At Bobo with Jean-Charles Boisset
Winter drinking at its best—BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Camus Cognac.
I can’t resist having dinner with a sexy winemaker.
And Jean-Charles Boisset is one of the sexiest. He’s not only French with that irresistible melodic accent but also has pedigree, being from one of Burgundy’s top wine families, owners of the centuries-old Bouchard Aine & Fils in Beaune. Yes, charming, handsome and rich. He’s amassed a collection of wine estates in California (Raymond Vineyards, Buena Vista Winery, DeLoach Vineyards and more) and also 9 in France under the brand The Boisset Family Estates Collection. (I think he is married, alas, so he didn’t make that scrumptious list of Town & Country’s 50 most eligible men in the world.)
The evening turned out to be sexy all around. The wine tasting dinner was held at one of the city’s most seductive spots, Bobo in the West Village, an under-the-radar restaurant that has a cozy English country house vibe and a talented chef, Cedric Tovar (with whom I once traveled on a “chef’s tour” through Vietnam).
So, let me take you through the whole scrumptious affair. We started off with a sparkling wine called “JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset, Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rose, No. 69,” a method champenoise Burgundy. I’ve tasted lots of cremants lately, from Bordeaux and Alsace, and I must say this refined Burgundy with its delicate bubbles was really impressive. As I nibbled on amuses of escargot in pastry, steak tartar and smoked salmon, I somehow imbibed two glasses of this marvelous bubbly, which got my evening off to a sparkling start (i.e., one of those nights when I can’t quite remember the circumstances of just how I arrived home, as I greet the after-midnight doorman).
Next we compared a French white Burgundy with a California Chardonnay over courses of fluke carpaccio with jicama remoulade and pumpkin diver scallop. Raymond Cellars Reserve Chardonnay from Napa was lightly oaked, fruity with tropical notes and just delightful, but I simply adored the more intriguing and nuanced Domaine de la Vougeraie, ‘le Clos Blanc de Vougeot’ Vougeot 1er Cru Monopole 2009. The Domaine was first planted at this “clos” by Cistercian Monks in 1100 and only a limited number of bottles are allocated to the US, so it was a rare treat. Burgundy certainly took this round.
Strangely enough, the group broke into a Burgundy drinking song, which I had never heard. While singing, they childishly revolved their palms on both hands, as if waving to each other. Onto the reds paired with two expertly prepared courses of pheasant and then an Angus beef duo of roasted rib eye and beef cheeks. Chef Cedric certainly pulled out all stops. Here I preferred the sensuous Raymond Reserve Cabernet Napa 2009, with its “Rutherford dust” deep flavor to the lighter-bodied ‘Les Ursulines’ Bourgogne Rouge.
Of course, like at all wine dinners, the winemakers pontificate about their wines and in this case, Jean-Charles carried on an inspiring discourse with less ponderous detail than most (less talk of the weather conditions of every vintage). The group broke into our little drinking song at every opportunity until the extravaganza ended with the Apple Ice Wine (La Face de Cachee, produced by Francois Pouliot) from Quebec and apple cider sorbet.
This winter I started the “Cab Club.”
The idea was germinated when I did a New-Years- resolution-inspired inventory of my wine collection and discovered some extraordinary bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Instead of hording them, I vowed I’d share the wealth and hold tastings for friends. My first Cab Club soiree, held in late January, showcased one of Napa’s oldest most esteemed wineries, Beaulieu Vineyard. We opened the legendary BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been made continuous since 1936. It’s Napa’s first true cult wine.
First I gave a history lesson to my “charter members of the Cab Club” to build excitement and respect for the wine they were about to experience. Frenchman Georges de Latour arrived in California in the early 1900 and founded Beaulieu Vineyard. Latour soon brought over winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, who became a legend in California for his winemaking innovations and clonal research. In fact, wines made from a single Cabernet clone, clone no. 4 or no. 6, are sold in limited edition bottles, an esoteric thrill for wine scholars. BV continued to produce wine through Prohibition by supplying sacramental wine for the Catholic Church and is one of California’s oldest continuously operating wineries.
Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernets are known for their layers and layers of flavors, their rich notes of black fruits and mostly for their “Rutherford dust” notes, a loamy, earthy, dried herb, black olive taste that comes from the prized Rutherford soil.
When we tasted the 2009 BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, it was eye-opening, highly aromatic and possessed all the characteristic Rutherford dust notes, along with red and black fruit, blackberry, cherry, cassis—and licorice and chocolate. And it displayed that perfectly structure of a noble wine.
