There are many reasons I love wine – I love the variety of tastes it brings us and how it enhances a meal. Even more, I love how wine is a vehicle for sharing experiences with friends and I love how every great wine (and I mean great in the sense of being pleasing, not great in some archaic ranking system) has a story. Wine offers a direct connection between earth and consumer – when we taste good wine, we taste the place where it’s from. By my standards, a generic wine that does not taste of its origins simply cannot be considered a great wine. And, I like how wine inspires, how the achievement of a winemaker can spur us on to achieve something in our world too.
I often have a similar experience when I chat with chefs – like winemakers, they are artists and artisans who craft something wholly new out of disparate ingredients. I had this experience watching Chef April Bloomfield recently on the PBS television program The Mind of a Chef. Bloomfield is the British-born chef who became famous by earning a Michelin star for her gastro-pub The Spotted Pig in New York. Bloomfield is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is how wonderfully thrilled she is when things come together, as they do in an excerpt from her show in which she shares her pleasure at how a simple morning pastry is made. Sharing a baking moment with pastry chef Chad Robertson of San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, she revels in one of life’s great pleasures: making a yeasted puff pastry dough, a dough that is seductive in its texture and feel as you need it, then fold it and work it. I make a dough like this for croissants, and I shared Bloomfield’s pleasure watching Robertson whip out a huge batch with such apparent ease. My mixer is smaller, and I roll by hand not by machine, but this felt familiar to me.
(Photo: Domaine Parent)
Earlier in the week, I discovered a pinot noir I hadn’t tried before, a Burgundy made by Anne Parent, a 12th generation winemaker in Pommard. Pommard was the village that produced the first good Burgundy I tried as a young wine lover. It was a wine that gave me a glimmer of what really fine wine could be, and Pommard is a village to which I return when looking for a special wine. I didn’t know the wines of Domaine Parent, but a wine retailer friend recommended it to me, and I’m so glad he did. Even before I opened the bottle, I was captivated when I discovered that Anne Parent described her wine as combining the character of both the northern and southern parts of Pommard. Mind you, this is a vineyard area that runs perhaps three kilometers along a valley, but she finds significant differences across that short distance. She says, “The (wines) from the north of the appellation are like a man that plays golf and drives an Aston Martin, (and) those made from grapes grown in the south are like a man that likes rugby and drives a Porsche.” How can you not want to try a wine made by someone with such a clear vision of nuance?
(Photo: Domaine Parent)
I tried her village wine that is a blend of grapes from both north and south, and it was wonderful, combining the golf and rugby, the Aston Martin and the Porsche, with great skill. In my notes, I wrote, “This lovely medium ruby wine has an expressive nose of juicy red raspberries, black pepper, baking spices and forest floor (by which I meant leaves). The wine is medium bodied with … soft tannin, firm acidity and a moderate finish. Lovely hint of smoke and dried orange peel. Just beautiful.”
Simple pleasures. I think life gives us our greatest pleasures when we are open to unexpected experiences – admiring the finesse of a well-crafted bit of dough, or the charm of describing the raciness of a wine as being like a sports car. Try a new wine tonight, and watch April Bloomfield’s video and see if one or the other or both bring you a smile of recognition and pleasure.