The Big 10, Champagne, Burgundy, and #OTBN

Heart Shaped Chip at Commonwealth Restaurant
A heart shaped chip & bubbly to kick off our romantic dinner.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to open more of “the good bottles.” Like a lot of people, I often tend to be too precious with many of my bottles–I store them away like little jewels. However, unlike jewels wine does not keep forever; and how sad it is when you open a bottle to find it has missed its prime. Open That Bottle Night (#OTBN) provides a perfect reason to seize the day and follow through with this resolution. Wall Street Journal Writers Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher came up with the idea to inspire people to crack open a bottle that been languishing in the cellar for far too long (see more info here). The Wine Pairing Weekend crew, lead by David at Cooking Chat, celebrated by opening bottles on February 24th, and is sharing their finds this weekend (scroll down to see more).

As happy as I would have been an excuse to open a bottle anyways, I actually had even greater reason to celebrate a week earlier when Greg and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary! This was definitely a reason to break out the good stuff if ever there was one, so I thought I'd combine the two events. We decided to open not just one, but two Splurge wines–a Pommard and a vintage Champagne. There were also a few other delicious sips along the way.


Us now, right before our dinner.

Us on our honeymoon in Cartagena–10 years ago!!!
To celebrate this evening we made early reservations at Commonwealth in the SF Mission. They really made it a special night! They brought us a lovely glass of Domaine Gérard Villet Vin Mousseux de Qualité Extra Brut to start the evening on a celebratory note. (I could not find this wine on the producer’s site, but did find it in this WSJ article for further description.)  I have recently been enjoying some beautiful bubblies from the Jura–I highly encourage you explore these wines when looking for alternatives to Champagne. Greg and I also ordered a glass each of Káli Kövek Rezeda Welschriesling 2015 out of Hungary (here is the 2016 info) and Tatomer Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner Santa Barbara County 2016. Each paired well with the earlier dishes in our dinner–the Welschriesling was light but had a lovely roundness and pretty aromatics, while the Gruner had hints of sea minerals that gave it clean finish.



Domaine Lejeune Pommard Les Trois Follots 2013


Domaine Lejeune Pommard Les Trois Follots 2013 by Greg Hudson
Photo credit: Greg Hudson

We also brought a bottle of Domaine Lejeune Pommard Les Trois Follots 2013 to accompany the later courses in our dinner. We often like to bring a special bottle with us to go with a special dinner out. Of course there is usually a corkage fee and it’s always good to check on this in advance. (I believe the corkage fee at Commonwealth is $20, but it’s not 100% clear in my memory.) While we’d perused the menu online, we weren’t set on what we’d be ordering and a red Burgundy is always good choice for these moments, as they tend to pair well with a wide variety of foods. We sadly don’t have as many of them as we’d like in our “cellar,” so opening one up seemed particularly celebratory.

This domaine traces its history back as far as 1783. The buildings originally were owned by the Church, but were sold in 1793 after the French Revolution brought about the secularization of the region. For five generations after this, the domaine was passed from aunt to niece, although their site does not explain the reason for such an interesting succession. The domaine ultimately took its name from Maxime Lejeune who passed away in 1864. It now belongs to the family of François Jullien de Pommerol, a former oenology professor, who is in charge of the vineyards and the winemaking. They strive make wines in a traditional style, while taking advantage of modern current technology. Their wines are unfined and unfiltered. (This and further information can be found on their website.)


This was a sleek version with plenty of fresh acidity and fine tannins. It had notes of lightly spiced cherries and berries. It had a savory finish inflected with herbs, flowers, black tea, cedar, and a hint of earthy mushroom. It was light but with a firm core. This wine was still quite young and even with decanting it remained a little tight. We probably opened it slightly early, however, 2013 was a bit of a difficult vintage, so that closed off quality could have been the vintage showing itself. In any case, the assumption is that this vintage won’t age all that well and it is definitely better to open something a little too early than too late. Moreover, even if it was a touch young it paired beautifully with many of the dishes we had that evening, just as we’d hoped! 


(Note: Since posting this, the producer left a comment on the Instagram that they believe that this will continue to develop until 2020.)

Here are some of the beautiful dishes we had that evening: 


Shrimp mousse, sweetbreads cooked in beeswax at Commonwealth Restaurant
Shrimp mousse, sweetbreads cooked in beeswax, popcorn purée, yuzu kosho milk, pea tendrils. This was the drop the mic dish in our book.
Roasted carrots, smoked tofu, black garlic, sunflower seed butter, lime, dill, sumac.
Roasted carrots, smoked tofu, black garlic, sunflower seed butter, lime, dill, sumac.
Sea urchin, squid noodles, egg yolk jam, squash, squid ink tuile, nori, yuzu, shiso
Sea urchin, squid noodles, egg yolk jam, squash, squid ink tuile, nori, yuzu, shiso. How gorgeous is that?!
Young hen, parsnip, vanilla, sprouted rye porridge, celery, parsley, truffle emulsion.
Young hen, parsnip, vanilla, sprouted rye porridge, celery, parsley, truffle emulsion. So complex and deliciously composed.


