Monday, January 11, 2010

Mr. Pinot

I have a confession to make. Big, bold mouth-staining wines don’t do it for me. So rarely do I eat the food that complements them well: the aged cuts of beef, the savory fatty pork dishes and all that pan-seared caramelized goodness. But give me a lithe and lean pinot noir or a spicy elegant cabernet franc and I’m in heaven. On Friday night, I took a friend for dinner at Momofuku. I hadn’t been there in at least a year, and the food was just as good—or better—than I remember it. And, given their dirt cheap corkage fee, I had a good bottle in tow: a 2001 Fougeray de Beauclair Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru ($105). I figured that a classic year like 2001 would provide an object lesson in what well-made pinot noir can be. Much to my dismay, though, Momofuku does not have stemware. I’ve certainly heard arguments to the contrary, but a good glass does help Burgundy and older Bordeaux. Tumblers are too narrow and deep to allow the wine the proper space to recline, stretch itself out, breathe and warm up. With the door at Noodle Bar opening every thirty seconds, the room was quite cool and our Bonnes-Mares remained chilled throughout the meal. But it showed very nicely next to the steamed pork buns and roasted Hudson Valley foie gras. Deep garnet-purple and medium-bodied and perfectly pleasant to quaff, it all but lacked that iron-fist-in-velvet-glove appeal that should characterize grand cru Burgundy. Noodle Bar is hardly the sort of room where you can relax with your food. It’s more about people-watching and chatting with your tablemates, interspersed with the requisite swoons of “OMG, most delicious thing ever!” Afterward we retired to the hipster-swank Hotel Delmano in Williamsburg for a flight of artisanal rums, while a trio next to us embarked on a most dangerous game of tequila, Tecate and spicy tomato juice.

Last night, a wine colleague and I opened a bottle of Michel Gaunoux’s 1999 Beaune ($48). Two steps down the scale from Grand Cru status, this village-level wine was absolutely stunning. Granted, ’99 was a better vintage than ’01, but this wine showed such poise and restraint. It didn’t advertise its superior vintage with fruit-driven oeno-shenanigans. Britons like to refer to “breed” in wine, and I think that term is apropos. Pinot snobs often thumb their noses at Beaune as an appellation that is better known for its whites, but I’ll take its reds any day. The Gaunoux was pure and mineral-driven with silken tannins surrounding a ruby core of crushed red berries, leather, game and a hint of Asian spice (the ground white pepper called prik thai that you’ll find in a Thai specialty store). A little online research revealed that, while this is a village-level wine, it contains grapes from two Premier Cru parcels. I will definitely be snapping up a few more bottles of this at PJ’s for the cellar.


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