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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Grill Akafuji
9 Hillcrest Boulevard
Millbrae, CA
650.692.9967


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