Thursday, November 17, 2011

Henri Milan and Jesús Lazaro: French and Spanish Organics

Domaine Henri Milan is a wine estate in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence. Henri Milan has been running the estate since taking over from his father in 1986. He grows his white grapes in blue marl, soil similar to Chablis, with some clay and limestone and gravel. The total vineyards area is 42 acres (including red grape plantings). I had done a little bit of research on the wine. Jancis Robinson praised his 2004 effusively, but also called it “intellectual,” which as we know can be a warning flag for some. Brooklynguy called the 2007 vintage “polarizing.” So on Sunday evening, when I put a bottle down on the countertop at Bob & Sandy's, I announced that they had permission to hate it if need be.

Domaine Milan “Le Grand Blanc” (N/V, but probably 2008) Vin de Table, St Rémy de Provence: This was made from a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino (even French people have a hard time pronouncing “Rolle”), and Roussanne. Milan is not certified biodynamic, but follows some biodynamic practices. A little cidery tang on the nose says there has obviously been some extended maceration here, although the wine doesn't look “orange.” Our first impressions were of gingerbread, almond, pear, and some very characteristic Southern Rhone floral character. In the mouth, the wine was tannic, oxidative, and showing some flavor of grapefruit zest, with an almost grainy texture. Our next impressions, after about 20 minutes, were of more conventional apricot, anise, and dried honey flavors. At the 90 minute mark, the wine became luscious: The oxidative notes receded, the texture softened, and a rich aroma and flavor of ripe honeydew melon came to the fore (reminiscent of the super-ripe cantaloupe flavor of the Radikon Oslavje Bianco from the Orange wine tasting).

While I was more than happy with the journey the wine took us on, I think next time we'll decant for at least an hour beforehand.

Dinner featured smoked duck; I was invited to look in the cellar for something appropriate, and found a bottle I'd sold to our hosts, back in 2008, I think. The duck was going to want something with some power behind it, and Ribera del Duero is usually a good bet. Thus:

Adrada Ecologica Raices de Aza, Ribera del Duero 2004: This wine made a brief appearance in the portfolio of importer José Pastor. It was made at Adrada Ecologica, a certified-organic producer in Ribera del Duero, by Jesús Lazaro. Lazaro works the vineyard as well as makes the wine, which Pastor points out is quite rare in Spain these days. It is 100% Tempranillo, made from head-pruned vines of 70 to 80 years of age, all grown at high elevations on a single estate. It was aged in French oak for 12 months. Sandy likes a big red wine that has lots of secondary and tertiary flavors; this one offered many, including smoke, earth, roasted spice, and vanilla to go along with red, blue, and black fruit flavors and aromas. It was remarkably pure-tasting, and we were surprised at the softness of the tannins. “Raices de Aza”
translates as "Roots of the Town."

2004 is widely regarded as one of the better recent Spanish vintages. Pastor notes that while the 2005 vintage was a dry one, with attendant problems with under-ripeness, wines made on old, draught-resistant vines like those on Lazaro's property may show more refinement and elegance. (A brief search showed no bottles from either vintage still available at retail, although I would be happy to be proved wrong about this.) Read Alice Feiring's appreciation of José Pastor here. 

After dinner there was Trimbach Poire William. The Trimbachs have a reputation in Alsace for relatively austere wines; obviously, they have no such compunctions when it comes to fruit brandies. It was like drinking liquid bosc pear.

After the after-dinner drinks, the Chef snagged the duck carcass. You can learn its fate here.

 The Henri Milan was from Table Wine; the Raices de Aza was from The Asheville Wine Market.

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