Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wine Seminar w/Laurent Bonnois at LFK

Laurent Bonnois (left) here from France for wine seminar @ LFK
One of those moments we are so fortunate to experience on a more than frequent basis here in Portland is when a winemaker or wine importer comes to town to speak about and share first hand the wines he/she either makes or represents.  In this case Laurent Bonnois, the importer behind Maximilien Selections was here recently giving a wine seminar at LFK, a local hotspot in the West End of Portland, (which incidentally provided an excellent space for an intimate tasting seminar).  Laurent hails from the Loire Region of France and thanks to Devenish Wines (Ned Swain & Brendon Pringle - local afficionados), we are now able to experience his wines directly.  He is truly at the forefront of the Natural wine movement, representing natural, organic, sustainably farmed and biodynamic wines.  As Ned states, "his local connections allow him access to smaller production off the beaten path wines and limited releases of older vintages that wouldn't normally make it into the US". In a few cases, Devenish has releases available no where else in the US!

Laurent has been around wines and winemaking since a young boy, when at age 8 he recalls working on the harvest.  His family also owned wine property.  Later on he found himself in the US, working in New York city restaurants and then opening his own wine shop, Blanc et Rouge in Brooklyn.  He, his wife and children moved back to France in 2007, to Bourgueil in the Loire.  This enables him to stay close with family and also to be more intimately connected with the winemakers and wines that he loves.

We tasted a unique selection of wines including some obscure grapes from the terroir of the Loire. Have you heard of Tressalier?  Trousseau?  Or tasted a sparkling Cabernet Franc?  Here's some of what went down!  These are beautifully well crafted, subtle wines.  Don't expect big fruit bombs here!

The Line-up!

The Laurent St. Pourcain 2011 Tressalier/Chardonnay was first on the list.  This white blend is racy and minerally with perhaps a touch of chalkiness, along with a hint of pear.  The Tressalier is a local grape and brings liveliness and acidity to the blend.  Clean, Refreshing, Simply Complex, Delightful!

Terres Blanches Chenin Blanc
Domaine des Terres Blanches 2010 Chenin Blanc was one of my favorites.  Aged on lees for 6-9 months, this wine has a rich golden yellow color with hints of citrus on the palate, more in terms of the acidity and clarity present rather than a lemony flavor. Fleshy yet dry, it made me think of sea air and oysters on the halfshell ... yet also weighty enough to entertain a nice goat cheese!  This is biodynamically grown with corn and sunflowers raised nearby. Esoteric and Rambunctious!

The winery itself (Domaine de Terres Blanches), owned by Benoit & CĂ©line Blet is located in the historic village of Oiron next to a centuries old Abbey. They came upon the property previously owned by a single man in his 60's who was reluctantly starting to consider selling, and ended up moving in for a half year to get to know each other.  Thereafter, the man decided they would be excellent caretakers of the vineyard and agreed to sell.  They immediately began farming biodynamically, as Benoit was so accustomed as a young person.  His family grew seasonal crops and tended livestock as well as a small vineyard.  Biodynamic is where everything grows in concert with nature - insects, other plants, and with cycles and seasons.  

Tasters reveling in the wines!

Laurent poured the Alexandre Monmousseau Vouvray Sec "Ammonite", to illustrate how the Chenin Blanc grape can be expressed differently.  This one had a subtle vein of sweet that lightly touched center of tongue, like nectar (and incidently was served to President Obama last spring when he was here at the Portland Museum of Art!) ...  medium dry (sec); In contrast to the dry very clean finish of the Terres Blanches Chenin Blanc.  

Domaine Grand Cotes du Jura Trousseau 2010.  Trousseau is the varietal, rare indeed!  This one exhibits much restraint and subtlety. The region of Jura from whence it comes is located East of Burgundy, near to Switzerland.  With a distinctive earthiness on the nose, like twigs on the forest floor (see earthy sienna red color below), it has a light perfume and sherry on the palate.  A dry, light red.  Lovely.  For a more in-depth review, see my previous article back in August:

Cotes du Jura Trousseau

Dom. Terre Blanches Ancestral Rouge
I think my absolute favorite was Domaine Terres Blanches Ancestral Rouge, sparkling Cabernet Franc!! (same winery as mentioned above).  The color is a brighter, lively red (see photo right).  With red licorice on the nose along with a hint of anise, immediately followed by lively juicy red and black fruits such as red raspberry and cassis, this has fine sparkly bubbles and was absolutely delicious!    No added yeast is used here.  This is completely natural fermentation in the bottle (and completely fun!)  

This would be splendid at Thanksgiving, either as an aperitif or with the bird itself!  Serve it with your meal or bring it as a gift ... and Enjoy!

Dom. Terre Blanches Ancestral Rouge

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the two other Cabernet Francs presented that evening.  Again, very unique and individual expressions here.  Domaine des Terres Blanches Anjou Demon 2010.  A very new world label ... playful and a play on words *Angel (Anjou)/Demon (Demon).  With much depth and earth on the nose, even herbaceous, this was ever lighter on the palate.  Understated restraint alongside pungeant earth.

Chevalerie Bourgueil Galichet

Domaine de la Chevalerie Bourgueil Galichet 2009.  This Cabernet Franc is deep red garnet in color, with funky/musty aromas, slightly spicy with ripe fruit on the palate.  Dry finish.  Austere in every elegant sense of the word.  

This winery is located in Bourgueil, the appellation in the central Loire Valley of France that's focused on red wines.  Part of the Touraine region, Bourgueil is often associated with its neighbors Chinon and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil.  For more info on the winemakers and vineyard itself, read Ned's blog about his trip there last spring:

Laurent with inquisitive & happy tasters!

These wines range in price from $12.99 - $17.99 a bottle.  Reasonable prices for a rare experience! And as Laurent says, they are truly meant to be enjoyed with food in the most down to earth way. Distributed here in Maine through Devenish Wines and available at the Rosemont Markets, The Bier Cellar and Brown Trading Co. in Portland; Blue Hill Wine Shop in Blue Hill (and perhaps other venues ... I'll be checking and let you know!)

All photos by Lisa Dombek  © 2012

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