Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cassoulet at the Kesslers 2011: Part 2

And the social hour continues, with more food, more wine, and increasingly more voluble conversation as both are consumed.

Just as we knew there would be Austrian there, we also expected a fine Burgundian---and lo and behold, what did our wandering eyes see appear on the bar but...why, yes, it is: 2004 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru - Les Caillerets, Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard.

And a fine Chassagne-Montrachet it is too.  A bit slow to emerge, even though it is at perfect serving temperature, neither too chilled nor too warm; yet, it is shy.  Thankfully, not too much evidence of oak---which means there is some, but it is in moderation, just as it should be.  Why make wine from chardonnay and then mask it with oak, after all?  Maybe these French guys know what they're doing.

It's right about then I realize---this wine isn't shy at all!  It's elegant.  It has a brightness and liveliness that is charming, with assertive citrus notes backed up by some minerality, and what I thought was a shy nose is simply a delicate, light perfume of white flowers---honestly, like smelling a bouquet of fresh flowers with a squeeze of lemon, bizarre as that description may sound.  This is a subtle, understated wine that requires a little subtle you might easily overlook it if more assertive ones were around making more noise.

And what's that noisy little bottle over there, demanding attention (and getting it)?  Aha, Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay 2006.

Nothing shy about this one, and counterpoint to the a pointe of the Chassagne-Montrachet, the MEV is also bright, but California-sunshiny, ripe orange bright, with a little dash of fresh lime juice in there to perk it up.  This is the fruit-drenched, cool place in a warm climate, developed fruit kind of style...and you have to get used to all that fruit before you realize, it too has subtleties (yes, actual subtleties!) underneath that cornucopia.  There's a lovely structure of acidity and minerality holding it together---not as much stone as the Chassagne-Montrachet, but then again, that's a wine of a different place and style, and the MEV has need of more lattice of acidity to support the  zaftig opulence it has to carry.

The Chassagne-Montrachet is a lovely chardonnay from a region where you often have to coax the ripeness and development of fruit, then take care to keep the structure light but firm.  The MEV, on the other hand, is a different sort of challenge, a wine with such a natural abundance of fruit that it requires balance and restraint in its underpinnings.  Both winemakers have done impressive jobs with their respective wines.

But wait....there's another white wine on the counter!!!  Cagy Lou often has a surprise lurking, so what can it be?

Oh.  It's an Angiolino Maule Pico Bianco 2008.  Wait...what?  What the hell is an Angiolino Maule Pico Bianco?

Lou must've come under the influence of the East Coast Wine Set again, and come back with a wine that no one else has ever heard of.  Probably orange.  Probably "natural wine."  Probably Louis/Dressner.  Has that look and feel about it, like something that Louis/Dressner would find back in the mountains or tucked away in a little village somewhere.

Hey, it's good!!!  Tasty stuff.  Fresh, clean, slightly nutty and smooth.  Medium-bodied, slightly chewy and clean---did I say that already?  I think I did.

[Later on I did a little research, and yep, it was Louis/Dressner, and the wine is organic, 'natural', artisanal, small batch, wine-with-a-philosophy (oh, I already said Louis/Dressner, didn't I?) from the Veneto.  It is technically Gambellara, a designation that means more-or-less the extended area of Soave.  Maule makes several wines; the Pico is 100% Garganega (the primary grape of Soave), but here it is open-vat fermented, no sulphur added, and the grapes show off their natural, un-adorned character with startling simplicity and purity of aroma and flavor.  It's a real find, and a delightful discovery.]

We're enjoying ourselves, with all the wines that Lou has laid out, and with the rotating servings of finger food---those mushroom caps, my, my; and I can't say no to the ceviche; and those tiny, handmade cheese crackers!  Face it, I have no willpower where BL's food is concerned---but we all know very well why we're here and what the main show is going to be, so when BL suggests we move toward the table as we hear the delicate pop of a Champagne bottle in the next room, we need no further urging.  Cassoulet, here we come!


  1. Maule? nice stuff. went there this year. pal dobianchi writes about it here

  2. Thanks, Alfonso! Good article, and an interesting guy. Really impressed by his Pico.