Marie Albrecht and Eve Bordarier of Pasternak Wine Imports
Each November, my wife and I attend Sunset Corner’s annual Champagne and sparkling wine tasting, and work our way through around 80 sparkling wines. It seems that no matter what passes our lips – Cristal, Dom, Moet, the label we come back to year after year is Lucien Albrecht, maker of delicious Cremant d’Alscace wines. It’s a light, pleasant, easy drinking wine with great flavor and finish.
Albrecht has a prestigious history, dating back to 1425 when the winery was founded by Romanu Albrecht, who settled in the town of Thann. A member of the family has made wines since that time, making it one of the oldest family run wineries in the world. Their heritage runs to the typical Alstatian wines, such as Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. Their sparkling wines are a relatively new addition to their portfolio.
Pasternak Wine Imports and the JW Marriott Marquis in Downtown Miami recently hosted a wine dinner in the hotel’s DB Bistro Moderne, featuring the wines of Domaine Lucien Albrecht. To make the evening even better, Marie Albrecht, the 26-year old daughter of the estate’s current winemaker, Jean Albrecht, headlined the event. She is acting as the export manager for the brand, while her sister Cecile studies oenology and viticulture at Montpelier University, in France. The dinner featured the cuisine of Executive Chef Jarrod Verbiak, and Pastry Chef Jerome Maure, paired with eight of Albrecht’s wines.
The evening started with their two Cremant d’Alscace sparkling wines, Brut Blanc de Blancs and Brut Rosé. The Blanc de Blancs is a blend of 80% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc, and 10% Chardonnay. It has a light, lively aroma with floral notes and a bit of tropical fruit, and a nice palate, with flavors of apple, pear, and a touch of floral. The Rose is 100% Pinot Noir and (in full disclosure) one of my favorite sparkling wines. It has a pleasant nose of light red fruits and flowers, with flavors of strawberries, cherries, and a hint of raspberry. These two wines were paired with a variety of butlered hors d’oeuvres.
First on the menu was a Pressee de Poulet et Foie Gras, with Pickled Forest Mushrooms, Mache, and Jus Cassé. This was paired with Albrecht’s Cuvée Balthazar Pinot Blanc 2010 and their Cuvée Romanus Pinot Gris 2010. The Pinot Blanc had a delicate nose, with light floral notes, a touch of minerality, and a hint of green apples. On the palate, it was full bodied, with flavors of light citrus and lemon peel. It was tart and crisp, with good mouthfeel. The finish was medium-long, and evolved nicely. The Pinot Gris had a more complex nose, with pears, white peaches, faint green apples, and a hint of lemon. On the tongue, it was tart, with green apples, citrus, grapefruit, unripe peaches, and tropical fruits. It had a medium-long finish with nice evolution, showing a hint of minerality, green fruits, ending with flavors of a ripe, juicy, orange.
Of the two wines, the Pinot Blanc was the better stand-alone wine, but the Pinot Gris paired better with the dish. Both wines retail for under $20.00.
The next item was Roasted Sea Scallops, with Creamy Endive Marmalade, Speck Ham, and Black Truffle Vinaigrette. This was paired with Albrecht’s Pfingstberg Grand Cru Riesling 2007. The wine had a faint petrol/rubbery nose (not unpleasant), with white peaches, a hint of citrus peel, red apples, and very light floral notes. The flavors were red apple skins, white peaches, a touch of tropical fruits, and a hint of jasmine. The wine had a moderate body with a nice mouthfeel. The finish was medium-long, with lingering minerality and jasmine. It retails for about $40.00. I was not able to try the dish with the wine (pork does not like me), but speaking with my tablemates, the consensus seemed to be that the pairing worked, with the dish slightly overpowering the wine.
Next up was a Shallot Encrusted Lamb Chop, with Flageoulet Ragout, Carrots Vichy, and Thyme Scented Jus. This was paired with Albrecht’s Amplus Pinot Noir 2007. If memory serves, Ms. Albrecht indicated this was a “new” wine for the vineyard, first bottled in early 2000. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir, and had a complex, rather fascinating nose. My first impression was a hint of earthy forest and a touch of menthol, followed by strawberries, faint cherry, and a hint of talc. It was spicy, with smoky fruits, but at the same time, had a softness to it that presented as a rather elegant, understated feeling. On the palate, I found moderate tannins, woody notes reminiscent of cedar, loamy flavors, restrained fruits, and a hint of licorice. The wine had a medium body that was a little on the thin side, but offered good mouthfeel and a nice presence. The finish was medium-long, and evolved through cedar, cigar box, and dark fruits. What was interesting about this wine was each sip hinted at fruit, but moved quickly towards earthy notes, leaving a taste of fruit lingering on my lips while at the same time, a nice earthiness in my mouth.
The pairing worked, but more in favor of the lamb than the wine, which seemed to move to the background of flavors, enhancing the richness of the meat. The wine retails for about $60 per bottle.
The last course was dessert, featuring Confit Honey Apple Crisp, with a Cinnamon Puff Pastry Twist, Green Apple Coulis, and Mascarpone Ice Cream. The pairing for this course was two Gewürztraminers, from the 2009 vintage. The first was Réserve Gewürztraminer, the second Cuvée Marie Gewürztraminer (so named by her father because she and the wine were spicy!).
The Réserve had a very perfume-y nose, with violets, ripe pears, and intense floral notes, with hints of red apples and light tropical fruits. The first flavor that I detected was Jackfruit, followed by pears, pineapple, a bit of flint, and lychee (typical of a Gewürzt). The wine had a nice body and a medium long finish in which the Jackfruit popped up again, along with hints of honey and sweet pineapple.
The Cuvée Marie had a richer nose, with pears, light honey, lychee, floral notes, and a bit of pineapple. It also had a very nice mouthfeel, with lychee, light oranges, sweet pineapple, red apples, and pears. The finish was medium long, lingering with lychee and honey.
The pairing worked with both the wines. The dish had a complex interplay of flavors. The construction of the dish and the structure of the wines created an enjoyable, interesting pairing. Both wines worked equally well. The Réserve retails for about $20 per bottle, the Cuvée Marie for about $30.
I had the opportunity to speak with Chef Verbiak after the meal about his menu choices. He indicated that he created the dishes after trying the wines, relying on memory and the tasting notes, rather than the actual wine, to develop each dish. Overall, his efforts were a success. Planning wine dinners is part art, part science, and it takes a good chef with a good palate to do a good job developing a menu that compliments both the food and the wines. Chef Verbiak certainly made the grade.