February 2005
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Day February 6, 2005

Tasting notes: 2001 White Burgundies

Last night, a number of us gathered at Bill Fleckenstein’s home to finish up a series of 3 tastings: 1999, 2000, and 2001 white burgundies. Last night we focused on the 2001’s. Eight wines had been decanted for several hours and were served in blind decanters. We knew the lineup, but did not know which decanter held which wine.

The 2001 Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre Chablis stood out from the rest, with a wonderfully subtle, stony, and lemony nose. The rest of the wines were all from the Cotes d’Or and thus required more analysis. At least one bottle was simply bad, beginning the evening with a squashy, oxidized nose that worsened as the evening continued, though it was clearly a good wine given the palate.

The clear standout, rated as the wine of the night by everyone, was the 2001 Coche-Dury Meursault. Most then preferred the Ramonet Champ-Canet, which had a hint of the piney aroma characteristic of Ramonet’s Chassagnes, but was subtle and understated. After this, preferences were much more individualized. I liked the Colin Deleger Puligny Les Demoiselles next, but I believe this ranking is anomalous because the Pillot Vergers Clos St. Marc (squashy wine) and Leflaive Clavoillon were off bottles and normally would have knocked our socks off. In the middle, or what normally would have been the bottom end of my rankings, were the Marc Colin Vide Bourse Chassagne and the Carillon Champ-Canet. Both were good, solid wines, but they paled in comparison tonight with the Coche and Ramonet.

Fleck then served a “reference wine” by way of comparison — a crisp, pale, young-tasting wine with a huge nose and a smooth, mellow palate. This turned out to be the 1979 Ampeau Les Combettes, served to demonstrate how age-worthy white burgundy can be. A phenomenal wine — several at the table guessed the wine was only a few years old.

During a dinner of grilled whole beef tenderloins and simple pasta with mushrooms, we drank a lovely but slightly fading 1985 La Chapelle Hermitage, a slightly oxidized but lovely Camigliano 1997 Brunello, and a 1990 Pichon Baron which reminded everyone of a young, juicy Quilceda Creek. I had brought Henri Bonneau’s 1992 Cuvee Celestins, but the early consensus was that the bottle was off or slightly corked. Chuck Miller disagreed, and indeed the initial “corkiness” appears to have been a bad case of bottle stink, as I happily confirmed later that night at home. Chris Camarda brought his 1997 Andrew Will Klipsun Merlot, which is starting show some maturity and complexity but also has plenty of life left.

We finished with a fascinating 1959 Banyuls and molten chocolate dessert, and a bottle of 1983 Climens which Fleck swears goes perfectly with chocolate. In all, a fabulous evening.

Richard Olney and Lulu’s Provencal Table

Since Crescat Sententia doesn’t have comments, I’m writing in response to Waddling Thunder’s discussion of Olney’s book Lulu’s Provencal Table. I happen to agree that this classic has less Olney than one might ordinarily expect, but from my perspective, Waddling Thunder is missing something crucial. This is no ordinary cookbook; it is, rather, a tribute to a great winemaking family and their "extended family" of associations from Olney to Kermit Lynch to Alice Waters and her compatriots. Olney intentionally removes himself from the foreground in the book, preferring instead to allow Lulu Peyraud to tell the story of the food, wine, and friends associated with Domaine Tempier.

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For the book is nothing less than Olney’s argument that certain foods, certain wines, and a group of special friends can transcend each of these categories and become something richer: a community. This community, and its history, do receive a much deeper treatment in Olney’s Reflexions, but to my mind, Lulu’s Provencal Table stands as an essential tribute to the Peyrauds who built Tempier and those who carry it on into the next generation.

(photo of Catherine and Jean-Marie Peyraud by the author, November 2000)