Monday, November 16, 2009

My 1/4 of a day spent at the Ten Bells in New York City

Shit is getting a bit boring over here. Yes, I'm calling myself out on the lack of excitement of late. There is no academic rigor a la Jules Chauvet discussion. No antagonistic comments back and forth between high profile NYC sommeliers and high profile blogger and wine forum participants regarding the merits of orange wine. Just a feeble bunch of weekly to twice weekly posts over the last few weeks about what I don't quite remember because me, I'm as bored as you probably are.

So, what better than a good old rambling post about that institution of natural wine bars in New York, The Ten Bells, enjoyed in the company of cool knowledgeable wine people, opinionated folks who love to drink. Incidentally, that's what it's all about - drinking. Food is good, potentially delicious. Ditto wine. Together they can either fight, exist in relative harmony, or fit hand in glove in a special, delicious, symbiotic existence. Most often the middle descriptor is apt. So, I say, let the wine speak on its own merits, and do not hesitate to drink wine without food!

Prior to the big Kermit Lynch tasting at Chambers Street, McDuff, Natalie and I attended a casual tasting of wines from the Loire et Cher imported by Louis/Dressner at the Ten Bells. Several producers were present to pour their wines. The event was probably the most low key, relaxed trade tasting environment in which I have ever been. Whether due to our arrival earlier on in the tasting, the relaxed demeanor (persistent jet lag?) of the producers, or the City's conservation of energy leading up to Halloween festivities, things were mellow. Which was fine- mellow works well for wine tasting. We started out tasting Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay and Cot from the Clos Roche Blanche, except they weren't made by Catherine Roussel. Rather, it was made by Noella Morantin, who rents some of CRB's vineyards. They were all tasty, though the 2008 Morantin Gamay Mon Cher was a particular favorite - I've a soft spot for tangy red fruit. Next it was off to Olivier Lemasson's table to taste Les Vins Contés wines. I do enjoy both of these, both the focused P'tit Rouquin Gamay and the deep, mineral Cot. Next, a new producer (I think) for Dressner in Cour Cheverny, Domaine du Moulin. OK, not great. Romorantin better than the Cheverny Rouge. From there we tasted a few Puzelat wines: the '08 "Rouge Est Mis" Pinot Meunier which was a juicy, fun drink to be sure. It was a wine I had a tough time spitting. Finally, we tasted the 2008 Clos Roche Blanche 'Pif,' the blend of Cabernet (Sauvignon and Franc) with Cot. It's a bit tough and tannic now, and needs at least 6 months to a year to show better.

Fast forward about two hours, after we had been to the Kermit Lynch tasting, when we returned to The Ten Bells to drink (not taste) some wine. With a few tasty bites on the table (salmon tartare, beef tartare, squid and seaweed salad, and others) we drank the following (all magnums, no "half bottles"):

2007 Puzelat "La Tesniere" Touraine (Menu Pineau/Chenin) - As fresh, cutting and palate awakening as ever. Perhaps a bit more generous than what I expected, compared to the piercingly acidic Brin de Chevre.

2006 Domaine Henri Milan Le Grand Blanc

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Rolle (Vermentino), Chardonnay, Roussane and Muscat, this is actually similar to the blend in the wine which I thought this was, the Chateau de la Tuilerie (thanks again for the correction, McDuff). There is a minerality and freshness to the wine (in addition to the nutty/sweet oak and fatty texture) that suggests some pretty excellent terroir here near Avignon, France. Marl and limestone in your soil doesn't hurt your chances of producing interesting wine.

2007 Dard et Ribot 'K' Crozes Hermitage Blanc
Fun and pure fruited, but I didn't give it a whole lot of attention. I suspect that it will never taste as good as it did with pig ears salad at La Verre Voleé.

2008 Puzelat Pinot Noir Touraine
I thought I had ordered "La Tesniere," but it in fact was this Pinot Noir. Competent and quaffable if a little bit lacking in excitement compared to the vinous company surrounding it.

2008 Houillon/Overnoy Ploussard (aka 'plou-plou'; 750ml)
Tense, tight berry fruit which I liked but clearly needs some more months and ideally years to show better. As this was only a "half bottle" it was not plentiful so it came and went fairly quickly amongst us eight.

1989 Olga Raffault Chinon "Les Picasses" (750ml)
Not the wine I wanted it to be. Don't you hate when that happens? Very softly textured, with fully resolved tannins and full on tertiary wet tobacco development. Somewhere there was some fruit but not with enough vibrancy to keep me interested.

Late night we headed to Casa Mono, Mario Batali's ode to the Spanish tapa, where it was packed and we were directed next door to Bar Jamón, something of a 'B' team designation amongst these two establishments. Especially given the quality of the tapas, which were mediocre at best. My memory of Casa Mono three years ago is that of a much stronger restaurant putting out much fresher and more lively food than what we ate at Jamón. Other than jamón, I don't remember what I ate at Bar Jamón, partially my jet lag, but more owing to the lackluster cocina. C'mon, Mario, the people deserve better.

Overall it was a fun night in the big city, though I don't recommend putting in a 20 hour day following the California to New York red eye.