For anyone traveling to the wine regions of France, it’s assumed (and rightly so), that an immersion into local cuisine should be part of the experience. After all, what is a trip to Burgundy without eating escargot or fine dining while visiting Champagne? So it goes without saying that a trip to Bordeaux will be incomplete unless you dip your toes into the local dining scene.
But the geography and the way business is conducted in Bordeaux conspire to make it difficult to indulge your appetite as thoroughly as your palate. And while the wines of Bordeaux resonate across the globe, the local cuisine has yet to achieve such recognition. A recent check through the latest Michelin Guide reveals far fewer starred establishments in Bordeaux than in Burgundy or Champagne. (more…)
Here at JJ Buckley, January brings with it thoughts of Bordeaux, as the Union des Grand Crus travels the country pouring the latest releases while we make plans for attending the en primeur tastings in France. And with Bordeaux on the brain, it’s not too hard to start dreaming of Paris, the city where we land before traveling south, and where I always make sure to get in an extra day to check out the latest and greatest culinary pit-stops.
Like almost every major city these days, Paris is undergoing another seismic shift in their dining scene. With strong influences from American cuisine (including the arrival of many expat chefs), the plates arriving on today’s Parisian tables highlight bold colors, fresh ingredients and light-handed cooking techniques. In short, they are quite different from the requirements of haute cuisine, which dominated French cooking for decades. Traditional French dining once meant maintaining a large staff and paying rent in pricey neighborhoods. All of the required overhead kept prices too high at a time when diners started tightening their wallets and eating out less. At the same time, the strong traditions surrounding French cuisine and service left little room for younger chefs to innovate in the kitchen and promote a relaxed environment in the dining room. Paris was ready for change and (thankfully) that change has arrived. (more…)
Wherever one finds vineyards and wineries, good dining usually follows. And
Tower of power! DRC display at Ma Cuisine
when it comes to Burgundy, the local cuisine expresses itself in a very direct and focused manner. This is not a region of haute cuisine for the wealthy, the gastronomes, or foodspotters who populate cities and other foodie destinations. Rather, Burgundy’s cuisine perfectly reflects the region’s wine culture. Honest and straightforward without embellishments, the food is much like the vignerons who have worked the land for so long.
Dining out in Burgundy makes you realize how much of its cuisine populates America’s tables. Here, the menus often feature escargots presented in their shells or puff pastries. Your meal might start off with some jambon persille, a country-style pate featuring chunky ham joined in aspic with spices and parsley. And it will be hard to escape the classic boeuf bourguignon, chunks of fork-tender beef in a deeply flavored, richly colored gravy, a dish almost too intense and powerful to pair with the region’s subtle pinots. You’ll also see the trademark gougeres, warm cheese puffs that are so prevalent, and addictive, at receptions or before a meal. The highlight of the cheese cart is epoisse. Pungent and runny, it commands your attention and pairs well with an after dinner marc de bourgogne. (more…)
For the past decade, I’ve been a huge fan of the Count’s wines, especially Chateau d’Aiguilhe. The success of d’Aiguilhe is credited with putting Cotes de Castillon on the map, and indeed the wine drinks like its St. Emilion neighbors. Its beautiful, distinctive nose alone would give it away in any blind tasting lineup and it always displays inky black fruit, followed by a lifted mineral quality towards the finish. A big wine for the buck, it was my go-to bottle when I was a struggling artist on a limited budget.
I first met Count Stephan von Neipperg roughly four years ago, at a tasting in New York. Then, I was just a fan of Bordeaux, and I found myself confronted with a perilous lack of spittoons. As I tried to find one, I noticed a friendly gentleman with a moustache, a bright orange sweater tied over his shoulders, holding an instantly recognizable bottle. I blurted something that, by that point in the evening, bore only distant linguistic similarity to “d’Aiguilhe?!” Count Stephan replied animatedly, “So, you know d’Aiguilhe?” The bottle turned out to be his similarly labeled Canon La Gaffeliere, and served as a wonderful introduction to Neipperg’s other wines. We shared a lively conversation, and despite my state, he extended an invitation to tour d’Aiguilhe. (more…)
Shall I Compare Thee to Another Vintage? Drawing Parallels at Haut Bailly
Post by Devon Magee | April 3rd, 2012
Château Haut Bailly
After five days of touring Bordeaux, it’s clear that the burning question aimed at leading producers has been: “To what vintage would you compare your 2011s?” It’s only natural – after back-to-back “vintages of the century,” we are all looking for a foothold in 2011. The market cannot support a third otherworldly vintage here, yet early murmurs suggest that, while the industry is cautious to overtly praise ’11, it is far from panning it. In fact, the earliest critic reports – from Parker and Suckling, who both just finished tasting here – are surprisingly optimistic.
