Wed 31 Mar 2010
If I can keep up with such matters as when quarters of the year start and end, I’ll launch this “Two Great Wines” as a new feature on BTYH. The idea is that in the first three months of 2010 — or the end of each three-month period — these are the best wines, or, to be fair, really great wines, one red and one white, that I have tasted but not yet written about or reviewed.
The august Burgundian firm of Joseph Drouhin owns 1.4 hectares (3.598 acres) of the Chablis Grand Cru vineyard Vaudésir; the total is about 36 acres. Drouhin, headquartered in Beaune, Burgundy’s iconic medieval city, at least the well-preserved center, maintains its own facility in Chablis. The chardonnay grapes are pressed there and the must immediately transported to Beaune, where it is fermented, and then the wine is placed in mostly older oak barrels to age eight or nine months.
The Joseph Drouhin Chablis-Vaudésir Grand Cru 2007 is incredibly intense and concentrated yet generous and expansive; part of the thrill of drinking this wine — and it’s distinctly a thrill — lies in that slight sense of tension and exuberance in the presentation and resolution of these opposite tendencies. Aromas of white peach, tangerine, camellia and honeysuckle seduce the nose; in a moment come drifts of roasted lemon and lemon curd, and, under all this, penetrating scents of gunflint and damp shale for a bracing effect. The texture is such stuff as dreams are made on, a seamless marriage of cloud-like, dusty, talc-y roundness and electrifying acidity, bright as a star, taut as a wire. Flavors of roasted lemon and lime peel are deeply imbued with dried baking spice and a hint of some foresty, leafy element; the finish, which is dry and brings up limestone and earth, is long and satisfying. We drank this with seared swordfish that had been marinated in soy sauce, mirin, lime juice, garlic and fresh ginger. 130 six-bottle cases imported. Drink now through 2015 or ’17. Exceptional. About $72. I didn’t say that these wines were cheap or widely available, just that they’re great.
Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., New York. A sample for review.
The Oakville Ranch Robert’s Blend is close enough to being the best cabernet franc wine made in California that the others should just line up behind it. For 2005, the Robert’s Blend contains 90 percent cabernet franc and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon. After tasting so many over-oaked Barbera wines in Piedmont a couple of weeks ago and coming home to racks of over-oaked chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons from California, it was a relief to perceive how carefully Ashley Heisey, winemaker at Oakville Ranch, managed the oak in this effort. While the wine spent 18 months in French barrels, 50 percent new, the oak is completely integrated into the structure, just as that structure is completely integrated with the fruit.
As a cabernet franc wine that tips a hat to the Loire Valley tradition, the Oakville Ranch Robert’s Blend 2005, Napa Valley, teems with scents of black currant and blueberry with undertones of black olive, dried thyme, a hint of blackberry jam — revealing a toehold in the Golden State, and that’s just fine — and a whiff of damp, dusty slate-like minerality. Pretty heady stuff, all right, but grounded in the sober earthiness of the winery’s hillside property where vineyards rise to 1,400 feet. The wine is invigorated by smooth, supple tannins and lithe acidity; juicy black fruit flavors are wrapped around a deep core of smoke and bitter chocolate. The tannins assert themselves more insistently in the finish, bringing in a grown-up note of spareness and austerity. A suave performance and not what one usually thinks of as a pizza wine, but that’s how we employed it, with immense pleasure. Production was 393 six-bottle cases. Drink now through 2014 or ’15. Excellent. About $90.
A sample for review.