A Week in Burgundy with John Truax (Part 2)
FRIDAY November 13, 2016
Friday morning was grey and foggy, it’s always like this during the Hospices week. We went to Vosne Romanee to taste with Louis-Michel Liger Belair. There was a large group of ten or so people. We met outside the iron gate of the Chateau de Vosne Romanee at 9:30. Louis-Michel was dapper as ever in his signature red pants. He came out to the electric gate with his gigantic dog Arak and ushered us into the courtyard of the magnificent Chateau du Vosne Romanee, the ancestral home. He then dragged a trash bin across the yard to get picked up. Even the Count of Vosne Romanee has to take out the trash.
Louis Michel is lots of fun. He has a wonderful sense of humor and was joking with the familiar crowd of tasters from around the world. There was Claude Kolm, the eloquent and thoughtful veteran wine critic from San Francisco, Louis-Michel’s genial and very funny Scottish importer, some folks from London and a smattering of Scandinavians. We all had tasted there before.
2014 reds from Louis Michel are fantastic, elegant and refined. They have fresh acidity and are beautiful reflections of their terroir. His white is the best he's ever made. He bought a Nuits St. Georges vineyard from Chateau de Puligny Montrachet in 2010 which produces both red and white wines. The Clos des Grandes Vignes Blanc. He lets some of the juice oxidize until it is brown in color and then adds it back to the unfermented juice. He says this inoculates the wine against oxidation. Lovely sweet fruit, 22% new oak, harvest began September 15th. This is a stunning white wine. Louis-Michel asked Jean-Marc Roulot to teach him how to make white wine.
We started by tasting three different Vosne Romanee that are all village level.
2014 Vosne Romanee A.C. - ten barrels made - beautiful spicy aromas, the hallmark of Vosne Romanee. Rich, ripe, plush, delicious. This wine gets better every year.
2014 Vosne Romanee Colombiere - more spice aromas, rich and full, very fine ripe tannins. Beautiful, crunchy fruit like biting into a ripe grape.
2014 Vosne Romanee Clos du Chateau - bigger, richer, fuller and more spice. Lovely, rich and full. Bright, sweet fruit.
Then we started tasting the premier crus.
2014 Vosne Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots - touching Romanee St. Vivant. Dark fruits, very rich and full and fragrant. 15% whole cluster fermentation. Very complete Suchots, nearly Grand Cru in quality. Outstanding.
2014 Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru Les Cras - from 94 year-old vines. Located between Boudots and Richemone. A very Vosne like Nuits St. Georges. Very mineral. Black fruits, very complex, good mouthweight. A stunning Nuits St. Georges.
2014 Vosne Romanee Les Petit-Monts - sweet, red fruit like fraise du bois, very floral, very elegant yet powerful, rich and full. I only hope that I can try this wine again.
2014 Nuits St. Georges Clos du Grandes Vignes - dark black and red fruits, more of that crunchy fruit. Rich and ripe with crackling acidity. Very lively and racy. Interesting that he tasted this after the Petit-Monts.
2014 Vosne Romanee Aux Reignots - red berry fruit, long and full and rich and complex but elegant and transparent. Grand Cru quality from a Premier Cru vineyard. Fabulous wine.
2014 Echezeaux - leaner, more mean, tougher fruits and salinity. Crisp acidity. Coiled power.
2014 La Romanee - Soaring aromas, such remarkable complexity. Layers and layers and waves of flavors. As fantastic as the wines previous wines were, the intensity of La Romanee seemed almost hard to comprehend. So much better than the great Echezeaux.
Louis Michel then graciously let us taste four different 2013s:
2013 Nuits St. Georges Clos de Grandes Vignes - full, rich, fine, astringent.
2013 Reignots - scented, perfumed, very pure and fine. Fresh and showy. Classic wine.
2013 Echezeaux - tangy and prickly and very fine.
2013 La Romanee - Absolutely stunning. Scented and perfumed right up to Heaven. Fantastic, supple, unctuous with great mouthweight.
