Day 1 : Grillet and Landonne on the Annecy lake
A friend of mine who is a talented amateur cook had helped me to understand the creative universe of Marc Veyrat. We had made with him two fantastic lunches. We registered for a new adventure : a Pantagruelic lunch with some Krug. On another hand, some virtual friends on a French forum living near Savoie wanted that I share wines with them. There was an occasion to combine the two. We did it.
We drove, with my wife, up to Talloires, a lovely city nested on the Annecy lake, and we had a suite in the Abbaye de Talloires, the suite “Jean Réno”. Jean Réno is a movie actor who plays more bad boys than good boys. So, to give his name in an ancient monastery is rather strange. The room in a house built in the 17th century, shows us that our modern world has not invented luxury.
As our friend had already arrived in the region I invite him for dinner in our hotel. While waiting for him, I look at the wine list and I find it completely crazy. Palmer 1966 for 1360 euros deserves respect. How is it possible to offer such insane prices? I will dig in the list to find some errors, helping us to drink nice wines. What makes me smile is that they say in the book : “our cellar is exceptional”. As said Albert Einstein, all is relative.
Another remark concerning the dinner. Such places, wanting to behave well, but making mistake after mistake show the evidence that to get stars in the Michelin guide corresponds to a real, substantial professionalism. I will not say more in order to not kill a place which wanted to do well. Our scallops were in the Michelin, not the guide but the tyres, and our rabbit had certainly made a race being hunted by the grandfather of Buffalo Bill.
The Chateau Grillet 1997 is a wine that I like. No surprise. The taste is gently smoked. The year allows the wine to not be overwhelmed by alcohol. It is so easy to understand that it is very comfortable. It could be combined with many different courses as it has depth, a delicate taste of candied pineapple. Its buttered aspect combined to exoticism pleases me.
The Côte Rôtie La Landonne 2000 should normally wait in the cellar, but it was the only year on the wine list. I must say that I am absolutely happy to not be an expert. Because an expert has to classify and judge relatively. I have just to enjoy. And I must say that the pleasure that I have with this wine is great, with no necessity to say : I know another year which would be better. Of course I know another year which would be better. But my brain has put a wall in front of this knowledge, and I enjoy purely what I drink. Everything in this wine is measured, controlled, balanced. If the sentence : “le bon vin réjouit le coeur de l’homme” must have a meaning, it is with this wine. Of course we were influenced by our deception with the food, so we transferred our capacity to love towards the wine. But it was great, simply great.
We have had a dinner the day after in the same place as it was after the huge lunch by Marc Veyrat. They had made efforts. I was happy with the day. So, my critics towards this place have to be lowered. It is a lovely hotel. They offered me the price of one night without me asking for it. I will certainly come back there when I will visit again Marc Veyrat, if there is an “again”.
Note : why didn’t I take a room by Marc Veyrat in his hotel in Annecy? The price is one reason, but the main reason is that my wife does not like so much a decoration of a farm within a house which is a mansion.
Despite my critics, it was a nice dinner preparing two days of pure gastronomy.
Day 2 : great lunch in Savoie with great wines
The day after our arrival in the Abbaye de Talloires, eight people met in the “auberge les Morainières” by Jongieux in Savoie. Do not try to find this town on a map, it is ridiculously small. There are hills covered with vines and in the middle of nowhere a redecorated farm is an “auberge”. From the terrace, a magnificent view on the Rhone which is very small compared to what it will be in Lyon or more in the South.
All of us we write on a French forum and a sympathy existed between us. I knew two of them and did not know the others. The very generous organiser of this meeting wants to promote the restaurant. And I approve totally. Such dynamic and volunteer young persons should get one star in the Michelin guide. It would be justified and would give them a help to succeed.
As the wines brought are much too many, we select what will be drunk and I choose the order of the wines according to this menu : Gâteau de girolles, émulsion de champignons au beurre / Foie gras poêlé, purée de céleri, jus hydromel et genièvre / Langoustines rôties, bouillon de crustacés / Omble chevalier, petits légumes / Dos de cerf rôti, mousseline / Desserts pommes ou chocolat.
The Roussette Marestel Dupasquier 1995 is a local wine. More local than that as the vines of the property grow all around the place of the restaurant. So, this wine will have the honour to begin our tasting. The grapes are over matured. There is a nice deepness, a taste of smoke. When the wine expands in the glass, it evokes candied fruits. A nice wine.
