I was excited to take my second vino class at Chelsea Wine Vault centered around the country de ma famille: France! My first class I delved into the full-bodied delicious red wines of Washington. This class was focused specifically on white wines, where most white varietals are grown in the cooler northern regions of the country and the reds are produced in the warmer climates in the south. Once again, our instructor Steve had a nice spread of cheese and crackers laid out for us as we’d make two rounds of tastings with our glasses to compare notes after the wine was able to open up a bit more. It was a little harder for me to pick my favorite this time around, but obviously I left with at least one. I wanted to pick up another bottle of my favorite Cab Sauv from the Washington class but they were already sold out.
Here’s the list of the wines we tasted along with a few of my personal notes and learnings:
- Pol Roger Reserve Champagne NV (Champagne, France): Hailed as Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne, this bubbly happens to be very well-known for its bubbles, which are smaller due to colder cellars which slows the second fermentation (Steve tells us smaller bubbles = better champagne.) Comprised of four different years of crops and about 35 still base wines, I was digging this crisp, citrusy refresher which seemed like a perfect complement for a summer day outside.
- Lucien Crochet Sancerre 2011 (Loire Valley, France): Grown in limestone soil, Steve tells us he gets grapefruit on the nose and palate, with a metallic taste to finish. Like many of these white wines, the suggested pairing with scallops or fresh white fish like dover sole.
- Gerard Duplessis Chablis Premier Cru 2009 (Burgundy, France): An interesting tidbit I learned about Burgundy wine: By law, all white Burgundy has to be 100% Chardonnay and all red Burgundy has to be 100% Pinot Noir. This chardonnay from the northern Chablis region produces wines with more acidity and flavors less fruity than chardonnays grown in warmer climates. Since Steve likes to make up his own words and adjectives to describe wine, I liked to call this one “minerally”.
- Morey-Coffinet Bourgogne Blanc 2011 (Burgundy, France): When tasting it was fascinating to think this is same grape as #3 and learn it’s grown only 50 miles away, but has a completely different taste and aroma. From one of the top growers and winemakers in the hallowed vineyards of Chassagne, this wine was my second favorite of the group. Just as Steve described, it was beautifully balanced with an acidic mineral structure and oaky finish. And for only $22.99 for the bottle, it’s quite a steal!
- Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Sec Cuvée Silex 2011 (Loire Valley, France): Vouvray is the most famous and respected appellation in the Loire Valley’s Touraine district. My top pick of the bunch, I ended up leaving that evening with a bottle. I think I preferred this Chenin Blanc because it was dry (sec = dry) but also a little ripe; juicy pear and floral notes in counterpoint to lemon zest acidity and clean-cut minerals.
- Paul Coulon Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2010 (Rhône Valley, France): This wine blend is selected to produce a tangy wine with deeply perfumed aromas: 30% Clairette, 20% Grenache Blanc, 25% Bourbenblanc, 22% Roussane and 3% Picpoul Picardan. This wine won the evening’s award for the weirdest descriptions including the smell of wet wood that has been sitting out in the rain and one classmate even described the aroma reminiscent of play-doh…And then Steve chimed in in the second round of tasting, “you know when you make a cup of tea, and you leave the tea bag around after you take it out and you say, ‘I wonder what a wet tea bag tastes like'”… Despite the hilarity that ensued, this wine was pretty enjoyable to me, just not worth the $46.99 price tag in my opinion.
- Domaine Paul Blanck Pinot Gris Patergarten 2010 (Alsace, France): I wanted this wine to be my favorite so I could tell Meme since she grew up in Alsace, but unfortunately I felt like this wine was almost too thick and fruity for me. It was a nice finish after six pretty crisp white wines, but this almost tasted like a dessert wine to me. Steve recommends pairing this with chicken, or Asian dishes like Thai cuisine.
I’m still working on refining my palate, but can’t say I’m not learning a few great things about wine. Next up: Oregon wines for summer! Pencil it in, people.