Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Bite and A Sip Before the Giants-Red Sox Ball Game

An American Burgundy producer based in Beaune since 1997, Alex Gambal works with some very good growers across the Cote d'Or, making small lots of wine from well-chosen sites. Aware that he is an outsider, he aims to produce Burgundy that offers value and accessibility to his largely American audience in a style that is as pure as possible.

I started buying Alex Gambal's wines in the late 1990s. He started as a negociant-eleveur, buying finished wine for elevage and sometimes fruit. He worked at a facility in Beaune near the train station. In 2005 he purchased a spacious old cellar along Beaune's peripherique that allowed him to expand his range. I visited him right after he moved in, and there I also met his young cellar master, Fabrice Laronze, who worked with him for 10 years before starting Domaine des Terres de Velle.

In 2011 Alex Gambal made history by purchasing a small parcel of Batard-Motrachet, making him the first American and non-Frenchman to own a grand cru vineyard in Burgundy. He also owns parcels around Volnay and in Puligny Premier Cru Les Ensegnières. Despite Alex's considerable exploits in Burgundy the American press has not covered him much, thus most Burgundy drinkers aren't aware of his wines and how long this American has been making terrific Burgundies, including from prestigious grands crus vineyards.

One of the first Alex Gambal wines we carried at the store were 1998 Charmes-Chambertin and Mazy-Chambertin grands crus, including half-bottles. We sold these half-bottles for less than $50 and they gathered dust on the shelf!

So I just kept the demi-bouteilles for myself and opened one of the 1998 Mazy-Chambertin recently at Coco500 prior to heading to AT&T Park to watch the Giants-Red Sox game . At 15 years of age it was drinking gorgeous. At first I thought it needed drinking up--but as it often happens with great wine when given a chance to open up--after the last pour and still the wine never lost freshness and showed more structure I thought this was solid vin de garde.

A bow to traditional pairings, I guess, I ordered a plate of duck liver crostini to go with the Mazy. Toothsome as this was, it was easily surpassed by a bowl of tripe and lima beans--a genius dish, which I can't remember seeing on the menu before. It was unforgettably stupendous with Alex Gambal's half-bottle of 1998 Burgundy. On a quick meal before a ball game, I was not expecting to be blown away like this.

There was a full moon--a blue moon--rising over San Francisco's AT&T Park this night at the ball game. My team, the Red Sox, won. But my mind was still on the tripe and red Burgundy.

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