I had occasion to join a small but august group of about five Louisville-area sommeliers and in-the-business wine geeks last night to sample three recently arrived 2002 and 2003 Savennières from Nicolas Joly. We knew it would be infanticide, but Len Stevens, jovial host of L&N Wine Bar, needed them sampled to decide what to order, and he found no shortage of volunteers to help in this task. We assembled a few other interesting wines, and Chef Rick Adams (who's soon departing on his own venture) put together a memorable meal to match over the course of a long, sociable but wine-geeky evening.
As it turned out, the Jolys would prove interesting but disappointing, perhaps the victim of poor handling in shipment. But it was still a helluva dinner, with a dozen varied wines, all from France.
<I>Aperitifs, my contributions, recent arrivals from Chambers Street.</I>
<B>Marc Ollivier 2005 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie ($9.99)</B> - Chalk, seashells, fresh white fruit. Bone-dry, chalky, singing acidity. Importer: Louis/Dressner.
<B>Pierre Luneau-Papin 2005 Clos des Allées Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre & Maine Sur Lie ($12.49)</B> - A little more intense than the Pépière, limey, rocks. Mouth-watering acidity streamlines a surprisingly full body for Muscadet. Importer: Louis/Dressner.
<I>With a seviche of diver scallops in a tart balsamic-accented white sauce over frisée, delicious but a little tangy for wine</I>
Then came the three Jolys, all of which showed ... oddly. All came in the same shipment from Vintus LLC, an importer in Pleasantville, N.Y., and all three showed surprisingly aged golden coloration and rich, warm oxidative flavors. There was some speculation that the '03s were simply artifacts of a weird hot vintage, but it's hard to come up with any explanation but "cooked" for the dark, nutlike 2002. Anyone else have tasting notes on these three wines?
<B>Nicolas Joly 2003 Le Clos Sacrés Savennières</B> ($27 wholesale = $40 retail?) - Golden. Butterscotch, caramel, pears and apricots, luscious. Rich, complex, just a touch off-dry. 13.9% alcohol.
<B>Nicolas Joly 2003 Clos de la Bergerie Savennières</B> ($40 wholsale = $60 retail?) - Rich straw color. White fruit, lime, something high-toned. One taster says it's acetone. More lush in flavor than aroma, rich and full - creamy white fruit. 13.9% alcohol.
<B>Nicolas Joly 2002 Clos de la Coulee de Serrant Savennières Coulee de Serrant</B> ($60 wholesale = $90 retail?) - Slightly hazy amber. Pears, apricots, more than a whiff of nutlike oxidation. Dark, possibly maderized. Luscious fruit punches through, but something is wrong here. Cooked?
<I>With fresh Hawaiian sea bass over wild mushrooms, topped with an intriguing prep of chewy strips of squid with a haunting flavor of bitter orange peel.</I>
<B>Domaine de Baumard 2002 Clos du Papillon Savennières</B> - Now, this is what a young Savennières should be like! Clear straw color. Fresh, tart, clean white fruit, apples and pears, subtle honey and herbs. Opens up as it warms and airs, good body and structure. Years to go but very fine already. Importer: Ex Cellars, Solvang, Calif.
<I>With dry-aged, prime-grade New York strip steaks crusted with black pepper and served medium rare, with a side dish of a creamy scalloped potatoes with goat cheese and shiitakes.</I>
<B>Marcel Deiss 2001 Burlenberg Bergheim</B> ($40 wholesale = $60 retail?) - Not defined as Pinot Noir on the label, but it's bound to be ... first good one I've had, cool-climate Pinot, vegetal notes and a touch o' brett as grace notes to fresh cherries and tart acidity. Importer: Vintus LLC, Pleasantville, NY.
<B>Mikaël Bouges 2005 Les Côts Hauts Touraine Côt ($12)</B> - A Loire Malbec, known locally as Côt (pronounced "Coe"). Inky dark purple. Fruit-forward, grapey, no oak. Fat and soft, a crowd-pleaser, okay quaff, but I was expecting something more Loirish ... it's hard to imagine that we're describing a Loire red as "low in acid," but this one strikes me as Californicated. Importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio.
That was the end of the scheduled reds, but then Len hauled out a few Chateauneufs that he wanted to have the geek group evaluate ...
<B>Bousquet des Papes 2001 Chante Le Merle Chateauneuf du Pape</B> - Dark garnet, earthy cherry-berry, rare beef. Plums, iron-rich minerality, fruit and meat. Importer: Wines of France Inc., Mountainside, N.J.; Alain Junguenet Selection.
<B>Lucien et Andre Brunel 2003 Les Cailloux Chateauneuf-du-Pape</B> - Inky blackish-purple. Chambord, liqueur, Porty. Warm and llquory, 14%. OTT '03. Importer: Robert Kacher, Washington, D.C.
<B>Andre Brunel 2000 "Les Murets" Chateauneuf-du-Pape</B> - Plums and black olives, lots of earthy brett. Maybe closing a little. Importer: Robert Kacher, Washington, D.C.
Finally, wrapping it up with a perfect, classically prepared <i>créme brûlée</i>:
<B>Domaine Delatang 1997 Montlouis Reserve Moelleux</B> - Clear amber. Honey and apricot, a whiff of wool. Gentle sweetness, good acidity. Importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio.