Pinot Noir grapes in a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy, France ~ September 2005
Thanks to La Belle Gastronomie, we were challenged to find a small production wine, as in 250 cases small, from any region, at any price point. A bonus of an extra warm fuzzie for finding a producer who produced less than 1000 cases of total production! No small feat and not for the faint of heart. But I am happy to announce, after consuming copious amounts of wine (just doing my research!), I am the recipient of a warm fuzzie! Not sure quite what that means but having won nothing other than my 3rd grade spelling bee, I was rather elated.
St Aubin vineyards and view of the town, Burgundy, France ~ September 2005
By some small fluke of nature, perhaps the planets aligned or the stars moved into retrograde (as you can tell I have no clue about astrology – my pastor calls it ‘spooky stuff”), I happen to live in the epicenter of all things wine—as far as the French are concerned anyways. To meet this challenge and earn the above mentioned warm fuzzies (who can’t use a few now and then), I only had to look a few hours TGV (high speed train) ride away. To the south-east to be exact, to a region called Burgundy which has absolutely nothing to do with those E&J Gallo 1-gallon jugs of so called Burgundy simply because it is red in color. THANK GOD!
Burgundy (the wine region in eastern France) is the Jan Brady of French wine regions. You have big sister Bordeaux (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) which gets all the attention and acclaim and little sister Chateauneuf du Pape (Cindy and her golden curls) to the south set in the most charming medieval town imaginable complete with crumbling castle and papal lineage.
Burgundy by contrast is unappreciated and pshawed, however, it is everyone else’s loss as Burgundy year after year produces some of the most highly treasured wine made today. Romanée Conti can fetch upwards of $5,000 a bottle and the whites from Chassagne-Montrachet or Puligny-Montrachet are unrivaled.
So in honor of middle children everywhere, or anyone or any wine who doesn’t receive rightful applause, I salute this wondrous Burgundy region with a tip of my hat, or wine glass as the case may be, to Domaine de l’Arlot.
Domaine de l’Arlot, located in the Côte de Nuits region, is nestled between the towns of Nuits St George and Premeaux, a 2 hour train ride from Paris. Owner and winemaker Jean-Pierre De Smet purchased l’Arlot in 1986 after working for the previous owner for 8 years. Today, about 33 acres (14 hectares) are planted with Pinot Noir grapes for the red wines, and approximately 2 acres planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Gris grapes for the whites. Robert Parker has heralded L'Arlot as "all that red burgundies should be."
Domaine de l’Arlot, Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru "Clos des Forêts St. Georges"
“This monopole (single wine maker) is a wonderful 1er cru located just north of Premeaux. The old vines produce a deeply colored and aromatic wine, with hints of plums & chocolate. It has real concentration and length with a meaty, silky texture.” "Great Value" -- Saveur Magazine
The Domaine has two premier cru (2nd highest ranking for a Burgundy wine, grand cru is the higest) wines: Clos des Forêts Saint Georges (17 acres or 7 hectares) and Clos de L'Arlot (10 acres or 4 hectares). The Nuits St. George AC is made from young Clos des Forêts vines, producing about 3,000 bottles (250 cases!). In 1991, Jean-Pierre De Smet added a parcel of Romanée Saint Vivant to its portfolio. These vines are located literally a stones toss (20 feet!) from the Romanée Conti parcel…..fortunately for us mere mortals eeking out a meager living, these Romanée Saint Vivant wines are much less expensive than their neighbor across the path!
Romanée Conti, Burgundy, France ~ September 2005
Now in the interest of full and fair disclosure, I can not take credit for discovering this Burgundian jewel. My friend Beth, with whom I cooked at the Cannes Film Festival last year, worked their vendage (grape harvest) this fall...
...and I was fortunate enough to reap the rewards of her backbreaking work when she popped by Paris for a few weeks to recuperate.
(left) Nuits Saint Georges Blanc, AOC "Nuits Saint Georges" with tropical fruit and exotic aromas due in part to few old Pinot Gris vines in the mix. (right) Côte de Nuits Villages, Clos du Chapeau, AOC "Côte de Nuits Villages" with earthy, red fruits aroma.
So the next time you are perusing a wine list and immediately gravitate to the Bordeaux or to the Loires, give good ol’ Burgundy a break and indulge in one of their beautiful, buttery (not oaky!) chardonnays or an elegant, earthy pinot noir.
And mark your calendars, this years’ Beaujolais Nouveau's Release is just a few weeks away!