Kudos go to Jillian, the Wine Director at T.W. Food for being so adventurous with her wine selections. As a lover of niche wines, I really appreciate that Jillian also seems to favor exploring and learning about niche wines. At one of her most recent wine dinners, she presented wines from the Jura region of France, definitely some very unique wines. I have had few wines from this region so it was fascinating to get to taste these interesting wines.
The Jura region, located between Burgundy and Switzerland, is a cool climate area and grows grapes including Chardonnay, Poulsard, Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and Savagnin. Some of their wines, such as the famed vin jaune, is made in a process similar in some respects to Sherry. It is also one of the few regions, outside of Spain, where flor yeast develops over wine in the barrel. The flor is different from the one in Spain, but works in a similar way, protecting the wine from oxidation. The vin jaune wines must age for at least six years while the sous voile only age for two to three years.
This was paired with our first dish, Smoked Sea Scallops with a saffron-onion compote and shallot vinaigrette. The scallops were tender, cooked perfectly, and the flavors worked well together, adding much to the dish. The wine went well with the scallops, nothing overpowering the wine.
Next up was the 2006 Peggy Buronfosse “Les Belemnites” ($26), a blend of 70% Savagnin and 30% Chardonnay and it is oak aged. This was an interesting wine, with a strong aroma and a full-bodied taste which seemed to be oxidized, but it was not. It had some nutty notes as well as subtle fruit notes, a little apple and pear. Very enjoyable and a wine that can stand up to heartier dishes, like the Croute Jurassiene which was its pairing. The Croute is a traditional foraged mushroom ragout baked on Levain bread. Its earthy taste went very well with the wine.
2007 Stephane Tissot "Vielles Vignes" Poulsard ($24), made from old vines of the Poulsard grape grown in certified biodynamic vineyards. Poulsard is said to be like Cabernet Franc, which made me a little tentative as I worried that maybe the Poulsard would have too much of a vegetal flavor, but that turned out not to be the case. The wine was light red in color, with an almost musty, gamey smell. That did not come out in the taste though, which had mild, dried red fruit flavors and wild herbal notes. The tannins were moderate and it had a fairly long finish. It was an interesting wine, and really did not remind me of Cabernet Franc. If you are seeking something different, definitely give this Poulsard a try.
The entree was a Seared Local Albacore with a black peppercorn cream and winter greens. The silky, tender tuna was not overpowered by the Poulsard, and the herbal notes of the wine went well with the dish. The wine also cut through the cream sauce and was a good pairing.
For the ending, rather than a sweet, we had a cheese course, which is always fine by me. We had a Comte from Jura, the Marcel Petite "Le Fort," an unpasteurized cow's milk cheese. An excellent cheese, with a stronger flavor and almost a hint of sweetness. With this cheese, we had the most unique wine of the tasting, the 1999 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune ($95).
This Vin Jaune comes in a 620ml bottle (called a "clavelin"), which is what is left over after the evaporation of what would have been in a 750ml bottle. It is produced from 100% Savagnin and is aged for at least six years in the barrel, though Puffeney often waits for 8 1/2 years. This had an intriguing aroma with hints of almonds, reminding me of sherry. On the palate, it again reminded me of sherry, especially a manzanilla, as it had a taste of briny apples. There was some more subtle flavors too, a bit of herbal notes, and plenty of complexity with a lengthy and satisfying finish. This is a wine to slowly savor, enjoying each sip. Though I very much enjoyed this wine, it is pricey and an aged sherry, which can offer a similar complexity and experience, will usually be a better value.
An excellent meal and interesting wines, part and parcel of the usual T.W. Food experience. The restaurant is located a bit off the beaten path, and subsequently does not seem to get as much attention as is deserved. But it is a worthy destination and you should make the effort to dine there. The high-quality cuisine is creative, and the ingredients are well-sourced, often local. Jillian is doing an excellent job with their wine list, and new wines are added all the time. And they hold plenty of fun events, so what are you waiting for?