Monday, November 13, 2006

Galavanting with the "Galoots"

Yesterday, Paris welcomed Robert Fleming and Don Cornutt, along with three of their wine-loving fellow Southerners, affectionately known (by their wives) as "the Galoots". Arnaud and I were lucky enough to meet up with them for a few glasses and some food that evening. And they were in top form, despite having stumbled off an overnight flight and straight into a four-hour lunch at L'Ami Louis that day.

So, at 6:30pm, we were sitting at a sidewalk table in the rue de Buci, at Le Chai de l’Abbaye, sharing a bottle of 2003 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage “Les Jalets” while Bob, Don, and co. regaled us with stories of their lunch and then Bob handed over the trans-Atlantic contraband he had so kindly brought for me: 5 pounds of andouille sausage, straight from Laplace, Louisiana! Excuse me, I have to go tend to the 100-gallon vat of gumbo I currently have stewing...

And (lucky me!) he had also brought a bottle of 1998 Arcadian Pinot Noir, which I can’t wait to taste.

The 2003 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Crozes-Hermitage was drinking well, with smoothed-out tannins and some peppery fruit, but it was also somewhat marked by the 2003 heat that left a kind of thick aftertaste and a trace of soapiness.

After finishing the Jaboulet and singing a few traditional drinking songs, we upped and went over to Fish, La Boissonnerie – which had been our original intended destination, but which had still been closed when we showed up on its doorstep an hour earlier.

It was now open and we were given the last unreserved table (yes!) and settled in to pore over the interesting, mostly Rhône and Languedoc wine list.

Don immediately lit up at the Burgundy page and before anyone could protest (not that we would have - or at least not very convincingly...), he invited us to share an excellent present, calling over the waitress and ordering a bottle of:

1999 Puligny-Montrachet “Le Cailleret” - Hubert de Montille

Mmm. I was both surprised and delighted by this wine. The nose was beautiful, subdued and complex, with muted, grassy flowers. And the first sip sent a surprise spreading out over the palate: a top note of rich passion-fruit. Beneath that, unfolding in the mouth, were ripples of mineral, pineapple, and a subtle thread of well-integrated oak. It was long, confoundingly complex, and delicious, absolutely delicious.

As I sat musing over the Puligny, distractedly tapping my fork at the shrimp in a tomato-cream sauce on my plate like a schoolgirl daydreaming about a boy, we switched gears to another white wine. The waitress was opening: a

2004 Sancerre - Lucien Crochet. An intense, Sancerre nose, right off the bat. Fronds of white flowers, bright lime-zest acidity, and on the palate, a kind of quinine bitterness closing it out. I like 2004 Sancerres and Menetou-Salons, especially now after they’ve had a little bit of time in the bottle, and this one had the purity and linear acidity I associate with that year.

2004 Châteauneuf-du-Pape white - ... Here, Don sneaked in and ordered a 50 cl carafe of white Châteauneuf. We were having fish dishes (except for the non-fish-eating Arnaud, who was having roasted foie gras with spicy fruits), and two of the group had been hit by jet-lag and the extended revelry and had said goodnight and headed off to the hotel. For those of us remaining, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape (since the bottle was a carafe and the restaurant had started to fill up, I couldn’t make out the producer’s name over on the blackboard hanging on the wall) was a fine accompaniment to the end of our main courses and Don’s comté cheese course. A strong Roussane presence for a full-bodied, waxy, southern herbal wine.

And then came the desserts. And the bottle of:

NV Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru: Earthy, rich, and dense. This was intense champagne. Some toasty and yeasty flavors, with apple and pear notes too. The restaurant brought us a second dessert plate to share - macerated fruits with a quenelle of ice cream. An excellent way to end the meal!

Afterward, we said our adieux, and Bob and Don headed off to their hotel and Arnaud and I headed up the boulevard St-Germain back home. An excellent encounter, great people, great wines... Can't wait to repeat the experience!

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