2007 La Romanee - very nice, very soft compared to the 2013 and 2014. I love the 2007 vintage. I think it’s underrated. Red fruit, chalky minerality, great “feel” on the palate, slippery, silky - fabulous wine. Drink it if you ever have the opportunity.
Thanks, Louis Michel!
We then went to see my old friend Pascal Marchand. Pascal came to Burgundy in the mid-eighties from Montreal, Quebec to work the harvest for Bruno Clair. He worked so hard at harvest that Bruno Clair offered him a job in the winery. He went to wine school and got a job as the winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand in Pommard. He worked there from 1985 until 1998 - fourteen vintages. Then he was at Domaine Du Vougeraie for five or so years and now he has a negociant business in Nuits Saint Georges with partner Moray Tawse of Toronto, a dynamic business - Marchand-Tawse. They own vineyards and buy grapes. Pascal's winemaking style has evolved over the years and he now makes forty plus wines between Marchand Tawse and Domaine Maume. Huge lineup of wines. Pascal made 8,000 cases in 2014. We tasted the 2014s from barrel, but not all forty of them.
2014 Nuits St. Georges A.C. - pretty, powerful, astringent.
2014 Beaune Clos du Roi - good fruit, bright, astringent on the finish.
2014 Volnay Fremiets - bright and lively. Sweet fruit.
2014 Nuits St. Georges Longecourts - a little known and underappreciated vineyard right below 1er Cru Les Saint Georges. Great rich, black fruits. Stunning, little known wine.
2014 Morey St. Denis Premier Cru Clos des Ormes - rich blackberry fruit, very Morey. Full and rich and sappy. Pascal makes a number of great Morey St. Denis wines.
2014 Morey St. Denis Premier Cru Faconnieres - Black fruit, leaner, more structure than the Clos des Ormes, more tannin. Very nice, very young, lots of power lurking beneath the fruit.
2014 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Cazetiers - licorice, black fruit, astringent, powerful, lovely.
2014 Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Perrieres - full, rich, astringent, tannic.
2014 Nuits St. Georges Premier Cru Les Cailles - Prickly, piercing, good acidity. Very, very pure.
2014 Vosne Romanee Premier Cru Les Suchots - spicy aromas jumped from the glass. Very Vosne, very fine. 100% whole cluster fermentation. Pascal's Suchots vines have very tiny berries. I asked if it was Pinot Fin, a particular sub-variety of Pinot Noir that has very low yields because of the size of the berries. He answered that it was Pinot tres tres fin. Pinot Fin was ripped up and replanted with other varieties of higher yielding clones of Pinot Noir in the bad old days of people looking to make more wine regardless of quality. Nowadays most growers have gone back to having a greater variety of genetic material in their Burgundy vineyards by planting a “selection massale” rather than identical clones.
We then tasted Grand Crus.
2014 Corton - perfumed and pure and rich.
2014 Echezeaux - high toned and elegant. Very, very fine. Sourced from the vineyards La Pontardieres and Quartieres des Nuits.
2014 Clos Vougeot - located at the Echezeaux door. An amalgam of the spicebox of Vosne with the aromas of Musigny. A great Clos Vougeot.
2014 Bonne Mares - I thought this kind of smelled like hotdogs. What? It kind of did.
2014 Clos St. Denis - powerful and tangy with lots of finesse and elegance. Suave, lean, sophisticated - Clos Saint Denis is such a fantastic vineyard.
2014 Clos de la Roche - blacker fruit, very full and powerful. A bruising Morey Saint Denis Grand Cru.
2014 Charmes Chambertin - classic, with signature aromas of oyster shells and limestone. Very mineral, very Chambertin.
2014 Mazis Chambertin - really lovely sweet fruit with piercing acidity on the finish.
2014 Chambertin Clos de Beze - tangy,limestone-y, oyster shells, rich, long.
2014 Chambertin - liquorish, pure, fine, really jumps from the glass.
2014 Musigny - very spicy, very aromatic, very powerful, very long and fine.
We then tasted four 2014 whites.
2014 Savigny Les Beaune Premier Cru Les Vergelesses - lemony, nice and fresh.
2014 Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru Abbaye de Morgeot - very nice, very pure, very stinky like mature cheese. Smells almost bad, tastes great.
