Rock and Roll with Wine and Soul in Bordeaux
We were nestled into our tiny but comfortable room at the Hotel Notre Dame in Bordeaux, weary from traveling around the vast area of the region and in need of sustenance. Looking for something more casual than multi-course, more laid-back than formal, we thought we’d give a brand new local place a try. Just around the corner and down a quiet side street we saw the bold orange and black banner of Wine and Soul, so in we went.
The proprietors, young and friendly and multilingual, welcomed us proudly and urged us to sit anywhere we wished. Since we had apparently arrived just as the doors opened for business, we had several choices, for the long room was neatly sectioned into different areas. There was the bar up front, the standing tables opposite, the comfortable lounges on one side in the back for larger parties, and the small dining tables adjacent.
Service was immediate and friendly and we shortly had a wine list, our own personal menu board, and a willing waiter to assist us. Our first pleasant surprise was when we learned that the young hip set in Bordeaux is perfectly willing to learn about wines from different regions. Although there was a goodly supply of locally produced wines, there were wines from other French regions, as well as Italian, German, and several Spanish. The waiter, when asked, admitted that Spanish wines were quite the thing currently. We opted for an attractively priced and tempting Austrian, Ried Vogelsang by Heidi Schrock, a juicy, spicy white composed of Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Gelber Muskateller.
It was aromatic and tasty, but not all that balanced. Had I not been told it was a blend of the three varieties I would have assumed outright it was the musky Muskateller; the Pinot Blanc didn’t assert itself much and the Welschriesling not at all. Hard to divine what Schrock intended with this wine---one assumes it might be the different notes of the three wines in the harmony of a bird’s sweet trill, but it came across more as a repetitive chirp without variation.
Still and all, the wine was serviceable with the altogether impressive foodstuffs we ordered. First there was the nod to carbohydrates and grease, a delicious bowl of crispy/crunchy pomme frites doused in a light garlic cream and loaded with lardons of chewy pork. Roxi managed a careful self-control with the dish; I didn’t even bother, and dived right in. After all, we had ordered it, and if any was left they’d think we didn’t like it, and that wasn’t polite, was it?
The cheese platter arrived shortly afterwards. No one does fealty to cheese quite as well as the French; they take it seriously. They huge platter was a perfect combination of aromas, flavors and textures: a double layered Morbier with its internal layer of ash; a dark-hued and heavy-skinned wedge of well aged Ste. Nectaire at its peak of flavor; strips of the classic Comté, nutty and toothy; small wedges of nicely cellared Brie, and delicate slices of Tomme de Savoie. Add to that a small ramekin of fruit paste, a mound of candied peanuts and an endless basket of ficelles and you had feast enough for the entire evening.
Of course, we didn’t stop there. We shared a filet of sole with sautéed greens and a white butter sauce, which helped us polish off the bottle of Vogelsang nicely.
By then Wine and Soul had filled up with a wide range of people from different age groups, some standing, some lounging, some at the bar---singles, couples, small groups, each in their different orbits, each enjoying themselves over the background noise of the French version of disco-ized American Pop and Rock and Roll. We lingered for a while, for it was cozy and comfortable and friendly.
Local Color and Goodnight
As we wandered out into the narrow side street down to rue Notre Dame, a young man plaintively called up to a pretty and slender young girl leaning out a casement window on the third floor. He was obviously yearning and pleading for entrance, but she would have none of it. Romeo continued to plead his case with increasingly eloquent desperation, but his fair Juliet would have none of it and curtly closed the window on him. As he moped away down the dark and silent street we turned the other way to our hotel replenished with food and wine and soul and ready for bed.
Would we go back? Yes we would. Pleasant, not at all pretentious, a bit adventurous, better than expected food, a wide-ranging wine list and a mellow relaxed vibe. What's not to like?