My Summer Superstars of 2016

In the world of professional winos I will be the first to admit that I was a lightweight this summer. I went to the dentist recently and when he told me to spit, I actually dribbled a little. Sure, I could blame it on the anesthesia, but my skills are slipping, ya’ll!

Nevertheless, I managed to enjoy several impressive bottles in my personal life. Here are the superstars of my summer libations:

Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils, Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge Vielles Vignes, 2012 (<€40)

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Two years ago when I saw this pinot noir at my local wine shop I geeked out. I wanted to hold it another two, but I cracked. I couldn’t wait to test out this semi-rare selection from a top rated vintage. So I brought it over to a friend’s house for dinner.

The Burgundian region of Chassagne-Montrachet is typically known for their whites; lovely, oak-aged, mineral driven chardonnays. Only one-third of the cru vineyards (fewer than 360 acres to begin with) are designated to pinot noir production. To put it another way, I never saw one stateside.

When I pulled the cork, there wasn’t much to smell, so we let it breathe in the bottle -the decanter was already being used – while Nico barbequed the duck magrets. (I love eating at his place).

By the time we were ready for the repa, the bouquet smelled of candied violettes and strawberry juice on toast. On the pinot scale the body was medium with delicate tannins and flavors of earth, morello cherries and black plums.  The finish was about five seconds – I shoulda kept it the extra two years. If this is the “entry level” Chassagne-Montrechet for Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils, I understand why their 1ere crus start hitting triple digit prices.

Domaine Les Creisses Vin de Pays d’Oc 2014 (<€20)

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Apparently, I’m the last wine geek in France to find out about Les Creisses. The viticultrual region this comes from is sometimes (unjustly) put into a “…and Others” section in wine shops because they can’t be put into any one category except being “non traditonal.” This Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon is juicy, rich, full bodied and clean with aromas of grilled meat, mixed berries, stewed plums, and vanilla. It went great with the my bacon wrapped, chicken cordon bleu à la mexicaine. I went out and bought another bottle to see how it ages.

Château La Grave à Pomerol Trigant de Boisset, Pomerol, 1998      (>€450)

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This right here, folks, is why we age wine. In my opinion, this 18 year old wine was at its peak. One of the benefits of living in the Bordeaux region – you get invited to dinner at a friend’s house and, on a whim, he pulls out un petit tresor from the cave.

I drive past this vineyard everyday. It’s on the western side of the Pomerol plateau and in contrast to the mostly clay driven soil of the region, the merlot and cabernet franc vines push up from the gravel terrior that is reflected in the chateau’s name. For that reason, it’s considered one of the lighter styled Pomerol wines.

A highly perfumed nose of sweet blackberries and cocoa. En bouche there were notes of ripe cherry, licorice, fine leather, and mineral. The mouthfeel offered ripe tannins that felt like silk. The balance and elegance this wine showed was outstanding. It had another 10-12 years to go, easy. It was served poolside with grilled pork sausages! I pretty much ignored the rest of the guests and made out with my glass!

Vignerons de Buxy Montagny 1er Cru “Les Chaniots” 2013 (<€25)

Let me explain something about Burgundy real quick: ancient heritage laws (I won’t bore you) resulted in vineyard properties being broken up amonst family members evenly instead of an entire estate passing to a first born. It’s common that Cousin Jean-Pierre owns one and a half rows and Tante Marie-Claude controls three rows. 10492167_877992635666559_3764779332977701427_nSince it’s not financially interesting to produce and sell a wine from such a little parcel, Burgundy uses a co-operative system. They are allowed to grow chardonnay or pinot noir. This is why the concept of terrior is vital. In exceptional cases, where the terrior is so pronounced it merits being set apart, a wine will come from a single vineyard plot, or climat.

Such was the case with this premiere cru from Montagny, in the Cote Chalonnaise. Chardonnay vines push up out of brittle limestone and clay with a gravel subsoil base; and I could taste it. There was a strong mineral edge to accompany the honeysuckle and green apple notes. The slight sensation of oak on my gums was in perfect balance with the acidity. This is a wine that, while enjoyable now, will be amazing in about 5 years.

Yes, white wines can be aged – especially in Burgundy, and – gasp – be paired with red meat! However, pairing this guy with our habitual marche rotisserie chicken was a lovely way to cap off the summer!

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Paired perfectly with the rotisserie chicken and garlic pommes de terre for Sunday dinner.

 

Atelier Lime Sorbet

It’s the tail-end of summer and we’ve cursed the sweat and the funk everytime we’ve opened the car door, right?

I’ve mostly gotten acclimated to not having air conditioning here in France. I kinda prefer it (I can hear the collective gasp from all of my Texas friends right now), I have fewer sinus headaches and mold and mildew are not a problem. However, the southwest of France experienced a heatwave in August that saw the thermometer reach above 40° (104°F) and everyone was hiding out in the climitized grocery stores during the day. And like most of the civilized world, we purchased excessive amounts of ice cream that half melted on the way home.

One flavor we decided to test was citron vert (lime) sorbet. The packaging boasted all-natural flavors with morsels of lime peel. They weren’t kidding! I don’t know how anyone could eat this straight because it has a serious pucker factor. I mean, the acid hurt my teeth it was so intense. So I used it to make cocktails instead!

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We recently picked up a pack of Limonade Mascaret while visiting Brasserie Mascaret and a bottle was chillin’ in the frigo. This artisnal lemonade is all natural and has a light, refreshing flavor.

In champagne trumpet glass:

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*One ounce Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur

*Fill with Limonade Mascaret.

The finished product was still tart, but quenching with a margarita vibe. I’ll do this one again.

CUBA LIBRE CHILL

The Cuba Libre is my go-to in dive bars and merits its own blog post. It’s so much more than a simple rum & cola when you add the lime juice, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to use up this citron vert sorbet.

In a tall collins glass:

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*1 1/2 ounces aged rum (don’t you dare use white rum)

*Fill with Coca-Cola.

I could drink this year round. I immediately went to Amazon.co.uk to replace my copy of Hemmingway’s Islands in the Stream and introduce Yannick to Le vieil homme et la mer.

CRANBERRY COOLER
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During the Sex and the City heydays, I rolled my eyes everytime a Charlotte wannabe came to me with the ingredient list for the Cosmoplitan. Eventually, the popularity of this cocktail died off (much like the careers of those four ladies), but since lime juice is a component in this vodka based drink, I decided to revive the recipe.  I skipped the vodka for this one because I didn’t feel that it added anything flavorwise and would’ve been alcohol-overkill on a hot day.

In a goblet (because I don’t have martini glasses):

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*1 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier

*Fill with cranberry juice.

This ended up being the sweetest of my three experiments. Not cloyingly sweet, but my gosh, have you ever noticed how much sugar there is in industrial cranberry juice? The sorbet and juice balanced each other out (what we’re always looking for) and the orange liqueur added some roundness. BTW I tried coming up with a creative name for this cocktail, but failed. Any suggestions?

So, I was able to finish up that sorbet (substitute lime sherbet, if you like, but know it will be more creamy and sweeter) and beat the heat. In three months, we’ll all be whining about forgetting to wear a scarf and gloves and I’ll think fondly of remaking these chilly cocktails!