WTN: When Free Isn't Good Enough

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WTN: When Free Isn't Good Enough

Postby Jim Jones in Tokyo » Fri Apr 14, 2006 8:20 am

WHEN FREE ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH - Club Med Ski Resort - Sahoro, Hokkaido, Japan (3/25/2006-3/28/2006)

In most cases, Club Med is about the farthest thing I can imagine from an ideal vacation. Being cooped up in a resort with pre-planned activities and lowest-common-denominator buffet food generally doesn't send me off into throes of la petite mort. But it works for a ski vacation with kids. There is a great kids ski school so that Cathryn and I actually get to ski. There are two slalom races a week so that I have a good chance to break a leg trying to ski like I am 20 years younger than I am. And the food is not really that bad, especially when I am dead tired and just want to eat and relax with friends before I fall into bed.

There is also unlimited free wine. The unbranded Vin de Pays d'Oc Rosé is good in a simple, refreshing and restorative way with lunch, but dinner demands a bit more. So, for our recent trip, we lugged a few things along on the airplane. There is generally no point in trying to describe food matches given the unfocused buffet-style offerings.

Night 1: Not a Good Start, Is It?
  • 2001 Domaine des Malandes Chablis Fourchaume 1er Cru - France, Burgundy, Chablis (3/25/2006)
    Uh-oh! A little dark in the glass and a little candied smelling at first sniff. The nose never shows much more than a tired sweetness and bit of leesiness. On the palate, there is still some minerality and a dose of acid hidden behind the clearly declining flat palate of browned apple and Jolly Rancher. Something is wrong here. This was a gift and the only one I had, so I don’t have another bottle to check to see if this is a bottle problem or something more. Others at the table liked it enough to finish it, but no one raved.
  • 1996 Château Roc de Canon - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Canon-Fronsac (3/25/2006)
    "Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed." That maxim worked here. Color is a little light at the edges and a little tired throughout. Nose shows some evolved dusty fruit, a little earth and not much more. No evolution in the glass. Palate is flat with little structure left other than a small scrape of tannin on the finish. Fruit is evolved and a bit tired plum and medium berry. There’s also a hint of green in here. I’m making it sound worse than it is, but this is a wine that didn’t start out bound for greatness and should have been consumed by its fifth year or so. It’s nice to have friends who help me clean (drink) up my mistakes. Then again, if these were the worst mistakes I made, life would be a lot simpler.
Night 2: Samantha and Jonathan Arrive -- Time for Bubbly
  • 1982 Guy Michel Tradition Brut - France, Champagne, Pierry (3/26/2006)
    Shows a darkening and a certain langorous nature to the mousse that hints at age. On the nose, a nice bit of honeyed nuts softens one up before that Pierry minerally chalk comes through. Underneath, there’s still fruit in a soft white peachy kind of range. On the palate, a little more liveliness to the mousse than I expected combines with that great chalky minerality to keep the wine taut and to balance the mature grilled nuts, honey, and toast elements. Showing no signs of decline, this is a nicely mature wine that is still available in the market at great prices.
  • 1996 Pommery Champagne Brut Grand Cru - France, Champagne (3/26/2006)
    Very light in color with small tight mousse. Nose is closed fairly tight at first, but slowly opens to reveal young apply fruit and an austerity that teases. A similar teasing nature exists on the palate, with a preliminarily simple mix of bland white fruit and a hint of mineral austerity. I like austerity, but I have a fear this is just blandish simplicity masquerading as austerity and mineral. There are bits of lemon and stone behind the simple fruit, but I can’t figure out whether they are just bits that will never be anything more or the hints of greater complexity to come. There are similar issues with the basic Pommery NV, so I’m not inclined to invest the money and cellar space in waiting to see where this goes.
Night 3: Well-Worn Favorites -- But Comfortable Like an Old Shirt
  • 2004 Pieropan Soave Classico - Italy, Veneto, Soave Classico (3/27/2006)
    Pretty straw yellow with the slightest, most barely visible hint of spritz. The nose shows good mineral, pure pear and citrus, and field grass with a bit of sweet hay. Palate is in a similar vein with light acid that is just enough let the wine float quenchingly through the mouth, giving off a narrow beam of crystalline pear and a lingering sense of grassy sweetness. Leaves one humming a bar or two of “Simple Gifts” while enjoying the mineral in the finish.
  • 1996 Les Fiefs de Lagrange - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien (3/27/2006)
    In 1996, it’s nice to move from the right to the left bank. This is entirely fresher in appearance, nose, texture, and taste. Sometimes wines are exactly what they should be. Such is this, a second wine that appears more as a miniature than a castoff. Bright fresh aromas of cassis, a small kiss of oak sweetness, and some soft elegant herbaceousness are a good start. On the palate, it shows cassis and a bit of berry with a little graphite. Throughout, there is just enough acid and tannin to keep it all upright. Simple and relatively small, but attractively typical and just ready to drink. Small and simple can be good.
Night 4: Southeast Asian Night at the Buffet
  • 1997 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal - France, Alsace, Turckheim, Alsace AOC (3/28/2006)
    A favorite that has shown amazing consistency over the last couple of years. Nice deepish yellow-gold and an enticing viscosity. The nose promises a little honey and a lot more orange zest and apricot. When it hits the palate, there is honeyed fruit richness, but there is also a spine of lighter citrus flavor and acid zip that brings this into great balance. With sweetness and richness that threatens to masquerade as a VT, but with liveliness that makes it a great match with some foods. It has done well before with robata-grilled Japanese food and with foie gras. This time, it does well with spicy southeast Asian fare. Evolved enough to be wide open and great to drink now, this still isn’t fading. One wonders what more may be in store.
  • 2001 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (3/28/2006)
    In the deep red range with good intensity. Similar to last bottle in terms of descriptors that apply – good slightly brambly and ripe but not overripe blackberry scents and flavors and a healthy dose of dust and sun-warmed earth. What is missing tonight is the enlivening cherry-flavored acidity that has given previous bottles a claret-like drinkability. Somehow, this just seems a little leaden this time around. Bad palate day? Slightly off bottle? Hard to say.


Except for 24 hours of hellish travel delays due to weather and Club Med's organizational incompetence (and their seeming apathy), this was a great trip. Very good snow, enough physical activity to take one's mind off the office, and a chance to spend five days with two families that are great friends.
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Jim Jones
Tokyo, Japan
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Jim Jones in Tokyo
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Postby Dale Williams » Fri Apr 14, 2006 10:09 am

Thanks for notes. There are always exceptions to vintage generalizations, but your notes are one more indication how much better the Left Bank did in 1996 vs. the Right. Only Right I have left is the Troplong-Mondot, just hoping fruit outlasts the tannins.

Sounds like you made the best of the Club Med experience!
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