This week I am on the East Coast with the family looking at a few colleges hoping it will spark some interest with our older son, Nathan, who up until now, has shown little interest. He is a junior in high school and his mother and I agree that he should be at least thinking about what he might want to do after (hopefully) graduating from high school.
Yesterday, we left New York City and headed north, first stopping at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. We then continued up the I-95 corridor to Providence, Rhode Island and will be looking at Brown University today. While both Yale and Brown are currently pipe dreams, should our young scholar decide to take his SAT/ACT preparation a bit more seriously, they might come into play.
For nearly a century, the story of Domaine Huet in Vouvray, France was fairly simple: it was founded in 1928 by Victor Huet and his son Gaston, the Domaine quickly became a (the?) leader in the world of Chenin Blanc, which was only heightened in the 1950s when Huet incorporated two iconic vineyards, Le Mont and Le Clos du Bourg, into their holdings.
Known for their sweet and semi-sweet wines, the lofty reputation of the winery continued unabated until 2002 when Gaston died. In order to pay for the inheritance taxes associated with his death, the family sold Domaine Huet to an American, Anthony Hwang.
For the next decade, the Domaine continued to ascend as the Hwangs held over the entire staff and worked hard to improved vineyard practices, converting over to biodynamic practices.
In 2012, however, longtime winemaker (and son-in-law of Gaston Huet) Noël Pinguet resigned rather abruptly, under what has since been described as a difference in philosophy with the “new” ownership. Soon after, Hwang’s children, Sarah and Hugo, took over the day-to-day operation of the Domaine.
Despite the fact that Jean-Bernard Berthomé, an employee at Huet since 1979, took over the winemaking duties, several journalists thought that the quality of the wines had slipped in quality and that the Domaine might be suffering from the loss of Pinguet.
Shortly thereafter Sarah Hwang made an unfortunate decision: she barred two respected journalists (and critics of the then vintage) from tasting the Huet offerings due, apparently, to their recent critiques of the wines (and despite their previous praise of the Domaine).
Despite all of the recent controversy, there is no doubt that Huet remains at the apex of Vouvray wine production. Thus, when I see their wines on a wine list, I get a bit giddy and order without hesitation.
Such was the case last night.
As I normally do when I land in a town, I consult my good friend Google, looking for a local wine bar. Here in Providence, after consulting a number of sites, the overall consensus was the wine bar Fortnight.
The bar, which Sebastian pointed out as we drove through town since he, like many other middle schoolers, is obsessed with the game of the same name, was a two-minute walk from our hotel. Since the bar really does not have a dinner menu (they offer a series of small bites that pair well with wine but do little to appease younger eaters), we ate at a pub nearby and then sent the boys back to the hotel and went over to Fortnight to share some wine.
The wine list is extraordinary. Really fantastic. And it is apparently updated daily HERE. The perhaps more interesting aspect of the bar is that it is a cooperative of sorts–the employees are the owners, taking an intense interest in the success of the bar.
Our brief experience suggests that it is working.
2016 Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg, Loire Valley, France: Restaurant: $70. 100% Chenin Blanc. As far as I could recall, this was my first foray into the state of Rhode Island (leaving only Alaska and Arkansas, of all places, left to visit). And what a place and wine to mark that occasion. When I saw this on the list, I passed on my usual choice of grower champagne (which were on the menu as well) and opted for this glorious Chenin Blanc. Golden. A bit musty: more moldy than corked with a pronounced nuttiness. The palate is sweet but far, far from cloying. Followed by a bit of fruit and balanced acidity. The story here though is the finish, which lasts for minutes. Whoa. I know Huet has gone through some changes, which have been difficult at times, but holy cow, this is good. Great in so many ways except the guy at the bar who cackled at a volume that should have placed him in the euthanasia protocol immediately. The wine? Outstanding. Maybe more in a decade or two. 93-95 Points.