2014 Puligny Montrachet Champs Gains - pure and racy and elegant and chiseled.
2014 Le Charlemagne - racy and elegant and full and dry.
Tasting with Pascal is like being at the center of a whirlwind. The unbridled energy of the man is at times breathtaking.
We then went to lunch an hour and a half late, hurriedly finished eating and were driven at breakneck speed to Domaine Roumier. We were meeting three friends from New York, wine professionals, all in Beaune for the various festivities of Hospices week. They had just driven down from Paris that morning.
It was a cool and damp and foggy grey day in Chambolle Musigny, we were waiting outside of the chai just below a beautiful and tiny Chambolle vineyard that is on the slope behind Domaine Roumier. The grapes go into the very fine Chambolle Musigny AC. Christophe Roumier drove up as Pascal was leaving. They both stopped and I watched Christophe and Pascal talking from the respective drivers seats of their cars while pointing in opposite directions. It reminded me of two police officers having a squad car meeting. Pascal roared off, undoubtedly late to his next appointment. He is a dynamo.
So here we are at Domaine Roumier. Said hello to Delphine Roumier who was shepherding one group of Chinese visitors out while Christophe was guiding us in. I recognized the Hong Kong contingent from the previous evening at Ma Cuisine. A busy day at Domaine Roumier, a busy week in Burgundy with people drawn from all over the world for the Hospices auction week. Christophe gave us wineglasses and we started to taste.
2014 Bourgogne - pure and fine. Lovely wine. I asked Christophe where the grapes came from. He explained that this was sourced from forty year old vines just beside the Bons Batons vineyard. Same soil type as Bons Batons, a particularly fine and long lived source for Bourgogne Pinot Noir. Ghislaine Barthod, Philippe LeClerc, Geantet-Pansiot and Domaine Rion all make Bourgogne Les Bons Batons.
2014 Chambolle Musigny - pure, fine, simple and elegant. Roumier makes fifty barrels of Chambolle A.C. which includes some Premier Cru Fuees and Plantes. The Premier Cru Fuees and Plantes are vinified separately. The Fuees is from a very steep part of the vineyard which Christophe says does not produce wine distinguished enough to bottle on its own. The Chambolle AC used to include the Premier Cru Combottes grapes before Christophe determined that they were mature enough to warrant bottling a separate Premier Cru wine. People often refer to this wine as Roumier Chambolle Villages but I like to refer to it as Roumier Chambolle AC because of the high quality and because it does contain a significant amount of Premier Cru fruit.
2014 Morey St. Denis Premier Cru Clos de la Bussiere - a wholly owned vineyard surrounded by a wall, the monopole of Domaine Roumier. It is located right behind Domaine Dujac. This wine had dark fruits and deep rich aromas, it was astringent and powerful. Christophe says that 2014 has very fine tannins. He calls it an easy vintage like 2002, maybe like a combination of 2007 and 2008. Sounds pretty good to me.
2014 Chambolle Musigny Premier Cru Les Combottes - beautiful Chambolle perfume, red fruits. Very fruit driven, very pure and long.
2014 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras - twenty seven barrels of Cras. Again the unmistakable Chambolle perfume. Crunchy fruit, like biting into a piece of sweet candied fruit.
2014 Charmes Chambertin (Mazoyeres) - that oyster shell, limestone saline aroma often indicative of Chambertin. Tannic, astringent, very long.
2014 Ruchottes Chambertin - rich raspberry fruit, very mineral, more concentration.
2014 Bonnes Mares - rich and brooding, powerful, deep. It is hard to put into words a description of this wine when we are tasting, spitting and moving on to the next wine. Tasting from barrel is so different from sitting down to a meal and enjoying a bottle with your friends over a period of time when you can really get to know what it is all about. You want to linger over these wines and spend time with each one but when Amoureuses and Musigny are waiting for you. You just have to spit out the Bonnes Mares and move on.
2014 Amoureuses - soaring, perfumed aromatics - very sweet fruit, so much fruit that is hiding the tannins and power. One third of the vineyard was planted in 1928, one third 1963 and one third 1973 and 1989. A very rare and remarkable wine.