The friends, two of whom were food critics and are accustomed to describing flavor notes and textures, remarked how they were able to pick up those notes of black olive, cassis and licorice and how they enjoyed the velvety mouth-enveloping texture.
After this iconic bottle was emptied, we opened a few other Napa Cabernets (expensive, but at half the price) to compare and that’s when the integrated exciting flavor of the Georges de Latour became most notable. We sipped the wines while dipping our bread into a centered hot pot of delicious fondue and consumed a variety of French saucissons, both of which didn’t overshadow the wines. My Cab Club was off to a great start.
And the dinners with the exacting pairings go on and on, this time with fine Cognac instead of wine.
The family-owned Cognac house Camus—celebrating its 150th anniversary through 5 generations of Camus family members—showcased its new editions over a dinner at Brassiere Cognac.
The evening started off with the house’s signature Camus VSOP Borderies Limited Edition, an inspiring luminescent orange brown hued cognac with vanilla, orange and spice notes.
After the entry level VSOP, we entered the rarified cognac arena with Camus EXTRA Elegance ($400), gold verging on mahogany in color with distinct aromas of violets and complex flavors of walnut, tobacco and a hint of leather. The eaux-de-vie for EXTRA is made from the best grape growing regions of cognac: Borderies, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. The unlikely pairing with fish—sea scallops with pumpkin puree and wild mushrooms—worked surprisingly well to accentuate the rich flavor notes of this refined cognac.
Next we experienced an unusual creation: a vintage cognac. In the land of Port everything is about declared vintages, but in the world of cognac, it is usually about a blend of many years. Camus Rarissimes vintage 1991 ($225) is from one vineyard and one vintage year. Strong and extremely spicy with plum and almond notes, Rarissimes resembles a single malt scotch. Its character is distinctly different from multi-year blend cognac and higher proof at 92 degrees (rather than the standard 80).
The house of Camus is known for creating unusual releases like this rare single-vintage collectible. Again, unconventionally, it was paired with fish: Nova Scotia halibut.
The final presentation was the piece de resistance, Camus Cuvee 3.140 ($4,800, edition of 950). The age of the three cognacs that go into this rare edition add up to 140. They include 65-year-old Grand Champagne, 39-year-old Petite Champagne and 36-year-old Bons Bois. The flavor was pure ambrosia with jasmine, dried fruit of prunes and citrus and a woody forest note.
Part of the Masterpiece Collection by Cyril Camus, Cuvee 3.140 comes in a Baccarat crystal decanter designed by Serge Mansau. The multifaceted glass bottle rests in a handsome off-white Italian leather case with 24-carat gold leaf details. A small number of bottles were allocated to the United States and of course the rest will be swept up in the Asian markets, which covet for these exquisite limited-edition cuvées.
The dinner ended with a dessert called a Floating Island (vanilla crème Anglaise and caramel lace), a nice sweet complement to offset the spicy and vibrant Camus Cuvee 3.140. After this tutorial tasting on cognac, I hardly remember my walk back across town to my East 50’s apartment. My doorman always asks upon my return, “So what did we drink tonight, Madame La Baroness?” He was awestruck when I answered, “$5,000 a bottle cognac.
My two wine discoveries of the month came at an exciting dinner pairing wild boar and Brunello.
The dinner was hosted by Philip di Belardino from Castello Banfi in Tuscany at a most charming hidden away wine cellar room, part of the restaurant Aroma Kitchen and Wine Bar on East 4th Street. To find the cellar you first traverse the restaurant and descend a very narrow and steep back staircase leading to an outdoor courtyard and the entrance to this stonewalled wine cellar.
Before the unrolling of five different vintages of Brunello di Montalcino, the first wine served with the aperitivo was Castello Banfi Belnero 2009, a blend of mostly Brunello (Sangiovese) with a touch of Cabernet and Merlot. At $25 this extremely appealing and drinkable food wine with its soft tannins and savory notes of prunes and coffee was a real discovery.
Then came a parade of Brunellos from various vintages in the 2000’s going back to 1998. Vito Polosa, the chef and sommelier at Aroma, expertly prepared the boar in innovative dishes: wild boar and broccoli rabe frittelle, braised boar shoulder, wild boar ragu and wild boar rib in porchetta. It was the Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2006 ($68) that showed its big beautiful body and luscious notes of black fruit and tobacco, both juicy and earthy. The 2007 was a close elegant second. During the dinner Philip di Belardino, who reminded the tasting group that Banfi Vitners/Castello Banfi has come a long way since bringing the world Riuinte on ice, led us through the Italian toasts: cin cin, salute, and cent’anni (hundred years of good luck).