A Week In Burgundy With John Truax (Part 5)
MONDAY, November 16
I got up, made coffee, bought a croissant at the bakery across the street and I walked across Beaune. A gray morning, the clouds were low in the sky. Going to taste with the super talented Benjamin Leroux and two representatives of his NY importer. Ben was the winemaker at the great Pommard producer Comte Armand. Pascal Marchand was the regisseur, Ben was his assistant and then took over at the domaine. For several years Benjamin worked at Comte Armand in addition to running his micro-negociant. Last year he resigned from Comte Armand to work full time at his own business. He rents a fairly large winemaking facility not far from Bichot, Champy, Camille Giroud, Domaine des Croix, all in the center of Beaune.
I met up with the folks from the importer. We started with a simple 2014 Bourgogne Blanc from two vineyards by the edge of Puligny and Meursault. Village level wine, no new oak.
2014 Auxey Duresses - 6,000 bottles, very pure and clean and very floral, like jasmine. 2014 Ben says produced beautiful soft whites, clean, more crystalline, more expression of salinity.
2014 St. Romain Sous Chateau - fatter, richer, 30 year old vines grown at 380 meters full and rich. A warmer climate is making richer wines, more plush, rounder.
2014 Meursault AC - bright sweet fruit, From Blagny 10.6 HA, biggest cuvee. Sweet fruit but good “cut” and acidity. Average 12.5 alcohol.
2014 Meursault Vireuils - By Auxey Duresses, above Luchets and Meix Chavaux. Aromas like marzipan, almond paste.
2014 Meursault Narvaux - small berries - red soil, Chardonnay Muscate plus a little Aligote. Pure, rich, spicy like nutmeg.
2014 Meursault Poruzots Dessus - Big, rich mid palate, 90 year old vines - small berries, very focussed finish.
2014 Meursault Genevrieres Dessous - Lilac and purity.
2014 Puligny AC - Steely and powerful and rich.
2014 Puligny Champs Gains - Minerality, intense, compact and stony - this will be a very long lived wine.
2014 Chassagne Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot - foot of slope - more clay - richer style, more compact.
2014 Chassagne Montrachet Tete du Clos - top of Morgeot, very rocky, very poor soil where the vines struggle to survive. Four and half barrels.
2014 Bourgogne Rouge from Santenay and Fixin - All in foudres - no new oak, wood from Citeaux.
2014 Savigny Les Beaune AC - very reduced, rich berry fruit under the reduction.
2014 Savigny Les Beaune 1er Aux Jarrons - beautiful pure blackberry fruit, good length, crisp acidity ***
2014 Volnay AC - lean and tough, four barrels produced.
2014 Volnay 1er Mitans - little reduced but pure and rich, tannic, astringent.
2014 Volnay 1er Clos des Caves des Ducs - .06 HA since 2006.
2014 Corton from Charlemagne and Bressandes -
2014 Gevrey AC - four vineyard blend.
2014 Vosne Romanee AC - Mazieres plus Violette. Between Vosne and Clos Vougeot. All Pinot Fin - yum! Benoit says it’s easy to make wine in Vosne Romanee. ***
2014 NSG 1er Aux Thorey - 100% Pinot Fin planted by Sylvain Cathiard’s father in 1960.
2014 Clos Vougeot Petit Maupertuis - started as carbonic maceration.
2014 Clos Vougeot Petit Maupertuis - started as carbonic maceration. Beautiful pure and plush blackberry. Rich, full, long lived wine. ***
2014 Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses - spicy, aromatic, plush, red and black fruit. Lovely, pure.
2014 Bonnes Mares - On the Chambolle side. Strawberry/raspberry fruit, brooding, rich, pure, long finish.
I walked with my friends through Beaune to the Le Serbet offices. They were meeting one of Becky’s employees and then they were all going to the Paulee de Meursault with Ben Leroux. Everyone at the office was going to a public assembly at noon to honor a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s attacks in Paris. After the moment of silence, the church bells rang 132 times.
The Paulee de Meursault is an annual party to celebrate the wines of Burgundy. It was organized in the mid-1920’s by Comte Lafon. Everyone brings bottles of wine to share. It starts at noon and ends around seven. A Dionysian revel!
