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On Tuesday the 23rd, my colleague Alan and I had the pleasure of attending a special lunch at Rouge Tomate, hosted by co-founder of Maison Lucien Le Moine, Mounir Saouma. Lucien Le Moine is a boutique winemaking house in Beaune owned and operated by Mounir and his wife, Rotem Brakin. Relatively new to Burgundy (their first vintage was released in 1999) the couple’s reputation for exceptional wines has grown fast. The winery is focused exclusively on producing grands and premiers crus from the very best growers in the region using traditional winemaking methods.
Le Moine is the epitome of artisanal craftsmanship in wine. The couple does everything in the winemaking process by hand, from carefully timed battonage (hand-stirring of the lees) all the way through to bottling, which is also meticulously timed and always takes place after a full moon for the benefits of ideal atmospheric pressure. From the beginning, Mounir and Rotem have selected grapes from only the best vineyards and growers, crafting their wine in precious small batches. They produce only between one and three barrels per Cru (that’s a very limited 25 to 75 cases). Keeping production this low means that the wines must be crafted with the utmost care throughout the entire winemaking process.
The small group attending the lunch had the pleasure and good fortune of tasting ten selections from Le Moine’s 2006 vintage while listening to Mounir’s passionate discourse. The red and white Burgundies that we tasted displayed the greatness of Maison Lucien Le Moine, giving the category of négociant wine a whole new connotation.
We tasted the wines listed below in order of appearance, all of which hail from Burgundy’s challenging 2006 vintage. The wines were opened at 9am, three hours prior to the lunch, and double decanted. Mounir emphatically recommended double decanting all Lucien Le Moine wines. Le Moine’s wines undergo a lengthy malolactic fermentation, the byproduct of which is carbon dioxide (CO2); the naturally occurring CO2 gives Mounir the option to use little sulphur dioxide (SO2), but the wines can end up with residual CO2 after bottling, hence the importance of double decanting. Mounir compared SO2 to a veil of make-up, dressing the wine up to make it attractive early on, but altering the wine’s true character. Mounir fervently opposes the popular credo in winemaking that SO2 is essential to making age-worthy wines and disagrees with its use for preventing oxidation.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Embrazees
Puligny Montrachet Les Enseigneres*
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champs Gain*
Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens*
Pommard 1er Cru Les Epenots
Corton Bressandes Grand Cru
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Combe Aux Moines*
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Estournelles-St-Jacques
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru*
Before establishing Maison Lucien Le Moine, Mounir studied viticulture and oenology, and then went on to work in wineries in both Burgundy and California. Rotem comes from a family of cheese makers and studied Agriculture extensively, with a focus on wine. She had worked in both Burgundy and California before establishing Maison Lucien Le Moine with Mounir. Mounir and Rotem were initially drawn to Burgundy by their infatuation with the native varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the couple soon fell in love with the unique and distinctive terroirs within the Côte d’Or. Mounir expounded on the terroirs of each wine that we tasted and the character that is imparted by various soil types, such as the clay soils of Charmes and the resultant tannic concentration and minerality.
All of Maison Lucien Le Moine’s wines are aged in custom-made barrels, sourcing the fine oak from the Jupilles forest. The barrels are customized for each vineyard, and even for the different vintages. All of their wines, both reds and whites, are aged on 100% of their lees and are gently stirred three or four times per month. The ageing on lees and stirring imparts the wines with impeccable balance and great complexity. The wines are bottled without being fined or filtered, which preserves the extraordinary character and unique quality of these wines.
Mounir’s candor and insights surrounding the region of Burgundy, the winemaking process and the industry as a whole, were captivating. As I mentioned earlier, Mounir was insistent on the importance of decanting Le Moine’s wines and recommended opening a bottle and enjoying that one bottle over the course of eight hours for the full tasting experience. He excitedly explained how the wine changes and evolves as it is exposed to oxygen over longer periods and how fascinating this whole experience is for a wine lover. Mounir emphasized the ultimate goal for wine consumers, which is the enjoyment of what is in your glass. Finally, this memorable event was concluded with Mounir’s recommendation against trying to dig too deep and to look for an explanation for everything that is happening in the wine. Just keep it simple and enjoy the wine! An excellent piece of advice, albeit easier said than done for many of us.
The Name Lucien Le Moine stems from two references: “Mounir” means light in Lebanese and “Lucien” is the equivalent in French. Mounir’s winemaking career began at a Trappist Monastery, where he learned about Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Le Moine” translates to “the monk”, and is a reference to Mounir’s experience at the monastery.
