Monday, November 14, 2016
Jean-Michel Guillon from Gevry-Chambertin in Washington DC: Winemaker Dinner at 2941 Restaurant with Chef Bertrand Chemel
Jean-Michel Guillon was born in Paris and a pilot with the French army. Nobody in his family was ever involved in wine. He always loved Burgundy wines and in 1980 he boarded a train to Burgundy, got off and stayed. He had no training or any qualifications in winemaking. He studied what the experienced masters in the region did and built up relationships that have led to acquisitions of vineyards. Through tireless work he built a domaine of 35 acres of vineyards in the finest sites, among them parcels in the 2 Grand Cru sites: Clos de Vougeot and Mazis-Chambertin. In 2005 his son joined to work in the winery. Since 1990 the prominent French wine magazine Guide Hachette regularly selects the Guillon wines as top wines.
Jean-Michel Guillon was in town (Washington DC). Among the events that took place during his visit, the wine-pairing dinner at one of the best restaurants in the Washington DC area, 2941 Restaurant, clearly stood out. It was a joint effort of Jean-Michel Guillon, his US importer Olivier Daubresse, 2941 Restaurant Chef Betrand Chemel and Doug House, Owner of one of Northern Virginia‘s leading wine store, Chain Bridge Cellars.
Doug House - Invitation: Calling all fans of the best red Burgundy and profound Pinot Noir from anywhere in the world! Come join us for a sumptuous 6-course dinner at award-winning 2941 Restaurant as top Burgundy vigneron Jean-Michel Guillon presents white and red Burgundy from vintages 2007, 2011 and 2014.
We’ve lauded Jean-Michel’s wines for years as not only majestic Pinot Noirs that impress from first sip, but also as wines that really sing with great food. This is your chance to discover that for yourself as we enjoy six brilliant Burgundies with an elegant tasting menu created by Chef Bertrand Chemel just for this event.
Jean-Michel is not only an outstanding winemaker, but also one of the 2 dozens or so we visited on our ombiasy wine tour to Burgundy and Champagne earlier this year. Jean-Michel, Annette and I, and some participants of the tour we very happy to meet again in Washington DC.
Domaine Guillon in Gevry-Chambertin
Doug House of Chain Bridge Cellars: Jean-Michel himself will be here in November - so we can wait to recount his journey from the French air force to puddle-jumpers in Tahiti to getting off a train in Burgundy with no experience or vineyards. Today he's been mayor of Gevrey-Chambertin, head of the Gevrey-Chambertin winery association, and consistently ranked as one of the most outstanding winegrowers in all of Burgundy's Cote de Nuits by people who really know what they're tasting and talking about. Nothing but the Best.
If you're new to Jean-Michel's work, here's what you need to know. Guillon and his son, Alexis, believe first and foremost in growing and harvesting perfect and perfectly ripe fruit. They tend their vineyards in Gevrey, Morey St Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Clos du Vougeot with meticulous, hands-on care. When other growers take vacation or their vineyard workers reach their maximum hours per week, Jean-Michel and Alexis put on their boots, fire up the tractor, and keep working.
Their plots within Burgundy's great vineyards are easy to identify. Stand on a road or hill and look out at the vines; Jean-Michel's are the ones thriving as others wilt, carrying precisely the right number of bunches per vine for the site, vine and vintage, and have every imperfect bunch and wing pulled off and thrown away. In years where early harvesting is best, they are the vineyards loaded with sweet, juicy berries with brown stems and seeds ready to come off the vine on time. And, in years where more time is needed, they're the ones where the grapes can keep hanging as long as they have to, free of rot, mold or mildew.
What happens in the winery is hard work, too: The winemaking here is about a complete refusal to settle for anything other than the best. Only the very best fruit from each vineyard ever reaches the fermenter. And, when others turn their financial success into vacation homes and luxury cars, Jean-Michel digs a new cellar, buys a better press, adds a sorting table and - most of all - buys even better and better French oak barrels to help his wines mellow and mature. (OK - he's been known to buy a new Jeep or motorcycle too).
