Saturday a.m., we breakfasted casually, ran to the bank to get some money, and headed over to Pasadena to have Gina (check out her Haircutting in High Heels blog) cut our hair. Had fun, of course. Gina and I spent a bit of time brainstorming about how to better market our blogs and business. After, we hopped in the car and headed out to Woodland Hills to taste some wine at the Woodland Hills Wine Company.
We stepped up to the wine bar where Mark was pouring flights of wine from the Loire Valley.
2007 Luneau-Papin Muscadet Domaine Pierre de la Grange – Muscadet, also known as Melon de Bourgogne, is a crisp, citrusy grape, with a nose full of grapefruit and flowers – lilacs, I think or maybe hyacinths. Something heavily floral. Clear, pale gold, tasting of ripe grapefruit, with a long, slightly spiced finish. After it had been sitting for a while, the nose changed dramatically. Suddenly it was full of honey. $14.99
2008 Domaine de la Pépière (Ollivier) Muscadet Clos des Briords – Also full of grapefruit in the nose, crisp and fruity to taste. The fruit/acid balance was better in this wine than the first, and also had that slightly spicy finish. Didn’t change much as it opened. $14.99
2008 Marionnet Sauvignon Touraine Domaine de la Charmoise – This Sauvignon Blanc was the ‘darkest’ of all the whites poured, a lovely deep gold, surprising in a fairly young Sauv Blanc. The nose was typical Sauv Blanc – that distinctive and odd aroma of cat pee/ammonia. And I mean that in a good way! The mouth was grassy, fresh, clean with surprisingly big fruit. I would drink this wine as a cocktail – it’s oddly rich and full for a grape that I think of as crisp and refreshing. $12.99
2008 Thomas-Labaille Sancerre Chavignol Les Monts Damnés – Another Sauvignon Blanc. This wine could not have been more different from the first Sauv Blanc. The nose was small, demure, not giving much away. In the mouth it was full of fresh grapefruit, very dry, pale gold, very refreshing. $22.99
2008 Aubuisières (Fouquet) Vouvray Cuvée de Silex - Vouvray is the name of AOC appellation as well as the village around which it surrounds and it produces delicious wines ranging from the dry and austere to the richest dessert wines, and even sparkling wines. Vouvray is made exclusively from Chenin Blanc, which has been grown in the region since the 4th century. And all I can say about this Vouvray is OMG! Huge, aromatic, fragrant nose. Honey, caramel and pure heaven in the mouth. And yet, food friendly. I found myself thinking about spicy and sweet Asian food to pair with this wine. $15.99 – Bought 2 bottles.
Reds – All Cabernet Franc, because that’s what they grow in the Loire!
Now I have to note that my tasting notes on the reds are not as complete as on the whites, as I suddenly found myself deep in conversation with Paul Smith, the owner of the WHWC. Paul spoke fondly of his times in the Loire – running into neighbors from Woodland Hills whom he had never actually met until their paths converged in France – as well as describing his passion for the history and inhabitants of France. He turned us on to a book called Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, which I ordered from Amazon. It sounds fascinating!
All of these reds were untypical of Cab Franc – I say untypical because I’m used to tasting Cab Franc from Bordeaux or California, where you get very aromatic and herbaceous notes – sometimes when I smell Cab Franc, all I find is green pepper and lilacs. These Cab Francs were deep in color, with dusty soft tannins and lovely aromatic noses.
2005 Nerleux Saumur-Champigny Clos des Châtains – This wine had a velvety texture in the mouth, and had dry fruit, which became somewhat raisiny after being open for a while. $18.99
2004 Nerleux Saumur-Champigny Le Loups Noir Tire-Savatte – I didn’t write any specific notes, and didn’t find it distinctive in any way. Not to say it was bad; I just didn't remark on it. $22.99
2007 Amirault Bourgueil 'La Coudraye' – JD and I both loved this wine. And I have to say that part of the reason we liked it is that it had that very distinctive barnyard smell of Brettanomyces – that crazy yeast that occurs naturally on grapes and can affect the palate and bouquet of the wine either for good or for bad. In this case, it was wonderful. In small amounts, the presence of these compounds has a positive effect on wine, contributing to complexity, and giving an aged character to some young red wines. Many wines even rely on Brettanomyces to give their distinctive character such as in Château Musar and Château de Beaucastel. However when the levels of the sensory compounds is too much, their perception is almost always negative. The sensory threshold can differ between individuals, and so some find the compounds more unattractive than others. In this case, it rocked. $20.99. We wanted to buy 2 bottles, but that’s a story for later in the article.
2006 Amirault Bourgueil 'Les Quartiers' – Not much nose in this wine, but the taste was rich with dark fruit, velvety tannins, and an almost chocolately finish. I liked it more than JD did. $25.95 – We didn’t plan on buying, but ended up with 2 bottles.
2006 Amirault Bourgueil 'La Petite Cave' – The most expensive wine offered in the tasting, this wine was unremarkable. It had the same basic elements as the previous wines – flowery nose, soft tannins in the mouth, nice long finish. $33.99.
During the 3½ hours we spent at WHWC, I seemed to be in the perfect position on the bar – for visiting. First, my chat with Paul Smith, then another young man named Matt from Pennsylvania, who was spending the afternoon having a tasting while his pregnant wife languished at home. After Matt moved on, a couple took up a station at the bar. Bob races cars as a hobby and has raced all over the world, most recently in Africa for a major cross-country trek in a Porsche 911. His wife, Arvinder, who joined him in progress, works for Citibank, who took over CalFed, who merged with Glendale Federal, my old employer. She’s managed to hang onto her position with all the changes in management and ownership, but she says it’s not fun anymore the way GFB was. We played the name game for a while; discovered we knew some folks in common, and toasted the old days.
We finally dragged ourselves away from the bar to purchase a couple of the wines we liked best. Tim Snyder, the Internet Sales Manager for WHWC, offered to help us find the wines, picking out the Vouvray and, we thought, the ‘La Coudraye’. We were having so much fun chatting with Tim and another gent we recognized from a big Napa tasting at Wally’s Wine, that I didn’t pay any attention to what Tim was ringing up. He generously gave us a logo wine bag to make up the fact that he couldn’t discount my purchase, and we left happy.
We drove slowly East along Ventura Blvd., looking for a restaurant to stop at. We passed a couple of favorites, like La Pergola, but we wanted steak and not Italian, so we kept driving. It’s surprising how many Italian, Japanese and Thai restaurants there are along the boulevard. We ended up back in Burbank, and decided to go to our favorite eatery, Prosecco, in Toluca Lake. Yes, it’s nominally Italian, but Eric always offers steak of some kind. And we always feel happy and like family when we go there!
We pulled one of the bottles of red from the car, and discovered at the table that it was not the ‘La Coudraye’, but the ‘Les Quartiers’. JD was upset because it wasn’t the wine he wanted, and I was concerned because we had been so sure we bought the right wine. Still, it was delicious, and an excellent wine to pair with my medallions of beef in a Gorgonzola and wine sauce and JD’s rack of lamb in Prosecco’s signature horseradish and wine reduction. It also went very well with the chocolate, cappuccino crunch and vanilla bean gelati with which we finished off the dinner.
When we got home, I fired off an email to Tim at the wine shop about the switch, and this a.m. got a very nice reply, apologizing for the mix-up and offering to reduce the cost of our next wine tasting for the difference. Win-win.
Sunday, drank a lot of water and coffee during the day, and noshed on cheese and crackers in the evening, accompanied by that ‘box’ of Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon we purchased a couple of months ago at Silverlake Wine. It was yummy!!
That is more than enough for today. Cheers!