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Jim Jones in Tokyo

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TN: Gagnaire Tokyo -- Champers, 2xAlsace, 2xBurg

by Jim Jones in Tokyo » Wed Sep 20, 2006 4:15 am

GAGNAIRE -- CHAMPAGNE, BURGS, ALSACE - Pierre Gagnaire Tokyo (9/1/2006)

Cathryn and I headed out with another food and wine-obsessed couple to try the Tokyo outpost of Pierre Gagnaire. Each plate has too many tastes and sub-dishes for me to do a food review, but I would make a few comments. First, there is always a risk that the cute tricks and jokes won't work. In this case, none of the playful bits failed; there were no off or jarring notes and it never got too cute. Second, there was a nice depth of flavor to each of the dishes and they were very well executed. Finally, though, this restaurant seems to suffer from the same problem as many outposts -- there seemed to be no soul in the food. Just as at Tokyo's Robuchon, it seemed as if a perfectly trained chef were executing with precision the instructions that are posted on the wall. There was simply no spark, and that spark is what often makes a restaurant like this worth the cost. Glad I went, enjoyed the food, but I'm still convinced the small local French restaurants are the best in Tokyo.

Anyway, on to the wines...

To Start -- with amuses
  • 2000 Guy Charlemagne Champagne Mesnillésime Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut - France, Champagne, Le Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne
    Bright and rich yellow in the glass, a bit darker than I would have expected. Mousse is small, tight and vigorous. On the nose, a very primary shot of ripe apple. And I mean really, really ripe apple. This is not a good start. And then I hit the palate… Nice bit of slightly bracing acidity and a huge mineral and lemon character reins in the still ripe fruit. Absolutely primary and in need of significant time, but this is a 2000 that has a ton of stuffing and seems to have the structure to match. With time, the nose settles down as well and shows some chalky mineral to go with more subdued fruit. It’s got Mesnil bones, but they are really cloaked in baby fat. I think this is going the right direction and I’ll but some to put away, but only time will tell.
Entrées -- for the fish eaters
  • 2000 Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Another wine that is very rich in color and even seems a bit viscous in the glass. At first, the nose shows pure apple fruit with a little hint of green apple tartness, some citrus peel, and an undefined waxy richness. The palate is very full, even big, with slightly honeyed pear, apple, and more citrus. Only with time does any of the Gouttes d’Or minerality come out. Unfortunately, time also brings out some heat on the nose and in the finish. The longer this sits, the more it picks up a nice bit of mineral, but it never sheds its bit of heat. An enjoyable drink, ripe rich fruit with a mineral backbone, but not quite in balance.
Entrées -- for the foei gras eaters
  • 2000 Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Furstentum Vendanges Tardives - France, Alsace, Kientzheim & Sigolsheim, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
    From half bottle. Bright gold with a hint of orange, leaving a seductive trail as it swirls in the glass. Nose is driven much more by fruit that by floral elements. Yes, there is a bit of rose and white field flower if one looks for it, but there is much more in the way of rich, syrup-macerated tropical fruit – lychee and guava. On the palate, the wine is in balance for drinking alone, with enough acid to balance the sweetness. But this falls a little short with the foie, as it doesn’t quite cut the richness. Flavors of apricot and peach are added to the fruit from the nose and a bit of floral spice comes out on the lingering finish. I like this a lot and think it is unfair to judge it against the foie. By biggest takeway, though, is that this is a version of gewurz that I can really enjoy – rich, a bit exotic, but with the sometimes excessive spicy/floral element present in only a pleasingly restrained way.
Mains -- for the pork/duck eaters
  • 2000 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux Vieilles Vignes - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Flagey-Echezeaux
    I’ve found the M-M wines since the late ‘90s to be solid and dependable, but rarely exciting. Though I am not a huge new oak fan, I’ve not found the oak issues that others have. This one has a healthy deep red color and gives off a nose of darkish cherry fruit, a little dark berry, and a good degree of earth and coffee. Full and just a tad chunky in the mouth, it is not entirely rough or rustic, but has a pleasing foursquare solidity to it. More cherry, more earth, just enough acid, and a slowly developing depth of flavor that is very satisfying. One of the better M-M wines I’ve tried, but still very much in the normal vein. At the lower end, I enjoy their Fixin and seem to find a bit of that character in all of their wines. This was no exception. A good match with the basic solid flavors of an assortment of rich pork dishes.
Mains -- for the lobster eater
  • 1999 Marcel Deiss Riesling Altenberg de Bergheim - France, Alsace, Bergheim, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
    Lemon with a hint of green in the glass. Initial nose of peach and apricot, sweet hay, a bit of honey, maybe the slightest touch of petrol. With time, the expected lemon and lime come out. Rich and full on the palate, perhaps from a combination of alcohol and RS. Never quite fat or overblown, showing a good depth of stone fruit and mineral flavor, but never quite showing the delineation or food-defining capability I love from riesling. Sense of sweetness is more apparent on the finish, as are more hay and mineral. Good wine in its own way and perfectly enjoyable, but not the reason I love riesling.


Great evening with good friends and a chance to drink a few things I generally don't buy for home. The Guy Charlemagne is something I will seek out. The Bouchard Gouttes d'Or was a bit out of balance but tasty. The Weinbach was one of the best renditions of gewurz I've had and I would buy it. The Ech VV was a solid performer that I would buy at the right price, but really just further solidifies my opinion of the producer. Jury is still out on Deiss.
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Jim Jones
Tokyo, Japan

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