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 BĂ©arnaise, with its classic bĂ©arnaise 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.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Frescobaldi Wines-An Italian wine for every summer occassion

Dwight The Wine Doctor

A Frescobaldi wine for every summer occasion

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

Wines reviewed June 21, 2011

Lamberto Frescobaldi, scion of the Frescobaldi estate with Dwight The Wine Doctor at Vinitaly, Verona 2011

The Frescobaldi tasting pavilion at Vinitaly

Alessandro Lunardi, US Business Agent for Frescobaldi wines

Frescobaldi wines with a selection of salumi and Italian cheeses from Eataly, New York

Tasters at the Frescobaldi pavilion, Vinitaly 2011

NEW YORK---I first became acquainted with the wines of Marchesi de Frescobaldi at the Vinitaly wine exposition in Verona, Italy three years ago, when I met the affable owner, Lamberto Frescobaldi at the introduction of Michael Mondavi. Already familiar with the illustrious history of the winery and the family, which dates back to the Renaissance, I was not surprised to taste wines that reflected a diversity and sophistication that have made the wines of the Tuscany region a distinct pleasure.

It was with a great deal of anticipation that I responded to an invitation to attend a private tasting of everyday Frescobaldi wines, presided over by Alessandro Lunardi, the Frescobaldi U.S. Business Manager. Sitting at the head of a long conference table, laden with platters of artisinal cheeses and salumi and bottles of wine at the brand’s marketing office near Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, Lunardi proceeded to uncork the magic inside the bottles and weave an interesting mix of fact and fable surrounding the magnificent wines.

“A wine should be like the GPS in your car. It should tell you where you are going. Otherwise, it’s a postcard, specific to nothing.” That was Lunardi’s opening statement as he uncorked bottles of Attems Pinot Grigio 2010 ($19), Remole 2009 ($10), a stellar Sangiovese/Cabernet blend, Nipozzano Chianti Rufina DOCG Riserva 2007 (a steal at $22) and Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2008 ($25). As you can see, none of these wines involves spending anything more than pocket money; yet, the flavor profiles and versatility put them in the league wines that are far more costly. The great thing about the wines, as we learned during the tasting, is they are great with a variety of light, summertime foods and can also stand on their own as superlative examples of their region and vineyard designations.

Attems Pinto Grigio is from an area between the Collion and alluvial area of Isonzo in the most eastern part of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. It was among the first wine areas in Italy to introduce and develop the noble varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, Cardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, alongside its native grapes. The 2010 Attems is rich with classic mineral quality and a full-bodied fruit flavor that maintains a good balance between acid, sugar and berries. The taste is like biting into citrus fruits and pears and having the juice explode from under the skin into your mouth. They’re a great accompaniment to cheeses, salads and seafood, such as scallops, oysters and shrimp.

Remole 2009 at 10 bucks is a terrific buy! It delivers a flavor and complexity far beyond its price. “Spring 2009 was a challenge in the fields,” Lunardi recounted, adding dramatic narrative to the tasting experience. “There were endless rainstorms that tested the reserves of the vineyard staff. They persevered and were able to balance vine growth and control pests. September’s cool nights and warm, sunny days were just the combination needed to bring forth grapes with good acidity and complex aromatics. The Sangiovese and the Cabernet were of exceptional quality.” The results are evident in the bottle and in the glass. Remole is one of the finest red wine blends to come out of Tuscany. It’s exceptionally versatile. It goes with pizza, grilled steak or ribs, a hearty burger with a hunk of Gorgonzola cheese or just on its own with a bite of cheese, some bread and good salami. Abondanza!

Nipozanno Chianti was the wine that brought out the poet/philosopher in Lunardi. “Nipozzano is one of the noble wines of Italy,” he waxed philosophically. “It has a great fruit focus touched with wild berries. It drinks beautifully now, but can be laid down for future enjoyment. It has all of the minerality of Tuscan soil, yet possesses bright fruit that makes it a wine that can go with any great meal, red sauced pastas, prime cuts of meat, a hearty Osso Bucco.”

Lunardi said the grapes were produced using a method known as “dry farming.”

“This is a wine that the land decides. The vineyards are difficult to farm. We use horses, not tractors to work the rich, clay and limestone soil. The dry, well-ventilated weather produces wine that is elegant and well balanced, with a full body and firm structure. This is a wine that has consistently been rated among the “Top 100.”

The rich, elegant Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2008

Is a Cabernet blend that is dense and complex. Its dark Indian ink color is striking. It is a deep reddish purple that is striking in its luminosity. It is like watching a lunar eclipse in a glass!

