2009 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse
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Domaine Andre Bonhomme The Meursault Wink -- 30 Years Later

When the votes were tallied, the reviews perused, buyers came out just where we did after the sommelier's wink. Thirty years ago, with the dollar staging a strong comeback against the franc, we booked a lunch table for two at what many considered to be the greatest restaurant in the world. We were under-dressed for the occasion, something that wasn't lost on Taillevent's cellar keeper.

M. Vrinat's wine list was legendary, featuring thousands of world-class names, including a dozen vintages of Petrus, Lafite, Mouton and Haut Brion. But after a complementary coupe de Champagne, we followed our noses to the white Burgundy section -- if only to salivate over a list of names, appellations, vintages we could never hope to afford.

The sommelier was dressed to the t's -- all black and white with one of those small silver cups dangling from his neck. As it turned out, far better than the costume, was his candor. Our eyes were dancing over the Meursaults of Lafon, the Chassagnes of Ramonet and Niellon, Ampeau's Puligny "Combettes." And while our tattered sweaters argued for making a beeline to Sancerre, we hadn't come to Taillevent to dine on the cheap. We were determined to begin with Bourgogne, even if that meant flying Freddie Laker's charter back to JFK.

It only took a couple minutes for the sommelier to understand our dilemma. He smiled, spoke eloquently of Comte Lafon and Pierre Ramonet and then … he winked (or did he?). Our new 3-star Michelin wine buddy directed us to the lone Macon on the most celebrated wine list in the world -- adding that Andre Bonhomme's Macon-Vire was "better than most village Meursaults … at one-third the price!"

Over the next three decades, we made the trip to the sleepy village of Vire twenty-three times. On each visit, the ingenious, obsessive winegrower, who's stunning Chardonnays, indeed, put much of Meursault to shame, treated us to a tasting trip back in time. Andre gleefully darted around the cellar, pulling crusty unlabeled bottles from unmarked piles, stunning us with still-youthful bottles from the late 50s and 1960s -- each a unique interpretation of a distinct growing season.

All of Andre Bonhomme's vintages were elegantly chiseled, each seemingly locked in suspended animation. But even Maconnais' greatest Chardonnay master acknowledged that, on average, just one growing season per decade offered up clusters sufficiently ripe to match not only Meursault's in structure, but richness and 'fat.' It happened in 1959, and again in 1964. There were the warm summers of 1971 and 1979 and 1989.

Then, there was a twenty year respite, until September 2009, when the Bonhommes' calcareous slopes turned out one of the richest, plumpest, apple/pear clusters since Andre Bonhomme first put Chardonnay into a bottle bearing his family name -- in 1955.

The 2009 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse is pale golden in color. Infused with luscious aromas of apple and ripe pear, laced with anise and textbook wet stone minerality, the attack is marvelously rich. Packed with apple-pear compote, the texture is dense, weighty and yes -- Chassagne-like -- still buttressed by the riveting, vibrant signature that made this the only Chardonnay of the Maconnais to earn a slot on M. Vrinat's carte des vins.

Tasting Notes

2009 Domaine Andre Bonhomme Vire-Clesse
"Pale golden in color. Luscious aromas of Golden Delicious apple and ripe pear, laced with anise and textbook wet stone minerality. The attack is rich, weighty and opulent, packed with apple-pear compote. Dense and Montrachet-like in texture, still buttressed by piercing calcareous acidity. Drink now for its primary fruit concentration, or far better, lay this one down for a decade in the coolest of cellars."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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