The Guillon Style: What are the wines like? Burgundy's most experienced insider critic, Alan Meadows (aka Burghound) used to say: "I would describe his wines as being among the best of the 'new world' school of Burgundy ... modern burgundies that retain a clear sense of style and grace. More importantly, ... they remain identifiably pinot noir rather than caricatures of the Rhone Valley. One thing that I have noticed over the last few vintages however is that the Guillon wines are becoming more classically styled, and in particular more structured, especially as the 1er and grand cru levels."
I think that's fine as far as it goes. I'd say something like Jean-Michel Guillon makes wines that showcase what perfectly ripe (not overripe!) Pinot Noir has to say about some of the greatest vineyards of Burgundy. These vineyards have survived and thrived across centuries and earned recognition as some of the greatest in the world. Sophisticated? Certainly. Wimpy and thin? Nope.
Jean-Michel believes that Burgundy is about elegance and power, grace and strength, and that a great Burgundy should have something interesting, even profound, to say from barrel, on release, and for years to come. And, most of all, that great Burgundy is meant to be drunk with delight at table with people you care about and elevate any gathering of family, old friends, and friends to be.
How to think about Jean-Michel Guillon's 2014s? The vintage overall wanted to produce wines that have the ripe fruit and supple structures that make them easy to drink young. But the best sites and winegrowers also delivered the extraction, concentration, and structure to deserve - even need - time in cellar.
All of Jean-Michel's 2014s showcase the generous fruit and open structures needed for immediate appreciation - join us on Saturday and you'll find none are a chore to taste! And if you take home a bottle of Mazis-Chambertin on Saturday and open it Sunday, you'll have an impressive experience - although you'll have missed out on much of what this great, great wine has to say.
Visiting Jean Michel Gillon in Gevry-Chambertin
During the 2016 Bourgogne (and Champagne) Tour of ombiasy WineTours, we again stopped at Domaine Gillon and enjoyed a wonderful tasting with Jean Michel.
Since the visit was towards the end of the tour, I have not yet posted on this great tasting, except in the overview posting about the whole tour. See: Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History
For an earlier visit, see: Tasting at Domaine Jean Michel Guillon in Gevrey-Chambertin with Jean Michel Guillon – Bourgogne Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France
I am pretty sure that we will go back to see him on the forthcoming Burgundy tour in 2017. See:Heads up for the 2017 Tours - to Germany and France - by ombiasy WineTours
2941 Restaurant and Chef Betrand Chemel
2941 Restaurant is perhaps the elite-level restaurant in this part of Northern Virginia, a regular “Top” selection by The Washington Post, Washingtonian Magazine, Zagat and more. It’s located at 2941 Fairview Park Dr, Falls Church, VA 22042, just inside the Beltway between Routes 29 and 50 and offers free valet parking.
An Auvergne (France) boy born-and-raised, Chef Bertrand Chemel spent time at various restaurants in Europe, including at Hotel du Rhône in Geneva, Switzerland, La Bastide St-Antoine in Grasse, France, and the Savoy Hotel in London, before moving to the US. Here, he began as a line cook in 1999 with Daniel Boulud in Manhattan and with a stop along the way as Laurent Tourondel's sous chef at Cello, he landed at Café Boulud in 2003, before taking over the kitchen of Restaurant 2941.
The Meal and Pairings
I added the regular bottle prices of Chain Bridge Cellars in paranthesis.
Passed Hors d’Oeuvre of Steamed mussels & 30 month aged Virginia prosciutto
Guillon Pinot Blanc 2014 (US$32)
Warm Sea Scallop In a Shell | hazelnut sea salt toffee, cremini mushroom & leek, lobster saffron émulsion
Guillon Santenay Les Bras Blanc 2007 (US$48)
Roasted French Quail | Swiss chard, Luxardo Maraschino, cubeb black pepper, quail jus
Guillon Fixin Les Crais 2014 (US$48)
Spiced Braised Duck Leg ”Cannelloni” | wild mushroom, celery root, turnip, duck sauce façon “Grand Veneur”
Guillon Grevrey Chambertin Père Galand 2011 (US$63)
Roasted Duck Breast | chestnut & spaghetti squash, duck jus
Guillon Grevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Les Champonnets 2011 (US$90)
Roasted Venison Loin | Petite cuillère d’Aligot, Savoy cabbage, jus d’Automne
Guillon Grand Cru Mazis-Chambertin 2011 (US$190)
Pinot Noir Poached Bartlet Pear | mascarpone sorbet, thyme
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