Burgundy/Alsace Day 5 - 08 June 2007

by Chuck Hayward

by Mike Supple

Domaine Ponsot

The Domaine was established by William Ponsot in 1872 after the end of the Franco-Prussian war. He purchased the house and vineyards, including Clos des Monts Luisants and Clos de la Roche. This history is clearly not lost on Laurent Ponsot who greets us by bursting on to a second-story balcony, long, curly dark hair flowing all around, as he calls out, "Bienvenue!"

He tries to play dumb at first, but we quickly realize his English is flawless, and his wit is quite sharp.

According to Laurent, 2006 was truly a challenging vineyard and the "wine was made more in the vineyards than the cellar". The key to a great 2006 for Laurent was when the grapes were harvested. In his opinion too many of his neighbors pick just when the grapes are beginning to ripen, but he generally waits another 7-10 days until the fruit achieves phenolic ripeness. For Ponsot, 2006 is like 2004 in terms of balance: pH, alcohol, ripeness. The 2006 vintage was quite a bit smaller than his average though.

Total Production (in bottles):
2002 - 40,000
2004 - 50,000
2005 - 20,000
2006 - 20,000

As we wandered among the barrels he hands us Riedel tasting glasses. I personally am a huge proponent of proper glassware for tasting, and this was the first time all trip we tasted from Riedel - it's all about the little touches....

This was truly an exceptional tasting experience. I found many similarities in these wines to those of Thibault Liger-Belair. Overall the 2006 vintage for Ponsot is amazingly subtle, balanced and elegant.

2006 Morey-St-Denis Clos des Monts Luisants Vieilles Vignes 1er Cru
100% Aligote.
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvee de l'Abeille
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Chambolle-Musigny Cuvee des Cigales
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Chambolle-Musigny les Charmes 1er Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Morey-St-Denis Cuvee des Allouettes 1er Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Griotte-Chambertin Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Chambertin Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Chapelle-Chambertin Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Clos St-Denis Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2006 Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

Domaine Robert Arnoux

Pascal Lachaux, son-in-law of the late Robert Arnoux, has been in charge of this famous estate since 1990. They have fantastic holdings in some of the best vineyards in Burgundy, including Romanee-St-Vivant, Clos Vougeot and Echezeaux, as well as 1er Crus in Nuits-St-Georges and Vosne-Romanee.

As I previously mentioned, we had the chance to dine with Pascal and his wife Florence a couple of days ago, and I have been looking forward to trying their '05s ever since. Yes, I said '05s. There are only so many barrel samples one can try of fierce, enamel-stripping wine just a few months old before moving on to the fierce, enamel-stripping bold and fruity wines that have been in bottle a mere few months.

Although the production level of these wines (like most great Burgundies) is very low, we can take heart in the fact that Pascal exports about 70% of his production. England is their largest market, followed by Asia, and then the US.

The 2005 Arnoux wines are not overly concentrated - Pascal does put an emphasis on the fruit, trying not to over-extract or bring out too much oak. He racked the wines a month before bottling (bottled in February) when the moon is waning. By racking during this part of the lunar cycle, the atmospheric pressure is higher so the lees hug the bottom of the barrels. This way more wine can be racked off without pulling out any sediment.

2005 Chambolle-Musigny Villages
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Vosne Romanee Villages
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Nuits-St-Georges Les Proces 1er Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes 1er Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Echezeaux Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2005 Romanee-St-Vivant Grand Cru
(Tasting notes to come.) -Mike Supple

2000 Echezeaux Grand Cru
Very rich aromas of black and white truffles and green herbs over roasted fruits, tobacco, red cherries, cassis and a touch of smoke. There is a hint of violet on the front palate, followed by liquorice and raspberry. Great balance on the palate with a nice purity of fruit. Lusch, full cassis through the mid-palate. Very ripe, supple tannins are well integrated. Very long spicy cherry finish with a bold mineral note. 96 pts. -Mike Supple

Domaine Weinbach

Domaine Arnoux is unfortunately our last stop in Burgundy, but on the bright side we are heading off to Alsace to visit the lovely Faller family of Domaine Weinbach. After all the rich lunches and dinners, we decide to stop at a pizzeria on the way up to Alsace for some pizza and a beer. The moral of this story is, do not let me order the food if you are looking for something a bit lighter. But I still don't understand what is wrong with having three types of cheese, two meats and giant wedges of potato on pizza!

Not being responsible for the driving, I seize the opportunity and promptly pass out in the back seat of the car, waking only briefly in the middle when the traffic slows down for a sudden (but thankfully brief) thunderstorm.

We approach Alsace in the early evening under gorgeous clear blue skies. And remember, this time of year in Alsace the sun doesn't set until just before 10:00, so early evening is still mid-day!

After dumping our bags at the hotel and grabbing a quick shower, we head out for the last 15 minutes of the business day to find a couple of souvenirs in the quaint town of Keysersberg, who's mascot (if you will) is the stork. I've made the mistake of returning home empty-handed before...not a pretty sight! ;)

Our evening begins at Domaine Weinbach, where we meet Laurence and Catherine Faller, and Laurence's boyfriend Mark. A bottle of 2005 Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Ste Catherine helps us all get to know one another before we head to the Auberge de l'Ill, the extroardinary Micheline 3-star restaurant in Illhaeusern.

When we enter the restaurant, we are ceremoniously greeted by everyone who works here (easily 20+ people), including the head chef. Clearly the Fallers are no strangers to the establishment. Before being seated for the meal, we are all ushered outside to have drinks on the bank of the beautiful River Ill. And what better whet our appetites than a fresh bottle of the classic 2005 Weinbach Muscat Reserve?

The inside of the restaurant is a feat of architectural wonder, but when it comes down to it, all that matters is that the atmosphere was great, the service high-class, the chairs comfortable, and the meal one of the best I have ever had in my life.

2004 Weinbach Riesling Cuvee Ste Catherine
2004 Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Ste Catherine l'Inedit
2002 Weinbach Pinot Gris Ste Catherine
1998 Weinbach Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Furstentum Selection de Grains Nobles

Dinner (at least mine, there were variations around the table, and wines were paired accordingly):
Chilled soup of tomato, cod and squid ink gnocchi
Lobster over fresh fennel, orange dressing and falafel
Noisettes of deer in a mushroom and wine sauce
Cheese (roquefort, comte, epoisse, munster)
Pre-dessert: macaroon,s raspberry tarts, chocolates, lemon cream pastries
Dessert: Vacherin Glacee - a local delicacy - strawberry and vanilla ice cream, meringue, clotted whipped cream, fresh strawberries
Post-dessert: coffee and chocolates back out by the river