Another Reason Why I’ll Miss LA

4 Aug

A while back I wrote that there wasn’t a sauvignon blanc that I liked.  How much has changed!  Now sauv blanc is, if not my favorite, one of my favorite white wines.

Now my white grape whipping-boy is chardonnay.  I could swear that I’ve not met a chardonnay that I’ve liked, though that’s not technically true.  Quite a few years ago I had a delicious Carneros chardonnay from V. Sattui at their St. Helena tasting room–so delicious, in fact, that it was priced above my budget.

Not that I ever wanted to dislike chardonnay, what with sentimental memories of Remy from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles drinking the wine with wonderful abandon.  But more recent memories of horrible cheap chard from the I-House at Berkeley (where 1.5 L bottles of it were kept above room temperature for God knows how long) and horrible, more expensive chard wiped out any affinity I might have had for this most noble of grapes.

When I told all this to Dave at Mission Wines a few weeks ago his response was whether I’ve ever actually had good chardonnay.  My response, of course, was that I had: a few cult chards from Napa, for instance.  Those were fine, he said, but what about white Burgundy?  Not any good ones, if at all.  But then again, it’s hard for me to afford “great” wines–it was hard enough to get people to chip in $10 for a flight of decent wines, much less $20 or $30 per person for a single bottle.

He replied: “Before you leave, stop by with $20, and I’ll make sure you try something really good.”

Thus, today I stopped by Mission Wines with $20.  He brought out a lightly-chilled bottle of the 2004 Domaine Roulot Meursault “Les Meix Chavaux,” a highly-allocated single-vineyard white Burgundy imported by none other than Kermit Lynch.  (Retail price: around $85.  Roulot also makes basic white Burgundies for around $40 and has other single-vineyard offerings that go for $100+… if you can find them.)


He poured some for me in a big-bowled Montrachet or Burgundy glass.  A gorgeous golden-yellow color, like light olive oil.  A bit of weight in the glass.  Petrol on the nose, a bit of toast.  Utterly wonderful and utterly unlike other chardonnays I’ve had.  Let me qualify that.  There was a bit of vanilla–more of a lemon custard sort of taste, light acidity, light minerality–on account of judicious use of oak, but whereas other chards (like Californians) overwhelm with hotness or oakiness, this one was restrained and subtle.  The flavors and body enveloped my tongue and mouth but, before the sensations got out of hand they ebbed, lingering on the finish like the memory of a gentle kiss from a beautiful woman.  Slight oxidation led to hazelnut/chestnut on the finish.

The wine grew fresher as it warmed and opened up, exposing more fruit and juiciness.  I was able to drink 3/4 the bottle myself and not feel inebriated as it was–gasp!–only 12.8% ABV.  What an incredible wine, and one that indeed changed my mind about chardonnays.

But, for now, only if they’re from Burgundy.


3 Responses to “Another Reason Why I’ll Miss LA”

  1. Shea August 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    Nice :). There are others that are great – but certainly can be hard to find in the sea of similarity that is California chardonnay. I particularly like what Ridge does with chard, though. But ya, Burgundy rocks – and for ‘value’ try the 1er cru Chablis – many retail for under $40 here, which probably means around $20-$25 in CA. I particularly recommend producer Daniel Dampt, and the vineyards Fourchaume and Cote de Lechet from most producers.

  2. Roger August 16, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    There are many great examples of white Burgundy but it helps to have someone you trust recommend them first. If the importer is Kermit Lynch or Terry Theise, I would say take a chance.

    It is amazing how much more enjoyable a wine with lower alcohol can be since you can drink a few glasses without your eyes glazing over. The current trend of wines with alcohol levels of “14.11” make me long for the days when 12.5% was the normal.

    Great Site!

  3. vinicultured August 17, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    Gentlemen: I am indebted to your more refined and experienced palates! Shea–I’ll have to try out Ridge (I trust them), and I’ll look out for Chablis as well as more Meursault. And Roger, thanks for your comment! I’m all for lower-alcohol wines… I actually don’t like getting drunk, believe it or not: or, getting pleasantly buzzed is a secondary effect for me.

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