Sunday, June 23, 2013
The Premium Soliste Wines of Former Famous Chef and Now Famous Winemaker Claude Koeberle and the Great Food of Chef Patrick Bazin at Bazin’s on Church in Northern Virginia, USA
Claude Koeberle, former famous chef and now famous winemaker, was in town (Washington DC area) and I had the pleasure of spending an evening with him at Bazin’s on Church during a winemaker dinner organized by Al McCosh, owner of Nice Legs, and Chef Patrick Bazin.
Now approaching 60, Claude Koeberle is a fascinating person. He is talkative, opinionated (“Americans grow up with sugar: that explains why they like fruit-forward wines - which do not pair well with food. Europeans grow up with olive oil and Asians with bitter tasting ingredients.”) and devoted to Pinot Noir with religious fervor (“Cabernet Sauvignon is an evil weed”).
The Early Years in Europe
Claude Koeberle has spent the early part of his life in Europe his adulthood on the other side of the Atlantic. He was born and raised in the Bourgogne. He comes from a family that owns vineyards and makes wine. Claude’s father, Paul Kœberlé, was a famous French pastry chef. Claude began his career as a chef under the tutelage of Paul Bocuse in Lyon, for many the greatest chefs of our times, although Claude does not appreciate him as much as I and my wife Annette Schiller do. His cookbook remains the bible for Annette. The cooking apprenticeship was followed by a pastry training at the side of his father. He then worked for his mentor Alain Chapel, also in Lyon. Claude Koeberle: “In my view, Alain Chapel in Lyon and Frédy Girardet in Switzerland had the greatest influence on moderne cuisine.”
From there, he moved to Paris to run “Le Vivarois” that became a 3 star restaurant in 1972, with Claude Koeberle at its helm, along with owner/chef Claude Peyrot, who “was never in the kitchen, but always with his guests in the restaurant” says Claude Koeberle. Typically, the French 3 star Michelin restaurants close for an extended period in August and Claude would always go back to the Bourgogne, to work in the wine cellar and the vineyards. This is where he learned winemaking from his mentor, Henri Jayer.
One summer, however, he took on a short-term assignment in Chicago in the US. And he never returned to Europe. “My mother would not talk to me for 4 years” Claude said. This is when the US career started, in 1979. Incidentally, Le Vivarois lost its third star in 1983; today, it does not exist anymore.
A Chef in the US
From Chicago, Claude moved to the West Coast to work for Wolfgang Puck. From there, other positions followed. In the early 1980s, Claude Koeberle was the pastry chef of the Les Anges in Santa Monica, where he created a much talked about chocolate cake that he called "la Mort au Chocolat" ("Death by Chocolate").
Claude then made a name for himself cooking at various Los Angeles restaurants, including Ma Maison, before he disappeared into corporate anonymity with the El Torito chain for a year and a half. In the mid-1980s, Claude re-emerged as the chef/owner of 30th Street Bistro in Newport Beach. In the late 1980s, he opened Opera in Santa Monica, a chic pan-Mediterranean cuisine restaurant and Tamayo in East L.A.
Today, Claude is an investor in Le Bouchon and The French Laundry (with Thomas Keller), and a partner in Frances in San Francisco. His next project is soon to open in L.A.: Republique with Chef Walter Manzke ( Patina, Church and State, Bastide).
Claude Koeberle won a James Beard Award, but he made his fortune creating the K World Cuisine, Inc.. He is also one of the driving forces behind Creative Culinary Concepts, Inc.
After 35 years working in the kitchen in top restaurants, both in Europe and in the US, he moved on to wine. Together with longtime friend and partner, Donald Plumley and their respective spouses (Elisabeth and Beth), Claude started Soliste in 2005.
The name Soliste is derived from the special barrel or “soliste” that Burgundian winemakers reserve for their family and friends. The winemaker is Ryan Zepaltas (Zepaltas Wines and Siduri Wines).
Claude Koeberle: “A three star chef has to be driven by the desire for perfection. That’s what I have always been, in the kitchen, the vineyard and the wine cellar”. The Soliste wines are the results of this approach. Claude believes that great wines and great cuisine are very similar and must start with exceptional ingredients, farmers and vineyards. "Our quest to create wines of great finesse and complexity requires patience, tenacity, and a singular focus on uncompromising standards.”
Claude is a believer in Single Vineyard, Single Clone and Single Cooperage wines - what he calls MonoClone® and since 2009, all Pinot Noir releases have reflected this: A single clone, married with a specific site, climate and exposure, and then aged individually in a single cooperage.
Claude explained that the Soliste team manages its vineyards 100% regardless whether Soliste owns or leases them. Soliste wines are produced in very small quantities and are allocated through a mailing list. They are also available in upscale restaurants.
Bazin’s on Church and Patrick and Julie Bazin
Bazin's on Church is the creation of Patrick and Julie Bazin. Patrick Bazin has been one of Washington's premier chefs for the last two decades, most recently as the Executive Chef at The Occidental Grill in downtown D.C.
His wife Julie worked for years imparting her great taste in clothing (and life) to her loyal clients at James Clothiers. Together they have created an exquisite restaurant that fully reflects their refined palates and offers an inviting dining experience.
