It is very hard to refuse an invite to lunch at L'Espalier. I was certainly pleased to receive such an invite, to attend an event with Gregoire Pissot, the winemaker for Cave de Lugny. And it certainly did not disappoint in the least.
Cave de Lugny is located in the Mâconnais region of southern Burgundy, France. The Mâcon appellation is the largest producer of white wine in Burgundy. Cave de Lugny, founded in 1926, is France’s first AOC cooperative as well as the largest wine producer in Burgundy. They produce over 6 million bottles of wine each year. Though it is such a large producer, they do produce some low production wines, some made only in about 5000 cases. And the quality is excellent.
Gregoire Pissot, pictured above, is the winemaker for Cave de Lugny and this was his first trip to the U.S. He described the four wines we had with dinner, as well as answered any questions about those wines. He was very pleasant and personable, a fine spokesman for the winery.
We began the afternoon with a couple of passed hors d'oeuvres. First, was a Vermont goat cheese gougere with smoked sea salt. This was very tasty, a flaky gougere with a creamy center of goat cheese and a slight hint of saltiness. Second, was an exceptional house smoked salmon Napolean, a light stack with a prominent smoky salmon flavor and a creamy texture. An impressive start to our lunch, boding well for the rest of the meal.
Paired with these hors d'oeuvres was a glass of the 2008 Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay (about $12-$13), made from 100% Chardonnay and with an alcohol content of 11%. This wines undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation, is matured with the lees for six months, and sees no oak. It was crisp with a light creaminess, delicious apple flavors and a bit of minerality. It was very pleasant and easy drinking, pairing well with the gougeres and salmon. This is a type of Chardonnay that I very much enjoy, and it would be a good value at this price.
We then all sat for the rest of our lunch, and received our first dish, Thai spiced shrimp with hearts of palm and uni vinaigrette. Three plump and tender shrimp with an intriguing and tasty flavor and a sweet vinaigrette. The spices were mild, with only a bit of tang to them. I enjoyed this dish as did those sitting near to me.
The wine for thos course was the 2007 Les Charmes (about $15), made from 100% Chardonnay and with an alcohol content of 11%. This wines undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation, is racked on the less for twelve months, and sees no oak. The grapes come from a single vineyard, a plateau named Les Charmes. Interestingly, the majority of the vineyard is planted with Musk Chardonnay, a sub-category of the Chardonnay clone where the aromas are similar to the Muscat grape.
This wine was more aromatic than the first Chardonnay, and possessed more floral notes. On the palate, it also seemed to have more depth and complexity. The fruit flavors included green apple with hints of lemon and mild spice. It paired well with the Thai shrimp and I very much enjoyed it. It too presents an excellent value, and should please most people.
Our main entree was Roasted Apple Street Farm chicken with hedgehog mushrooms and pommes puree, and green peppercorn jus. Apple Street Farm, located in Essex, is owned by Chef Frank McClelland, who also owns L'Espalier. This local farm aims for sustainability, and supplies L'Espalier with numerous products. Based on this chicken dish, the farm is producing superior products. is any indication of the --moist chicken, crisp skin
The chicken was cooked perfectly, incredibly moist with a delicious, crispy skin. I savored each and every piece, thinking that this was one of the best chicken dishes I have tasted in some time. I know people who won't order chicken at a restaurant, thinking the can easily make it at home. They should be ordering this chicken, and will realize how good it can actually be. The rest of the dish was excellent too, from the creamy potatoes to the earthy mushrooms.
We had two wines with the chicken, including the 2008 Mâcon-Lugny Lieu-dit La Carte (about $20) and the 2008 Mâcon-Chardonnay Lieu-dit Les Beluses. The La Carte is made from 100% Chardonnay, from vines averaging about 40 years old, and with an alcohol content of 11%. This wines undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation and sees no oak. The Les Beluses is very similar, being made from 100% Chardonnay, from vines averaging about 30 years old, and with an alcohol content of 11%. This wines undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation and sees no oak. The primary difference is that each of these wines is made from a different, single vineyard. Only 5000 cases of each wine was produced.
These were both excellent wines, rich, complex and flavorful. The La Carte might have been the better of the two, though only slightly, and probably due more to my preferences than anything else. I think it might have been a bit richer than the Les Beluses, which tended to have more mineral notes. Both though had luscious fruit and lengthy finishes. They certainly were excellent value wines, especially considering they are single vineyard wines. The both complemented the chicken and I would be happy to have either wine on my table.
Dessert came without any description of the items on the plate, but I savored them nonetheless, from the fresh pink grapefruit to the rich, chocolate. A fascinating blend of flavors and textures, which was a satisfying way to end this meal.
All of these wines but Les Beluses will be available in Massachusetts in April. Les Beluses will not be available in the U.S. I give these wines a strong recommendation, as they provide an excellent value. For less than $20, you can get a wine with plenty of flavor, and more complexity than you often get at this price point. They are great food wines, and should enhance many types of food.
As for L'Espalier, I only have kudos for their cuisine. They thoroughly satisified my palate, and left me full and happy.
744 Boylston Street
Boston, MA 02199