Steven Tanzer Reviews:
2006 Lucien Le Moine Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Reticent but very ripe, spicy nose. Rich, fat and exotic, with honey and spice flavors and a distinctly glyceral texture that called to mind a late-harvest wine featuring some noble rot. Finishes plump and long. 89-90 points
2006 Pommard 1er Cru Les Epenots Good deep red. Restrained, complex nose combines dark fruits, licorice, botanical herbs and subtle woodsmoke. Supple and broad but light on its feet, offering considerable early sex appeal to its flavors of dark cherry, minerals and oak spices. Has plenty of mid-palate fat to support its dusty tannins. Finishes with good grip and structure, and subtle lingering perfume. 90 points
2006 Lucien Le Moine Corton Bressandes Medium red. Musky, wild aromas of red fruits and smoked ham. Sweet, supple and meaty, with a slightly medicinal cast to its fruit but also a sensual texture given shape and lift by ripe acids. A classy Corton, not at all a brutal style. Finishes with slightly dry but fine tannins. 89-91 points
2006 Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru Good full red. Brooding aromas of dark berries, licorice and violet. Big, rich and sweet but a bit youthfully simple, with a wild aspect to the black raspberry and floral flavors. The saline, savory finish communicates a strong impression of soil. This needs a few years of aging to express its full personality. 91(+?) points
David Schildknecht, The Wine Advocate:
2006 Maison Lucien le Moine Pommard les Rugiens The Le Moine 2006 Pommard Rugiens is scented with lightly-cooked cherry and strawberry; comes to the palate quite broad, rich, and caressing in texture, with smoky pungency typically associated with this site and the ferrous soil for which it is named; and finishes with sweet, smoke-tinged fruit, though in a soft, slightly diffuse, low key manner. I would expect it to be at its best already within 3-4 years. 89 points
Lunch Venue Rouge Tomate, 10 East 60th Street, New York, NY
Emmanuel Verstraeten’s Michelin starred restaurant
Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman
On August 2, 2012, I visited Chateau Latour-Martillac in Pessac-Leognan for a tour and tasting with Tristan Kressman, one of the principals of the Chateau, the other being his brother Loic. The Kressman family has owned and operated the vineyard since the 1930’s. The Chateau first appears to be a fairly compact physical structure with the singular exception of a large “Tour” or tower at the front. From this vantage point, the interior of the Chateau grounds and production facilities are hidden from the eye. As one rounds the structure and turns into the interior courtyard , a much larger production/warehouse facility or “chais” is revealed. It is a charming spot on a slope with a nice look-out to the Pessac hills sloping toward the river.
Chateau Latour-Martillac is one of my favorite Chateau because their wines represent to me the essence of the Pessac-Leognan terroir at a reasonable price. The reds display the classic Pessac flavors of cedar, charcoal, cigar-box and powerful dark fruit. The whites are often flinty and tightly wound but are bound up in wonderful melon and fig fruit flavors and aromas. In top vintages, the whites have the structure to age up to 20 years.
The wines have not found a huge press or consumer following in the U.S. and this has helped keep the prices down to earth. It is a friendly and welcoming Chateau with a very nice visitor’s area that features the history of the Chateau and sells the wines to visitors. The wine is made under the direction of the two Kressman brothers, a full time oenologist (Valerie Vialard) and Denis Dubordieu. Dubordieu was the white wine consultant for Chateau Latour-Martillac for ten years and is now involved with the red wine as well since the 2006 vintage. Annual production of the grand vins is about 15,000 cases from 42 hectares. 80% of this production goes into the red wine and 20% into the white wine. The red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The white is usually about 65% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the wine is made with Semillon.
After the tour, we tasted a vertical of the red and the white. Below are my notes and few Parker numerical scores.
Grand Vin Rouge
2001 Chateau Latour Martillac Secondary flavors of cedar and cigar now becoming more pronounced in this wine. Ready to drink now.
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Still displaying the brute force of the vintage. Mouth tightening concentration and tannins envelope this wine in a package bound for long-term development.
2006 Chateau Latour Martillac Pleasingly concentrated and well put together for the vintage. The first vintage under Dubordieu.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Excellent freshness and concentration. A value vintage since it was released during a difficult economic environment.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac A beauty. Sweet and perfectly integrated tannins bound up in glorious fruit. A great wine from this estate and meant for long term cellaring. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Bottled in May and showing it. Has the fruit concentration of 2009 , one will have to see if the tannins and oak round out as nicely as the 2009. RP 90-92
Grand Vin Blanc
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Just coming out of its shell now.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Powerful acid and fresh fruit but less complete than the others whites.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Packed with great fruits characteristics and framed in wonderfully intense acid. Will age for a long time. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Similar to the 2009 but with perhaps a touch less fruit. Also build to age. RP 90-93.
For those of you who were unable to attend our Domaine Joseph Drouhin wine dinner at the ‘21’ Club on June 26th, don’t worry, I am here to give you the scoop. I’ll take you through the journey of delicious courses created by executive chef John Greeley and a mouthwatering array of nine wines produced by Domaine Joseph Drouhin. Just a heads up, I highly recommend reading this with a glass of wine in hand.
