GC's Tasting Cafe is a casual and friendly place downtown Menlo Park, offering a good variety of sandwiches and small plates based on cheese and charcuterie. Thanks to Gérard, co-owner and Maître Fromager, the cheese selection is particularly expansive. The place is also a tasting room where you can purchase your own wine or taste by the glass. The wine selection includes well chosen wines from local wineries as well as from California, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere.
For the party, I was asked to choose some of the French wines sold at the cafe that would go well with the cheese, and so here is what we tasted:
• 2006 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés Domaine Roger Moreux: Sancerre, located in the eastern part of the Loire Valley, is regarded as the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc, producing wines of great minerality and elegance. Les Monts Damnés or Damned Mountains is a terroir of chalky purity with an abundance of crushed oyster shells and wet stones. Domaine Roger Moreux has been making wine since the 16th century. It is located in Chavignol, a small village within the Sancerre appellation, also known for France's most famous goat cheese, the Crottin de Chavignol. The wine had an attractive, floral nose. The palate was crisp, with notes of grapefruit, and a persistent stony finish. And of course, it was delicious with the goat cheese.
• 2006 Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume Domaine Séguinot-Bordet: Chablis is located at the north of the Burgundy region, along the 48th parallel north which places Chablis at the northern extremes of viable viticulture. The soil is a mix of Kimmeridge clay from the Jurassic age, with the same chalk layer that is found in Sancerre and up to the cliffs of Dover. The appellation produces white wines only, all made from the Chardonnay grape. Thanks to the region's cool climate, the wines have more acidity and less fruit than Chardonnay wines made in warmer climates. Domaine Séguinot-Bordet is a 16 hectare family estate that has been growing vines since 1590. For young winemaker Jean-François Bordet, the main emphasis is to get the best fruit possible through careful pruning, debudding and harvesting. The wine had a focused nose of stone fruit, and a complex, mineral backbone on the palate. It was much less fruity than the Sancerre but nonetheless not less intense.
• 2005 Chorey-Lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes Dominique Laurent: Chorey-Lès-Beaune is the Burgundy village appellation closest to Beaune. The appellation has no grand or premier crus, but the village wines have gained reputation of being among the best value on the Côte de Beaune. The total area under production is 136 hectares, the vast majority of this being Pinot Noir. Dominique Laurent is a renowned grower-producer in Burgundy. He owns only tiny parcels of vineyards and buys grapes or new wine from various growers, focussing on old vines, low yields and minimal intervention winemaking. The wine had a pleasant earthy nose of red cherry. The palate was tart, light-to-medium bodied, firm, but rather unbalanced in terms of acidity.
• 2005 Côtes du Rhône Domaine du Pesquier: Guy Boutière from Domaine Pesquier farms around 30 hectares of vines spread among Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône vineyards. The Côtes du Rhône is a classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. It had a nose of sweet berry fruits and spices. The palate was full-bodied, quite robust, and richly flavored. A stronger wine, perfect with the salami.
• 2005 Château Charmail: Château Charmail is a Cru Bourgeois in the Haut-Médoc appellation, bordering Saint-Estèphe. It is produced by the Sèze family who also owns Château Mayne-Vieil in Fronsac. Planting is 48% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, an unusually high proportion of Merlot for the Médoc. I think this was the best red wine of the evening. It had a nose of black fruit with some notes of licorice. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, still young and tannic but very well balanced, tasty, and excellent with Petit Basque.
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