The Jean Gagnerot Corton-Charlemagne Vertical
Tonight would prove to be a dining experience like no other. Ever since the arrival of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages of Jean Gagnerot's Corton-Charlemagne, one single barrel each, we knew the wines would call for a spectacular winemaker's dinner at one of the nation's finest restaurants. Previous great meals at San Francisco's Quince restaurant assured us that an evening at their private farmhouse dining table in the kitchen would be the perfect choice. Owner / Executive Chef Michael Tusk, with sommelier Claudio Villani, tasted the wines prior to the meal and created a beautiful menu for a dining experience like no other.
Our special guest, Christian Ciamos of Jean Gagnerot, flew in from Beaune for the once-in-a-lifetime evening. He led us through the three wines with poetic grace, offering fantastic insight on their 2.5 acre parcel perfectly situated in Corton-Charlemagne. "Our 40 year-old vines are producing the best fruit of their lives. Their roots stretch 90 feet in depth, reaching the ancient Jurassic soils that give these wines such power. It is our grandest expression of Chardonnay", proudly explained Ciamos. The brokers reverently hung on his every word as he explained the vineyard's unique attributes. Their questions would soon follow after a round of delicate appetizers and Jerome Dehours' Trio Champagne.
Chef Tusk created two incredible dishes for each wine. His first preparations presented; a decadent scallop, sea urchin and halibut crudo, followed by a daring white asparagus dish featuring delta crawfish, were the perfect introduction to his culinary skill. They were brilliantly paired to the 2006. Our group was floored by the chef's ability to draw out completely different textures, nuances, and flavors from the wine with each course; it was as if we were drinking two different wines. The crudo enhanced the exotic, tropical flavors of the already extroverted 2006 while the asparagus and crawfish showcased the wine's depth and minerality.
Our next courses were served with the classically-built 2004 with its spine of minerality and vibrant citrus core. The chef's talents were on full display; his first offering of Alaskan ivory salmon with lemon verbena, carrots, and fennel coaxed out a richness and spiciness in the wine. The second pairing, a Tagliatelle with morel mushroom and English pea in a light cream sauce, was simply breathtaking, bringing out a creaminess to match the wine's vibrancy. A true master of his craft, Tusk took into account the wine's slightly warmer temperature at the time of serving to enhance this already perfect pairing.
Our increasingly vocal table went silent as the final wine, the 2005 vintage, was introduced. A vintage unmatched in quality since 1990, the wine was undeniably brilliant, an ideal expression of power and finesse all at once. The Acquarello Carnaroli with garlic scape and rabbit was a sinful pairing; the dish brought the wine's floral nuances to life. The final course, the Partridge with speck, fava bean and celeriac crema, allowed the wine to show its unbridled concentration. More than one person deemed this their desert-island white wine.
Delicious as dessert was, an olive oil semifreddo with new crop cherries paired with Fugnano's 2000 Vin Santo, it fell on deaf ears as we revisited our last sips of the wine. Each wine's evolution over the four-hour dinner had been grand. Picking a favorite was simply not possible as each vintage and dish was a vital part of the entire experience; we all agreed it was more like drinking six wines given the exceptional pairings of Chef Tusk.