I had the good fortune to attend the Paulee de Meursault in 2007 and sit at Dominique Lafon’s table just behind the guest of honor, filmmaker Claude Lelouch. It was an unforgettable experience. I still have the menu and my tasting notes. I thought the food was quite good. The lunch started at noon and we left at 7.
Many years ago, there was an award for the best book on French wine written in the year previous. The lucky author was awarded a barrel of Meursault. Unfortunately this tradition did not carry on. Jay would have worked hard to write that book, as would many other authors.
I walked across Beaune, stopped at the charcuterie and purchased a sandwich, went back to my apartment and had a much-needed modest lunch for a change. Then I walked across Beaune back to the peripherique to meet my friend David Croix at Camille Giroud. David is an old friend and a talented winemaker at Maison Camille Giroud and Domaine de Croix. There was a wonderfully diverse group tasting at Domaine de Croix. There was his importer from Montreal, his Finnish importers, a young woman from Tel Aviv - sommelier at one of the top restaurants. A truly international group. David also believes that 2014 was a classic vintage.
2014 Bourgogne - crisp, red cherry like fruit, no new oak, very very nice, from vineyards on the Cote Challonaise near Givry and from Cote de Beaune near Volnay and Premeaux.
2013 Ladoix Chaillots - limestone soil, high in silica. Very nice, tangy lively wine. Prickly on the tongue.
2014 Volnay AC - fifty year old vines from the bottom of Lurets, some whole cluster. Twenty five percent. Great raspberry fruit.
2014 Santenay Villages - Pointy acidity, tastes kind of lean. Not my favorite today.
2014 Marsannay Longeroies - late malo, brambly, prickly very fine, real strawberry perfume.
2014 Gevrey Chambertin Crais - gravelly alluvial soil with great drainage. Very sweet raspberry fruit, very very fine, fresh, beautiful ***
In between tasting wines - this cosmopolitan crowd of wine savants were discussing all sorts of things with David Croix, someone who is really in-the-know in Beaune. For instance, we discussed where some negociants were buying grapes and where they were buying finished wines, who really makes the wine that some of these negociants put their labels on. Always very interesting. We discussed how Faiveley went from making ½ barrel of Musigny to now 2 barrels of Musigny. Quite a jump. We were doing some of this back of the envelope financial calculations and figured out that Faiveley bought 2.2 ouvrees of Musigny from Dufouleur at the rate of $3 million euros per ouvree. We compared this to the recent purchase of Clos des Lambrays by LVMH. Lambrays sold for $100 million euros, but for that bargain price you not only got a Grand Cru vineyard in Morey St. Denis, but the wine cellars and winemaking facility, an historic manor house with fabulous formal gardens. So the new owners paid only $500,000 euros per ouvree and got all of this other great stuff to boot. A relative bargain!
Morey Saint Denis Clos Solon - rich, bloody, tannic.
Vosne Romanee Chalandins - Very Vosne, very classy, rich blackberry fruit
Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau Clos de Roche Noir - pure and fine - tannic
Beaune 1er Cru (Cras, Avaux) 90 year old vines in Cras - full pure and rich
The only vineyards that Camille Giroud owns are Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras and Avaux and some land in the Haute Cotes de Beaune. However David supervises the farming of all of the vineyards that they lease or have grape contracts on. He says that what is most important to him is plowing, healthy vines and the type of Pinot Noir that is planted.
Volnay 1er Cru Lurets - round black fruit, very pretty, very mineral on the finish. Complete. ***
Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques - tight, hard, full, not open.
Corton Clos de Roi - Just above DRC’s parcel. Great fruit, power, menthol raspberries.
Charmes Chambertin - Just below Chambertin. Pure, rich, fine, very long finish. One new barrel, one four year old barrel, beautiful, open, rich and pure.
Clos Vougeot - from petites maupertuis - from the upper left side of the Clos Vougeot, perfumed, fine, rich, tannic, truly grand cru.
Clos de la Roche - Rich black fruit, very pure, very sweet fruit.
Bourgogne Blanc - Puligny plus Haute Cotes de Beaune. Bright with good depth of fruit.
Auxey Duresses - very fine, like Meursault’s little brother.
