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TN: Tokyo Offline Group


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TOKYO OFFLINE GROUP INAUGURAL (FRENCH MIXED BAG) - Cuisine 219 (9/9/2005)

Michael McKinney, David Hawkins and Nicole Giles, Dave Armstrong, Oliver Mackie, and I imposed on the gracious service at Cuisine 219 in Minami-Aoyama to taste through a mixed bag of wines and discuss plans for a more regular tasting group here in Tokyo. We did a pretty thorough job, leaving only one wine unopened (a 96 d'Angerville Champans that really needs at least five years more sleep anyway).

  • 1999 Domaine aux Moines Savennières Roche aux Moines - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Savennières Roche aux Moines
    Light strawish yellow, very light at edge. Bursting nose, chenin honey, granite. Quickly closes up a little on nose, but not completely. A little melon and fig come out in time. Great "sweet" chenin nose on this dry wine. On palate, nice acid comes out with a bowl of cold pumpkin soup. Rich, nice viscosity and roundness kept interesting by a limish streak of acidity. Persistent finish emphasizing melon/peach and dry honey. Thoroughly enjoyable and exciting, though certainly a little closed. With a little time to sleep...WOW! My WOTN. (Thanks David and Nicole)
  • 2002 William Fèvre Chablis Vaillons 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Chablis
    The negoc bottling, not the domaine. Slightly richer yellow than the Savennieres, a little denser at the rim. Still pretty light in colour, though. Nose starts with slightly stony citrus, accompanied by a fleeting strange dill/anise note. (May have been a suggestive echo of the dill in a salmon salad dish. Not unpleasant, just atypical. Of very short duration.) A very little spiciness, but not intrusive and not vanilla toned. Good concentration on palate, good balance, but relatively simple. A little closed; a couple of years may help, but this will never be particularly layered. Finish of reasonable length -- good, clean, not at all dilute -- but lacking spark. I was pleased with the showing, given some notes I had read that pointed to dilution in the 02 Fevre premiers. A good accompniment to the dish. Good food wine that I will enjoy drinking over the next few years.
  • 2000 Guffens-Heynen Mâcon-Pierreclos Le Chavigne - France, Burgundy, Mâconnais, Mâcon-Pierreclos
    Deep, deep yellow gold. Very little visible viscosity. When first poured, a huge nose of oak. Settles down with a little time to show very ripe apple, melon, and even a little earth. Once the oak settles down, a nice range of fruit wrapped in that smooth lanolin blanket that very ripe Chardonnay can show. On the palate, the fruit is very ripe, extremely sweet/juicy, but there is plenty of acid and interest and it only hints at tropical. While this may be a little riper/oakier than my preferred style, this is very well-made and has great balance. A pretty big wine, good concentration and finish. Needs fairly rich, Meursault-friendly type food. (Thanks Oliver)
  • 1976 Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgueil Cuvée Prestige - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    Ex-domaine. Surprisingly deep, dark colour. Looks like a ten-year old claret. Nose of wet earth, a little green pepper (interesting, not overbearing), raspberry that darts in and out. Evolves to a little more dusty character. Nice combination of evolved but still evident tannins, quenched by juicy/acid sour cherry fruit. Finish shows a bit of dry leaves. All showing much younger than expected. Very happy with it, but it lacks a "wildness" I had hoped for. Revisted after 45 minutes or so, much more cherry on nose, a little more sweet red berry on mid-palate, and dark berry on a persistent finish. Classic case of giving an old wine too little time to open up.
  • 1996 Harmand-Geoffrey Gevrey-Chambertin La Bossiere 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
    Already taking on a little lightness at the edge, but dense in the middle. Initial nose and palate scream strawberry -- very atypical. After a little time (and some necessary chilling), the aggressive strawberry turns to a subtle framboise that is pleasing. Seemed a little simple and loose at first, but cooling brought out the acid -- and a lot of balance and interest. A good lighter, easier drinking, more elegant Gevrey. Only a hint of the Gevery earth. I thought it lacked a little locality. Probably still a little dumb and definitely served a little warm. Don't think the sample did it justice. Meadows thinks this producer shows nice elegance and terrior focus. I got the former, but not the latter. Would be interested to try again. (Thanks David and Nicole)
  • 2003 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Wow! Deep, deep colour, but not quite inky or murky. Started with that low-toned funky Grenache smell, overlaid with a little strawberry and raspberry and very ripe darker fruit and spice. There's garrique here too. Palate shows big tannins, but so much fruit that the tannins just slip on by. Palate is much more ripe dark fruit, maybe a little roast/raisin, but less than I had feared. I get very little of the heat that others have noted (but, unlike Oliver, did not revisit after the claret). A lot of fun to drink, but I can't figure out what I would drink it with, other than a rare "steak as big as your head". Overwhelmed the lamb chops. Didn't find the acid spine to make me think this will evolve over the long-term into the kind of wine I like to drink, but you could hide an elephant's worth of acid under the tannin and fruit at this stage. Has the roasted, ripe notes of 2003 that are not really for me, but I was really impressed at how clearly this wine still spoke of Chateauneuf, just in an outsized way. (Thanks Michael)
  • 1997 Château Sociando-Mallet - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Haut-Médoc
    Still relatively deep in colour, showing only slight signs of age. Nose shows immediate classic scents of cassis and graphite, follows up with a little dust and leather. Palate carries through with the cassis, along with round red fruits under slightly cheek-scraping tannins. Classic nose and flavor profile, good balance and restraint. Finish good enough. Drinks well now, but still needs a few more years for tannins to ease. What can I say? I like slightly "off" (or "classic") vintages. Stood up well to the lamb chops. Should have been consumed before the Clos des Papes. (Thanks Dave)
  • 2001 Château de la Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    Clear deep red, lighter than the Clos des Papes, but not as much as I would have expected. Nose starts with GSM-ish spice. Would have guessed Australia blind based on initial nose. With time, get some leather and dust, along with the slightly iodine/seaweed nose I often get in CdP (but others never do). Palate shows mostly red fruit, very nice acid/tannin balance that makes it very clear this is, indeed, French. Starting to shut down, I think, though my palate is pretty tired at this point. Once the GSM sweetness blows off, this is a nice contrast with the Clos des Papes. Clearly a lesser wine in size and concentration, but much more what I look for from CdP to drink with food. (Thanks Dave)
  • 1990 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    From half bottle. Rich deep colour tending toward orange. Immediate nose impression is a large dose of botrytis-enlivened honey, ripe nectarine, a little orange zest, and some caramel. Palate begins with fat ripe peach well balanced by acidity and the zing of botrytis. Extremely rich and unctuous, but maintaining good balance. Stong, lasting finish of honey, brulee, and spiced apple. Seems fully mature, but nowhere near decline. Really like this.
  • 1998 Domaine de Juchepie Coteaux du Layon-Faye - France, Loire Valley, Coteaux du Layon-Faye
    From 500ml bottle. Deep yellow/gold, not yet showing any tawny orange hints of age. Similarly young and fresh on nose, but quickly closed up. First impression was of botrytis spores and maybe a little schisty stone. Never really opened on nose, but did show a little hay, sultana, and peach. Peach/apricot continued on palate with honey and lemon curd sweetness. Palate was a little fat tasting, without the quite the zip of acid and botrytis that I would have expected. However, my palate was shot at this point and the wine was very young and showing its sweetness and size, but not its details. I would suspect this needs at least 8-10 more years to come together, but could be very good then. (Thanks David and Nicole)