The taste experience is similarly absorbing. The flavors a kaleidoscopic. Dark chocolate and cassis morphs into Cohiba tobacco and hints of Hermes saddle leather. It is a wine that demands some time aerating in the glass and should be decanted before drinking. I’d save this one for a special night, when the coals on the grill have burned down to just the right white-hot when you put on that prime aged cut of steak that sears in just a few minutes on each side. Don’t wait for the meat to rest as they often recommend on the Food Network. Bite right into it and let the juices run over your mouth as you quaff a healthy mouthful of this gorgeous, red beauty. It is an experience that will transport you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A magic carpet ride to Bordeaux by way of London

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere
1. Camille Sanders-Communications Manager, Chateau Haut-Bailly, Graves
2. Tristan Kressmann-Chateau LaTour-Martillac, Graves
3. Laurence Brun, Managing Director, Chateau Dassault, Saint-Emilion
4. Dwight The Wine Doctor with Paulin Calvet, Owner, Chauteau Picque Caillou, Pessac-Leognan
5. Marie-Sophie Gauthier, Chateau-Figeac, Saint-Emilion 6. Allen Green, British wine blogger
7. British wine merchant John Avery with Vincent Priou, Directeur, Chateau Beauregard, Pomerol
8. John Avery with son Richard, an aspiring British actor who appeared in the 2008 film "Last Chance Harry" with Academy Award winners Emma Thomspon (Sense and Sensibility) and Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
9. Jean-Pierre Marty, Directeur, Chateau Talbot Saint-Julien Beychevelle
10. The West Hall at London ExCel, site of the historic Union Des Grands Crus De Bordeaux tasting
Bordeaux at the London International Wine Fair
Wines reviewed May 18, 2011
LONDON—While Arnold “the Spermanator” was making scandalous headlines in both the London tabloids and the U.S. press from TMZ to the New York and LA Times and the Queen of England was on the front page for her historic trip to Ireland, French winemakers from the Bordeaux were making headlines of their own in an historic first-ever showing at the London International Wine Fair.
For a wine lover, it was a trip to Xanadu. The great names were all there under one roof inside the London EXCEL convention center; Chateau Beauregard from the Pomerol, Chateau Ferrande from Graves, Chateau Giscours from the Margaux and Chateau Lynch-Bages from Pauillac among many other famed appellations. The heady aroma of the wines ethers were enough to make the head swim with delight. It must have been like the sensation experienced by Alice as she took her first intoxicating stroll through the Land of Oz.
In all, owners and representatives from 80 different Bordeaux chateaux were on hand to personally pour their wines and discuss their winemaking techniques and unveil the 2007 vintage.
“It was a year that saw great difficulties in the field form day one,” said Laurence Brun, Managing Director, Chateau Dassault, as she poured a glass of her exquisite Premiere Grand Cru Classe Saint-Emilion ($29.98). “ We were challenged first by extremely hot days, then, just before the harvest in September, we were deluged with heavy rains. We were able to manage the grapes in the field, pruning them by hand to preserve the best fruit and create a canopy over the grapes. Our efforts brought forth highly concentrated fruit that produced an elegant wine. The vines were stressed to dig deep in the gravelly soil for moisture, making the juice highly concentrated and the wine very elegant and long-lived.” The resulting rush on the palette confirmed her claims.
Although the majority of the wines are priced in the $50-$100 range, there were some very fine wines to be had at bargain prices. Chateau Haut-Bailly Grand Cru Classe from Graves is priced at a very respectable $46.80 at most Chicago area merchants. This wine has been described as” the insider’s” Bordeaux and rightly so. Chateau Haut-Bailly is located on the left bank of the Gironde in the Pessac-Leognan region, home to some of the greatest wines in the Graves region of the Bordeaux. The owner, Robert Wilmers, is actually American, but the original Belgian owners, the Sanders family, have remained on board as managers. The Chateau’s name harkens back to the earliest, storied days of French winemaking. The original estate was founded in 1630 and has been consistently rated by Robert Parker at 87 and above after an earlier, admitted “misjudgment” of an earlier sample on 2000. Communications manager Camille Sanders, whose mother, Veronique, is the current manager of the estate and the grand-daughter of the original owner, Daniel Sanders, said the original poor rating by Parker was devastating, but the owners decided to persevere. “We feel that our strategy of proving beautiful wines with great longevity at a modest price was the way to go and its been proven right.” The proof was certainly in the glass. The wine is well balanced with a vibrant, crimson/black color and a lingering fragrance of cedar wood and a touch of sweet cassis fruit on the tongue. The wine has a great concentration of fruit cloaked in firm tannins that bode well for aging. I’d buy a case of this one, enjoying a bottle or two with game meat or a well-marbled steak, and then laying down the rest for enjoying during Holidays down the road.
Bordeaux wines are among the most storied and prized of all wines of the world. Having an opportunity to sample so many of the greats under one roof made the trip to London all the more worthwhil