An invitation came through the old e-mail to attend a Beaujolais dinner at Hearth, the East Village Italian eatery, and since I like Beaujolais and dinner invitations both, I said yes.
An added bonus was drinking 12 different glasses of the great Gamay: a rose, a sparkler (Jean-Paul Brun's wonderful FRV100--yum!) and one sample each from all ten of the Beaujolais Crus. Shall we name them? Sure, why not? Saint-Amour, Regnie, Fleurie, Chenas, Julienas, Chiroubles, Moulin-a-Vent, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly and Morgon. There was also a Beaujolais-Village thrown in there for good measure.
Our host, Paul Grieco, quoted somebody as saying the Gamay is a grape quite capable of goodness, but not of greatness. That hit me a bit wrong, as I do love a good bottle of Beaujolais. But on reflection, I didn't find myself disagreeing. And what's wrong with goodness anyway? Very few wines get there. And not every bottle has to be great.
I enjoyed myself as sipping through the Village Regnie, Saint-Amour and Fleurie, though none were more than pleasant. As the cured sea trout ceded the table to the roasted daurade (that's a fish, folks), things picked up. The Chenas was rounder with a dusty undertone; the Julienas rich, fragrant and meatier; and the Chiroubles (by Domaine Cheysson) edgy with notes of tobacco and leaves. Fascinatingly complex.
Finally came the roasted duck breast and the big boys: a perfumed, violet Moulin-a-Vent; the Brouilly grapey smooth with a nice edge; the Cote de Brouilly marvelously funky; and the Morgon tasting of mushrooms and more pronounced tannin. All in all, the Cote de Brouilly, by Chateau Thivin, was the best of the bunch in that it stood out so violently. Drinking something that reminded one of wet soil and meat may not sound like a good time, but, believe me, it was. Good with the duck and risotto, too.
These events can be a bit tense if one does not know any of one's dining partners. But I had the good fortune of sitting next to Lesley Townsend, the young director of the Astor Center. Slim, waifish, bright-eyed and candid, she made for chatty, offhand company. She said the occasion was her first stab at imbibing after a month of swearing off alcohol, coffee and chocolate. What sort of hedonist is that?!