Friday, July 23, 2021

French Wine Dinner at Chez Joel Chicago

French Wine Dinner at Chez Joël Bistro Francais Chicago

We met fellow Pour Boys Dan with Linda and Lyle with Terry at one of our favorite eateries in Chicago, French Bistro Chez Joel on Taylor Street, in what used to be known as Little Italy, near the Medical district, just south of the UIC Campus.

A passing summer rain burst almost disrupted our plans to dine on the outdoor patio but we pushed back our dinner but 1/2 hour and the skies cleared for a delightful evening. 

All our entrees were wonderful, tastfully and artfully prepared and presented. I had the Seared Duck Breast & Leg Confit, one of the best I have had anywhere, Dan and Lyle the Fresh Fish Special of the Day, Brook Trout, which resembled grilled Salmon, and the ladies all had the filets of beef. 

Prior to dinner we had appetizers of the Duck Liver Pâté, Frog Legs, Beet Salad and the Escargot. 


Chez Joel Filet of Beef

Chez Joel Duck Confit

Chez Joel Brook Trout

We ordered from the thoughtfully and carefully selected winelist a selection of French wines starting with Chateau Mangot Bordeaux. I followed with a Crozes-Hermitage and then a Brane Cantenac Margaux. For the dessert course I ordered a Sauterne while Dan and Lyle had a Tawny Port. 

 Interesting that on our previous visit to Chez Joel, back in pre-covid 2019, we ordered these same two wines, the Crozes-Hermitage and the Mangot, which we also had on an earlier visit there back in 2013.

 Maison Les Alexandrins Crozes-Hermitage 2017

Consistent with the earlier tasting, I recast my notes from that earlier blogpost

While not as elegant, concentrated, complex or intense as some of the recent Syrahs featured in these pages, this is a fraction of their price. A fun and fitting comparison that holds its own very nicely against the pair of Croze-Hermitages we tasted in Paris last week (and the second one). 

Crozes Hermitage is the biggest vineyard appellation area among the Northern Rhône appellations with 3200 acres. It is spread over 11 different communes situated in the department of La Drôme on the left bank of the Rhône River.

Deep purple ruby colored, medium bodied, bright vibrant black berry and black cherry fruits, notes of smoky, spices and hints of black pepper, nice balance of acidity, turning to smooth silky tannins on a long finish. An outstanding QPR, high quality to price ratio wine.

RM 90 points.

Reviewed by: Jeb Dunnuck - 90 pts
Reviewed by: The Wine Advocate
- 90-92 pts

Chateau Mangot St Emilion Grand Cru 2012

On our last visit to Chez Joel we tasted the 2014 release of this label, and prior to that, the 2009 release.  Tonight's tasting was consistent with that those earlier experiences.Of the previous visit I wrote the post below.

For the entree course we selected this label which ideal with the steak and duck courses. We've had this wine before from the winelist at Chez Joel over the years, in several vintages. It consistently represents great value in a quality appropriate selection at a fair and moderate price-point.

This cru, is from the St Emilion Grand Cru appellation, crafted  from the Estate's 4 terroirs spread between the foot of the slopes, slopes, terraces and plateaux. It is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the 21 different plots that of the Estate vineyards.

Bright garnet colored, medium bodied, tangy black berry and black currant and plum fruits, spice, floral and notes of anise and cedar, dry with cloying tannins on the long finish.

RM 90 points.

Château Brane-Cantenac Margaux-de-Brane 2015

For the entree course I selected this Left Bank Bordeaux from the Medoc. This is the third label of Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux. Owned by Henri Lurton, one of several Lurtons to own property in Margaux, the Lurton family has been at the helm of the property for four generations . 

From the Chateau review: "Created in the 18th Century by the De Gorce family who gives it her name, this great vineyard produced yet, a century before the classification of 1855, one of the most renowned wines of Médoc. The Baron de Brane, called “the Napoleon of wines”, purchased the vineyard in 1833 and devoted all his energy to this growth. He renamed the property “Brane Cantenac” in 1838. In 1925, François Lurton, main shareholder of Château Margaux, bought this prestigious growth. His son Lucien, then, his grand-son Henri took over him at the head of the property." 

We drove past the the 75-hectare estate during our visit to and tours around Margaux back in 2018. 

We've long been fans of their Grand Cru but this was my first tasting on record of their second label. It was delightful and in my book was the WOTN - Wine of the Night of the Reds. I'll be seeking this out to add to our cellar collection, a high QPR label for more budget conscious sipping appropriate occasions.
Its second wine is rich and concentrated with solid tannins as well as generous blackberry fruits. It will be impressive as it ages. Drink from 2020. 

From the 2015 vintage, a phenomenal ideal vintage in Bordeaux such that the second and even the third labels of top producers were exceptional, as 'all boats rise with the tide', as the saying goes. 

This release is a blend of Bordeaux sanctioned varietals: 55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, more akin to a Right Bank than a Left Blend composition. 

Garnet colored with hues of purple, medium full bodied, structured but elegant and nicely balanced, expressive concentrated dark berry fruits with bright floral notes accented by spice and hints of licorice, chocolate and vanilla with a silky tannin lingering finish. 

RM 91 points.

This was rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast and 87 points by Vinous.

For the final dessert course I ordered this Sauterne that was a delicious, perfect accompaniment to the lava chocolate cake. 

Château Suduiraut Lions de Suduiraut Sauterne 2016

Like the previous selection, this too is the second wine of a well known prestigious Bordeaux Grand Cru. 

Resembling its flagship first label big brother this was delicious and a perfect perfect accompaniment to the lava chocolate cake. 

The history of Château Suduiraut began in 1580 with the marriage of Nicole d’Allard and Léonard de Suduiraut. Classified as a Premier Cru Classé (First Growth) in Sauternes in 1855, it has always been known as a superb property (its neighbor is Château d’Yquem). 

In the 1990’s, the estate was sold to French financial insurance conglomerate AXA, who invested in the Château making significant investments in its vineyards and winemaking facilities. This eventually translated into a dramatic increase in the quality of the wines.

The Suduiraut vineyards span 92 hectares consisting of gravel, sand, limestone and clay soils on sloping hillsides. They are planted to 90% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is fermented in French oak barrels and aged on its lees in 50% new French oak for 18-24 months. Lions de Suduiraut, their third label, is produced from almost nearly 100% Semilon. This release was a blend of  93% Semillon and 7% Sauvignon Blanc. 

It was aged 50% in new barrels and 50% from barrels of one vintage, for 16 to 18 months

Dark golden, weak tea colored, medium bodied, sprites of sweet honey, apricot with note of peach and glints of pear, citrus and notes of lychee, stone fruit on a tongue coating unctuous finish.

RM 91 points.

As usual and to be expected at Chez Joel, a wonderful, relaxing fun wine and dine evening.