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Matthew Latuchie

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WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Matthew Latuchie » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:41 pm

THE EMBODIMENT OF MEMORY - Bob's House - Alexandria, VA (11/12/2011)

I met Bob at a chance encounter on Bastille Day earlier this year. I began recounting a recent dinner I had attended that featured four lovely aged Cabernet Franc's from the Loire. Bob mentioned that he had a large amount of aged Loire cab francs that a dinner could be based around. This dinner was the end result of our conversation back in July!

Bob had us over to his house in Alexandria for this fantastic dinner. Twelve folks from around town attended the dinner each contributing a dish to the menu. A big thank you to Bob for welcoming us to his house, providing a beautiful selection of wines, and cooking some incredible dishes! It was also great to see Cole, Mary, Jonathan, Yule, Faryan, and Maureen again and to meet Beth, Craig and Kevin. This may have been my final major dinner while living in the DC area and I am really happy having this one as the final meal!
Opening Champagnes
The Dumont was served as we sat around snacking on hors d'oeuvres. After the Dumont we went upstairs for the amuse bouche that Kevin made. The dish was a very tasty stuffed Spanish pepper. Great start to the evening!
  • NV R. Dumont et Fils Champagne Brut - France, Champagne
    Nice energy and freshness with lithe melon, floral and mineral tones. The palate had firm apple and pear tones - a nice way to start the night.
  • NV Foreau Vouvray Brut - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    According to Bob, this was purchased in roughly 1997. General consensus was that his had lost some energy over the years but I still found its energy quite nice. Had a very interesting mix of hazelnut, melon, and white florals. Nice acidity, good balance.
Course 1
Bob prepared a fresh beet salad that was delicious.
  • 1993 Domaine des Galluches Bourgueil Cuvée Ronsard - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    This was one of the more "Bordeaux-like" wines of the night. The nose had dried cranberries, lead pencil, cedar and dried florals. Its palate was elegant with spiced red fruit, subtle tobacco with a floral lift. Still nicely balanced.
  • 1993 Pierre-Jacques Druet Chinon Clos de Danzay - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Minty aromas with a tea-like palate. Was a bit tired...
  • 1993 Charles Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Enjoyed this very much with its dusty red fruit and light tobacco spice. The palate was elegant and mature with beautifully spiced red fruit, some earthy tones and dried florals. Thought this was one of the finer wines of the night.
Course 2
This was the Pierre-Jacques Druet flight and after the disappointing Druet Danzay in the previous course we thought of this as an opportunity for redemption! The Druets were served alongside a great fennel soup that Maureen brought along. I enjoyed this flight a lot, and Maureen's soup was a great pairing.
  • 1995 Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Grand Mont - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    This created a conversation around whether or not this was reduced. I fell into the camp that found it a bit port-like with a purple fruit component that seemed alien and unnatural. With some air, the reduction seemed to moderate a bit revealing tobacco spice, sweet red fruit and some rose tones. To me, this was a slightly off bottle.
  • 1996 Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Fiefs de Louys - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    I found this to be the sweetest wine of the night (excluding the desert wines). The fruit wasn't overripe, it was just sweet. Where most of the cabernet franc I had this night could fall into the cranberry-fruited-core sphere, this was more cassis and cherry driven. Along with the sweet fruit, it had some pipe tobacco and hints of leather.
  • 1997 Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Grand Mont - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    After giving this a whiff, Yule whispered to me "definitely the most intense Druet yet". I agreed and thought its intensity and pitch were exciting characteristics. This had a darker profile too - subtle tar, some blackberry, subtle meat and richer tobacco spice along with rich cranberry and dried florals. Thought this was drinking incredibly well. Definitely my favorite Druet of the night.
Course 3
Bob again was the chef for this course preparing an incredible sliced duck breast over potato and chard gratin. Embarassingly, I wolfed this down...it was just too good! I was pretty stoked to try the '96 Grezeaux but sadly it wasn't performing well. No worries, as the other two were great.
  • 1996 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Thought this was slightly off with a reductive nose and whiffs of plum spice and red florals. Didn't have the depth and pitch that I've come to expect with Baudry's Grezeaux. NR (flawed)
  • 1997 Catherine et Pierre Breton Chinon Beaumont - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    This had a earthy nose of mushroom, iodine, dried herbs and dried cranberry. Incredibly elegant palate with silky red fruit, tobacco spice, and subtle cedar. This showed a lot of life in the tank with medium tannin on the finish and nice intensity and length. Good stuff.
