Eating There Is Half The Fun - Bordeaux Day 1

by Chuck Hayward

Eating there is half the fun

Post by John Sweeney | Friday, March 26th

After a rather turbulent flight from San Francisco to Paris and a short layover we finally arrived in Bordeaux at around 3:30 in the afternoon this past Friday.  Pleasant weather and a bit of adrenaline got us quickly to our home base in Libourne, about 30 minutes from the center of Bordeaux and a quick ten minute drive to the center of beautiful St Emilion.  After a shower and change of clothes we headed out for a bite to eat.

Normandy Oysters
Who's eating who in this scenario?

Assembled at a quaint and beautiful Chateau on the banks of the Gironde River, we began our evening with a glass of 1996 Henriot Champagne – a wine of amazing complexity, tremendous youthfulness and a terrific way to start off any wine tasting trip.  After savoring this delicious bubbly, we sat down to dinner with what has to have been the largest plate of oysters I've ever seen! These Normandy gems were like kissing the ocean...just a squeeze of lemon and you were in for a real, French-styled Atlantic treat. Along with what must have easily been two hundred oysters, we tasted three spectacular bottlings of 2007 William Fevre Chablis – the Mont de Millieu, Bougros, and Vaillons.  Each bottle is from a different single vineyard in Chablis and is the perfect wine to accompany fresh oysters.  This was definitely my favorite part of the evening as Fevre's Chablis are incredible examples of what can be done with the chardonnay grape when it is not masked by the over-use of oak and malolactic fermentation.  Of the three, the 'Vaillon' stood out for me, with notes of lemon, lime, pineapple, an ever so slight touch of oak, and a beautiful shell-like minerality that persisted on my palate for close to a minute.  My tasting note said, "really incredible!"

Following the onslaught of oysters, we were treated to fresh baked French bread, perfectly grilled ribeyes and homemade au gratin potatoes - totally to die for.  To pair with this simple but heavenly meal we tasted a flight of newly released 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Papes , figuring these would get our palates warmed up for the 2009 Bordeaux ahead. As anticipated, these young gems from the Southern Rhone Valley were totally delicious. Standouts for me were the 2007 Chateau Vaudieu Chateaneuf du Pape, 2007 Grand Veneur ‘Les Origines’ Chateauneuf du Pape and the 2007 Domaine Durieu Chateuneuf-du-Pape.  But my favorite of these was the 2007 La Bastide Saint Dominique that was out of this world delicious! It showed incredible complexity for such a young wine with an intoxicating perfume on the nose, along with superb purity of fruit with notes of cassis and licorice. Powdery-soft tannins made this my favorite wine of the flight.

As if a dozen CdP's was not enough, we opened a few young Brunelli from the great 2004 vintage, including two of my favorites, the 2004 Fanti and Collemattoni.  These both showcase how complex and delicious the sangiovese grape can be, showing copious amounts of red raspberry, blackberry, black pepper, and vanilla flavors.  Incredibly silky textures, tremendous length, well integrated oak and balanced tannins. I was surprised how well these wines showed this evening and what incredible potential they will have in 5-10 years.

I guess I'm ready for the onslaught of 2009 Bordeaux...all 750 wines or so we'll be tasting over the next week! But hey, someone's gotta do it.