Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Food, Wine and Someone You Love

May 23, 2016 – Food and Wine

Hi, again, everybody and welcome back to Cépage et Cuisine, Mary’s and Brian’s blog about wine, food, culture, people, and geography.
Let’s begin with the premise that wine serves three main purposes.  First, it brings pleasure.  Second, it enhances food.  Third, it is shared with friends or someone you love.  It isn’t a cocktail and alcohol is not the point.  It is part of a civilized and balanced life, integrated in moderation with other elements of enjoyment, not consumed to the point of intoxication.  I also like to say that what grows together goes together.  The traditional dishes of Burgundian cuisine are meant for pairing with the wines of Burgundy.  The same can be said for other regions of the world.

A few producers in Burgundy highlight their wines in combination with food at their cellars and even in their homes.  We try to visit at least one of these every year.  
This year we returned for our second visit to the maison of Domaine Jean et Jean-Louis Trapet in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin.  The Trapet family also owns an estate in Alsace, so they include those wines in the meal, too.

These are lunchtime affairs that are meant to be enjoyed slowly over a couple of hours with friends and family.  Today was chilly in Burgundy and there was a crackling wood fire in the giant fireplace of the old home, which we could smell as we entered the estate through the gate.

We settled in at our table …

… and began with a tasting of two grand cru Alsace Rieslings, one from the Schoenenbourg vineyard near the town of Riquewhir where we vacationed a few years ago.  I have memories of going jogging in that vineyard.  The other was from the Schlossberg vineyard a few kilometers away.
Both wines were clean, crisp, and refreshing, but we agreed we could tell a difference between them.  The Schoenenbourg definitely showed more peach and apple fruit, while the Schlossberg was more minerally and not as fruity.  Both wines are bone dry, both harvested around the same time of the same year, both vinified using essentially the same techniques.  The differences can be explained only by the soil and other characteristics of the sites where the grapes are grown.  This concept is known in French as terroir, which basically means the expression of the place.

When you think of it, the relationship of the place to how something is experienced makes perfect sense. When we lived in Mississippi, watermelon from Smith County was especially prized.  In Michigan, apples from particular orchards taste different from others and cherries from northern Michigan are considered the best.  Mary has talked fondly of Gravenstein apples that were grown around Sebastopol in Sonoma County as being special.

Gougéres arrived with the Riesling, then the first course was prosciutto and the reds started coming out.

The presentation of the reds progressed from village to grand cru.  Briefly, the wines of Burgundy are classified this way, keeping in mind that the whites are Chardonnay and the reds are Pinot Noir.

1. At the base is Bourgogne.  Grapes for a Bourgogne can come from anywhere in Burgundy.

2. The next level up is village wine (pronounced vee-LAGE).  Grapes must come from within the area of a specific village such as Gevrey-Chambertin.  These wines have a little more specificity of character than a Bourgogne.

3. The next level up is premier cru.  These wines come from specific sites that are classified as among the best, express great character and depth, and are much more expensive.  There are hundreds of these vineyards, but some are tiny and only 11-12% of all wines from Burgundy are premier cru.  These are definitely special occasion or at least weekend wines, not everyday sippers.

4. The top level is grand cru.  Now it’s show off time.  There are only 33 of these vineyards so the supply to the world is very small, the demand is high, and prices can be through the roof.  These wines have such distinction of site that only the vineyard name appears on the label.  Not even the village name where the vineyard is located appears.  To say these are special occasion wines is an understatement.  These are wines that demand something of the consumer.  These are definitely not wines that are drunk casually with your hand around the bowl of the glass while talking about how your day went.  When you’re drinking a grand cru, the wine is the star of the show, the focus of attention.  Only 2% of all wine produced in Burgundy is a grand cru.
Back to Domaine Trapet.  The reds started with a Gevrey-Chambertin village and a Gevrey-Chambertin premier cru, indicated on the label as “1er.”  Gevrey wines are very structured, masculine wines that need a little time to open and reveal themselves and pair well with hearty food.  That’s what these wines showed, especially at such a young age.  The red and dark fruit notes are prominent and the tannins still quite grainy.

Our host brought out the main course of boeuf bourguignon, a Burgundy specialty that was perfect for a chilly, drizzly day in a centuries-old house in front of a warm fire.

The potatoes were served in these cute little enameled cast iron pots.

I'd love to have some of these at home.

Three grands cru came out, two of them very young, a Chapelle-Chambertin and a Latricieres-Chambertin, really much too young to show their full potential.  Even so, they both showed much more depth and intensity than the village and premier cru wines.
The real treat was the 1996 Chambertin, the most prestigious vineyard of the village and the vineyard name that is attached to the village name, Gevrey-Chambertin.

A mature wine like this is a revelation.  After 20 years, some of the exuberant red cherry, berry, plum and currant notes of its youth have diminished.  Instead, a perfume of fresh earth, underbrush, forest floor, and dried flowers is more prominent, like walking through the woods on an autumn day.  The tannins are settled to a silky, mouthcoating texture and a lingering finish that goes on and on after the wine is gone.  A wine experience like this is a memory to treasure.  We may have tasted a mature Chambertin at some point in the past and we’ve had mature grand cru many times, but I don’t remember tasting this particular wine before.  It’s really out of our price range.  The current market value for an older Chambertin is up to $1,000, depending on the reputation of the producer.

A great finish to a meal like this is a cheese course.  Here we have an Époisses and a Comté.  The Époisses is Burgundian and the Comté is from the Franche- Comté region just to the east.

The cheese was accompanied by a Gewurztraminer, a dessert-style wine of Alsace.

Finally, an espresso finished off a wonderful food and wine experience in Burgundy.