  • 1997 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Domaine - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Explosive nose - certainly the least subtle of the evening! This had dark berries, mushrooms, and a wonderfully spiced potpourri note to it. Loved the palate intensity with a great core of dark fruit, underlying mushroom broth, clove and allspice notes. One of the more youthful wines of the night, this has plenty of structure and stuffing to last a while longer. Contender for my WOTN.
Course 4
Bob followed up his beautiful duck breast with a "Flintstone" sized confit duck leg quarter cassoulet. A great dish that paired incredibly well with the trio of Chinons.
  • 1995 Charles Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    The nose had sweet tobacco, roasted herbs and dried cranberry. I thought the palate was brambly, rustic and exotic. It had roasted bell peppers, a really alluring floral lift, clove spice and dense cranberries. This had mouthwatering acidity and was nicely structured.
  • 1996 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    This had a warmer fruit profile than I expected with sweet tobacco, dense violet floral notes, and subtle mushroom. Thought there was a hair too much heat on the finish, but overall this was drinking very well and with its silky tannins should be close to its zenith.
  • 1995 Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    This had a sweet red fruit core much like the 1996 Druet Fiefs de Louys had. Had a nice herbal edge to it with subtle cedar, dried cherry and tobacco tones. The finish had some subtle silky tannins, but I'm not sure how long the sweeter, rounder fruit will last...maybe another 3-5 years?
Course 5
After the two courses of duck, we had a salad course prepared by Beth. Her watercress salad was delicious and provided a nice gastronomical rest of sorts after the colossal cassoulet! The Rougeard was the most anticipated wine of the night, and sadly, for me, turned out to lack much character.
  • 1997 Château de Villeneuve Saumur-Champigny Le Grand Clos - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
    This replaced a corked bottle of 1997 Domaine Saint-Just Montees de Roches. This had a beautiful bouquet of kirsch, dried cranberry and rose petals. An elegant palate with layers of tobacco spice, clove, mushroom, and floral tones. Had great balance and depth.
  • 1997 Domaine de Saint-Just Saumur-Champigny Le Clos Moleton - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
    This was the first bottle that gave off distinct scents of jasmine - very interesting. This was a rustic wine with damp earth, smoked meats, dried tobacco, and elegant cranberry. This is a wine of incredible balance and focus. Impressive.
  • 1995 Clos Rougeard (Foucault) Saumur-Champigny Les Poyeux - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
    I wanted to love this wine. I wanted this bottle to validate my recent onslaught of current release Rougeard purchases. Sadly, I was incredibly bored by it. The nose was incredibly muted with soft tones of red florals and some soil. The palate was thin, tired, and flat out boring. This was only my third bottle of Rougeard, so I'm hoping this was stuck in a dumb phase instead of being over-the-hill.
Course 6
A selection of cheeses were served alongside a beautiful flight of cab francs. These wines had so much character and charm...awesome stuff!
  • 1985 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    Exotic nose of peppers, dirt, olive and cranberry. This was medium-bodied, incredibly herbal and earthy with an underlying core of cranberry and kirsch. I was impressed by its structure and wager that it's still drinking close to its peak.
  • 1990 Pierre-Jacques Druet Bourgueil Vaumoreau - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Bourgueil
    A deeply rustic wine with iodine, dried cranberry, subtle olive and cedar on the nose. This was a bit more advanced than some of the other Druet's being served - the intensity of flavors on the palate was a bit more subdued. Despite being a bit quieter, this had an old-school elegance to it. Tea leaf, dried roses, dried cherry and mushroom broth blended nicely together.
  • 1993 Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Chinon
    The fruit on this Dioterie wasn't as sweet as the '95. Instead this had a more perfumed nose of roses and lilacs...so a bit more feminine, understated and elegant. The palate was silky and refined with soft tannin, lithe cherry and mushroom tones. Everything was firing on all cylinders - in my estimation this is in its prime drinking window.
Course 7
Mary prepared a beautiful desert to have alongside a couple of desert wines. The Huet was a delight and the Rieussec had a slightly awkward finish. A great end to a great night.
  • 1995 Huët Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos du Bourg - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Lovely bottle that showed well. Great fresh white floral and linen tones on the nose with underlying melon, pear, and fresh apple. The palate was fresh with concentrated peach, melon and floral tones. Love the density of flavor without the weighty palate.
  • 1988 Château Rieussec - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
    Lovely aromatics of peach, tangerine and pineapple. Had some nice botrytis notes - apricots, caramel, etc. The palate was silky and powerful but the finish was a bit angular and somewhat metallic - came across awkward.

