Pouring over wine lists before meals is the ultimate public foreplay. In advance of fine dining reverie, the hunt for favorites, values, rarities, ultimates, and classics is my secret little indulgence. It’s a moment of truth that determines the tone of an evening’s meal. I remember the same jittery excitement stepping into Coney Island’s Luna amusment park when I was eight years old. What will it be today? The decisions were never easy.
Last night at the Slanted Door in San Francisco’s welcoming Ferry Building my wine list foreplay was stopped cold in its tracks. ****1/2 $55 2007 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny is one of only a handful of automatic picks. Here I was in California looking for the coolest and hardest to find west coast sensation, but there can never be another wine on any list that will trump a Clos Rougeard selection.
The wine is carefully allocated and Slanted Door gets only one case a year. Luckily, I learned the secret handshake with a local Boston wine merchant that lands at least one half case in my cellar every vintage. No other wine, anywhere in the world, offers similarly mysterious pleasures. It is a style of Cabernet Franc rendering the highest levels of distinction, pleasure, and unique expression.
It’s made by brothers Charlie and Nadi Foucalt in the Loire Valley; a coveted fixture on wine lists in Paris’ finest eating palaces. I asked the sommelier at the Slanted Door if he knew what he had, and he repeated the often heard phrase around Clos Rougeard freaks that “there are two suns in the Loire Valley. One that shines on the valley vineyards and the other on the Foucalts’ cellar.” He knew.
The 2007 Saumur-Champigny is a different wine than the immediately riveting, rich, and luxurious 2005 entry level Clos Rougeard, and more approachable than the 2006 was on release . The 2007 vintage created a lighter wine of great elegance that features intense notes of iron and riveting acidity. The vintage still showcases the pure core cherry flavors and exotic truffle and mushroom notes that are signature Clos Rougeard “tells”. 2007 is a perfect young food wine, but my bet is it will be long lived and aging will create a wine of fantastic elegance and ethereal secondary aromas. I counted the finishing length at just about ninety seconds.
I am always amused to serve the wine to the uninitiated. Last night at Slanted Door, my colleague Keith was the latest victim of grace. I watched as he stuck his nose in the glass, perplexed by the mystery. As he sipped he had the confused look of total absence of all sensory recognition. All he could say after a couple more sips was “wow”. That’s understandable. It is like no other wine. It’s freshness, elegance, acidity, exotic aromatics, pure fruit, ferrous spine, color and clarity, and total integration and balance are not found in any other red wine I have ever experienced. Last year, I wrote that the 2005 was the finest wine I had tasted all year. I tasted a lot of remarkable wines this year, but the 2007 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny is a candidate for top wine once again.
You can buy some 2007 now if you hurry. Click on the Wine Searcher link included in the second paragraph. There is still time to drink your own “wine of the year”.