Here are pretty iris growing in the nearby Clos de Beze vineyard.

Later in the afternoon we visited Domaine Bouhey in the village adjacent to us, Villers-les-Faye, just to pick up a wine for dinner in the gite.
We tasted the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes de Nuits and took home a bottle of the Haute-Côtes de Nuits.

After such a lunch at Domaine Trapet, dinner was a snack of charcuterie, fruit, and cheese at the gite.

Here’s the Domaine Bouhey Hautes- Côtes de Nuits, fresh and fruity with red berries and cherry notes.  Not profound at all, but an easy wine to enjoy with a casual meal.  The price is only €6.80, about $8.00.

That’s our post for today.  Thanks for reading Cépage et Cuisine.  Thanks especially for your encouraging comments.  Keep checking back and in the meantime,



Monday, May 23, 2016

Simple Beauty and Works of Art

May 22, 2016 – Works of Art

Hi, everybody.  Welcome back to Cépage et Cuisine, our wine, food, and cultural blog.

Sometimes we become so enthralled by the novelty and beauty of things we don’t see every day, we forget about the beauty and wonder of life all around us.  I’ll explain below, so read on … both of you.

Sundays in rural France are quiet, much as I remember my growing up experience in north Georgia or my more recent experience in the quiet little town of Raymond, Mississippi.  Most stores are closed, many gas stations, and even some restaurants.  For those that are open, reservations are a must.  Pretty much none of the wine producers, vignerons, are open.  Mary and I just went for a drive in the countryside and relax.

I saw a description on Twitter of a hotel and restaurant in Sombernon, a small mountaintop town a half-hour or so from Magny-les-Villers, so off we went.  The drive is scenic, much of it on roads barely wide enough for two cars to pass.
Just minutes from the gite, the canola is in bloom, carpeting vast swaths of open space, like bright yellow paint was applied next to verdant green forests.  Around every bend in the road seems to await another postcard image.
Canals crisscross Burgundy, slow-moving waterways originally built for transportation, now used for recreation.  Companies offer complete barge vacations on the canals.  Thomas Jefferson famously wrote of using the canals when he toured the wine regions.

Le Spuller is the hotel and restaurant in Sombernon.  

It appears to be where local folks go for Sunday dinner, an old, plain establishment with wood plank walls and floors, but simultaneously elegant place with a beautiful view of the valley below.

In the comfortable rhythm of fine dining in France, lunch began with a glass of sparkling Crémant de BourgogneGougères, those small cheese puff pastries, still warm, were provided for nibbling (if only I could partake).

I had a first course of Œufs pochés à la crème d’Époisses, eggs poached in a sauce of Époisses cheese, which is one of the finest things I have ever put in my mouth, Lord have mercy.  Sorry I forgot to snap a photo.

We both enjoyed the filet d’eglefin grillé, which is grilled haddock.

The wine was a demi-bouteille, a half-bottle of Christophe Denizot Montagny Le Vieux Chateâu, a Chardonnay from the Côte Chalonnaise region of Burgundy.  It was fresh, crisp, with lemon notes, and complemented the fish perfectly.  The half-bottle is the perfect size for lunch, one glass per person for two people.

The dessert for Mary was a dish called Coupe Bourguignonne, sorbet of cassis with crème de cassis et chantilly (whipped cream, definitely not from a spray can), and a thin wafer.
After lunch we walked around just to see what is dans la ville, in the town.  We walked toward the church, which is always interesting.  

Who is that person lurking near the post office?
Just down the street from Le Spuller, we saw this sign for an art exhibit and went inside.  There must be quite an arts community in town.  Two ladies, Francine and Claudette, had a wonderful display of creativity … quilts, macramé, applique, embroidery and other crafts from local materials.  I immediately thought of my mother and grandmother and their quilts, which were and still are precious works of art.

This display is a clock and the months of the year.  Francine is the fourth generation of her family to produce her art.

Claudette is proud of her family tree.
Starting with the scissors, can you make out the word artiste?  In this piece, Claudette highlights all the materials she uses in her art.

Here’s her Noel display.

These panels represent the four seasons.  Here are a few more.

This shows Claudette’s three generations of handiwork.  It includes her grandmother’s crochet in the upper left, her mother’s larger crochet in the upper right, some of her mother’s wedding trousseau, and Claudette’s flower petals and leaves.

Here is the church in Sombernon, a typical example of the architectural style of Burgundy with the steep bell tower and slate roof.

Every little village in France has a monument to the lives lost in World War I, which was a slaughter that practically eliminated an entire generation of young men.  The names are inscribed on the sides of the obelisk, totaling about 30.  The smaller panel in front is a memorial to the men from Sombernon who died in World War II, which is about six.

The drive home took us through Saint Marie sur Ouche.  We thought the church was interesting, first in its slightly different architectural style of bell tower, more Gothic instead of Romanesque.

The other feature was the figure of Mary and the child Jesus on the bell tower.

The weather was gray and drizzly.  Take a look at these angry clouds gathering over the mountain ridge.

An old community hand water pump.

Wisteria is in full bloom.
                   And so are the iris … my favorite.
Here is what we purchased yesterday at the Beaune market, except for the green beans, which were already on the stove when Mary made the picture.

We made a dinner of the duck confit, green beans, potatoes, peppers, and squash.

The wine was this Domaine des Mouilles Julienas 2014, a delightful Beaujolais, fresh, earthy, fruity.  We picked it up yesterday at the Marché Gourmand.

That’s our post for today.  We hope you enjoy following us on our wine, food, and cultural vacation.  Keep coming back to Cépage et Cuisine. Post a comment and let us know what you think.  In the meantime,