19 Apr 2007

'Say no to fads...'

LUNCH WITH Au Bon Climat winemaker and cook Jim Clendenen went well (he dislikes the formality of 'Chef'). Slow cooked chicken morsels were gnawed off paper plates at two long, varnished planks pushed together in the cool blue winery beneath bottle-chandeliers whilst slurping barrel samples and uncorking entities unavailable in Blighty.
I won't go into too much depth because this will form the subject matter for my next Southwark News article. I was however taken aback to see a lean, Parmesan odour free Tocai Fruilano amongst the whites, and also a portion of Aligoté in the Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc ode to Olde Burgundy, Hildegard (the back label reads 'Say no to fads, don't forget the past, and if you spill, use salt and soda.' If you want to know the history behind the wine, buy the bottle...
As ever, his reds far outshine the whites, including the sawn-off Chardonnay. The '06 Lot 2 Bien Nacido Clone 115 (the Americans are far too obsessed with telling you exactly what bloody clones they use) was expressive with wild tannins. A handsomely pretty Pinot.
I also tasted some of Qupé's liquid posessions whilst being nuzzled by winery dogs. This master of the Rhône-Ranger shares the same winery, behind a customs-friendly rolling shutter. A barrel sample of the '05 Roussanne (a variety I would happily see dispensed with) had slight hazelnut and al dente cabbage aromas.
A barrel of the first picking (or pass) of the '06 Bien Nacido Syrah (which looked like a blood transfusion when squirted into the glass) was so generous, yet still so young. It seemed complete, with a warm blanket heat. Incidentally Qupé have three fan clubs in Japan, as well as their own...
I spent the night in Carmel by the Sea, a rural, boutique clad town home to Clint Eastwood (the former mayor). An evening of horseradish-spiced Bloody Marys and dice games (which I somehow continually won) led to an inadvertant, alas non-sexual, trouser-ripping escapade!
Incidentally, George Michael would have been proud of the bathroom in this cocktail bar.