2014 Musigny - all the vines are from 1905 or older. No one is certain of their exact age. Very fine and long. Domaine Roumier makes something like a barrel and a half of Musigny, maybe four or five hundred bottles? My meager notes just can’t communicate what is there in the glass. I just feel very lucky to be able to try Musigny. Twice in one day!
We left Domaine Roumier and drove the short distance to Vosne Romanee for our next visit with Marielle and Etienne Grivot at Domaine Grivot. There is an immense construction project going on at the domaine, there were gigantic trucks and a crane and lots of activity. A truck blocked the narrow driveway next to the new cuverie being built behind the house. Etienne will be able to walk from the top floor of his home into the top floor of the new winery and there will be a rooftop observation deck providing a splendid view of his holdings in Vosne Romanee including Richebourg. He is certainly proud of this great new facility and it will be fantastic to take in the view from his new sundeck.
2014 Grivot - Coteaux Bourguignons. This is the new appellation controlee name for wine produced from 100% gamay grapes on the Cote D’Or. The old name was Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire. Cerise in color, reduced and stinky. Etienne called it "vrac" - simple. Literally translates as “bulk”.
2014 Chambolle Musigny La Combes d'Orveaux AC - Aromatic and perfumed, as all Chambolle Musigny should be, with a candied fruit character. La Combe d’Orveaux is one of those vineyards that has premier cru and village level designations and even more confusingly part that is now included as part of Grand Cru Musigny. But Grivot’s is in the village level.
2014 Nuits St. Georges Roncieres - beautiful fruit, very fine.
2014 Vosne Romanee 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts - twelve barrels. Classic Vosne Romanee pain d'Epices nose. This is sometimes translated as 'gingerbread” but pain d’epices is not like American gingerbread. Powerful and rich and long, very fine.
2014 Clos Vougeot - fifty year old vines on average. Very bright fruit, very aromatic, more astringent.
2014 Echezeaux from Cruots - deep rich aromatics, fine, pure and very, very long. Words again fail.
2014 Richebourg - on another level of interest and complexity, supple with great mouthweight, unctuous. Powerful, fine, long.
As if this was not enough, Etienne graciously offers a variety of 2013’s from bottle.
2013 Vosne Romanee les Beaux Monts - great fruit and power.
2013 Nuit St. Georges 1er Cru les Boudots - Etienne Grivot says this is a great wine to have with fish or pigeon. Thank you for this insight Etienne!
2013 Clos Vougeot - a beast.
2013 Echezeaux - vibrant. Alive.
2013 Richebourg - so powerful.
Friday night we had a lovely dinner at Le Gourmandin, a small cafe on Place Carnot, the circular street around a sort of town square in the center of Beaune. All of the restaurants were full of patrons. We ordered oysters and a bottle of 2011 Raveneau Chablis Butteaux and poulet de Bresse and a bottle of 2006 Bruno Clair Chambertin Clos de Beze. The wines were affordably priced and delicious - so was the food. We ate all of the oysters and most of the chicken. We sat between a Dutch couple from Rotterdam - members of the wine trade and a couple from Britain who had been traveling in France for many years.
After dinner we walked around the square and ended up at a sort of impromptu outdoor disco that had been set up in the courtyard of the Bistro l’Hotel. Revelers were drinking champagne, dancing, celebrating. I went into the hotel lobby to use the bathroom and everyone - patrons, employees - was silently transfixed watching the television. France 24 was reporting the news from Paris just coming in. Gunmen armed with automatic weapons had attacked civilians at restaurants and a concert hall and at the Stade de France where France was playing Germany. The terrorists had assault rifles and had detonated suicide vests, bombs. The reports were sketchy, details were just coming in. I felt dread and fear and unease, bewilderment, uncertainty. A sinking feeling. No anger, not yet - just why? Why again? What next? It reminded me of the attacks on the World Trade Center, of the moment when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot, the moment when I heard about Martin Luther King. Of too many times in my life when hatred and violence had again sought to destroy everything we cherish. I went out and told Jay the news.