The Winemaker Dinner
Jumbo Lump Crabmeat Salad
Avocado, toasted almond, grilled pineapple vinaigrette
2012 Lune et Soleil Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County $30
Claude Koeberle: Inspired by the great late Didier Dagueneau, Lune et Soleil is crafted from a single organically farmed vineyard. The wine is 100% pressed whole clusters and aged in a 600 Liter barrique of special thick staves to minimize oxygen transfer and there is no malolactic fermentation to preserve acidity, verve and length.
Tasting Notes: The wine reveals elegant aromas of exotic white flowers, citrus blossoms, lemongrass and peppery verbena, with hints of tropical fruit, melon and green almond. The rich and delicate tropical aromas are followed seamlessly from the nose by a fresh taste of pineapple, guava, lychee and waxy fruit giving the wine fantastic vivacity. The middle palette shows great minerality and finesse, with focused aromas of stone fruit and spicy kaffir lime, moving into a long razor sharp, Sancerre like finish of flint, granite river stones and grapefruit peel.
Oven Roasted Wolffish
Lemon-tarragon sauce, zucchini casserole
2010 Soliste Chardonnay L'Age D'Or, Russian River Valley $43
Tasting Notes: The wine reveals elegant aromas of baked apple and pears, vanilla, and grapefruit mingled with toasted grains and seashells. The soft and smooth aromas are followed seamlessly from the nose by a complex infusion of apple tarte tatin, quince, and lemon curd, subtly silken texture with hint of black tea leaves, sea brine, and chalk. The middle palate carries on with an impressive density, salted buttery caramel intertwined with tart citrus zest and exotic spices. The finish is all about width and acid minerality, spiked with spicy kafir lime peel, stone fruit pit, and bitter almonds.
Shiitake Mushroom Crusted Rockfish
Parmesan orzo, crisp onions, mushroom jus
2010 Narcisse Soliste Forêt Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $37
Tasting Notes: Mysterious depth and luminosity showing density and structure, dark boysenberry gemlike in the glass, a clear reflection of tannin purity. Extremely exotic aromas of bitter caramelized wild cherries, boysenberry, and earthiness interlaced with oriental spices, black tea, espresso grounds and refined scents of sous-bois (forest floor). As the wine evolves in the glass or decanter, the aromatics become more focused and linear with dark cherry compote aromatics, superbly elegant and powerful, adding bitter chocolate and black truffles. The palate delivers extraordinary texture and depth with layers of exotic spice and black tea. This is a wine of great depth, powerful, with bitter caramel dark wild cherries and spiced plums, spiked with black pepper, cocoa nibs, and vanilla fat. The mid-palate is definitely earthy (oh, Vosne Romanée here you come) laced of musty sous-bois (forest floor), black tea, anise, and dry herbal aromatics, all in superb balance and harmony. Positively refined in texture but palpably dense in tannic concentration, the finish is simply infinite.
Beef "Two Ways"
Braised short ribs, NY strip loin, potato puree, white truffle sauce
2009 "Out of the Shadows" Syrah $57
Winemaking: Early morning harvest brought the grapes to the winery early to keep the berries cold and sugars in control. After field sort, 20% whole clusters were reserved and the balance was destemmed. Traditional foot punch downs during a smooth fermentation provided gentle extraction while preserving the color and flavors developed during the cold soak. 100% French oak 450 liter Barriques from Burgundy were used, 19% new and the balance neutral. After 22 months in barrel we bottled in late August.
Tasting Notes: Visually, Out of the Shadows displays deep cassis with a dark garnet robe, a classic Syrah. On the nose there are elegant aromatics of violets, cassis, blackberry and wild plums (quetches) layered with licorice, bacon and herbal undertones. As the wine evolves in the glass or decanter, the aromatics become more voluptuous, conveying a tremendous sense of power, superbly focused and complex adding tobacco leaves, espresso and vanilla bean. On the palate, up front the wine is a muscular concentration of cassis, plums and dark wild cherries, reminiscent of freshly sundried berry compote, interlaced with licorice, mint, and sage. This would be a Beast of a wine if the tannins had not been tamed by our commitment to age the wine for 22 months in large barrels. The middle palate becomes velvety, yet incredibly rich, with a wet stone minerality that is astonishing as the smooth tannins add exotic spice and bitter chocolate. Phenomenal acidity and balance add to the wine liveliness and poise. The Finish is long, elegant, and effortless. It is a powerful caldron of tart cassis, black cherries, bitter caramel and tobacco leaves creating length, complexity and finesse.
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Wine Tasting: The Pinot Noirs of Patricia Green, Oregon, US
The Excellent Wines of Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon
Meeting Bill Holloran from Oregon and Tasting His Holloran and Stafford Hill Wines
The Roots of Oregon Winemaker Chris Berg, the Art of Paul Klee, the Wine House of Michael Pearce and the Nice Legs of Al McCosh
Back to the Roots in the Bourgogne: WillaKenzie Estate Wines in Oregon - Winemaker Thibaud Mandet Presented WillaKenzie Wines at Open Kitchen, USA
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Meeting Winemaker Dianna Lee and Tasting Her Siduri Wines and Her Novi Family Wines