An Evening With Jean-Claude Berrouet (Jul. 6, 2016)

Present only in spirit
A guy can dream, right? A guy can dream that he will one day drink a bottle of Romanee-Conti or La Tache. Or Petrus.

The closest I got to that legendary third wine was a dinner with Jean-Claude Berrouet, the former winemaker at Chateau Petrus, where we drank the last vintage he oversaw at three of the other properties he worked at alongside Petrus.

The dinner was put together by Eran Pick of Tzora Winery, where Berrouet and his son Jeff consult. The establishment was Tel Aviv's Hotel Montifyory restaurant and the three wines I mentioned were contributed by a pair of guests in his honor.

It's a humbling experience to drink with the man responsible for 40 plus vintages of Chateau Petrus, the star Pomerol property and among the top ten names in Bordeaux by any reckoning - one of the main contenders for the top spot, in fact. I wasn't even born when Jean-Claude worked his first vintage of Petrus, which was not yet the mega-star it is today, just one property in a nondescript hamlet overshadowed by its Left Bank rival communes. The Beatles had not written "She Loves You". Kennedy was alive. Ali was still Cassius Clay.


Most humbling was the fact that, whenever the conversation drifted to the wines at hand, Berrouet never mentioned his contribution, but rather talked about the qualities of the Pomerol terroir.

Vilmart, Cuvée Rubis

This is one of my favorite Champagnes, and always a treat. Elegant red fruit on a detailed, precise backdrop of minerals and exotic spices, with a very long finish of sour sweet cherries and salty walnuts.

Dauvissat, Chablis Premier Cru, Sechet, 2012

Dauvissat is one of the great names in Chablis and this turned out better than many Chablis Grand Crus, showing marine funk with many twists and detail. A touch of oak smooths out some corners but still leaves a well delineated frame.

Chateau Lafleur-Petrus, Pomerol, 2006

This is still young and monolithic with fresh black fruit, decorated with leather and spices. Naturally, it's still tannic but the tannins are almost flavored with salt. This, as well as the other two, is a great wine to serve to people who have only experienced New World Merlot and who think the grape is very immediate and fruity. 

Chateau Hosanna, Pomerol, 2006

The nose is more extroverted and complex than the Lafleur but not by a large measure. The palate is very drying and seems to need much more time. 

Chateau Trotanoy, Pomerol, 2006

The best nose of the three Pomerols. The palate will need even more time than the Hosanna. The nose has the shimmering exoticism of a great growth. 

Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007

This is admittedly a letdown after the three Pomerols, because even a restrained California such as this is still riper than a classic claret, thus all its faults were magnified, making it seem like Bordeaux on coke. There's good form and it hits the sensors and taste buds right, but underneath you feel someone is partying too hard.