Les discussed with us the possibility of tasting through all 10 of the Beaujolais crus (except probably St. Amour, which I've always thought of a wine for Valentine's Day, and was never especially impressed with anyway) over the next few weeks so we could discuss the influence of terroir. He also proposed a tasting of cabernet franc from the Loire. "Or, you could just do random bottles," he said, and plunked down in front of us an Arbois and a Valle D'Aosta. We like to do what's in front of us, and Elaine has already had both of these wines and loved them, so that's what was opened.
Jacques Puffeney Poulsard Arbois DOC 2006: "There is some complete aroma in here," I said. "I'm trying not to break it into components. Strawberries when they're still green? And a layer of cherry."
"There's something like red currant, and I'm definitely getting cinammon," said Elaine. "Cranberry...something botanical. There is also something that reminds me of sawdust--like the wine is corked, but it's not. And something floral."
"Rhubarb," I said.
"I'm getting rhubarb too," said Karl. "It really reminds me of my mother's strawberry-rhubarb pie, right down to the cinammon."
"I think of rhubarb as something sour," said Elaine.
"Not in my mom's pie," said Karl.
"I'm also getting a note of crisp green pear," said Elaine.
"It's moving from fugitive to evocative," I said. This provoked laughter. "Hey, I went to college," I said.
We paused to order apps: Duck breast, gnocci with gorgonzola, and crab rangoons.
"This is really opening up now," said Elaine. "Tannins are present and accounted for. This is real mountain wine."
"It needs yodeling," I said.
"And goats," said Elaine.
"I'm getting a little pickle note," said Karl.
"Dill?" asked Elaine. "I'm getting a little cranberry jelly note...cranberry and lemon...and the texture of aspic. Like trout in aspic?"
"Wow, when was the last time I had trout in aspic?" I wondered aloud.
"Cream cheese really cuts the acidity," said Elaine. "It's all fruit now...I could eat this for breakfast."
We were distracted for a few minutes by a montage of movie scenes featuring Yul Brynner on the TV. (Kathy usually has the TV tuned to Turner Classic Movies.)
We were additionally distracted by an ounce or two of "Axia" Syrah/Xinomavro 2006, which Les told us had been open since Saturday, and consequently had little nose left, but a whole lotta barrel char.
Then, on to Alpine Wine #2 (see, there really is a theme here).
Grosjean "Torrette" Valle D'Aosta 2007: This is petit rouge and a few other grapes, from high in the French-speaking Italian Alps. After the Poulsard, which was as light as a lot of rosés, this seemed positively beastly.
Me: "Yes. Also some red cherry and plum."
Elaine: "And that bitter walnut-skin finish."
Me: "That's how we know it's Italian."
Alfred Hitchcock's "Topaz" is now showing on the TV. Kathy advises us that it is one of the Master's worst movies.
Me: "I'm getting a note of watermelon." Incredulous looks from both sides. "Well, like that strawberry/watermelon note you get out of a Tavel," I said, defensively.
Elaine: "This is bloody. I don't know what is going on with the soil, but this is the same taste I get when I accidentally bite my tongue. I'm also getting some ripe apple."
Me: "Thank you for saying that! Sometimes I find my self censoring out aromas or flavors that I associate with white wines."
Karl: "Like an apple orchard when some of the fruit is rotting on the ground."
Elaine: "It's really open now. Loose and easy."
Me: "We say 'user-friendly.'"
Me: "OK, it's a little harlot, as Peter Tryba used to say. It's showing everything."
Elaine: "It's like a really good Brouilly or Morgon."
At some point, we'd ordered sandwiches; shrimp "poorboys" ("That spelling makes me nervous," said Elaine.) for Elaine and Karl, fried chicken with cheese, pickles, and mustard for me.
"I'd just like to confirm your pickle note," I said to Karl. "It's right here."