To finish things off we had a glass of Demeter Zoltán Late Harvest Tokaji 2016. I love Tokaji–it’s among my favorite dessert wines–and it was a perfect end to the feast! Thanks so much to the staff at Commonwealth for making it such a lovely meal. 

Demeter Zoltán Late Harvest Tokaji 2016



J.L. Vergnon Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs Champagne Confidence 2008

J.L. Vergnon Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs Champagne Confidence 2008
Photo credit: Greg Hudson

Since our dinner was quite early, we continued our celebration into the evening. And let’s be honest, such a big milestone definitely deserves Champagne! I happened to have stored away a bottle of J.L. Vergnon Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs Champagne Confidence 2008–our wedding year!

J.L. Vergnon is based in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the sub-region of the Côte des Blancs, which is famous for its particularly chalky soils. The chalk helps to retain acidity in the grapes, producing wines of renowned elegance. This estate has been in the family for five generations, and Jean-Louis Vergnon inherited it from his mother in 1950. He first sold fruit to local cooperatives, then began making his own Champagne in1985. His son and grandson, Didier and Clement, now head the estate.


Jean-Louis saw the quality of his fruit when he began bottling his own wine, and began pushing harvest dates pack in order to get as ripe and balanced grapes as he could–aiming for 11 degrees of natural potential alcohol or more. This in turn has allowed them to completely eliminate chaptalization and block malolactic fermentation while still making balanced wines. In 2002, they brought on Christophe Constant as winemaker, and under his tenure the house really began to gain recognition. Enologist Julian Goût recently took over as winemaker this past November. While young, Julian has already had stints working working with Anselme Selosse and at Taittinger, among others. The house farms sustainably, avoiding pesticides. Most of the wines are vinified in stainless steel and they keep to a generally light dosage throughout their range. Their wines are aged for a minimum of 36 months on the lees, but most are aged for much longer before release.


I could not find a tech sheet for the 2008 Confidence specifically, however, 2008 was quite a good vintage in Champagne. The Chardonnay grapes for this wine come from the domaine's oldest and best parcel in Le Mesnil, Les Hautes Mottes. They rely on indigenous yeasts for primary fermentation on this cuvée and it is barrel fermented and aged (only 10% new on the 2010). The wine ages for at least 3 years before being disgorged (the 2010 vintage spent 6 years on the lees) and is finished without dosage. (In addition to the J.L. Vergnon and Skurnik websites, I found additional information in
But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine by David White.)

I found this wine to be a particularly savory Champagne, like bread baked with herbs and topped with salted butter. There were also notes of preserved lemons and lemon curd, almonds, with a sharp minerality at the core that leads me think that this wine definitely could age for much longer.


(Quick aside–I recently had occasion to try the 2009 version of this wine at a Skurnik trade tasting and my notes read as follows: Round nose–rounder on the nose than on the palate. Deep gold apples, a little toasty, savory pastry on palate. It was more forward than my recollection of the 2008, which would be consistent with the difference in the vintages as 2009 was warmer. See more on recent vintages here.)


We enjoyed this Baller Wine cuddled up watching a movie later that night. However, I’m sure it would be delicious with any number of dishes, particularly chicken or seafood and an herbed butter sauce would match the notes flawlessly.


It was a wonderful 10th anniversary and we’ve been continuing the celebration since with more yet to come! Stay tuned.


I’m also happy to say that we had occasion to open more delicious bottles on OTBN weekend with friends–some ours, some theirs. You can see my Instagram post of that night on Nibbling Gypsy here.
 

*****

Be sure to check out how the rest of the Wine Pairing Weekend group celebrated #OTBN:
Don't have a blog post about #OTBN to share? No problem! Join the conversation about #OTBN and special wine and food pairings by joining our live Twitter chat. Tune into the #winePW hashtag on Saturday, March 10, 11 am ET / 8 am PT to join the conversation. You can also check out past and future #winePW topics on the Wine Pairing Weekend page. Get ready for the April #winePW which will be on Exploring the Wines of Navarra Spain, hosted by Gwendolyn at Wine Predator. For background on #OTBN, visit our Open That Bottle Night Invite post. For background on #OTBN, visit our Open That Bottle Night Invite post.

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9 comments

  1. The sea urchin dish especially caught my eye Nicole! The JL Vergnon would be great with it I’ll bet. Nice evening you had, your article left me with a smile ;-)

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    1. Thanks so much, Lynn! I believe we had that urchin dish with the two white wines mentioned early on, and they both also went really well.

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  2. Looks like an amazing night Nicole. Looks like I need to get busy planning our 10th anniversary dinner!

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  3. Happy Anniversary, it sounds like a delicious celebration.

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  4. Happy Anniversary! I would say you celebrated in style! Any favorite pairings?

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    1. Thanks Jane! The Pommard went generally well with many of the dishes we had, but I do recall it going particularly well with that Hen dish.

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  5. Congrats on your anniversary! Good idea to bring along a special bottle of wine to the restaurant for the occasion.

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