Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Unexpected Pairing

I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging this week in NYC, although I’ve naturally been tasting and drinking a fair amount of wine. One of the most memorable wines of the week was at brooklynguy’s house a few days ago, at the end of a lovely dinner involving Françoise Bedel with lentil soup, Mugneret-Gibourg Echézeaux with lamb and Roses de Jeanne just for the sheer pleasure of it. To wind down, brooklynguy served fresh ricotta from Esposito’s in Carroll Gardens, drizzled with Italian chestnut honey. It’s a delicious and refreshing combination that could probably pair with a number of different wines—I didn’t have anything particular in mind, but I was pleasantly surprised when he chose to accompany it with the 2007 Pierre Gonon Saint-Joseph Les Oliviers.

Made of marsanne blended with roughly 20 percent of roussanne, Les Oliviers comes from a highly renowned, south-facing hillside of the same name. Gonon produces both white and red St-Joseph of a rare purity, character and expression, and it’s difficult to see how anyone interested in traditional winemaking could fail to be moved by this wine. Its delicate flavors of pear skins, beeswax, honeycomb, white flowers and fresh quince demonstrate a finely poised balance, unfolding slowly and quietly on the palate rather than revealing themselves all at once. Delicate might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of today’s Northern Rhône whites, but this wine does indeed project a sense of delicacy, with its discreet flavors and elegantly controlled depth of fruit. It has a lovely texture, feeling like the lightest crushed velvet, and at 13.8 percent of alcohol, it feels fresh, lively and sleekly harmonious. The most impressive thing about this wine is its sense of restraint—in an era when so many Rhône wines subscribe to the philosophy that bigger is better, this wine is a model of finesse and subtlety. There’s something in its waxy, floral aroma that echoed and complemented both the ricotta and the chestnut honey, and the wine’s judiciously balanced weight allowed it to play harmoniously off of the cheese without dominating it.

Brooklynguy promises me that next time the ricotta will be Brooklyn’s Salvatore, which he was unable to procure that day, and I’m sure he will have another delightful pairing to surprise me with. But it would certainly be fine with me if we just drank another bottle of Les Oliviers....


Scott Reiner said...

Agree on the Gonon wines. Both the whites and reds are fabulous.

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