2019 has been a year to remember. Last September, I had the privilege to be part of a especial birthday celebration in Paris, France. My esteemed Cheryl Denise Dudette, AKA Bruce Springsteen (The Boss), after witnessing Earth completing another orbit around the sun for the 50th time, decided to celebrate this feat in Paris! We celebrated fifty years by walking fifty kilometers and creating fifty memories mostly within the 1st through 8th arrondissements in Paris. In all fairness, I will recount in this blog only a selected few moments mostly related to wine. For additional context, over the last couple of years Denise Dudette has developed an intriguing condition related to wine tasting. One could argue that her evolved taste correlates directly on proportion with higher prices, however I am convinced that the correlation is linked to higher quality. Obviously, there are some exceptions, but the exceptions are totally and utterly negligent of marketing as there are plenty of really affordable wines which are really good. More specifically about the condition, Dudette has developed a displeasure for wines with heavy mineral notes which largely come from European appellations ranging from Rioja to Bordeaux to Chianti. The displeasure stems from her experiencing physical side effects such as headaches. What a paradox, drinking great wines at reasonable prices in France without experiencing such an unpleasant side effects. Therein the challenge:how to find great wines at reasonable prices during our 50-kilometer walk. I’ll summarize.
- The highlights of the first day and the first ten kilometers included what some may consider heresy: brining American wine to Paris! While still reeling with jet lag, we took a stroll through Jardin du Luxembourg, grabbed coffee at Cafe de la Mairie, ate lunch at Le Bistro de Gaspard near the Hotel des Invalides and climbed the Eiffel Tower before finally settling-in at the Hotel La Villa Madame. To wind down, I opened two bottles of wine, which brought me in the wine spectrum from Napa Valley to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the oh so close heretical moment. You see, knowing that French wine could be the anathema for Denise Dudette during this trip, I brought to Paris a bottle of Napa Cab, her favorite wine region, for the ‘just in case’ scenario. However on our way back to the Hotel, I stumbled upon the ubiquitous Nicolas, my now go-to wine store in France. There was a branch just a short scooter ride from our hotel. Here is where I found this 2015 Château Des Fines Roches.
Châteauneuf-Du–Pape, Chateau Des Fines Roches 2015 Red Wine. This wine was packed with inviting aromas of black cherry and strawberry, followed by sweet notes of strawberry and spice, saturating the palate with fruit, herbs, spices and just a touch of game, making it feel sexy and playful. It finished richly herbal and yet well balanced such that it never felt heavy. The “herbal” portion it’s un understatement. After a while, the wine benefited from oxidation such that evolving aromas, left the gaminess behind in favor of a very distinct bouquet of sage and rosemary. Typically, Chteauneuf-Du–Pape is an AOC, or Appellation d’origine contrôlée which guarantees a specific level of quality within a geographical indication. The most astounding fact to me is that there are no rules about specific percentages of the eighteen allowed grapes. In practical terms, the main grape for red wines is Grenache Noir and most wines from this region have a blend of Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre. However, depending on the even more specific estate or commune, it could have varying amounts of remaining 15 grapes. And just to be precise, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, the only estate to grow all the varieties and use them consistently is Château de Beaucastel. The best part, Dudette liked it quite a bit and there were no signs of headaches.
2. Ok, after dealing with the jet lag, we walked another ten kilometers, mostly along the Seine toward the Louvre. Well, I’ll spare you the details of the new contact sport I discovered in Paris named “let’s go trying to see La Joconde” aka Monalis. What I will share is that I was amazed at the amount of equal opportunity Beerman and Wineman abound around both the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Folks who cater beer and wine to passers-by taking a stroll or a break on the lawn adjacent to both attractions. I almost cave-in and got us a flute with champagne. However, I was able to suppress my need for immediate gratification by way of Denise Dudette dragging me like a rag doll across the lawn. What a way of exercising restraint. In either case, I waited until the end of the day, at last! We thoroughly enjoyed a stroll through the many parks and even stopped for Café et Croissant at local coffee shops along the way. Yes, admittedly, I also visited a Nicolas, my go-to wine store where I found our next victims: A bottle of Cornas and another from Pauillac.
Cornas. For the uninitiated, all wine from Cornas is 100% Syrah. This version from Cave de Tain was just what we needed at the end of the long walk. It opened up, no pun intended, with a peppery notes on the nose, giving way to ripe plum and chocolate flavors. Seriously delicious finish, with mouth coating flavors of persistent plum, chocolate and pepper. Again, the best part was the wine also had the approval from Denise Dudette as there were no signs of headaches.
Pauillac. With all the respect to the Mouton Cadet Estate and the Rothschild family, this was the weakest link in the lineup. And yet, I enjoyed its character. Robust, richly flavored Bordeaux loaded with mineral notes framed by dark plum, coffee and licorice. It finished very intriguing, even though the tannins were not soft at all, it had an interesting appeal. We washed it down with charcuterie from the local Carrefour store around the corner from our hotel and the proteins and fat of the Jambon helped break down the tannins making it a very pleasant experience.
3. On the third day, we actually caught a break from walking, sort of, as we walked only six kilometers because started raining. On our way back to the hotel from our daily bread, coffee and stroll, we spent some time at a local outdoor market featuring local fare, arts and crafts. Little did we know I was about to experience a California-style afternoon in the middle of Paris. Obviously, we stopped at the wine tent where we sampled exquisite wines from Burgundy, specifically from Chambolle-Musingy, Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuit St-Georges. I could not resist and picked up a bottle of from Jean Lecellier himself. I also bought charcuterie in the same market, along with cheese and bread. Straight up, that was our dinner, California-style. Although the same concept, Picnic style, which I referred earlier as California style, Denise Dudette simply say Pepe’s style.
The wine, was an excellent rendition of Bourgogne. Nothing surprising here, the expected bouquet unique of the Grevrey-Chambertin, heady, steely and yet very elegant, all classic trademark of the regal region. Let me elaborate, according to historians, Napoleon Bonaparte used to carry Chambertin everywhere he went even that fateful trip to Russia. This bottle pictured below, offered us a somewhat austere side of Burgundy at first. We let it air for almost one hour and were rewarded with the citrus-blossom aromas and just a touch of vanilla the wine expressed extremely subtle. On the pallet the wine was fine textured and it became harmoniously opulent and toasty, very royal. I sincerely or barely rather, could explain what happened to the bottle. I am willing to entertain the thought that the company made it taste like liquid poetry as I was right next to Denise Dudette. A memorable afternoon indeed. I have never seen this wine before and I have not seen it ever since. No matter, I am still in the lookout. I am curios to try it again.