Saturday, July 19, 2008


It is something of an insider’s (read: wine industry) secret that a certain long standing San Francisco restaurant, owned by a prominent out-of-town restaurateur with a list formulated by one of North America's 96 master sommeliers, has a burgundy list to die for, with stocks on wines that are virtually impossible to find elsewhere, at prices which reflect what they might have cost over a decade ago. So I ventured to this restaurant with my girlfriend after checking out the SFMOMA Frida Kahlo exhibit as well as some truly bizarre contemporary Chinese art. It was a perfect evening of geeking out: the lady on contemporary art and myself on Burgundy.

Since the idea was to get a bottle of something really unique, which would probably not be inexpensive, we decided to sit at the bar, forego ordering food, and make some dinner late night at home. The choice was difficult. ’95 de Montille Volnay ‘Champans,’ some older Raveneau, various 1er crus from all over. And I could go on – the point is that I have never seen as many varied vintages of burgundy on one list at such reasonable prices. Cost of entry will start at around $90, and goes as high as you want to take it. I went with a botte of '85 Philipe Rossignol Haut Cotes de Nuits and it was a gamble that worked itself out. Counting on the reputation of the producer (whom I mistakenly confused with Nicolas Rossignol, a great producer of Savigny-les-Beaunes), combined with the strength of the 1985 vintage in Burgundy, I figured that my chances were at least 50-50 that the wine would still have life and provide an interesting drinking experience. A beautiful, soft, medium ruby color, I held the glass up to my nose, breathed in the perfume, and knew that all would be well. Very delicate, cherry, floral, dark truffle and cocoa powder notes abounded on the nose. Flavors on the palate were at first mainly of sour cherry with a ton of mineral. While the flavor deepened to include umeboshi paste (made from super tart, salted Japanese plums), I couldn't help but notice the intense minerality and saltiness of this wine. Furthermore, the tannins were fine, but increasingly firm. It appeared as though the fruit were drying out, leaving acidity, tannins and saltiness in their wake. While the wine is clearly on its downward descent, it was amazing just to be able to taste a humble village burgundy with so much bottle age.

Drinking mature wines could become an expensive habit, I'll need to closely monitor my consumption.

Thanks to Luc for the tip about this mystery restaurant's bar and ridiculous burgundy list.