Vive la France! (And Spain and Portugal too…)

Yesterday was absolutely one of the most satisfying and delightful culinary experiences I’ve had in a long time, and I am still recuperating. I essentially drank wine all day and soaked up it up with amazing food! Private Reserve, one of SoMar’s distributors, hosted a French wine tasting event at L’Albatros in University Circle (Cleveland). I typically don’t get to go to events like this, but since it was my day off, and I was in Cleveland anyway for wine school, it worked out perfectly. L’Albatros happens to be a well-known French bistro, so I decided to eat lunch there prior to the tasting. Although I always try to avoid filling up on bread before a meal, the crusty/chewy bread with olive tapenade was impossible to resist, and since I was hungry, I downed that immediately. I then moved on to a goat cheese tart with sundried tomatoes and an olive “paste” and frisee salad. It was the perfect size – I always prefer smaller portions! – and was very flavorful. I washed that down with a 2008 The Furst Pinot Blanc from Alsace, which was a perfect complement to the goat cheese with its nice acidity and melon, peach, and lime notes. I had planned to order dessert anyway, and since the entree was relatively small, I felt slightly less guilty about it. I immediately settled on the apple and almond tart with burnt caramel ice cream, but then my eyes strayed to the dessert wine list. When I saw a 2003 Chateau du Tertre Sauternes for $12/glass, I figured it was probably worth trying – especially since I had never had it before! I was not disappointed. I’ve had a lot of Tokaji Aszu, and this reminded me a lot of it, although less full-bodied (i.e. less viscous). I was having a very hard time trying to describe that botyrtis aroma, and I felt a little better when my WSET textbook also said that people generally have a notoriously difficult time describing it! Out of the characteristics it listed, I kind of latched onto the ryebread. After my incredible lunch, I headed outside to the patio for the tasting. We really lucked out with the weather, as it was high 60s and brilliantly sunny. I tried a variety of Bordeaux, Loire, and Languedoc wines, although none of them, particularly the reds, blew me away. (I think I tend to be far less critical of whites, as I just want a crisp, refreshing, acidic wine with pleasant fruit notes when I’m in the mood for white!) The main attraction was the $70 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but although it was good, I didn’t think the price was justified. Despite the fact that I was stuffed, I had to sample some of the cheeses that were served at the tasting. L’Albatros has its own fromagiere (!!), so clearly, cheese is a big deal to them. They were delicious, so I look forward to returning for a cheese plate with a more in-depth discussion with the cheese master! I even tried some duck confit and pate, as these are things that even as a meat eater I never had, and if the restaurant was going to serve us such gourmet fare, I figured I should take advantage! Later on that evening, my wine class focused on Spain and Portugal, and I was particularly happy to learn about the latter, as the only Portuguese wine I’ve had is Vinho Verde. That trend continued when I met up with Andrea after class at the wine bar La Cave du Vin in Coventry, which has the most extensive list of wines by the glass I’ve ever seen! It was extremely geographically diverse and very reasonably priced. By this time I was quite tired and not thinking straight, so I forgot to bring my wine notebook in for notes. However, I tried a Touriga Nacional from the Dao region (forgive my lack of accent marks). It was a relatively easy-to-drink wine with good red and some dark fruit, although my teeth and lips looked as though I’d devoured a blackberry patch. They also offer sizable wine tastes (probably about half a glass!), and the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I tried was everything it should have been – crisp, acidic, a bit grassy, with nice light fruit. The wine and the company together was unparalleled! If only every day could by like this. 🙂

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