Thursday, October 21, 2010

Annual Burgundy Adventure

There is not a single buying trip that I enjoy more than the one to Burgundy. The place breathes wine history and is home to some of the most storied vineyards on the planet. And it’s remarkably - and refreshingly - unpretentious to boot. In glaring contrast to the moneyed interests that dominate Bordeaux, the Burgundians are multi-generational farmers who know their individual plots of land down to single vines (it’s almost scary how in tune the best growers are with their vines). The dirt roads that meander through the Route des Grands Crus and the ancient catacomb cellars beneath the village streets are as authentic as it gets, and the very essence of the romantic side of the wine business.

Before I get into my love letter to the ’09 vintage, I need to tell you about our tasting headquarters for the annual Burgundy adventure. Our home base is supposed to be kept a secret, but the people running this place need to be supported: Castel de Tres Girard. It’s the old village winery co-op of Morey-St.-Denis lovingly turned into an utterly charming hotel and restaurant. It combines an historic stone building with modern amenities and cuisine, and your room will overlook the village and vineyards. Yes, Bounty Hunter has a wine locker in the foyer. No, we didn’t get a discount for saying nice things about them.

On to the wine…
2009 is the most profound vintage of young red Burgundy that I have ever experienced. Tasting from barrel is a black art, but I have enough merit badges to know the difference between “bad,” “decent,” “maybe” and “oh(!) s$%!(!) this is good.” My tasting notes for 2009 samples involved phrases like “I want to bathe in this” and “Excellent choice for the last meal of a condemned man.” I came out of several cellars literally shaking my head in stunned silence.

There is heartbreak to be had with Burgundy for reasons that cannot be adequately enumerated here, but there is also a magic in the glass that exists nowhere else. When they get it right, everyone else is fighting for second place. When I had my first “’09 moment,” I asked my importer liaison (and palate of 25+ years of Burgundian experience) whether or not I was really tasting what I thought I was tasting. He was in agreement that he had never seen such completeness and potential in barrel samples.

As you can imagine, we basically bought whatever was offered to us from this glorious vintage. I normally wait until I get home to review my tasting notes before making any decisions, but there’s no way I was going to let some German buyer come in two days later and pilfer the goods. Yes, the boss is likely to strangle me when the bills come due, but I’m gambling my reputation as a buyer and unapologetic Pinot freak that the mainstream press is going to lose their minds over 2009 (I know I did). The first batch of releases will start landing on our shores next month, and I highly recommend you talk to your Wine Scout about what’s on the water. It will be a feeding frenzy once they land.

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

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