I always thought I had a “California palate,” because much of my experience has been working with and judging wines from California and I’ve tended to prefer wines with big (yet balanced) upfront fruit and spice. Because of this emphasis, I thought the subtlety of imported wines was lost on (what I perceived to be) my somewhat regionalized palate.
I simply love good wines. This was revealed and confirmed the other evening when I was lucky enough to take part in a very special five-course dinner that featured Chablis wines paired with each course. Three words – Oh, my, God. I had no idea that the balance, complexity and overall finesse of those Premier Cru and Grand Cru Chablis wines would completely rock my world, but they did! All of the wines were amazing, with the common denominator of balanced aromas and flavors of citrus, toasted nuts, apple and clean mineral notes, wrapped up in bright, juicy, yet rich mouthfeels.
The dinner was sponsored by Pure Chablis (www.pure-chablis.com) , a French organization dedicated to educating the world in all things Chablis. Our host for the evening was Jean-François Bordet, the young, darkly handsome President of the Chablis Wine Board and proprietor of Domaine Séguinot-Bordet (which he took over from his grandfather). The man was drool-worthy.
Calistoga’s Solbar Restaurant provided the warm, woodsy-chic ambience and perfect service. Executive Chef Brandon Sharp did an outstanding job of crafting the amazingly delicious dishes that were perfectly paired with the wines. Here’s the menu (OK, I can’t help it, neener-neener!) ~
Autumn Squash Veloute with Creamy Asian Pears and Sunflower Seeds
Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2010
Coriander and Dark Rum Smoked Salmon with Rye Crisp, Horseradish, Lemon Cucumber
La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet 2009
Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Beugnons 2009
Sunchoke Agnolotti All’arrabiatta with Broccoli Romanesco, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Domaine Pinson Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2009
Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2009
Crispy Monterey Bay Squid with Charred Meyer Lemon Aoli, Walla Walla Onion, Sausalito Springs Watercress
Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2008
Seared Diver Scallops with Apple-Miso Soubise, Red Mustard Greens, Easter Egg Radish
Domaine Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2008
I forgot to mention that all of these wines are made from Chardonnay grapes, but they are unlike any Chardonnay I’ve ever tasted. I am usually a card-carrying member of the ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay), but this magical evening made a believer out of me. That’s what true Chablis is, folks – it is not some nondescript wine in a big jug, it is Chardonnay. Technically, “Chablis” is both a wine, and a region where the grapes are grown the wines are produced. And the wines I tasted were really, really good Chardonnays. No butter-bombs or over-oaked, high-alcohol monsters here. Oh, yum!
So there you have it, go forth and learn about Chablis – go to www.chablis.fr or www.pure-chablis.com and read about this amazing, historic region and its equally amazing wines, go your favorite wine shop and pick up a few bottles of Premiere or Grand Cru Chablis, grab some steamed Dungeness Crabs or other delicious seafood and have a Chablis epiphany. À votre santé!