Our Drouhin dinner took place in the private dining room on the second floor of the ‘21’ Club, strategically named Upstairs at ‘21’. As guests began to trickle in, the pleasantly chilled 2009 Drouhin Vaudon Chablis was offered, a delightful pair for the various passed hors d’oeuvres, including a fresh lobster salad in a beautiful cone cracker, delicate smoked salmon toasts, and mini burger bites.
As our final guests arrived, we were seated at our tables, each placement adorned with the proper fine dining utensils and an overwhelming set of eight wine glasses, begging to be filled. Before our first course was served, we were greeted by our host, Laurent Drouhin, great grandson of the founder Joseph Drouhin, and one of four children at the helm of the estate. As the first wines were served, we had the privilege of receiving a mini lesson by Laurent on the Burgundy region, appellations, grape varieties, and of course, a little background on Domaine Joseph Drouhin. If only all classrooms were this way!
Our first two wines were the 2009 Meursault and 2009 Puligny-Montrachet, two delightful village Chardonnays which were paired perfectly with the fresh soft shell crab dish showcasing tender baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes and an herb-basil pesto. Both wines were crisp, with the Meursault expressing more yellow stone fruits, citrus and florals on the palate and the Puligny-Montrachet with slightly less sweetness and more spiced pear notes, lemon and minerality tones.
Next on the menu was lightly seared tuna with grilled prawns in a wasabi pea purée which accompanied the 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche and 2009 Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc. At this point in the dinner, monsieur Drouhin stood up to explain the two wines and this routine ensued throughout the rest of the evening. The Marquis de Laguiche was packed with different rich and round flavors spanning hazelnuts, ripe fruit and creamy butter. Similarly, the Clos de Mouche Blanc portrayed a blend of flavors, but with a different flavor profile, revealing a swirl of stone fruits, and firm acid and minerality that danced on the palate.
The amusement of our taste buds continued with the third course, a scrumptious pork dish lying lazily on a bed of red rice drizzled in the pork’s jus. It was a comforting dish with a genial medley of flavors, but none too overwhelming or overpowering. Along with the pork dish, we made the transition to Drouhin’s Pinot Noir selections and said farewell to our Chardonnay glasses, though many of us chose to keep them at our place settings to revisit as the wines continued to evolve. Our two picks for this dish were the 2009 Chambolle-Musigny and the 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin. This is where I found my personal piece de résistance, the Chambolle-Musigny. It was the perfect match with the pork, intertwining its balanced tannins, and subtle cherry and candied fruit flavors perfectly with the tender meat. The 2008 Gevrey-Chambertin was also dressed to impress, showcasing a velvety texture also with balanced tannins and more peppery and spicy flavors.
Despite my elation from the food and wine endorphins, a slight sadness settled over me as I realized that we were reaching the final course of the meal. The four selections of cheeses were accompanied by the last two Drouhin Pinot Noirs: the 2009 Volnay Clos des Chênes and the 2008 Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge, each sporting red fruit aromas, but with the Volnay Clos des Chênes showcasing refined tannins with plums and floral fruity flavors that lingered on the finish, and the Clos des Mouches Rouge portraying an earthy and firm body with tart rhubarb, some spice, as well as sweet and silky fruit.
The amazing combination of exquisite wines and gourmet dishes in an atmosphere both informative and relaxing was utterly mind-blowing, and an experience to remember. Now if you’re feeling hungry, I apologize for exciting your salivary glands, but if I have portrayed the slightest notion of this delectable dinner to you, I am satisfied. If you feel that this is the kind of event and experience that you don’t want to miss out on, we host a number of events every year that you can choose from. We have several great dinners lined up in the fall, our next one on the list being the Chateau Palmer Dinner at Aureole in September. Stay posted for more events to come!
Sarah & Sparky Marquis are the husband and wife team and winemakers behind Mollydooker, an award-winning winery in South Australia’s McLaren Vale region. The couple’s 2009 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is named for their son, Luke, whose photo appears on the label. The 2009 Blue Eyed Boy is an exuberant knock-out with aromas and flavors of blueberry pie, mint and chocolate, rich and balanced with a lovely freshness on the long, smooth finish. This powerful, fruit-forward wine packs a punch, yet has plenty of finesse, and turned out to be the perfect wine to enjoy on this rainy Friday night.
Sarah & Sparky’s dedication to quality is apparent after reading their story, which solidifies the wine’s impressive character and charm. This is some serious juice that conveys the fun, friendly spirit of Australia with every sip (not to mention the playful label)!
“The 2009 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz is a 20% Langhorne Creek and 80% McLaren Vale blend matured in 71% new and 29% 1 year American oak. Very deep garnet-purple colored, it is profoundly scented of blueberry and black cherry with touches of mint, mocha and the faintest whiff of damp loam. Very full-bodied, the bold, ultra-ripe fruit is well supported by medium-firm chewy tannins and medium-high acid, leading to a very long and pure if slightly warm finish. Drink this one 2012 to 2017+.” – Wine Advocate, 92 points