During dinner, Bob got up and read us a brief passage from Jaqueline Friedrich's A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire. It spoke to the allure of cabernet franc and romanticized its role in her life. Here's what Bob read:

"A young Breton (cabernet franc) sometimes tastes bell-peppery but is more often downright jammy and surging with fruit flavors - strawberry, raspberry, cassis, plum and cherry. A Breton ages beautifully too - though not like a Bordeaux, a Burgundy, or a Rhone. It passes through a secondary phase when it fairly reeks of musk and hung game. Then, instead of flowering, it seems to shed its baby fat, to be constantly refining itself, becoming translucent, a distillation of scents and nuances - of cranberry, cinnamon and creme de cassis; prune, licorice, and sandalwood; dried flowers, dried fruit, rip hay, mint, bark, truffles, and ash - all the while retaining its vigor and mouth-watering freshness. I often think of old Bretons as the embodiment of memory - not of a specific memory, but of memory itself. I have an image of an old handkerchief made of fine cloth softene after many years of being folded into purses, still carrying whiffs of many exquisite perfumes, mingled, muted, and fugitive."

It was a beautiful night full of great wines and great company.
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Howie Hart

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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Howie Hart » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:05 am

Wow - what an event. Thanks for sharing.
Chico - Hey! This Bottle is empty!
Groucho - That's because it's dry Champagne.
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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Salil » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:11 am

Sounds fantastic. I'm very jealous, as you're well aware. :P

And quite amazed to hear how well the 97 Baudry Domaine showed - really should put a few of those in the cellar (though I keep ignoring for Franc de Pied/Grezeaux/Boissee).
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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Rahsaan » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:15 am

Matthew Latuchie wrote:Bob mentioned that he had a large amount of aged Loire cab francs that a dinner could be based around.


If you're talking about Bob Semon, he probably has a large amount of everything that a dinner could be based around!

But sounds like a great time, wines, food, people, etc.
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Matthew Latuchie

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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Matthew Latuchie » Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:22 am

Rahsaan wrote:
Matthew Latuchie wrote:Bob mentioned that he had a large amount of aged Loire cab francs that a dinner could be based around.


If you're talking about Bob Semon, he probably has a large amount of everything that a dinner could be based around!

But sounds like a great time, wines, food, people, etc.


yeah, that's the "bob" i was talking about! and you're right...you name "it", he's probably got a big stash of perfectly cellared aged bottles of "it"
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Tim York

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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Tim York » Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:47 am

Thanks for those notes and evocative descriptions. From personal experience I know that Loire Cabernet franc can age beautifully up to 25 years; and maybe longer but that takes it outside my experience. A few years ago I attended a Joguet vertical where 1985 and 1989 Chêne Vert, I think, was really beautiful and showing no signs of decline. I know a friendly, little known (outside France) Saumur-Champigny producer, R-N Legrand, who has let me have some treasures from his cool cellar carved out of the rock. About 5-10 years ago I found Papa's 76 to be drying out but René-Noël's 82 to be absolutely beautiful and quite recently his 85s, 89s and 90s were in fine form, with some bottle irregularity on the first.

Some of the "modern" producers like Yannick Amirault in Bourgueil are seeking a riper style without bell-pepper and funky notes (pity IMHO) and do not recommend ageing their wines more than about 10 years.
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TomHill

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Thanks...

by TomHill » Mon Nov 14, 2011 11:24 am

Thanks for some really interesting notes, Matthew. I tend to have a scattershot approach to Loire
reds, particularly CabFranc. Mostly I just try new ones I see on the shelf. My gut feeling was that
most of them could age into something pretty interesting...but have never taken the time to do
the experiment. Sounds like my hunch was pretty good..that they do age quite well.
Tom
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Bob Parsons Alberta

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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:48 pm

Sure is a great post, must forward to Jim Budd.
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Matthew Latuchie

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Re: WTN: Aged Loire Cabernet Franc Dinner

by Matthew Latuchie » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:00 pm

Tim York wrote:Thanks for those notes and evocative descriptions. From personal experience I know that Loire Cabernet franc can age beautifully up to 25 years; and maybe longer but that takes it outside my experience. A few years ago I attended a Joguet vertical where 1985 and 1989 Chêne Vert, I think, was really beautiful and showing no signs of decline. I know a friendly, little known (outside France) Saumur-Champigny producer, R-N Legrand, who has let me have some treasures from his cool cellar carved out of the rock. About 5-10 years ago I found Papa's 76 to be drying out but René-Noël's 82 to be absolutely beautiful and quite recently his 85s, 89s and 90s were in fine form, with some bottle irregularity on the first.

Some of the "modern" producers like Yannick Amirault in Bourgueil are seeking a riper style without bell-pepper and funky notes (pity IMHO) and do not recommend ageing their wines more than about 10 years.


Tim - I worked with Peter Weygandt for a couple months and was able to drink a lot of Amirault's cabernet francs. There are a couple of his cuvees that fit squarely into the bucket you mentioned above - most notably La Coudraye from Bourgueil. This was the cabernet franc that we most commonly sold to folks that didn't know cabernet franc well. It was round and fruity (in a good way) with subtle earthiness and tobacco. Amirault, luckily, has a number of more serious cuvees that I think are closer to the "traditional" side of cabernet franc; La Mine, Les Malgagnes, & Le Grand Clos. You wont mistake these for rustic cabernet franc, but I wouldn't say that all of his wines are "new-worldish" either.

cheers!

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