I was its guest – or was it my muse? It wasn’t the first time we’ve met, but my wine life is irrevocably changed by the experience. For the better? I hope. For the worse? Could be – what can compare to perfection? What in the world am I talking about?
Last week when I was invited to lunch with Laurent Drouhin at Le Bernardin, how could I say no?
First, we tasted a selection of the 2014 vintage of Burgundy whites and reds. This is the newest vintage coming to the market right now. I didn’t think there was a loser in the bunch.
For the whites, the highlight was the Marquis de Laguiche Chassagne-Montrachet. The wine was lush but linear and incredibly pretty. It was gorgeous and will develop nicely. It should sell for about $125 – $150 per bottle. My next favorite was quite a bargain by contrast. The ‘Drouhin-Vaudon’ Vaudésir Chablis Grand Cru, should hit the shelves at around $75 or so. The wine is more linear, elegant, precise; a classic Chablis Grand Cru.
At the red table I loved the Drouhin Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru. Like the Chassagne above, it was delicious and accessible now but should get even better over time. Unfortunately, this one will set you back around $300. The village-level Drouhin Gevrey-Chambertin, at about $60, is drinking beautifully and at a much more accessible price.
Then the lunch began. If I thought the wine I tasted earlier was lovely, I was blown away by the wine served with lunch. We started with two Grand Cru white Burgundies: (1) a lovely ‘Drouhin-Vaudon’ Vaudésir Chablis from 2011 and (2) a Bâtard-Montrachet from 2012.
The Chablis sang paired with the Langoustine “Carpaccio” with Sea Urchin in an Aki Nori-Apple Vinaigrette. Unfortunately, the Bâtard was too oaky for my palate – but a treat nonetheless.
The star of the show was served with Barely Cooked Organic Salmon, Snow Peas and Shitake-Matsutake Dashi. The 2013 Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche was stunning – and a very infrequent pleasure. There are no rough edges on this wine just an elegant combination of richness and aromas and flavors. Thoroughly complex and incredibly long.
While there are nine white Grand Cru regions outside of Chablis, Le Montrachet is by far the best and most expensive. It stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. You should expect to pay anywhere between $500 – $4000 per bottle. The Drouhin should run $600 – $750.
You will see many other wines with the appellation Montrachet appended – like the abovementioned Chassagne-Montrachet. They are not even close, not even those from other Grand Cru vineyards. Le Montrachet is generally considered the best expression of white wine on the planet. Really.
One of the interesting things that Laurent Drouhin told me was that the Bâtard-Montrachet that I found too oaky only saw 30% new oak when it was being aged. The Le Montrachet I found perfect saw 50% new oak and it didn’t show at all. He attributed that to the high quality of grapes from this appellation.
But lunch marched on, and we continued to the red wines. Served with Baked Striped Bass, Baby Leeks, Sea Bean-Sea Urchin “Rouille and a Bouillabaisse Emulsion were three beautiful wines.
The Vosne-Romanée Petits Monts 1997 (from magnum – 1500ml) was the show-stopper red. This Premier Cru wore its age beautifully – perfectly integrated, secondary characteristics, fruit, aromas, length – it had it all. This library bottling really isn’t on the market yet. The 1995 (750ml) can be found at Zachys for about $1000 per bottle, so that gives you a clue what to expect for the 1997 magnum.
There was also a Grand Cru Chambertin Clos de Bèze 2000 (from magnum – 1500ml). It was very good; it just did not show as well as the Petits Monts. I think with more time it will. The current release of 2013 in 750ml costs about $700 per bottle, so go from there.
The sad part of the meal – aside from the fact it was ending – was the Grand Cru Griotte-Chambertin 2012. This is lovely wine you would be thrilled have with any other meal. Unfortunately, it was completely overshadowed by its older, more seasoned tablemates. Too young, but with plenty of stuff to keep it developing for quite a long time. The 2011 vintage is at Zachys for $420.
Oh, yes, the food was awesome. Eric Ripert is the chef after all. But nothing can touch Le Montrachet.
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