Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Mushrooms, boar and blood
It was a dark, dark, dark fall night. The wind was whipping, and garish bright lights festooned the outside of the Cirque d'Hiver, where many children and balloon-holding parents streamed across the rue Amelot, blocking a taxi in which Barbra Austin and I were ensconsed, late for dinner.
One block later, we egressed from the cab and met Todd and Scott outside of the restaurant Repaire de Cartouche, a place as old-fashioned and wood-decked as a country inn in some tale of banditry.
One hour later, the scents of porcini cream steamily filled the air around a large, circular table, upon which an almost-empty bottle of 2005 Villemade Cour-Cheverny "Les Acacias" stood, beading.
Soon after would arrive dishes of game and mushroom; what better fodder to match them with than something redolent of the iron blood of the Mourvèdre grape?
2001 Grange des Pères Vin de Pays de L'Hérault - What a fine thing this was: heavy on the blood, resoundingly echoing the sang that stood amid the flesh of a well-crusted venison steak to my left and the deep, stewed-wine daube to my right. (My own dish of pheasant picked up the ruffles of cabernet, I think.) I love this wine; this is the third vintage of it I've had, and each time, I have marveled and swooned; marveled and swooned. It is long and profound and exciting. It calls you back to it with great presence and is demanding.
The only way to follow up such a powerful wine was to slip into something similarly prepossessing, yet more coy.
2001 Allemand Cornas "Reynard" - The nose was slight, after the previous, with a curiously lactic note. But on the palate, the silky rush of it all was a jolt. It could hold its own after the Grange des Pères, and more. A lush beauty of northern Rhône syrah. It also paired well with the various game dishes, of which bites were being passed, here and there, across and around our table of eight.
We gobbled and drank.
Then there was no more food, plates were being cleared, and the wine was gone. It was time to turn back to the list.
Three of our party had just spent ten days in the southern Rhône, so perhaps it was time for a complete and total paradigm shift.
"Do you like Arbois?" I asked my friend Todd as I looked sharply up over the edge of the wine list.
"I've had vin jaune, but I must admit, it's not my favorite."
"What about a red?" I'd seen something that had sparked my desire.
There was general ignorance as to the reds of the region, so I filled in with enthusiasm. Words came tumbling out of me as I described poulsard, plousard, ploussard, trousseau.... Was I making any sense? My thoughts were on Overnoy. I was trying to convey the essence of Jurassics, but I'm sure clarity ran low. It was a jumble in his mind like a word-salad e-mail, from what I could tell, as I drew to a close.
Nonetheless, we ordered it.
2007 Overnoy/Houillon Arbois Pupillin - The light color of this wine is a jape. It's a quick switch. This wine is a berry blade. It's a sharp flick of the colorful rope. God, I love this wine. It's got intense acidity and lovely aromatics. It is long and fine on the palate.
It was a great way of ushering in dessert, which I forewent for more of it.