Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Côte de Nuits, Winemaker Dinner with Owners/Producers Alain and Sophie Meunier at Todd Gray’s Equinox in Washington DC, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Alain and Sophie Meunier, Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron in Burgundy at Equinox in Washington DC

French Wine Social’s Jessica Hagadorn organized a very nice winemaker dinner with the wines of Alain and Sophie Meunier, Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron in Burgundy, and the food of  Chef Todd Gray at  Equinox in Washington DC, just a stone throw away from the White House.

Picture: French Wine Social’s Jessica Hagadorn with Guests

This was an intimate evening of fantastic food, amazing wine and great conversation. The dinner consisted of 3 courses plus an aperitif.


The Bourgogne is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Most of the wine produced here is Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Chablis and Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those sub regions are usually referred to by their own names.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Alain and Sophie Meunier

Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous wines – and the wines of this dinner - originate. All Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are here. The Côte d'Or is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits in the north and the Côte de Beaune in the south. The wine-growing area is just 40 kilometers long, and in most places less than 2 kilometers wide; the area is made up of tiny villages. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region. The Bourgogne (including Chablis but excluding Beaujolais) covers a total of 28,000 hectares.

Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. As the power of the church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the church's hands, were sold to the bourgeoisie from the 17th century. The Napoleonic inheritance laws resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious vineyard holdings, so that some growers hold only a row or two of vines. Clos Vougeot, for example, which was a single 125 acre run by the monks, today is parceled into plots owned by nearly 80 different owners.

Bourgogne Classification

The Bourgogne classification is the most terroir-oriented one in France. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. This is opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux. The main levels in the Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are:

Pictures: The Dinner

Grand Cru wines are produced from a small number of vineyards in the Côte d'Or and make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters per hectare. The origins of Burgundy's Grand crus can be found in the work of the Cistercians who, among their vast land holdings, were able to delineate and isolate plots of land that produced wine of distinct character. There are 33 Grand Cru vineyards in the Bourgogne.

Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyards that are considered to be of high, but slightly lower quality; they make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare.

Village appellation wines are produced from vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare.

Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced over the entire region or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village.

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron

In 1988, Alain and Sophie Meunier took over the Jean-Jacques Confuron domaine at Premeaux-Prissey close to Nuits-Saint-Georges in the Côte de Nuits area, which used to belong to Sophie’s father. If they knew practically nothing about vines and wine, they shared a love for the soil and for well-made things. From the start one thing was clear to them: wine begins with the vine. Alain took a viticulture course at the Young Winegrowers Group in Beaune. He still remembers a lecture given one day by Claude Bourguignon, a specialist in the microbiology and flora and fauna of soils. The die was cast: they will go organic.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Ombiasy Wine Tours, with Alain and Sophie Meunier

“In order fully to respect the character of each terroir, we have chosen to use only natural products to treat our vines and have done so since 1990” said Alain over dinner. He also referred to the parcel of Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru: at eighty years old, it is the oldest in the domaine. Since 2003 he has ploughed it by horse. This is a slow (and costly) job which requires patience and precision but which has the utmost respect for the soil.

Vineyard Holdings

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron has eight hectares, with 12 appellations of the Côte de Nuits. They range from a Côte de Nuits Les Vignottes to the rare Grand Cru Romanée Saint Vivant and Grand Cru Clos Vougeot, through two Chambolle-Musigny: Village and  First Cru. The domaine also offers three Nuits-Saint-Georges, a Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Fleurieres Village, a Aux Boudots First Cru, and a Les Chaboeufs First Cru. Let's not forget their Vosne-Romanée 1st Cru Les Beaux-Monts, and their two latest wines: the Côte de Nuits La Montagne white and its red sibling, Côte de Nuits La Montagne rouge, first released with the 2010 vintage, or their Bourgogne Cuvée Jeunesse, the most affordable way of enjoying the Confuron style.

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron produces 3000 cases annually.

Chef Todd Gray’s Equinox

Equinox – a stone throw away from the White House - has entered into its second decade of serving regional and seasonal cuisine in downtown DC. The restaurant's chic new interior perfectly complements Chef Todd Gray's cuisine, artfully combining clean modern lines with a comfortable old-world charm. A passionate promoter of mid-Atlantic ingredients, Chef Gray combines local ingredients with classical Italian techniques to create the distinctive cuisine of Equinox.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Chef Todd Gray at  Equinox in Washington DC

The Dinner


Tuna tartare with crispy nori, radish sprouts, and spicy mayo
Truffle Risotto fritters with preserved lemon creme fraiche

NV Crémant de Bourgogne ($24)

First Course

Early Autumn squash Orrechiette pasta with braised prosciutto, Tuscan kale, tomato shallot butter

Cotes de Nuits Village La Montagne Blanc 2010 ($42)

About this appellation: Côte de Nuits Villages is an appellation which spreads over six villages in the Côte de Nuits area (Brochon, Comblanchien, Corgoloin, Fixin and Premeaux-Prissey). Grapes coming from these different villages can be vinified together.

This Côte de Nuits comes from a single vineyard, La Montagne (the mountain) located, as its name indicates, high up on the slope, not far from Bois de Bise (Bise Wood) in the village of Corgoloin, next to Ladoix. The vineyard was replanted five years ago by Alain Meunier, mainly with Pinot Noir but also with some Chardonnay. This is quite rare, which makes this wine even more special.

100% Chardonnay from young vines, aged in 15% new oak, 1,800 bottles.

Tasting notes:

Beautiful apple and notes on the nose, good mouthfeel and a slight hint of honeysuckle in the finish.

Main Course

Red Wine Marinated Pennsylvania Duck Breast, Preserved Grapes, Quinoa, Ginger, Saba-Beet Vinaigrette

Cotes de Nuits Village Les Vignottes 2009 ($41)

Also a Côte de Nuits village from the single vineyard, Les Vignottes.
100% Pinot Noir, 35-year-old vines, aged in 35% new oak for 15 to 18 months and the rest in one-year old wood, no fining, no filtration.

Production: 6,500 bottles of Côte de Nuits village Les Vignottes.

Tasting notes: Notes of ripe plum and black cherry on the nose, rich and concentrated on the palate, with a velvety finish.


Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse - Salted Peanut Butter Shortbread, Toasted Sesame Crisp, Concord Grape Sorbet

Nuits-Saint-Georges 1st Cru Les Chaboeufs 2004 ($70)

About this appellation: Nuits-Saint-Georges wine is produced in the communes of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Premeaux-Prissey in the Côte de Nuits subregion of Burgundy. The production of red wine dominates, accounting for 97% of the total.  Nuits-Saint-Georges has no Grand Crus, only Premier Crus and Villages. Nuits-Saint-Georges comprises 146 hectares of vineyards at the Premier Cru level and 142 hectares at the village level.

100% Pinot Noir from 50-year-old vines, aged in 50% new oak for 18 months, no fining, no filtration, 2,300 bottles.

Tasting notes: Notes of lovely spice, dark berry and earth nuances on the nose, vibrant and appealing on the palate, a focused and elegant wine, with soft round tannins and a good finish.

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