(Note: this was written on the afternoon of July 14th– the race stops for no one, especially the writer, so you will mind its belated information.)
A day of remembrance and celebration, Bastille Day sees villages all around France celebrating the end of feudalism– raising a glass and lighting a firecracker to their Republic. Bastille Day found us bumming around Beaune, taking a morning jog, popping in to a couple shops that opened their doors and grabbing a bite on a sunny patio, while anxiously awaiting the Tour start. There was little to be done to calm our minds. Today was a day that would tell us much about our main man. As I write this, there is much to be grateful for (he is still in this race!), but there wasn’t quite the exhale we hoped for today. Talansky’s body, like so many of the leaders that were sketched for this Tour’s top riders, has suffered much injury so early in the race. A much needed rest day comes tomorrow. It has been brutal, wet, cobbly and trying on so many in this first week. A fascinating race, though, to say the least, as really little can be predicted at this point. Vive le Garmin-Sharpe! 😉
Last night, we were so fortunate to be guests of Jeremy Seysses (Domaine Dujac) and his lovely wife Diana Snowden Seysses (Snowden Vineyards). This winemaker couple has always blown me away not only with their talent, but their ability to raise a family with such unparalleled devotion. We were able to meet their two little boys last night as well–both chipper, chatty, active little boys. We were greeted with some Vilmart & Cie Champagne and welcomed the sun, as it fought its way through the persistent gray that held its ground for the past couple days.
There is little I wish to convey about a dinner with friends– at least nothing that is all that relevant in this space. But I insist on telling a couple tales of the wines they generously punctuated the evening with for us. After the bubbles, we did a side by side of Sherry. Both Manzanilla. Both En Rama (‘raw’ or filtered). It was a really interesting exercise, as they were profoundly different. While the La Gitana from Bodegas Hidalgo showed a more opulent, ripe side of this seaside appellation (white peaches and floral dominated), the Bodegas Barbadillo Solear en Rama Invierno demonstrated impressive minerality, that sharp quality briny quality of salty air and seashells. The palate of the latter was more severe and focused– unrivaled for those who truly crave a more aggressive, typical expression from this unique terroir. Both were smartly paired with fresh grated tomato soup– a simple, fresh alternative to a traditional gazpacho that you might find in Andalusia (fair bit more garlic, spices amongst other additions). Most people would shy away from the picky pairing of fresh tomatoes, but this choice of a light, dry fino was brilliant…
For dinner, Jeremy killed it (literally) with a pig he got to know last year, who goes by a name I would rather not say 😉 Traditional bbq, this was one of the most delicious pigs I have ever tasted. Truly. Chapeau, my friend! He pulled two bottles from the cellar of Clos de la Roche– a coveted Grand Cru parcel on the northern reaches of Morey Saint Denis, brushing up next to Gevrey-Chambertin. From the color, one could see they were incredibly different. The first showed more age. The nose was also remarkably dissimilar. The one with less color let go of a bit more fruit, embraced its tertiary qualities and really shone in its older age as incredible Burgundy does. Do not misunderstand. It was not singing its swan song by any means. It was just getting comfortable in its skin, no nerves and awkward edges. It was classy, sexy and soft-spoken. It was gorgeous. This wine was born in 1989.
The second followed the highly acclaimed 1990 vintage– we were drinking 1991. This vintage worried many, as a late August hail storm nearly condemned it from success. Rain as well in September seemed to ensure a poor report. Still, winemakers such as Jacques Seysses saw here an opportunity to demonstrate the value of hard, focused experience. He was one of the few to prove so many wrong. This was one of his absolute favorite vintages to produce.
My palate won’t lie. This 23 year old wine was riveting with realized potential. Savory qualities of salty, cured meat clouded my nose, then I worked my way to the layers of fruit still present in the wine. This wine’s heart was beating like a teenager on prom night– it had energy and spontaneous language anxious to form. Alive and wonderfully young, I could not believe these bottles were only 2 years apart. While my character and palate loved the old soul poetry of the ’89, one couldn’t help but admire the youthfulness of the ’91. Honestly, must I even compare? These were both out of this world and beyond expected. I will forever remember it.
Finally, a familiar squat bottle with yellow liquid came to the table… Was it? Yes it was. Chartreuse. But what year? I turned the bottle to the side and saw the year World War II ended: 1945. Like teh nectar from a honeycomb, this rich liquid fell into my glass. Notes of chamomile and pine bark settled into my nose, along with about twenty other layers of interlaced aromatics. It was a moment to savor fully and recognize of its rarity. Apparently, Monsieur Seysses fell in love with this wine many years–decades– ago at Maxime’s in Paris. He inquired to the quantity and took as much as he could. It is not difficult to understand why…
No words can really summarize the gratitude we felt that night. We were left speechless, humbled, inspired… but mostly, delighted.