Domaine Ampeau Rare Burgundy Collection 4-Pack
 
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Cellsars of Ampeau #6 Rue du Cromin and Hitchcock in Meursault

Yesterday afternoon, almost 31 years to the day from our first visit to #6 Rue du Cromin in Meursault, we hurtled back into Burgundian time. Fifty-two bottles, some dating back to the mid-1960s, were uncorked and tasted, almost all still locked in suspended animation.

Our first visit chez Ampeau had been arranged by a sommelier named Pierre Paillardon. Pierre had just bested the competition, making off with "Meilleur Jeune Sommelier de France" honors at the ripe age of 22. We met the boyish redhead while dining at Gérard Vié's Les Trois Marches in Versailles. Paillardon did us two big favors that evening: First he introduced us to Robert Ampeau's Meursault (the '64 La Piece sous le bois) and Pommard (1969). Then he did one better and telephoned Meursault to set up a visit and tasting for us the following day. Life on the wine trail would never be the same.

The bell outside the white gate and whitewashed courtyard is still in working order. When we rang that bell in November 1982, Robert shuffled out to greet us. His face was weathered, his skin like leather, after thousands of days in the vines. He did his best to smile, to be cordial, but you could tell that Monsieur Ampeau wasn't much for small talk. Clad in a standard blue work suit and a beret, we followed the winegrower back towards the house, then down 23 stone steps into the dark, dank, vaulted cellar below.

Most proprietary cellars in Burgundy are small, housing last year's vintage and small caches of older bottles for family consumption. Here, just as Paillardon had described, bottles were neatly stacked to the ceiling some 20' high. The niches in the cellar walls were stuffed with reds and whites, each carve-out tagged in chalk with an abbreviated description of the appellation and vintage. "MP71" meant Meursault-Perrières 1971. "MC69" was the 1969 Meursault-Charmes. "V59" described the unforgettable 1959 Volnay-Santenots.

Just as his son Michel did yesterday, Robert handed us a small piece of paper, encased in plastic. It was a matrix. On the x axis were the vintages, going back decades. On the y axis, the 10 appellations. Ampeau crossed his arms on his chest and asked, "Qu'est-ce-que vous voulez goûter?" "What would you like to taste?"

Three times during that five-hour tasting, Robert left us below as he climbed back up to the courtyard, hopped on his one-speed bicycle and sped off to another cellar to pick up bottles we'd requested. In a scene that would have made Hitchcock proud, we waited 10, 15, 20 minutes. A single bulb shed a bit of light on the back corner of the cellar. We shivered in the cold. Our teeth chattered. All we needed were the ghosts of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly — and a corkscrew. When Robert returned, his smile seemed a bit more devilish, as if he'd seen this movie before. He said nothing, other than to apologize for the time taken. Then he went back to work, pulling corks, never speaking. Dozens of bottles later, the cellar looked much like this:
Cellsars of Ampeau
Yesterday, when we arrived at #6 Rue du Cromin, we brought the cavalry. For the first time since 1985, Pierre Paillardon joined us chez Ampeau. The former sommelier at Les Trois Marches toted oversized crystal stemware and an iPad for note-taking. We followed Michel into the cellar at 2 p.m. By the time we climbed back up those stone steps, our arthritic legs screaming, night had fallen. Of the 52 bottles tasted, just six made the initial cut for today's offer, all of which we brought back to the dinner table in Puligny-Montrachet for further study. After a fairly heated debate over crème caramel, Paillardon cast the deciding votes for the richly structured 1999 Pommard and the beautifully chiseled 1994 Meursault La Piece sous le bois.

The 1999 Pommard is bright, deep ruby to the rim, showing no sign whatsoever of its 13 years in bottle. Infused with a complex mix of crushed raspberries, black cherry, sweet spice and underbrush, the attack is broad and plush, packed with red-fruit preserves, wild strawberry, and violets, all bracketed by the firm backbone of that extraordinary vintage. Drink now-2018.

The 1994 Meursault La Piece sous le bois is a marvel — and the unanimous pick for the white Burgundy of the afternoon. Brilliant green-gold to the edge with piercing aromas of flinty lemon curd, white peach and orchard pit. Dense and pure on the attack, still incredibly youthful and persistent six hours (!) after opening, featuring fine layers of lemon and honey, firm and persistent. Drink now-2020.

Not much to spread around this morning. Just 240 bottles of each selection. Offered individually or in a 4-bottle sampler. All wines shipped straight from the cellar floor at #6 Rue du Cromin in Meursault.


Tasting Notes

1994 Domaine Ampeau Meursault La Piece Sous Le Bois
"The 1994 Meursault La Piece sous le bois is a marvel — and the unanimous pick for the white Burgundy of the afternoon. Brilliant green-gold to the edge with piercing aromas of flinty lemon curd, white peach and orchard pit. Dense and pure on the attack, still incredibly youthful and persistent six hours (!) after opening, featuring fine layers of lemon and honey, firm and persistent. Drink now-2020."
-- WineAccess Travel Log, December 1, 2013

1999 Domaine Ampeau Pommard
"The 1999 Pommard is bright, deep ruby to the rim, showing no sign whatsoever of its 13 years in bottle. Infused with a complex mix of crushed raspberries, black cherry, sweet spice and underbrush, the attack is broad and plush, packed with red-fruit preserves, wild strawberry, and violets, all bracketed by the firm backbone of that extraordinary vintage. Drink now-2018."
-- WineAccess Travel Log, December 1, 2013


*Important Shipping Information
    • This is a Pre-Arrival Offer: Weather permitting wine will begin shipping in March, 2014.

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