zondag 8 maart 2009

Second half of february

A wintery sun, foreboding Lent, is warming up the earth and whilst Knoert is basking under its first rays, a gigantic tribe of moles is attempting to re-furbish our garden. They’re digging up mountains that will soon look like the pyramid of Cheops if we don’t put a stop on it! In the old days Knoert has caught more than a few but alas, in the winter of his life, blinking with one eye at those huge mounds is as far as he gets. The old warrior has earned his rest. Htje will have to handle shovel and spade to get rid of the root-gnawing bastards. She already tried the stink-balls but to no avail. Let’s see who’ll win this war; bets are open.
The 14th went by unnoticed, except for a delicious (unplanned) mezze at Zorba’s in Mechelen. A lucky encounter with a couple near-table guests, who turned out to be almost neighbours, ended into an animated conversation and made me forget to write down the name of the white wine we had. Made from one of those many indigenous grape varieties from Greece that we don’t know well enough. Probably Athiri because I seem to remember the wine came from Santorini from where this grape variety originated. A sure reason to go back and taste it again! (Yes, Htje, that’s a promise!)
A day later and we find our way to Averbode where Nelly and Lucien now abide. Luckily they moved the wine-cellar too! As we don’t see each other all that often, our family dinners are always worth experiencing. Needless to say they outclassed themselves again and served us a dinner worth to remember! Saumon fumé avec asperges en remoulade accompanied with a bone-dry full-bodied, strikingly mineral 2003 Hermitage from Roland Betton, récolatant (sic!) à la Roche de Glun according the label. Well, as long as he is not frélatant, I don’t mind.
Fricassée de marcassin aux pommes et airelles, it’s still winter after all, an excellent match for the 2000 Saint-Aubin 1er Cru. Earthy, fruity but with an undertone of leather and undergrowth, making it easy to picture in your mind the boar digging up the acorns. Houbahouba! We all truly enjoyed it.Dessert: a rich, creamy mascarpone accompanied with a ten year old Madeira. Heaven on earth! I hadn’t had Madeira in many, many years and forgot how good it can be. Stupid!

Needless to say we also made a thorough visit to Lucien’s wine-cellar. I picked up a beautiful 2005 Côt de Touraine from Gibault in Meusnes (do I have some customers in that neighbourhood?). Cabernet Franc at it’s best. That particular dry undertone pushing up the fruit against the light tannins makes it very typical. We had an older vintage (98, 99?) a few years ago and I distinctly remembered it less fruity. This one was superb. What better way to end a glorious afternoon with a noble Côte des Francs 2000 from Michel Guillon in Tayac. More than pleasurable and superb value for money.To top off the day my godson Philip came by to show off his twin daughters – Anke and Bo - and his now one-year old son, Jesse. A shame that we don’t meet more frequently.Luckily my sister has an excellent couch allowing us somehow to recuperate before taking our leave. Bieke grew weary of us.Barely 2 weeks later and we have to visit Htje’s niece Marie-Louise and husband Jean-Claude in Glimes. This is the south of the province of Brabant-Wallon, a region otherwise known as la Hesbaye and just a few kilometres down from there they grow wine. We’ll definitely have to arrange a tasting at the Château de Mellemont in Thorembais-les-Béguines, the next time. Maybe we have a surprise waiting for us!
This was another long overdue visit. When Sara left for Vancouver, Marie-Louise took Lola in. A relief for Sara who was worried her darling wouldn’t be properly looked after while she was away. Within 2 weeks Lola took over the household and now reigns over her domain in true matriarchal way: Praline, Maya, Simi and Pompon bearing the brunt.
Having lost nothing of her shyness she fled to upper regions when we came in but later just came by to peak at us and give me a chance to take a picture.

We started with 6 Petit Gris du Namurois (from a local grower). On a par with my favourite Burgundian crawlers but lacking just a little bit of seasoning. But otherwise perfectly cooked. Not to the soggy rubberlike consistency that you obtain when cooking the (deep-frozen) variety from the supermarket. Definitely worth to try again.
We now have to dig up some superlatives to describe the wonderful experience that followed with le Lapin à la Geuze. Used to the more traditional preparation to which we are treated at home; with prunes, speck and doused in a very light dark beer; our taste buds were delighted. A lighter, subtler preparation that allows the tender taste of the young meat and the sweet herbs to delight the palate. In one word: delicious! What better accompaniment could we have had than the more than excellent Pécharmant from Château La Reynaudie 2005 in Lembras. I bought some at the Foire du Vin in Lille, last November.I have precious little left of the 2003 but this 2005 will stand its ground. The 3 bottles of Vieilles Vignes 2005 will be jealously kept for a very special occasion indeed.
To pay honour to “the land of the beast” we also tasted a 2004 Rioja Crianza from Covila (Sdad. Cooperativa Vinicola Lapuebla de Labarca). 250 hectares of vineyards in Labarca and Laguardia (Rioja Alavesa). Nothing less than 100% Tempranillo and 12 months in barrel followed by 6 months in the bottle. A modern Rioja, full of ripe fruit over a mellow tone of vanilla and chocolate. Awesome. The bottle brought back some fond memories of our stay in the Rioja a few years ago. The walled city of Laguardia with its deeply hidden wine cellars being one of the highlights of our holiday with a visit to the local winery. Why did I only buy 3 bottles?

Another memorable bottle during this period was a delicious Brouilly 2005 from Mommesin. Anybody criticizing or looking down at Beaujolais should taste it first or hold their peace forever!
We also tasted the first of our Marsannay 2006 from Georges Lignier, our regular Côte de Nuits supplier with veal and pasta al pesto. Mamma mia, la vita è bella! Dry, flowery, buttery but already fully round. A great experience.
Sadly, we finished the last bottle of our 2006 Où Est Donc Passé Ornicar from Jean-Baptiste Senat in Trausse-Minervois. A very man-made Minervois, the most spicy wine I ever had with strong, very ripe fruit. Difficult to combine with food, only something like a traditional rabbit with prunes will sustain it, I guess. But the memory of the degustation at the estate in 2007 - it was pouring rain and we caught him while bottling up the last of his 2006 vintage - with Jean-Baptiste rambling on and on and on, will stay forever in our memory. And now heading for Spring time!