We first met Pascal Wagner in front of his small wine cave on a quiet street in sleepy Puligny Montrachet. He was anxiously pacing back and forth, chatting 200 miles an hour on a cell phone, in three different languages, with a client from some far off country. I didn’t want to disturb him but I had just begun braising an AOP Bresse chicken and needed an older white wine worthy of the celebrated bird. With a lit cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth, he motioned for us to be patient while he disappeared inside. He returned a moment later, still talking on the phone, clutching two fantastic bottles of an older white Meursault (chardonnay).
Oeno Technical Wine Storyteller
To say Pascal simply runs a wine shop and tour business minimizes the service he actually provides people. He’s an ‘Oeno Technical Wine Storyteller Sommelier’, a title that makes me smile every time because it sounds like something John Lennon might have sung somewhere on Sgt. Peppers. Pascal is a natural born storyteller with a wealth of insider information about everything and anything Burgundian and probably a few more topics when he really gets going. He’s very approachable and will break down the complicated world of wine into words everyone can easily understand. He quickly became our trusted advisor to everything from choosing which wines pair best with our frequent meals, the area’s best restaurants (see my post about the pirate of Burgundy here) and which vineyards we should and shouldn’t visit.
Burgundy By Bacchus
When we decided to bring another group of culinary adventurers to Burgundy this last year (Burgundy by Bacchus 2018), there was little doubt that Pascal would help create an extraordinary wine experience for our guests. With few guidelines, he led us on a magical mystery tour of discovery, enjoyment, and stimulation of all the senses that included an epic private barrel tasting at Remoissenet Père et Fils, picnic lunch with music perched above several Burgundy vineyards on a scenic vista, and a stroll through the charming town of Aloxe-Corton before a tasting in the cellars of Château de Corton-André.
Pascal et Pascal
Walking through the upper level of the winery sent chills down my spine, written in chalk on the 350-liter open top wooden fermentation tanks were some the most venerated names of Burgundy vineyards: Clos Vougeot, Les Cazetiers and Charmes-Chambertin. After the requisite pose by the picturesque mural, we were handed a glass and descended down into the bowels of Remoissenet where some of the world’s most respected wines lay aging gracefully.
For anyone who loves serious Burgundies, the absolute highlight of the entire culinary adventure was undoubtedly the private barrel tasting at Remoissenet Père et Fils. Tasting in one of Burgundy’s top ten producers’ hand carved cellars is akin to being a child and having Mickey Mouse personally guide you during your whole vacation to Disney World. Except, in this case, we had Pascal (yes, another Pascal) the cellar manager of Remoissenet, to lead the tour into the old cave. Pascal is a gregarious fellow with a fantastic sense of humor that really blossomed after the first few barrel tastings. I’m not sure if it was purely the amount of wine I drank by this point that had enabled me to understand French fluently or something else.
Remoissenet Pere et Fils
The winery was founded in 1877 in a 14th-century building in Beaune and long known for their impressive whites and silky reds, Remoissenet was run as a negociant and producer for the last part of the 20th century by Roland Remoissenet. After he retired in 2005, the 7.5-acre estate was sold to New York investors and a Canadian wine importer. Bérnard Repolt, the former president of Louis Jadot, is now in charge of winemaking and responsible for well over 200,000 bottles per year of production.
In addition to the vines they tend themselves, they also purchase grapes from select vineyards up and down the Côte. Remoissenet chooses grapes based on their quality and not for quantity, with bonuses being offered if the quality is exceptional. This method ensures that Remoissenet gets the finest grapes, regardless of vintage. At harvest, the fruit is sorted on three sorting tables to make sure only the best of the best makes it into the wine.
“Winemaking is philosophically non-interventionist, with winemaker Claudie Jobard preferring to “let the grapes speak” as clearly as possible. Reds are fermented on indigenous yeasts in open-top fermenters and aged in larger French oak barrels (350L). The percentage of new French oak barrels depends on the cru and the vintage, with up to 30 percent new wood for villages wines; from 30 to 70 percent for premier crus; and from 70 to 100 percent for grand cru wines. Reds are neither fined nor filtered.”
If you are looking to find Remoissenet in the United States, several high-end wine shops carry their wines, though you may want to start with North Berkeley Imports.
Red Before White, You’ll be Alright
There are moments in my life which I can remember with a heightened mental clarity; like the night I met my wife Lisa at table 11 at Pili Pili, or the very first time I held my newborn son Beaumont, seconds after his birth. The barrel tasting at Remoissenet was one such moment, I can remember quite clearly the giddy feeling of elation descending the spiral metal staircase down into the caves and the pleasant musty vinted scent that perfumed the air. I close my eyes and can remember the precise moment when Pascal #1 handed us our first glass of a young Savigny Les Beaune ‘Lavieres’ 2017 premier cru pulled fresh from the barrel it was aging in by Pascal #2 who used a two-foot-long glass thief to “steal” a precious taste for us all.
