarTracker

Jamie, thank you for your notes. I really like the Varnier-Fannieres wines. To my palate, they are tight, focused, intense and detailed wines; chardonnay lasers. They are really terrific at the table.

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Tasted both 00 and 02 recently. Enjoy the former now to 2015. Then hit the 02 again.