Drinking at work.

March 6, 2009 at 4:45 pm (French Wine, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , )

Cream Wine Company just did a very unprecedented thing, considering.  They put some very obscure, very delicious wines on sale.  Apparently, not every wine shop and restaurant in the city of Chicago buy weird wines from small producers.   But, as a lush, I love it!  Hopefully not too many other shops catch on before I can drink, er, I mean sell it all.

But, this inspired me to open a few really cool things on this very sunny and warm ‘spring’ day.  So, please read on for an account of what happens when I drink at work…and then do a bit of research and spout random facts that are cluttering my head.

Pinot Gris, a mutation of Burgundian Pinot Noir back in the day, is a tricky little fellow.  Do not be fooled by the silly bottlings of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris floating about that are flabby and oh so boring.  This grape can do great things.  Thin skinned, yes.  Thus susceptible to botrytis or ‘noble rot’.  The ‘gris’ indicates that the grape is not quite white, but rather a grayish brownish pinky color.  When vinified on the skins, a Pinot Gris will be a coppery hue.

Alsace is also a bit tricky.  They have ditched Tokay, just finished with the intermediate Tokay Pinot Gris, and have now settled into the straight up Pinot Gris.  However, you never do really know what that bottle will taste like until you stick a cork in it…there are no laws measuring levels of dryness or residual sugar, and some winemakers tend to do one above the other.  Tradition leans toward sweeter iterations of the the grape.

But, the very best thing about Pinot Gris in Alsace is that it can get super ripe and hang on to that essential acidity and maintain beautiful balance.  The aromatics are banging and the wine can be quite full, rich, and viscous, but still remain lithe and lively, too.

2005 Paul Blanck ‘Patergarten’ Pinot Gris, Alsace

This particular wine begins fermentation in stainless, is transferred to barrel, and is left on the lees for at least six months.  Once pulled from the barrel, the wine ages in bottle for another couple of years before hitting the market. Frederic Blanck, winemaker, has 36 hectares under vine, farms sustainably and ‘organically’, and relies upon tradition, yet eloquently creates innovative, compelling wines.  The land is incredibly varied, and thus, riddled with niche terroirs and site specific wines.  And, I have heard that Domaine Paul Blanck tends to make more minerally, acidic wines.

This is what Creams has for tasting notes…I suspect a translation directly from French.

Full-flavoured and full-bodied, its nose bursts with beautifully ripe citrus fruit and hints of cinder. Savory and lively to drink, with the purity of its fruit (mandarin) maintained to the end. The finish is perfectly true to the vintage, and absolutely dry. Both aftertaste and balance are faultless. This Pinot, tonic and a little tannic, is not far removed from its raw material. The wine-making would seem to have been painstaking, it merits a special recommendation.

This is what I say….

The aromatics here are dramatic and alluring in a way I didn’t expect.  My first impression, which was surprising and quickly faded and transformed, was of wood.   The transition to cinders and then smoking wet hay and mossy river stones led into freshly plucked, barely cooked morels with just a small tab of melty brown butter.  Another sip of aromatics brought full on creek water, but pebbly, fresh flowing creek water.  After sitting in the glass a while, the pear blossoms and peachy notes began to waft from the glass, and next fresh squeezed grapefruit and mandarin blossoms.   Oh, and a soft, creamy cheese made an aromatic appearance, as well.  But, how long does a girl have to smell before tasting?  Right.  So, into my mouth it goes.  I am picking up more of a morel mushroom bisque initially, with a racy background of juicy citrus and clean, bracing minerality and excellent acidity.  While full and round, the wine leaves the impression of being light and zippy.  As it warms up a bit, just barely ripe white peach and very svelte, cayenne dusted, honeyed almond peek out from amidst the earth and citrus.  This kid is very mysterious and keeps shifting…but the crushed minerals and intense acidity really ground the wine in the place, the dirt.  This is definitely a wine to think about and sip slowly.  Wine geeky, indeed.

Cheers, RD.

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