Great group of generous people. I'm really looking forward to the next event.

Posted from CellarTracker

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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Interesting selection of wines there. A friend has been after me to open some of the 2003 Clos de Papes; apparently it is getting quite a lot of hype on the Squires board. Our impressions were similar to yours, we decanted it for an hour (although I did sneak a glass when I opened it and found the wine surprisingly forward). By the end of the evening (total of about 4 hours from the initial decanting), I thought the raisiny, roasted fruit quality was starting to get overwhelming.

The 2003 vintage in France seems to have produced a lot of atypically big wines. Have not had any bords yet (and don't plan to), but we also opened a 2003 Roumier Chambolle Musigny (village), and my initial reaction was "hey, who poured the Loring in my glass?" Quite atypical for Roumier, I thought, and we opened the 99, 00, 01 and 02 just to confirm.

Lastly, how was Cuisine 219? Worthwhile for an offline? Did you have a chance to check out the wine list?

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Steve:

Didn't get a chance to check out the list. Would say the food was good, but nothing special. The service was pretty adept and very friendly. They dealt well with us juggling three glasses (all resto supplied, two of which were of good quality light, thin crystal). Corkage was 2000Y/bottle. If you want to use it for an offline or BYOB, I would call ahead to be polite, but wouldn't anticipate any problem.

I'm not buying any 2003s (except that I'm eager to taste the Loire reds, which have gotten some good comments from folks with palates pretty much in sync with mine -- and yours, I think). Many people enthuse over Beaujolais from ripe vintages, but I'm not one of them. In the Loire, however, I think ripeness can be good for cab franc. The 76 Bourgueil showed really well and 76 was an oven of a summer.

I was impressed that the Clos des Papes maintained some family resemblence to what I expect of Chateauneuf. It was the hulking big brother, loaded with a little too much muscle and fat, but underneath were discernable CdP genes. I'm not buying any, but I don't want to be unfairly hard on the wine.

We'll have to get together and open one of the old Bourgueil. Had one lined up for Cote d'Or when we were there, but we didn't get to it. Hope the staff enjoyed it!

Take care,

Jim

Jim Jones

London, England

Never teach a pig to sing. It only wastes your time and frustrates the pig.

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