A few weeks ago, I went up to the In Pursuit of Balance (IPoB) Tasting in New York. While I was there I ran into Donna White, whom I follow on Twitter, and she invited me to the Pasternak Wine Imports a couple of weeks later. (Full disclosure: I went to IPoB with Joe Roberts, aka 1winedude, and the invitation just happened to be proffered to both me and the Dude while he was standing next to me, coincidence?)
Well, it turned out that Joe could not make the tasting–he was off at some exclusive junket instead (no, he did not invite me to that one). Nonetheless, the invitation stood, and after convincing my wife that I “needed” to go, I was back on my way up to NYC.
I took the train up, which I enjoy for no other reason that it provides plenty of fodder for this blog. Usually, I see at least three or four crazy people to observe, write about, and pray that they don’t notice me staring at them. Well, this ride was tragically boring. No fights between couples, no parents smacking their children, and no drunks getting kicked off the train. In fact, there was absolutely nothing until twenty minutes outside of Penn Station when the guy next to me pulled out an old-fashioned razor–they type that my father used to use. I was a little nervous since I have watched a lot of old cop shows on TV, and have seen what crazy people can do with a razor blade.
It would have been a bit odd for me to get up right away, since the train really had not slowed down yet. So I sat there and watched as he proceeded to shave his head. I am no expert on baldheadedness, but in my opinion, he was already quite bald with no sign of hair. Maybe he wanted to look his best for his girlfriend. Or his parole officer.
I figured that this met my daily quota for crazy (or at least odd), so I got off the train and headed uptown.
The tasting in the morning was a seminar with winemakers from several of Pasternak’s clients in France discussing the influence and importance of terroir in their wines. In all, there were six wines for us to taste: a champagne, a Pouilly-Fumé (Sauvignon Blanc), a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and three red Bordeaux.
Being the Champagne hound that I am, I was most interested in tasting it–both from a purely hedonistic standpoint and genuine curiosity: I was a bit dubious of the Barons de Rothschild venturing into Champagne. I also was looking forward to the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape since it is fairly rare and usually interesting.
During the seminar, the focus of the discussion was on the concept of terroir and its importance for each of the wine makers on the panel. Without getting too much into the concept of terroir, it was interesting to hear the winemakers state repeatedly that terroir plays a very important role even for a blended wine (five out of the six were blends).
We started with the champagne, which was fine by me. It was a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay), which is not my favorite style of champagne–I usually like my bubbles made from mostly Pinot Noir as it adds backbone and character while Chardonnay lends itself to more elegance and finesse (no one has ever called me elegant and I doubt anyone ever will).
The champagne, poured from magnums (generally accepted as the best format for champagne since the second fermentation is still carried out in the bottle and there is a lower oxygen/wine ratio in a magnum), was a blend of wine from four of the better known Grand Cru vineyards: Mesnil-sur-Ogerl, Avize, Oger, and Cramant. 40% reserve wines were used with the bulk of the wine coming from the 2007 vintage.
Champagne Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru:Retail $80 (per 750 ml). Instantly hit with a bright creaminess with some great citrus while remaining delicate and refined. Impressively long finish. If only all Blanc de Blancs were this good. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé: Retail $35. Intense minerality and stone fruit jumped out of the glass, no doubt due to the 8 months this wine spent on the leas. On the palate, quite bright with an interesting earthiness. This is one of the better Sauvignon Blancs that I have had in a very long time (that did not say “Sancerre” on the bottle). Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2010 Château La Nerthe Clos de Beauvenir Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Retail $90? 60% Rousanne, 28% Clairette, 12% Grenache. Great Rhone nose of white peach and a bit of allspice. Initially a bit round with some melon, followed by great acidity and a long finish. Although completely dry, a hint of sweetness that the winemaker claimed to come from the terroir. More proof that you should never pass up the opportunity to have some white C-d-P. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2007 Château Lafleur Pensées de Lafleur: Retail $55. The second wine from Château Lafleur was presented by the charismatic (I am sure he gets that a lot) Edouard Moueix. 60% Merlot 40% Cabernet Franc. A rich nose of black cherry, some pepper, and just a slight vegetal note. Also a bit hot, not rich or big, but expressive fruit and well-balanced acidity that got better with some air. A couple of great quotes from Edouard: “Tastings are great, but the aim of the bottle is to be empty.” “If you want caramel go to Häagen Dazs. It is all about letting go of the ego and let the wine speak for itself. ” Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2010 Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite Réserve Spéciale: Retail $45. Much darker than the other two. Very closed but some hints of anise and vanilla. A bit thin on the palate. Certainly pleasant but not very complex. Finish is but a hiccup. A second wine of second wines. Perhaps Very Good, but not more. 86-88 Points.
2008 Château Lafite Rothschild Carruades de Lafite: Retail $250? A bit vegetal with tobacco and mint. Bigger fruit with a richness absent from the others. The green pepper is a bit out of place on the finish. Still, Outstanding. Worth $250-300? I guess that is up to you. 90-92 Points.
It was a fabulous tasting (even before I was able to suck up some of the remaining champagne after the seminar). At one point, Eric Kohler of Château Lafite Rothschild, when talking about the importance of terroir, pointed out that it was crucial to take into account local customs and traditions when setting up a winery (Les Domaines Barons de Rotschild now has wineries in Chile, Argentina, and China). I then asked him what happens when there is a conflict between a local custom and Lafite’s years of experience. After a brief pause, he smiled and chuckled, saying “Well, at the end of the day, we are Lafite….”