Monday, February 11, 2008

A Mix of Burgundies and a Rhône

I’ve enjoyed more wines at Grill Akafuji in Millbrae than at any other place. The man there, Mizuno-san, serves up simple and tasty bento box meals that I find fascinating to pair with any wine.

Recently I got together with a couple of friends at Akafuji so we can check out four interesting wines: two white Burgundies, a red Burgundy, and a northern Rhône. 4:3, that’s a pretty good ratio of wine to drinkers. The 1997 Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru “Clos des Chevaliers (monopole)”, Domaine Jean Chartron started out tight, but an hour or so later blossomed exuberantly, with lanolin and mineral oils, peach-almond and citrus flavors. Very nice purity. Rich yet with a nice lift and an elegant finish. Deliciously drinking but far from mature.


The citrus was echoed in the 1999 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Maison Bertrand Ambroise, but more intense, gathering flavors of lemon zest and lemon oil. High-pitch laser-like focus, with tingling freshness on the palate. Excellent purity of fruit. Full of vinous energy. Years away from fully unfolding, but promises to be extraordinary.


On to the reds with the 1997 Romanée-St.-Vivant Grand Cru, Domaine Thomas-Moillard. Tight and closed at first, then an hour or so later, splendid! Fleshy, deep, long, and well layered, with a grace and focus that’s truly impressive. Thomas-Moillard is not a producer I usually seek out, but this is a wine to seek out. Perhaps the ripeness of the vintage countered positively the dilute tendency of this producer’s wines. Whatever it was they did, they did brilliantly on this one.


An oddball is the 1998 Hermitage “Les Bessards”, Delas. Deeply colored, nearly opaque, and tightly wound and austere on the palate, this was giving out funky minerally, iron rust, oxidative-like scents, though the taste was fresh and youthful. Really odd. This reminded me of my experience with Domaine Chave’s 1989 Hermitage the first time I opened it, about 8-9 years from vintage date—disappointingly thin and austere. I forgot about it for a few years then opened another one, this time it was fleshy and aromatic, sweet and layered. I will give the Delas the same benefit of doubt.


Grill Akafuji
9 Hillcrest Boulevard
Millbrae, CA

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