Contrary to how you might taste wines in a wine shop or even at a dinner party, we started with red wines then worked our way back into the whites. Going this seemingly backward way helps keep your palate fresher and more alive, especially when drinking, I mean tasting, 40 different wines in two hours time. The polite way to barrel taste is: you take a sip of wine, noisily swish and swirl it around your mouth as if you are chewing while looking for the perfect adjective that eludes you, then spit the undrunk wine neatly into a nearby portable spit bucket while maintaining a meaningful, still searching for the right word expression painted on your face. Anything remaining in your glass at this point is poured back into the barrel. Germs do not survive in the fermenting wine. I drank everything, Remoissenet is much too tasty to follow proper etiquette.
The more and more we tasted, the more gregarious we became. Pascal #2 would mention some pertinent detail about the wine or vineyard that Pascal #1 was supposed to translate and what would ensue was a humorous off-color, potentially lewd exchange between the two in French. Having worked in several French restaurants I had heard similar running commentaries. Both Pascals were excellent guides and answered all our questions about wine.
One of the standout highlights for me was tasting the single barrel of Batard Montrachet described by Bounty Hunter, a wine collector’s wet dream of a store, as: ‘From this acclaimed and quality-fanatical house in Beaune comes this shining example of Batard-Montrachet, dressed in a flattering pale yellow robe, with notes of fresh butter, chopped green herbs, minerals, and mirabelle plums and figs. Grand Cru, all the way, shot through with an electricity that can only come from one of the world’s greatest sites for Chardonnay.’ You can buy a single bottle of 2015 Batard-Montrachet for almost $700 if you want to taste what I mean.
We Emerged like Drunken Vampires
We exited the darkness of the cellar and emerged like drunken vampires into the bright Burgundy afternoon still reeling from the amazing experience at Remoissenet. Reeled apparently is the correct way to say slightly tanked. We poured into our cars and followed Pascal closely as he raced through Burgundies back roads, shooting through one small village after another. We kept winding up a steep incline till we reached a hilltop plateau with a large field dotted with picnic tables and barbeques.
Several glasses of a sparkling Burgundy were poured and we walked towards the incredible vista overlooking vineyard after vineyard of grapes with the ubiquitous picturesque old church. There is something profound to me about drinking a wine where it is grown and made. You really can smell the wine flavor in the soil and the air.
Lisa and I unpacked platters of pates, coppa, Corsican air-dried hams, saucisson, and terrines; bowls of carrot râpée, briny olives, creamy cheeses, ripe Cavaillon melons, a cold shaved pork dish with arugula and tree-ripened peaches, and six desserts. Pascal busied himself opening five more bottles of wine while giving the technical rundown of each as he pointed at the vineyard in the distance. After desserts, he and Stefan pulled out guitars and gave a beautiful performance of original music. It was an incredible afternoon that kept going deep into the night.
Cold Roast Pork with Arugula and Peaches
A delicious roast pork dish perfect for Summertime dining and drunken picnics.
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup Fallot mustard
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil NOT extra virgin
Roasting the Pork
- 16 ounces pork
- 1 tablespoon flake sea salt
- 1 tablespoon piment d’ville
- 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
Finishing the dish
- 16 ounces roasted pork chilled
- 2 peaches
- 2 ounces arugula
- 2 ounces Parmesan shaved
- Whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard, sea salt, and black pepper.
- Slowly whisk in the olive oil till all is incorporated if the dressing is too thick whisk in a bit of hot water to thin.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as you see fit.
Roasting the Pork
- Season pork with salt, piment d’ville and herbes de Provence, then sear in a hot pan and finish in a 350-degree oven for one hour. If you remember, flip it over half way in the cooking process. Chill completely.
Finishing the dish
- Thinly slice chilled pork and arrange on a large serving plate.
- Top with arugula, sliced peaches, and shaved Parmesan.
- Drizzle with mustard vinaigrette and serve.
This is the perfect marriage of my favorite green salad and leftover roast pork. I started adding peaches after reading one of the amazing Chef Marc Vetri’s cookbooks when I saw essentially the same dish my mom used to make. The peaches are an incredible addition. Make this dish with any leftover roast you have, chicken, beef, pork, veal or lamb. Piment d’ville is found online and is a great American espelette pepper.
A huge word of thanks Nancy Hartman and Stefan for furnishing some of the photographs used in this blog post. I was a little bit drunk when I took some of the pictures and focus wasn’t an attribute I was capable of.