The champagne Dom Pérignon 1992 comes with a delicious cream of mushrooms. It begins very well, but after a while in mouth it shows an evident lack of power and structure. It is clear that this year for Dom Pérignon is a little out of breath.
On the foie gras, the Grain Doux of Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, vin du Valais 2005 is very pleasant for my friends. They talk about it with warm words. I must confess that this type of tastes is not for me. I have a mental opposition towards such sweet wines.
On the opposite, I do not stop expressing my joy with the champagne « Substance » of Jacques Selosse, which is a blend of various years, and composed in 2003. This champagne is unbelievable. I adore it completely. It has depth, length, race, personality, and expressivity. I am completely under its charm.
The Montrachet Domaine Ramonet 1985 is imperial. His nose is a pure delight. The perfume is tantalising. In mouth, the length is infinite. It is a heavy weight of flavours. One can find everything in it : I find green lemon and liquorice. If there is a perfection in Burgundy, this wine is a sure candidate. With the langoustine, it is great.
On the “omble chevalier” a fish that Marc Veyrat treats at a level of perfection, and here very well cooked, three wines. The Chinon Varennes du Grand Clos, Charles Joquet 1990 comes from prephylloxeric vines. The attack is expressive as never a Chinon would do. The precision and depth are impressive. But the final in mouth does not follow the rhythm. The animal trace at the end spoils the pleasure. Anyway, it is a great example of Chinon. The Cos d’Estournel 1986 has already 20 years. But its colour is the one of a wine of 5 years. And in mouth, its youth is unbelievable. Seeing such an incredible appearance, we think that it would have been better to keep it in cellar one or two decades more.
I look at the faces when one of my wines is served : Chateau La Gaffelière Naudes 1953. As I came with it from Paris, and opened only one or two hours before service, the first contact is not easy. But the wine opens very quickly in the glass and delivers a message of joy, happiness. The wine is balanced, round, and magnificent. I was happy as the whole table understood that wine.
On the doe, the Mondeuse Arbin of Charles Trosset 1990 amazes me. I would never expect such a wine at this level. There are flowers and spices gently spread in the tastes.
The Côte Rôtie La Mouline Guigal 1989 is a monument. It is the 9th symphony of Beethoven. My neighbour at the table is the organiser of the event and the generous author of this wine. I see him moving nervously on his chair. He tells me : “I have a Turque 1990. I would like to open it”. And I say : please do, as I had felt how he was happy that we joined him in his region. So Côte Rôtie La Turque Guigal 1990 was added. The first attack of La Turque is brutal. The La Turque is a bull when La Mouline is an antelope. Two monumental expressions (after the Landonne of yesterday) of the best possible Rhone wines. Does the Rhone which flows nearby down the hills know that after some hundreds of kilometres, it will lick the earth of hills which make some of the greatest wines on Earth?
The desserts are not the same for all : either apples or chocolate. We begin with a Ruster Rültander Ausbruch from Austria 1991 which has 12°, then a « a » ambre of Christophe Abbet, wine of Valais 1997 and a Château d’Yquem 1976 that I had brought. The Ausbruch has a spectacular acidity. It is extremely seductive. Once again I do not feel at ease with the wine of Valais (Swiss). It is not the wine which has to be blamed, but my palate, not made for such sweet wines. So, I concentrate my efforts to explore the Ausbruch. But when someone says that it is better than Yquem then I react. Because Yquem is Yquem. And we will see when the wines are more opened in their glass that Yquem has a structure which fits to its legend : Yquem 1976 is a great wine.
As there was chocolate, the Maury La Coume du Roy 1932 that I had brought is the beloved friend of chocolate. It is precious as a “bonbon”.
I have the temptation to vote for the wines. My first, by far is the Montrachet 1985, followed by the champagne Selosse. Then I would vote for Mouline 1989 and La Gaffelière 1953. Some friends suggest that their vote would put the 53 before the 89, but there is no worry, as there were so many nice wines that we were in paradise.
The atmosphere of the lunch was unique. The communion of our love for great wine, the polite attitude, the openness were remarkable. No one wanted to show his science. We wanted to share our wines with generosity. The mayor of Jongieux joined our group and talked about his strategy for the region. Noël Dupasquier joined the group too, and we followed him to his cellar where I filled my car with some of his precious wines. All of us we had smiles on our faces, with the promise to meet again to share such passionating wines.
Old wines are younger than what is generally considered