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2011 Pascal Janvier Jasnières

This past weekend I cracked open a fun wine from the Jasnières region of France.  Jasnières, a small AOC in the Loire Valley of France, makes white wines exclusively using the Chenin Blanc grape, also known locally as Pineau de la Loire.  Located due north from Vouvray, Jasnières covers 65 hectares (about 160 acres) and is made up of calcareous-clay hillsides.

Chenin Blanc is a very versatile grape, producing fine wines in various styles and sweetness levels.  The wines of Jasnières, however, are often made dry and are known to age very well.

The 2011 Pascal Janvier Jasnières has sweet red apple and a touch of kirsch on the nose.  On the palate are the apple, white peach, sugared grapefruit and under ripe pineapple.  On the finish I detect a touch of residual sugar, but with the mouth watering acidity of this wine it is dry on the palate.  While smelling and tasting, I kept going back to my childhood with a memory of Sweet Tarts!  This wine is Sweet Tarts in a glass!

Pascal Janvier is obviously doing some great things in Jasnières.  This tasty, complex wine is still a baby and will only get better with time.  I wish that I had a case in my cellar that I could “watch” evolve over the next five or six years!

If you find yourself drinking mostly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for your whites and you need a change, give the Chenin Blanc wines of the Loire a try.  If you can find a bottling from Pascal Janvier in Jasnières, grab it and see what you think.  I have a feeling that you won’t be disappointed!

 

Champagne!!!

Of all of the beverages that exist on earth, I’d have to say that Champagne is my very favorite.  There is just something about the effervescence of the bubbles, the combination of fruit and yeast aromas and flavors, and the crisp acidity that keeps me wanting to drink more.

Now don’t get me wrong!  I love sparkling wine as well.  I have some favorite producers out of California who really rock with bubbly that is made in the Champagne method.  I also love a good Prosecco from Italy or a fun Cava from Spain.  There is something very special, however, about the wines that literally come from the Champagne region in France.

Yesterday I was in heaven.  The Guild of Sommeliers hosted a Champagne Master Class in Miami.  Oh, I was so there!  I knew that the chance to be guided through some of my favorite wines in the world by a Master Sommelier was a special treat and an experience I wasn’t about to miss.

Master Sommelier Geoff Kruth (Wine Director at The Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma as well as the COO of the Guild of Sommeliers) started us off with a great presentation of the Champagne region.  We then tasted  four lovely samples of Grower Producer Champagne, which means that the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come produces these wines.

Brochet Mont Benoit Extra Brut – I’m not always a big fan of Extra Brut Champagne.  In my opinion, low dosage can sometimes make for a somewhat unpleasant wine, but that’s another blog for another day!  The Brochet Mont Benoit, however, was quite lovely!  They age some of the still wine in oak, which I loved on the nose.  The oak with the low dosage makes for a very interesting wine indeed!

Pierre Peters “Les Chétillons” 2006 –This is a lovely wine made of 100% Chardonnay, which means it’s a Blanc de Blancs.  It has a racy, lemony nose and a wonderful mousse on the palate.

Eric Rodez Cuvée de Crayères – This is a wonderful wine with 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay.  The Pinot Noir brings some nice red fruit to the palate, particularly strawberry and raspberry.  This wine has some weight, so it can be paired with salmon or even lighter meats.

Henri Goutorbe Rosé – Made from 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, this has some power from the Pinot Noir, and is almost like drinking cherry skins.  The cherry blossom aromas are lovely.

 

Next up were wines from Ruinart, the oldest established Champagne house in all of Champagne.  Brand Ambassador Lacey Burke gave us a great presentation, and walked us through four examples of their wines.

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs  N/V – A great bubbly as an aperitif.  Pears and citrus dominate.

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2002 – This is a lovely Champagne, one of my favorites of the day.  As Lacey mentioned, this is Chablis with bubbles!  It is lightly toasted with citrus and a wonderful mousse.  This is drinking well now, but I wish I had a case for my cellar!

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1993 – I love some age on wine, so this was fun!  I thought that it was drinking perfectly now, with butter and yeast on the nose and palate.  It reminded me of a loaf of bread, which I love!  Lacey pointed out the sweet dill on the nose, which I totally got.  I really enjoyed this wine!

Ruinart Rosé – This non-vintage Rose is 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir.  19% still Pinot Noir is blended into the wine to give it the color.  In France, blending still wine into the sparkling wine is only allowed in the Champagne region.  Many producers believe that this adds more age-ability than the maceration process that traditionally is used.  This wine tastes of pink grapefruit and under-ripe strawberries.

 

I love full-bodied Champagne (well, I love ALL Champagne, but you get the idea), so I was especially excited for the Krug portion of this tasting.

