GLENN – My serious wine education began with weekly tastings at Federal Wine and Spirit hosted by Len Rothenberg. The tastings weren’t just a “swirl, sniff and slurp” event but an in-depth tutorial taught by Len, one of the early and continuing players in Boston’s wine culture. Even though I never obtained the distinction of being one of the Federalistas – that merry band of wine-savvy long-term tasting regulars, I conscientiously attended the tastings for several years. By the time I decided to formalize my wine education by attending Boston University’s wine program, I had a more than solid foundation. I got a promotion – my hours changed – and attending the weekly tastings was over, though I didn’t miss descending Federal’s torturous stairway to the tastings in the cellar. When Katrin informed me that Len was offering a seminar with dinner at Journeyman covering the outlying regions of Burgundy – Chablis, Auxerre, Hauts Côte de Nuits, Côte Chalonnaise and Maconnais – and would I like to attend, I replied, “Sign me up!” What a partnership! Wines chosen and expounded upon by Len and dinner by the culinary duo of Diana Kudajarova and Tse Wei Lim made for the wine and dine event of the season.
KATRIN – The seminar started with a glass of Matchbook California Chardonnay. Though some wondered why Len would choose this ripe, tropical, smooth Chardonnay to prepare us for a Burgundy tasting, Len selected it to demonstrate what Chardonnay is not supposed to be. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the two dominant grapes of Burgundy, evolved in a very cool continental climate – a far cry from California’s typical warmth and sunniness. Often times Burgundian grapes would struggle to achieve ripeness. The best vineyards are the ones that faced south or southeast, which are warmer and more likely to produce ripe grapes. That’s changing now a bit through a combination of better winemaking techniques and climate change, which has been bringing warmer temperatures to regions like Burgundy over the past few decades.
Len pointed out that New World winemakers are making Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to match their perception of these grapes, while the craftsmen of France (and presumably other Old World wine regions as well) are making Chablis, Givry, or Mercurey. The former is focused on the grape, the latter on the terroir.
Like Glenn, I too had enjoyed the weekly tastings with Len at Federal and it had been quite a while since I had been there. Hearing Len share his incredible depth of knowledge and insight – not to mention memorable quotes, my favorite being “Ripeness is the enemy of finesse” – about these wines has made me want to go “back to school.”
GLENN – Though the tasting was structured so that simple wines were followed by those more complex until an apogee of sorts was reached, there were several “smaller” wines along the way that I enjoyed. Once at a tasting at Federal, Len had described a simple and quaffable wine as “a pretty little wine”. It was terminology that entered my wine vocabulary and I still use to describe straightforward, unpretentious flavorful wines. First, a white, the 2008 Olivier Morin Bourgogne Chitry is ideal as an aperitif. The second, the 2009 Domaine des Alisieres Bourgogne Hauts Côte de Nuits is a light red suitable for chicken and fish. And of course, ever mindful as I am of price, both are good value.
KATRIN – Here is the full list of wines served:
2010 Domaine des Alisieres Bourgogne Aligote
2008 Oliver Morin Bourgogne Chitry
2008 Gautheron Chablis Les Fourneaux 1er Cru
Maconnais & Chalonnaise
2008 Domaine Belleville Rully Rabource 1er Cru
2008 Comte Lafon Macon-Uchizy Maranches
2008 Saumaize Pouilly-Fuisse Les Courtelongs
2009 Domaine des Alisieres Bourgogne Hauts Cotes de Nuits
2008 Jean Fournier Marsannay Cuvee St. Urbain
2009 Parize Givry Vieilles Vignes
2009 Jean-Pierre Charton Mercurey Vieilles Vignes
To accompany dinner, we each had a choice of the 2008 Dampt Bourgogne Tonnerre Blanc or the 2009 Domaine de la Monette Mercurey Vieilles Vignes. Glenn and I split a glass of each.
GLENN – With the conclusion of the seminar, it was time to eat. We began with a vichyssoise notable for its extreme velvety texture and depth of flavor served with several slices of black sea bass crepinette. The garnish of micro-greens, rather than being merely ornamental, added a mildly bitter counterpoint.
Next, the entree presented family-style – wonderfully juicy and tender leg of lamb served medium rare. Beakers of lamb jus with which to douse the meat were passed. There were three sides – baby carrots which actually had flavor; perfectly cooked and seasoned cranberry beans; and a sauté of bitter greens.
Finally, dessert – Tarte Tartin made with Carville Blanc apples. But the accompanying Greek yogurt ice cream was the show stopper – simultaneously sweet and tart.
We finished with a mignardise of fresh figs and flourless chocolate cake.
KATRIN –The food was stellar and as impressive as it was when we dined at Journeyman for a Wine Stains dinner. I savored every bite. The only thing I can add to Glenn’s comments is this: if I were to die by drowning, I only wish it to be in a giant vat of Journeyman’s vichyssoise. The flavor and texture of this dish was nothing less than divine.
Len’s incisive wine exposition, elegant and racy wines from Burgundy’s outlying appellations, fabulous, inventive food, and a table full of new friends = a memorable evening! And lest I forget, a special shout out to Mike, our tablemate and a regular (i.e. a true Federalista) at Federal’s weekly tastings, for bringing two aged Burgundies to share with the table! Thank you!