Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A trip to Georges Duboeuf's Beaujolais by way of Lincoln Park, Chicago

Dwight The Wine Doctor

A Trip to Georges Duboeuf’s Beaujolais by way of Lincoln Park, Chicago

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

1.Yann Bourigault, Export Director-North America, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf with Dwight The Wine Doctor

2.The wines of Georges Duboeuf

3. Hob Nob 2009 Pinot Noir

4. Mon Ami Gabi’s Steak Roquefort with Morgon 2009

5. Yann Bourigault with the new 2009 releases

Chicago—Chicago’s Lincoln Park and Mon Ami Gabi restaurant, just a stone’s throw from the famous Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo, might seem like an unlikely place to encounter the marvelous French wines of George Duboeuf’s Beaujolais. An evening with Yann Bourigault, Export Director-North America, Les Vins Georges Duboeuf turned out to be a tour de force for lovers of great wine.

Mon Ami Gabi, nestled in a corner off the ornate lobby of the luxurious Belden Stratford apartment hotel on Lincoln Park West is a Classic French Bistro in the style of those you’d find along Paris’ Champs-Elysees. When you walk through its doors, you are transported to another time and place. You’d almost expect Edith Piaf, the legendary French chanteuse, to be cooing at a piano in the far corner. Escargot, Onion Soup Au Gratin(French Onion Soup) and Steak Frites are menu staples. The atmosphere reeks of “joie de vivre (joy of life)”. The place is packed, even on a steamy, summer Monday night. Conversation is lively, with folks table-hopping to share gossip and a glass of wine with old friends among the many “regulars.” Tucked away at our corner window table, Yann and I instantly became part of the mix, with one exception, we were the only table with an array of six bottles of the newest releases of Georges Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais wines, that will be in stores late next fall.

“These wines probably won’t hit the shelves until late September or November, so you will be among the first to taste them,” Bourigault explained. The wines ran the gamut, Brouilly 2009, Flower Label ($13.99), Fleurie 2009, Flower Label ($15.99), Morgon 2009, Domaine Jean Descombes ($14.99), Julienas 2009, Chateau des Capitans ($17.99) and a new arrival, a 2009 Pinot Noir from Languedoc, called Hob Nob ($11.95), designed to excite young, trendy wine drinkers who want a medium-bodied, versatile, value priced, unpretentious red wine for all occasions.

Accompanied by Illinois District Manager Tom Lachowicz of W.J. Deutsch & Sons, the evening was a stellar presentation of the wines of an historic winemaker, which charted a new direction with wines that were both affordable and accessible.

“I’m really trying to educate people about ‘the other side’ of Beaujolais. Everybody knows Beaujolais Nouveau, but only a few people are truly aware of the great Crus of Beaujolais.

“Georges Duboeuf is really an amazing man. He’s really a visionary. He’s 78 years old. Everyday, he tastes 400-500 wines. He does this day in and day out. That allows him to make the most perfect blends. When it comes to wine, he is like a chef. He was a young man when the “wines of the New World” started to break out on the scene and he developed a passion for these wines. He tried the new wines from California, South Africa and Australia and he saw them, not as competition, but as a challenge. He took it upon himself as a personal challenge to try to create wines of a similar style in the south of France. He knew that there was the potential there. That’s the point of Hob Nob. It’s Georges’ own interpretation of a new world wine.

“Also, he didn’t want the 25 year old wine drinker to be scared off by yet another French label. He’s very concerned about making wine accessible”

The food began to arrive from our affable service almost as quickly as Bourigault was uncorking the wines. Sea Scallops Gratinee with its seductive toppings of caramelized fennel and onions and mussel cream turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the Hob Nob as were the classic Escargots De Bourgogne. The Country Style Pate’ also served as the perfect culinary springboard to launch into the more intense wines, such as the Morgon and Fleurie, with its intense color and floral aroma. This wine really gives your palate a workout with its robust taste and virile tannins. The arrival of Steak Roquefort, served in the celebrated Steak Frites style that Paris is famous for, featured crispy hand cut fries and a delectable blue cheese sauce. Yann had the Steak Béarnaise, with its classic béarnaise sauce.

“Whenever you see the little flower on the label, you can be assured that this is a wine that Georges Duboeuf has blended himself,” Yann said proudly.

“The other wines are from smaller chateau that we have a partnership with. We make our labs available to them to the all-important testing that is such a huge part of winemaking and we offer any support or answer any questions that they might have. Very few of them really ask for our help though, because many of these families have been making wine for hundreds of years and it shows in the quality of the wines,” he explained.

The 2009 Morgon, with its aroma of violet flowers on the nose and its deep fruit taste of black currants and raspberries made each bite of the steak a treat. This wine has a lot of finesse and character and really stood up to the strong flavor of the Roquefort cheese, while helping to round out the deep minerality of the steak.

Julienas 2009, Chateau des Capitans is a lovely complex wine that really expresses the “terroir,” or the soil from which it comes. Hints of flowers, spices and liquorices lurk beneath the flavors of mocha and vanilla. This is a deeply aromatic wine that should be decanted well before serving. It showed with all its glory alongside the excellent cuisine of Mon Ami Gabi.

An assortment of desserts, including a classic Apple Tarte Tatin, Warm Flourless Chocolate Case with opulent chocolate sauce and whipped cream, a Profiterole Trio of vanilla, chocolate and raspberry and vanilla sorbet provided ample opportunity to sample the rest of the wines, the Brouilly, with its hint of kirsch and the ever-popular Beaujolais-Villages, another of Duboeuf’s ‘little flower’ creations and an absolute steal at under $10.

A cup of Cappuccino and it was off into the warm night air with a ‘to go’ serving of “Chocolate Decadence” in tow and the warm glow of the Beaujolais enveloping my spirits on the taxi ride home. I can’t wait to make an in-person visit to Lyon, to shake hands with Mr. Duboeuf himself. With his dedication to perfection and his hands-on approach to winemaking, he’s become my new hero.

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