I had the opportunity to go to a media night at Weygandt Wines last Friday, on the occasion of International Champagne Day. This was Weygandt’s first effort to reach out specifically to DC food and wine bloggers, and from what I can tell it was a great success.
Weygandt Wines, located in Cleveland Park, reminds me a lot of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. That venerable Berkeley institution is one of my can’t miss shops whenever I visit my alma mater, and for good reason: the wines I buy from the store are perhaps the freshest, most vibrant wines I’ve ever found. KLWM is sort of like a farmers’ market for wine. If that is the case, then Weygandt Wines is sort of like the Eastern Market of wines.
The namesake of the shop, Peter Weygandt, and his wife Maria (née Metzler) have been importing boutique French wines since 1987. He has recently expanded his portfolio to include wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, and Spain. He imports some killer Beaujolais and Burgundy, and has an excellent Rhône selection. In all, they import around 70,000 cases of wine from over 100 producers.
The Weygandts were not at the media event, but the event was run by the store’s general manager, Tim O’Rourke. Tim has an interesting history, having started out as a chef. He graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland in 2000, did tours at Café Atlántico, Ristorante Tosca, and Citronelle, and has cooked with such celebrity chefs as Daniel Boulud and Michel Richard. Being the general manager of a wine store probably has its own set of stresses, but I can imagine that it might also be very relaxed in comparison to working in some high-profile kitchens!
I had been to Weygandt only once before, and recently: I picked up a bottle of Cabernet France for an ongoing dinner with friends at Dino (which is right across the street). The store was technically closed but I sneaked in and asked who I found out later to be Tim whether he could recommend a good Cab Franc, which he did. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which bottle he selected, but it was good, and I appreciated being able to pick up a bottle after closing time (and at a substantial discount to boot!).
The event started out with a flight of six sparkling wines–one Crémant de Bourgogne and five Champagnes.
The N.V. Chermette Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, made of 100% Chardonnay, was lean and almost stony. It wasn’t fruity per se, but it did have some citrus character. It was tasty but not especially interesting (especially in relation to the Albert Sounit Crémants carried by Ansonia Wines). The next wine, a bonafide Champagne, was the N.V. J.L. Vergnon Brut “Conversation”, a blanc de blancs that had tropical fruits on the palate a tart green apple on the finish. This one was refreshing and would be perfect as an aperitif.
The next two wines were from Nathalie Falmet and were both non-vintage. The Brut Nature, made with no added sugar (hence the “nature” in the name), had ripe apple and a nice round mouthfeel. Even better than that, though, was the Le Val Cornet Brut, which had even more apple–the finish reminded me of the bitterness you get from apple skin, not a bad thing–and was fuller than the Brut Nature.
Bringing up the rear were the N.V. Philippe Prié “Depuis 1737” Brut Tradition and the N.V. Nicolas Maillart “Platine” Premier Cru. The Prié had what I thought was some noticeable malolactic character, and while I tasted some stone fruit/apple on the palate, the thing that struck me about this wine was the hint of something non-fruity. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it: maybe it was herbaceous, maybe it was minerally, maybe it was even a bit of sous bois. Whatever it was, however, it was quite attractive.
The Maillart had rich fruit–like an apple and quince tart–and very nice body. The Prié and the Maillart were my two favorite Champagnes of the evening.
But we had more to go. Derek of the Weekly Wine Pick started off round two by contributing a bottle of grand cru Burgundy he had picked up from MacArthur Beverages’s bargain bin for around $20 or $30. The 1983 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays grand cru was created during my birth year and, like me, seems to have faded with age. You can see its brick color in the picture below. It had a cranberry nose, and the palate reminded me vaguely of pine nuts. It was very light and had a short finish. While pleasant, it was clearly past its prime. I did appreciate being able to try such an old wine!
By this point I had decided to purchase a one-way ticket to Drunksville (business class, mind you). So, I made a rounds of the store and my eyes settled on the Rhône. But Southern Rhône or Northern Rhône? I asked Tim for a recommendation, and we settled on the 2009 Yann Chave “Le Rouvre” Crozes Hermitage, a bargain at $29.99. This Syrah, along with the pair of Beaujolais cru I will be mentioning soon, was my favorite wine of the evening. It offered up a beautiful nose of dried herbs, violet, and anise, and the palate was a cornucopia of flavor: raisin, graphite, minerals. Relatively light-bodied, it had good acid and moderate tannins, with a long finish. I could drink this all night long (and I did), and I could not believe how well it was drinking!
I would have stuck with that wine, had I not mentioned casually to Tim that I loved Beaujolais. He instantly offered to find an older Beaujolais cru somewhere from the recesses of the store. He brought back a 2007 Domaine Pierre Savoye Morgon, but when I mentioned also that I loved the ’09 Beaujolais vintage but had not yet tried the ’10s, he graciously opened up a bottle of the 2010 Daniel Bouland Chiroubles as well.
My loyal readers will know how much I freaking love Beaujolais. To me, Beaujolais is a happy wine that can be put to serious use. It pairs well with nearly everything, but when eating is not the point it is also just terrific to gulp and guzzle by itself. Beaujolais cru are more complex, but at their price point (usually $15-$30, tops) it’s not a shame to use them just to slake one’s thirst.
The Morgon was more mineral and “cheese” than fruit. It was a complex, delicious wine that was like the flirty bookish sister of a nice premier cru Burgundy. The Chiroubles, by contrast, was all light cranberry and reminded some tasters of bubble gum. It was juicy, bright, and just plain fun. If the Morgon was the flirty bookish sister of a nice Burgundy, then the Chiroubles was the youngest sister everyone’s worried about.
After the Beaujolais came a trio of other wines. Someone chipped in the 2009 Font Sarade Vacqueyras, and if I recall correctly Jessica and Jonathan of Jessica In Search Of… bought a bottle of 2009 Alfredo Maestro Viña Almante “La Olmera” Tempranillo (from the Castilla y León region of Ribera del Duero). Aaron from Hogshead: A Wine Blog contributed a bottle of 2010 Domaine des Soulanes “Kaya” from the Roussillon. The Vacqueyras, composed of Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah, was a darker older cousin to the Chave Crozes-Hermitage, all tangled vines, leather, and green olives. The Alfredo Maestro was juicy and fresh and reminded me of a Rioja crianza. The Kaya, made of 100% Carignan, didn’t make too much of an impression on me, I’m afraid, because by the time I got to it the drunk train was nearly to the station.
Overall, this was a terrific event and I met some wonderful bloggers, some of whom have scooped me on this story. The wines I tried at Weygandt were all at least good–many of them were excellent, and both Beaujolais were inspirational. I would like to try some more of Weygandt’s Rhône portfolio, too. My thanks to Tim, Weygandt Wines, and all the bloggers and people who made this such an awesome evening.