TN: High expectations: ESJ, Thomas-Labaille, Vissoux

3 reasonably priced wines, all much anticipated, with one slight disappointment, one happily fulfilling expectations, and one home run.
So my Champagne dinner Saturday had started at 5:30, even with a long dinner I was home by ten. Waiting for Betsy to call after concert, I decided a glass of red would do. So I opened the 2002 Wayward Pilgrims of the Vine "the Shadow" Syrah (California). This is an Edmund St John wine, but that's only visible in the small print. I believe story was that Steve Edmunds wasn't happy with 2002 Syrah fruit, so blended various parcels and released when he felt more ready (but at $12, I guess he rebranded to not undercut normal releases). This got good buzz, but I was pretty disappointed at first. Rather generic Syrah - straightforward blackberry-blueberry fruit with a firm tannin level and decent acidic structure. Perfectly acceptable for the price, but not exciting. But retasted Sunday evening, a much more complex wine had emerged. Smoke and leather over meaty Syrah fruit, a sense of earth. I think I'll put my remainder away for a couple of years to see what happens. Very nice for price. B+
Sunday was a long day (I spoke at 4 consecutive masses at a church in Crestwood). Little energy for dinner, I took some defrosted chicken breast and rummaged through fridge, came up with celery and leeks to bake it with. Used a little white wine for moisture, then the same wine with dinner- the 2005 Thomas-Labaille "Les Monts Damnes" Chavignol Sancerre (I always struggle with how to list non-appelation places like Chavignol!). This was a bit of a disappointment- very typical, citrus (grapefruit) on the palate with an accent of flint, but without anything that stood up and grabbed my interest. A perfectably correct and acceptable Sancerre, but maybe a couple shades below what I expected from a favorite producer in a very good year. Still a solid B
Monday I picked up Betsy at LGA, came home to where I had dinner prepped. Did a very simple pork tenderloin with Calvados cream sauce (recent Bittman article in NYT- you brown the tenderloins, then slice and brown cut sides- very easy, very good), steamed broccoli, and new potatoes. I gave Betsy choice of big white or light red, she felt like red. I opened the much anticipated 2005 Pierre-Marie Chermette (Domaine du Vissoux) "Poncie" Fleurie. Big ripe Beaujolais, really lovely, excellent depth of fruit. Fruit is darker than I'm used to with Fleurie, but so tasty I don't care. Maybe doesn't have quite the sprightly grace of Fleuries like the '02 Coudert regular bottling, but makes up for it in depth, richness, and class. This is a wine that can please Beaujolais fans yet also appeal to those who sometimes find Beauolais too thin. A-
Grade disclaimer: I'm a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C mediocre. Anything below C means I wouldn't drink at a party where it was only choice. Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.
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So a correction- a knowledgable poster on another board said that Steve Edmunds wasn't unhappy with grapes, but in the middle of a winery move combined all the fruit-Durell and Parmelee-Hill Vineyards (Sonoma Valley), Wylie and Fenaughty Vineyards (El Dorado County), Bassetti, (Central Coast) & Rozet (Paso Robles).
2002 Wayward Pilgrims
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The full story is available here for the interested:
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Basically, he always had great faith in the fruit, but never felt the time was right to bottle. It's an interesting story.
Mark Lipton p.s. Bill Paumen (who you might know) managed to bring this and several other ESJ wines into IN... for that alone I owe him many thanks.
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Mark Lipton

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