Friday, January 8, 2010

A great find in Chablis

Wine: "La Chabliesienne" 2001 Chablis Grand Cru (Chardonnay) / Chablis, France

Paired with: Serrano ham, Manchego cheese marinated in tomato & rosemary, fresh bread and MP3 flamenco mix

Comments: I'm going to get this story out of the way now because it's possibly the wine-snobbiest story we'll ever tell you.

We won a fabulous trip to France in 2006 (no, that's not the snobby part). As part of our trip, we decided to drive through the Rhone Valley on our way up to Paris. Our last stop of the day was a winery/tasting room we would normally avoid like the plague - huge, slick and with about 4 tour buses in the lot. But it was France! And Chablis! So we stopped.

I have to say, even with 4 tour buses and my embarrassing French, the staff was very nice to 2 Americans who wandered in 15 minutes before closing. We tasted several wines (chardonnay is the primary grape in that area - like most European countries, the French name their wines after the region in which they're produced), and decided our favorite was the Grand Cru. That means the grapes came from a vineyard which has a reputation for producing great grapes, and it's basically top-shelf as far as wines are concerned. The wine was about 30 euros (about $40 at the time), but it was France! And Chablis! So we bought it.

When we came home, we decided to check the availability of La Chablisienne here in the states, just in case we wanted to buy more. Good news? We could get it. Bad news? It would cost us about $1,000. We seriously debated selling the bottle to finance our next vacation, but decided to keep it for a special occasion. After 3 years of trying to figure out what was special enough, we finally said "to hell with it" and decided New Year's Eve 2009/2010 would qualify. Wine does have a shelf life, after all.

So there's our snobby story about our $1,000 bottle of wine. Done, and out of the way -- and back to our regularly scheduled $15 wines from now on!

Tasting Notes - pre-food: Lots of green apple at first - very crisp and very dry. After about 5 minutes of the bottle being open, some of the crispness mellowed into creaminess. After about 15 minutes, a floral scent & taste appeared. (In hindsight, we should have decanted this, even though we usually don't decant whites.) Not a huge amount of oak, which was fine with me, as heavily-oaked chardnonnays just aren't my taste, but it was there.

Tasting Notes - with food: This worked surprisingly well with the Manchego. The dish was pretty salty, between the cheese itself and the salt in the marinade, and that brought back some of the initial crispness of the wine.

Unfortunately, not a great pairing with the Serrano ham. Something in the ham eliminated everything but the oak -- which was not a predominant flavor to begin with -- and left the sensation of chewing on the barrel. My guess is that the sweetness of the ham cancelled out the sweetness of the wine, leaving just the tannins. But, again, just a guess.

Color: Extremely pale yellow-gold

Price: 30 euros (about $40 at the time of purchase)

Verdict: Friday night. Not just because it was our last bottle from a fantastic trip, not just because it was apparently such a rare thing in the US. This wine kept us talking about it right up until the last sip.