Krug Ambassador Nicole Burke (no relation to Lacey from Ruinart!) had us taste their first three wines blind, which was a lot of fun.  She had us rank them 1, 2 or 3, with the Rose being wine number 4.  She wisely figured that we’d be able to figure that one out!

They were all great, of course, but here’s how I ranked them:

#3 – 2003 Krug Brut – This is 29% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier.  I loved the nose, which has a nice yeastiness and baking spices.  There is great acidity on the palate with lemon and a touch of the baking spices.

#2 – Krug Grand Cuvée – The flagship wine of Krug, this non-vintage wine is known as a magical and stunning mosaic of flavors.  This particular bottling used base wine from the 2005 vintage, with the remaining wine from vintages going back 15 years, the oldest being from 1990.  It has vanilla and baking spices on the nose, with apple pie and roasted nut flavors.

#1 – 2000 Krug Brut – Ranking these fabulous Champagnes was tough, but I picked this as my number one Krug of the day.  Remember, I love some age, so maybe that had something to do with this being my number one!  A blend of 43% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier, this wine has vanilla, honey and almond on the nose.  The palate was a ripe yellow apple, along with some pastry shell and a touch of ginger.  It was aged in their cellar for 11 years before being released.  The 2000 vintage was challenging in Champagne, with large sized hail in early July along with other problems.  Houses wanted to do their best to produce a vintage Champagne for the new millennium.  Not many did so successfully, but Krug’s 2000 is absolutely outstanding.

We finished up the tasting with the N/V Krug Rosé, which has about 10% still Pinot Noir blended into the wine.  How much fabulous Champagne can a gal taste in one day???  This Rose has some red fruit, brioche and rose petal on the nose.  The incredibly round mouth feel does not take away from its charming delicacy.   This was another winner of the day.

 

A lot of people don’t realize that Champagne and other sparkling wines can pair very nicely with food.  The acidity in the wine gives it the ability to pair with many different foods, from salads and egg dishes to all types of seafood and even lighter style meats.  Don’t hate me fellow wine geeks, but my personal favorite pairing with Champagne is popcorn!

Lacey also brought up another interesting tidbit of which I had never thought!  Do you know that feeling when you’ve been drinking wine all night long?  You drink it with the different dinner courses and then on into dessert and then you’re ready to go home and go to bed?  Well when you’re drinking bubbly you don’t get that dragged down feeling!  While I am writing this blog I’m drinking Champagne.  Even though I just had a large meal, I’m feeling alert, alive and happy!!!!   Who needs an after dinner coffee when there is Champagne in the world????

Pinot Noir Tasting

I mentioned in my last blog that I get together bi-weekly with some fellow wine nerds where we taste a number of wines.  Last week there were eight wines brought to the table, and three of them were Pinot Noir.

One was the 2012 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne (or Burgundy in English).  Obviously from France’s Burgundy region, this wine has some dried red fruit, hints of anise and clove, lots of earthiness and a nice minerality.  This basic Bourgogne (which comes in at about $20) definitely needs food, and would go well with many different dishes.

We also tasted the 2011 Jacuzzi Family Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast.  This medium bodied wine has nice cherry, strawberry and cranberry.  While it is definitely a “New World” Pinot Noir, it isn’t too much.  It is true to it’s varietal and, though we were tasting the wines blindly, I knew immediately that this was indeed a Pinot Noir.  This wine also runs about $20.

My favorite Pinot of the day was the 2012 Au Bon Climat from Santa Barbara. Personally, I’m not a fan of the big, huge Pinot Noirs that so many New World wineries produce.  Thankfully for me, this is not one of them.  On the nose are ripe strawberry, cherry and some floral qualities.  The silky palate confirmed the fruit aromas and added a bit of baking spices.  This wine has some of the fruit ripeness known for Santa Barbara, but still has medium-low viscosity and reminds me more of a Côte de Beaune than a typical California Pinot Noir.  I very rarely actually swallow wines during our group wine tastings, but this was a wine I found difficult to spit!  In the  $20 to $25 range, this Pinot Noir is a great value.

Well respected and much awarded winemaker Jim Clendenen is the man behind Au Bon Climat.  Starting out as assistant winemaker at Zaca Mesa Winery back in the last 70s, he moved on to adventures in Australia and France.  Back in the U.S. in 1982, he started (with his now ex-partner Adam Tolmach) Au Bon Climat, which means “a well exposed vineyard”.

I suggest that you seek out the wines of Au Bon Climat.  I know that I will!

Caves Madeleine in Beaune, France

While visiting Burgundy last month, my husband and I re-visited a restaurant from our past.  We had a wonderful dinner a few years ago at Caves Madeleine, so when we decided to visit Beaune again, we knew that we had to go back.  We were not disappointed.