While continuing our freewheeling discussion of anything but Camille Giroud wines, we started trying to name all the different clos in champagne. We got up to five or six when one of the guys from Finland said that’s there’s probably a lot of wall building going on in Champagne right now. And then the importer from Montreal started talking about the Carillons. He represents both Jacques Carillon and Francois Carillon, two brothers who split the family domaine in half a few years ago. This domaine has existed in the family since 1632. This fellow had tasted at both domaines on the same day, the first time he’s done that. Jacques Carillon’s style is more like their father (or more Roulot). Francois Carillon went in a different direction. He is more commercial, more outgoing, he has bought grapes and his style is more like Dominique Lafon’s. One might think the split came out of animosity but it was totally amicable. Both brothers have large families to take care of. David Croix is incredibly good-natured about all this talk about anything but his work. We went back to the tasting at hand.
Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Vergers - Lemony and pure.
Corton Charlemagne - aromas like peaches, nectarines, stone fruits. David said it’s the best Camille Giroud Corton Charlemagne to date.
By now it was probably 6:30 or 7 and David asked if we wanted to try some older wines. He opened a 1978 Beaune Graves, which was remarkably fresh and youthful at 38 years of age. He then opened a 1976 Latricieres Chambertin which had incredibly sweet fruit and was truly remarkable 40 year old bottle of wine. David commented that the 1978 NSG Vaucrains and 1978 Clos St. Denis were not ready to drink yet. The founder of the house, Camille Giroud, had lived through phylloxera and he vowed to make wines that would last for 50+ plus years. He always made structured wines with good aging potential because if this terrible disease came back to Burgundy vineyards he wanted to have plenty of wine to drink. He taught his sons to make wine the same way and that’s why these old Camille Giroud wines are full of structure and tannin to this day. A remarkable tasting. Where else can go where they open a 1978 and then a 1976?
The young sommelier from Tel Aviv and I left Camille Giroud and were walking towards Cave Madeleine. We ran into the New York importers who had gone to the Paulee with Ben Leroux. They seemed surprisingly sober. They said they were hungry. “How was the food at the Paulee?” I asked. “Terrible!” they responded as they went off with the young sommelier from Tel Aviv to get something to eat. I continued on to Caves Madeleine to meet Pascal Marchand, his partner from Toronto Moray Tawse, Mark Finchum, and nine Canadian businessmen. Mark is the winemaker at Domaine Maume, the venerable Gevrey Chambertin estate that Marchand-Tawse bought last year. Cave Madeleine is a very nice, simple Beaune restaurant that fits about thirty people. There are two long tables. Its very informal. Simple, good food. They serve you stews and salads and stuff like that. Good dinner. We had simple food and magnificent wines. There was a group of winemakers and two Japanese girls sitting at the table in the front window. The winemakers greeted Pascal. The Japanese girls figured out who he was and wanted to get their pictures taken with Pascal. He is famous in Japan. Pascal had a huge, untrimmed beard that made him look like Man Mountain Mike the lumberjack. All that was missing were the red checked shirt and double bladed axe. Mark Finchum is a suave and sophisticated Englishman who has lived in France for many years and sardonically rolled his eyes at Pascal’s popularity.
Our very gracious host Moray Tawse chose a variety of great Burgundy wines to educate his Canadian guests. They served the wines blind to me and Mark and Pascal and we did our best to guess where they were from. We did pretty damn good.
2013 Henri Germain Meursault Charmes - pale, straw gold color, good weight in the mouth, crisp acidity, good length, really nice wine. The second wine was pale red color, good fruit, dry, astringent finish, young. It was 2006 LaFarge Volnay 1er Clos des Chateau de Ducs. The third was rich ruby red color, grapey aromas, red fruits, little tannin, fresh and forward. It was 2009 Chandon de Briailles Corton Bressandes.
Next we had a wine that was dark red, smelled of blackberry fruit and Chinese five spice powder and ginger. It was rich and full but kind of closed up. You could tell someday it was going to blossom into a really great wine. It was 2012 Cecile Tremblay Vosne Romanee Beaumonts. A serious bottle of wine, but really young.
The last wine was deep, dark red, rich blackberry aromas and spicy like the Burgundian pain d’epices. Kind of like gingerbread but not exactly. Great mouthweight, long finish, really nice wine. It was 2010 De Montille Vosne Romanee Malconsorts. Between me and Pascal we narrowed it down to the vintage and the vineyard.
It was a lovely dinner. Everyone had lots of fun.