Unfortunately, I decided to drink a bunch of wine and enjoy myself immensely instead.
Fortunately, I have wonderful news to report about both the quality of the wines and the quality of the food at Mistral Kitchen. Let's start with the wines. I'm not normally much for the 'let's give a list of the wines with tasting notes' format- partly because I don't organize my thoughts that way, partly because I think that it's a lazy way to talk about wine, and partly because I think that it implies a permanence of experience that I don't believe exists in wine. However, there were so many good wines that I want to talk about at this event, so I feel like I need to give them each their own space. Let me just start with this disclaimer: My imperfect memory tells me that these wines smelled and tasted like this to me on that evening. Your experience will likely vary, possibly greatly.
Also, I think I'm right about vintages, but might be off. Again: I am a bad blogger. Shame on me.
Also also, I'm going to break this up into several posts, firstly in order to focus on each winery featured individually, and secondly because it makes my life more manageable.
Part The First: Beaux Freres
This isn't the first time that I've written about Beaux Freres, but this time I was able to try a larger line-up of their wines all at once. I am happy to tell you that the quality of these wines is phenomenal. They show very well in a chaotic environment; they are expressive and open, while still hinting at more right outside the bounds of sensory perception.
2008 Beaux Freres Willamette Valley Pinot Noir:
Aromas of blueberries, strawberries, toasted nuts and dried sage dominated the nose of this wine. The palate was tarter than expected - think cranberries - but with a red fruited sweetness as well - think ripe strawberries. The herbal element from the nose carried through to the palate in a 'forest floor'/'Willamette Valley herbaceousness that I never know how to describe' kind of way. The wine was appropriately concentrated; that is to say, not watery, but not to the extent that makes me call a wine 'Syrah-ized.' My basic conclusion about this wine is that it's good because it tastes like Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. That may seem like an obvious statement, but in the world of international/industrialized wines, finding something that shows a sense of the character of its variety and place is an event to appreciate and savor.
Please note that this wine is $50(ish). That is not cheap. I can understand the price point - low yields, expensive fruit, uncompromising method of production, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Should you buy it at this price point? I won't tell you that you absolutely must. However, if you want to experience a wine, sometimes you have to go ahead and forget about the price. This might be one of those times.
2007 Beaux Freres 'Upper Terrace' Pinot Noir:
The Upper Terrace is Beaux Freres' second estate vineyard. From their website (I love websites with tech specs):
This adjacent parcel is located on the crest of the next hill north of The Beaux Frères Vineyard. The 'Upper Terrace' vineyard consists of ten plantable acres of southeast-facing hillsides. The soils are also Willakenzie at elevations similar to those of The Beaux Frères Vineyard. Eight of the ten acres are currently planted to five of the new Dijon Pinot Noir clones (777, 667, 115, 114, 113) and the remainder to Grenache. Our first bottling of the Beaux Frères - Upper Terrace Pinot Noir was the 2002 vintage.
This was nicely concentrated for the vintage. Rich, juicy dark fruit dominated, but the Willamette herbal element shined through as well. A long, lingering finish, but with a slight bitter edge that was only minorly off-putting. I know they're gentle with their production methods at Beaux Freres, but they seem to have gotten a bit of green tannin in this one. Still, all in all a really nice glass of wine.
2008 Beaux Freres 'Beaux Freres Vineyard' Pinot Noir:
Again, from their website re: the Beaux Freres Vineyard:
The Beaux Frères Vineyard is located on an 86-acre farm atop Ribbon Ridge in the Chehalem Valley near Newberg (Yamhill County, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA). Tall and stately Douglas fir trees cover nearly 50 acres of the farm, with homestead and winery buildings occupying another 6 acres. The vineyard is situated on 30 acres (24 of which are planted) of steep, contiguous southeast, south and southwest facing hillsides of Willakenzie soils at elevations of around 400 feet.
Planting began in 1988 with Pinot Noir vines planted tightly spaced at a density of about 2200 plants to the acre. Currently (2010) the vines range in age from 11 to 22 years and are predominately a mixture of own-rooted Pommard and Wädenswil clones inter-planted with several Dijon clones on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks.
Now THIS was what I was waiting for. Fruit! Spice! Elegance and power all mixed together to form one great, big, powerful statement of grace in a glass. I, frankly, loved this wine. It had the muscular elements that I look for in a solid glass of Pinot Noir: Firm tannins, medium-high acidity, lean but pervasive fruit. Their oak treatment seemed to be just right; it was present in the form of pleasant spice box and cedar without being so potent as to overwhelm the (strong but still delicate) Pinot Noir fruit. And it lingered on and on and on. This is made in a slightly hedonistic style, but not so much as to be considered Syrah-ized at all. Delicious.
At $100 (or $90 or whatever, but why mince words? Once you go over $85, your wine might as well be $100) this bottle is fricking expensive, but I don't care. If I were a millionaire I would have two cases of it. As it is, I'm not even vaguely a millionaire, and so therefore I will have zero bottles, but will gladly drink it when it is purchased by others.
They also poured the 2009 Les Cousins Pinot Noir, but I've written about it here before, so I won't waste your time by going into it again. Let it be said that I found it to be consistent with my previous notes. I still think it is an excellent value, and is the Beaux Freres wine that I will actually consider buying, as it fits into my (extremely low) budget.
As I am a terrible blogger, I have absolutely no pictures of any of these wines. I am sorry. I won't let it happen again.
Part the first: End.
Tune in next time for: Brickhouse.