Caves Madeleine is located in the heart of Beaune.  A popular spot for locals, this is a small restaurant with a long waiting list.  We saw scores of hungry people get turned away.  The owner, LoLo, usually has only one seating per night, but he was kind in recommending those without a reservation to head to some of his personal favorite spots.  

Caves Madeleine has four tables lined against one wall, with rows and rows of wonderful wine lined up against the opposite wall.  Between these walls LoLo has a large communal table shared by different dining parties.  No one seems to mind!  The table is actually an old monk’s table that is hundreds of years old.  We asked what the drawers on the sides of the table were for, and LoLo told us it was where the monks put their bread!

We had one of the solo tables, and sat down to begin what we knew would be a lovely evening.

We asked LoLo, who is also a Sommelier, to select the wines for us.  We decided to start with a local white, as I’m a lover of white Burgundy, so he brought us a bottle of the 2005 Butterfield Meursault.  I loved this wine, and it complimented our onion tart starter beautifully.  This straw colored wine has an expressive nose of white flowers, lemon curd and hazelnut.  On the palate there is a lovely touch of oak, with good minerality.  I was in heaven!  I only wish we could purchase Butterfield wines in the States.

The red wine LoLo chose for us was a 2004 Domaine Simon Bize & Fils Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Fourneaux.  Some raspberry and pomegranate still linger on the palate, along with some licorice.  There was a wonderful smokiness that paired nicely with my husband’s entrée selection of game hen, accompanied with a cabbage and bacon salad.  I ordered the black truffle ravioli, which harmonized beautifully with the earthy mushroom essence of the wine.

We finished the wine with an assortment of cheeses to end the meal.  We were stuffed and happy as can be.

Once again, the food was divine and the service was impeccable.

If you have plans to visit Beaune, France in the beautiful Burgundy region, be sure to make a reservation at Caves Madeleine for a very memorable meal.

 

Visiting Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Burgundy

On my recent trip to France, the first destination was Burgundy.  The beautiful scenery, ancient city streets and fabulous meals were only upstaged by one thing: the wine!

Of the many tastings we enjoyed, one stood out by far. Maison Capitain-Gagnerot was not only fun to visit, but their wines are first rate as well.  And we hadn’t even planned a set appointment!  While having a quick lunch in Beaune we were chatting with our server about different wineries to visit.  He told us that his wife’s family had a winery.  He called and squeezed us into a French speaking tour for the next day!

The small wine village of Ladoix-Serrigny sits where the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune meet.  This village (sometimes referred to simply as Ladoix in the wine world) has been home to Maison Capitain-Gagnerot since Simon Gagnerot founded it in 1802.  The domaine was one of the first wineries in Burgundy to actually sell estate-bottled wine directly to consumers.  Traditionally wine sales went through negociants instead.  Mr. Gagnerot’s son, Jean-Baptiste, later entered into a partnership with his son-in-law François Capitain.  This is where the name Maison Capitain-Gagnerot comes from. 

Today the domaine remains a family affair.  Patrice and Michel Capitain, along with Patrice’s son Pierre François and the rest of the family, run this lovely winery.

We were very fortunate to have Pierre François himself conduct our tasting.  He escorted our group down into the cellar and began the presentation.  My husband and I were the only two in the group who aren’t fluent in French.  Luckily I speak enough to get by, and Pierre François was very gracious with making sure we understood everything.  His English is superb, and so are his wines!

We tasted a wide selection, starting with their 2011 Cote de Nuits-Villages and moving through their reds, tasting some of their Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines along the way.

One of my favorites was the 2010 Ladoix 1er Cru “La Micaude”, which had a nice nose of currant and cassis, and strawberries and lovely acidity on the palate.  I also enjoyed the 2009 Corton “Les Grandes Lolières” Grand Cru, with rich, ripe cherries on the palate, balanced with a wonderful spiciness and some earth.  My favorite white was the 2009 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru.  With some tropical notes on the nose, this wine has pear and peach on the palate with a beautiful hint of oak that isn’t overbearing.  It also has great minerality.  I had to have a bottle!

After the tasting Pierre François took us on a brief tour, showing us the cellar and letting us take a peek at the Caveau de Famille, where the family’s stash is stored!  Oh the fun of seeing the dusty bottles of wine, some of which have been in the bottle for close to a century!

Before moving on to our next tasting, Pierre François helped with our purchase and chatted with us for a bit.  What a talented and nice guy!

If you’re heading to Burgundy, be sure to look into setting up a tasting appointment for Maison Capitain-Gagnerot!

http://www.capitain-gagnerot.com/Accueil

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