Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Lovely Loire

A few years back the wife and I joined another couple at Bastide, one of the few 4 star restaurants in the LA area at the time, or ever for that matter. It's since changed chefs and styles then closed last year for a new name, chef and cuisine. At the time, Christophe Rolland was sommelier and oversaw a voluminous wine list comprised entirely of French wines. Anyway, the day before our dinner, Wine Spectator had reviewed some wines from the Loire Valley, including those of Didier Dagueneau, which received outstanding scores. Sure enough, there was a Dagueneau Silex (pronounced "see-lex") on the wine list for $90 (listed as the 2000, he brought out a bottle of 2001, the wine just reviewed!--I humbly pointed out the misprint to Christophe) and since it was a business dinner and this was a great value on a very pricey wine list I ordered it. Turned out to be an excellent choice that everyone at the table truly enjoyed (we also had a bottle of 1996 Chateau Palmer, which was lovely). Interestingly, I went back to Bastide about a month later and the Silex was still on the wine list, correctly listed as the 2001 and now $25 more per bottle.

Being curious as well as mostly ignorant about the wines from Loire, I did a bit of web searching and found out that Dagueneau is both a renowned producer from the Loire Valley and quite the wildman, aggressively reducing yields in his vineyards, not chaptizing, criticizing other producers and their below grade wines and generally following his own course in the wine world. Stories of Dagueneau literally brawling with hostile Loire-ians and critics abound, though given that he's a hirsute bear of a man I doubt that too many folks really want to mix it up with Didier. Perhaps the man and the myth separate from reality here. At any rate, I tracked down some of his Silex and Pur Sang (a different vineyard where horses turn the earth in fallow portions) at Fine & Rare Wines in London, my grey market contact. The dollar was doing OK against the pound sterling then too so I bought a case of each at good prices (below $40 a bottle overall) then waited forever to get it imported via refrigerated shipping containers.

When the wines finally arrived about a year later (seriously) I tried both and . . . was very disappointed. The wines were thin, herbaceous, reedy, very marginal. Bummer! So I waited and waited and waited; another bottle of the Silex that I opened last year was better but still couldn't touch the wine that I had at Bastide. I thought maybe the wines were cooked on the dock or some such thing and that I now had about 20 bottles of expensive cooking wine. Total drag.

Anyway, a few nights ago (undaunted) I opened a bottle of the Didier Dagueneau 2001 Silex, Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, (which is now retailing for about $130 a bottle, yikes!) and hoped for the best. Thank God, the wine was lovely, showing surprising youth, complexity and balance. Phew! I'll have to try the Pur Sang soon and see if it has rallied as well.

Tasting Notes: Opening nose of white peach and asparagus, gooseberry and honeydew melon mid-palate, racy and plush at the same time, nice mineral edge compliments a complex array of citrus (mostly lime) and tropical flavors (pineapple). Amazingly balanced, long lingering finish. Many years of good drinking here.

Rating: Tasty (borderline superb, maybe the next bottle)

Cheers, Barrld

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