So where does 2011 fit in a fifteen-year-plus string of vintages that has redefined Bordeaux with a relative average of warmer, dryer weather? Veronique Sanders invited us into her tasting room at Chateau Haut Bailly in Leognan yesterday evening to candidly discuss. Her family has been in charge of the Chateau since 1955, and she offered, in my opinion, the most poignant remarks of anyone about 2011. (more…)
Higher Ground Offers More Than A Good View at Pichon Lalande
Post by Eddie Wolowski | April 2nd, 2012
Chateau Pichon Lalande
We arrived at Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande, commonly referred to as Pichon Lalande, on a sunny afternoon for a lunch appointment. As we walked up to the estate, we nodded to former stable-mate Pichon Baron across the road (scene of tomorrow night’s dinner for some of us). The two estates were once united, but were split amongst siblings in 1850 and classified as Second Growths five years later.
After a Champagne toast with Chateau Director Sylvie Cazes, I sat down to lunch and a chat with Monsieur Philippe Moreau, the new technical director. Previously employed by Chateau de Pez and Chateau Bernadotte, Philippe completed his first vintage at Lalande last year. He was very generous in answering my questions. I have always wondered why Lalande’s wines take on a certain characteristic that is not reflected in the wines of its close neighbors Baron and Chateau Latour. The disparity between Lalande and Baron has always been particularly interesting, not just because of their proximity, but their common heritage alone should warrant more similarity. Philippe first agreed that while yes, the terrior is nearly identical for all three properties, one contrast lies in the technical winemaking style of Lalande – the way that grapes are pressed gently for finesse and not heavily extracted for power. (more…)
It’s no secret that Cos d’Estournel has been on a qualitative roll, but when Robert Parker awarded 100 points to the 2009 vintage, Cos squarely placed itself among the Left Bank elite. Delivering what its winemakers deem as First Growth quality wines from St. Estephe, Cos has worked hard to place its name on every Bordeaux lover’s wishlist.
One of several Asian elephant statues at Cos d'Estournel
With that in mind, you can imagine the anticipation was high for my third visit to Cos d’Estournel to taste the 2011s. With a private, first-look tasting of the new vintage and a special dinner invitation from director Jean Guillaume-Prats, we motored our rental Puegeot up the D-2 highway eager to spend our first night in Bordeaux delving into the 2011s.
Visiting Cos d’Estournel is always a grand affair. After parking in the gravel driveway under our honorary American flag, we found ourselves in a brand new tasting salon (finished in 2008), more reminiscent of a hip Manhattan nightspot than an historic winery (the name Cos d’Estournel dates back to 1810). After a quick trip around the nippy barrel room where we viewed the 2011s in barrel (the 2010 vintage had already been moved for blending), we popped back upstairs to taste. (more…)
So you’re in New York, it’s 5pm and the convention just wrapped up. Or you just caught the Mets day game or matinee performance on Broadway and you have time to kill before the flight home tomorrow morning. What lies ahead is what every foodie and wine lover dreams of: one night to fully explore the food and wine culture of New York. What do you do? I addressed this ‘dilemma’ recently when I found myself with a co-worker on his first visit to New York. With a warning to “Hold on!” we embarked on a trip around lower Manhattan to prove what makes NYC such a mecca.
In a situation like this, one must employ a strategy. First, for a good cross-section of what the city can offer, avoid a big dinner and plan on multiple small bites or appetizers. This will allow you to visit more places and get a broader view of what’s out there. Also try to stay in one section of town, cutting down on travel time.
While it may not be filled with glamor and celebrities as some people imagine, the wine industry is great for finding the best recommendations on all things gustatory: must-eat restaurants, the perfect espresso or that funky wine bar. Tips from winemakers or sales representatives make it seem as if I have my very own concierge when traveling.
Instead of keeping those recommendations to myself, I find it best to share. So when asked for suggestions in Paris, Sydney or Barcelona, I would have to sort through assorted matchbooks and business cards to compile a list. Over and over. Therefore, I decided it was time to come up with a permanent list that I could keep on hand and share with everyone who asks, as well as our blog readers. Bon voyage!
The Wine Bars of Paris
Empty glasses and plates at Le Baron Rouge
Along with bistros, baguettes, the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, Paris also brings wine to mind. While thoughts of old Bordeaux or Champagne in ice buckets occupy your thoughts on the flight over, the reality can fall short. Wine lists in many cafes only offer an appellation and a price without mention of a vintage or even a producer. Instead of the classics, today one comes face to face with the city’s recent fascination with obscure reds and sparkling wines from the Loire. Not that it’s a bad thing! (more…)