May 2nd saw the first ever vertical tasting of Domaine aux Moines with the winemaker herself, Tessa Laroche! This wine dinner, curated by the great Pascaline Lepeltier herself, only consisted of 4 food courses (and a few snacks thrown in), but boasted 12 unique wines ranging from 1998 to 2016.
Domaine aux Moines is part of the Savennières wine region, which actually consists of three appellations: La Roche aux Moines which is all organic wines, La Coulée de Serrrant just to the north, and then Savennières itself. Currently a mother-daughter team, Tessa (a self-described "alcoholic, but not during harvest when she must concentrate!") harvested her first vintage in 2001; her mother in 1978. By law they must pick by hand and select their grapes in the vineyard. Tessa, the woman in charge, has the final say.
As welcome snacks for the table, Rouge Tomate presented us with two dishes, both new to the spring menu, and both reminiscent of the "old" Rouge - fresh, clean, fish-forward.
The first, an escabeché of snails cooked with warm vinegar and garlic oil, and dressed in an herbed aioli with braised mushrooms and fine herbs. The toast points a must to soak up all that goodness!
And then the second, the walu carpaccio dressed in a yuzu, white soy and yuzu kosho sauce, over avocado purée, and topped with cucumber, serrano, and snap peas.
The wines were paired with Cauliflower "Steak" with meyer lemon, caper, pinenut, raisin, and bergamot. Only Rouge Tomate can make cauliflower taste this good!
The wines ranged vastly in color. The older the vintage, the darker the wine. They were all aged in old oak, but in small barrels so as not to pick up any heavy oak flavors.
The alcohol on all was 13%, except for the 2012 which was 14.5% due to the grapes spending one more week on the vines, and could you taste it! The 2012 and 2013 were definitely weightier, with greater viscosity, almost like a Sauternes.
Starting with the 2014 vintage, which also happened to be the end of noble rot in the appellation, Tessa aimed to make the same style of whine but in a lighter, fresher way, which is evident in the 2014 and 2015 vintages, and picked the grapes earlier.
The next course was a Montauk Monkfish wrapped in prosciutto with spaetzle, seared broccoli, and salsa agrodolce.
Paired with this dish was the 2011, 2010 and 2009 vintages.
Tessa attributed the difference in flavors for this trio to the weather. 2009 was a very good year weather-wise, and was delicately fruity and fresh. 2010 had "ok weather," and 2011 was very hot, much dryer which brought out the minerality. Tessa's favorite? 2009...
All three note 14.5% alcohol on the label, but not everything you read on the internet, I mean, wine labels, is true! Naturally these wines are closer to 15%! (and delicious!)
The final course was a cheese course paired with four additional vintages - now going back into the archives! 2008, 1999 and 1998! Plus a 2010 Savennières-Roche aux Moines, Cuvée de l'Abbesse sweet wine - delicious with the blue cheese!
Savennières, and Chenin in general, used to be sweet wines. The 2010 Cuvee above is representative of what Chenins and this region were known for. It wasn't until 1967, per Pascaline, that the region created it's first dry wine! Centuries of wine making turned on it's head, and in only 50 years, they have changed the profile of the grape and the regions who grow it.