Thursday, February 24, 2022

Chez Joël Bistro Francais Chicago - French cuisine and wines

Chez Joël Bistro Francais Chicago - French cuisine and wines

We dined at Chez Joël Bistro Francais on Taylor Street in Chicago - I say Taylor Street as it denotes many memories of a restaurant row, destination site, but historically "Little Italy", not necessarily French cuisine. Never-the-less, Chez Joel authentic French Bistro is one of our favorite go-to destinations in the City - especially in the summer on the patio. 

The quaint atmosphere and artistic decor offers an intimate setting that allows for privacy as it fills with people due to the cacophony of background noise due to the high ceiling acoustics. 

They have a new filet of beouf offering - Filet Mignon de Bœuf Grillé Au Jus De Cuisson - a beef Tenderloin Grilled in a Thyme Au Jus, Garlic Moussline, Roasted Shallots, Four Mushrooms, Fricassé of Vegetables and Mashed Potatoes. Superb and a new benchmark selection there. 

As usual, I also ordered my usual favorite starter - their delectable Pâté de deux Sortes, Duck Liver Pâté with Traditional Garnish & Toast Points; and colleague Kevin ordered and loved their Fromage de Brie Chaud - Warm Brie Cheese with Honey, Caramelized Granny Smith Apples, Apricot, Garlic, Pistachio & Toast.

From the wine list we selected  a couple of their moderate priced labels to accompany our dinner entrees.

Château Maurac Haut-Médoc Bordeaux 2016

This is a new offering on the winelist from my recollection. It is from Winemaker and vineyard manager Claude Gaudin who works with a number of châteaux in the Haut-Médoc region, including this one, considered one of the best, Château Maurac. 

This wine comes from a 24-acre estate in the northern Haut-Médoc, close to Saint-Estèphe, situated just past the appellation boundary near well-known neighbors Château Sociando-Mallet and Château Charmail. No one knows when the chateau was established as it is undocumented, however it was recognized as Cru Bourgeois as early as 1886.

With soil consisting mainly of clay with some limestone and gravel, and the Medoc climate the terroir is ideally suited for both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which are about equally included in the blend.

Wine Enthusiast gave this label release 92 points.

Born in an outstanding vintage, the 2016 Château Maurac Haut-Médoc (92 points – Wine Enthusiast) captures the essence and exceptional quality of the much touted 2016 Bordeaux vintage. 

From the outstanding 2016 vintage with splendid weather throughout the Haut-Médoc, as 'all boats rise with the tide', secondary labels such as this were often exceptional, intense age-worthy wines capable to age beautifully for a decade or more.

Dark garnet colored, concentrated and complex with a structured tannic core of ripe berry and black fruits with cassis, leather and hints of cedar, oak and tobacco on the tangy acidic finish.

RM 89 points.

From the predominantly French, carefully selected winelist, I ordered this Northern Rhone Syrah from Crozes Hermitage, the largest vineyard among the Northern Rhône appellations with over 1300 hectares. It is spread over 11 different communes situated in the department of La Drôme on the left bank of the Rhône river. 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.

Les Vins de Vienne - Cuilleron-Gaillard-Villard Crozes-Hermitage 2018

This is a collaboration of three legendary Northern Rhone Superstar winemakers whose names comprise the label. Three of Rhone Valleys' most established names, Les Vins de Vienne is a partnership of Yves Cuilleron, Francois Villard, and Pierre Gaillard, each known as Syrah-specialist vignerons in the Rhône. 

Les Vins de Vienne has established a broad portfolio of wines that branched out throughout the Rhône—with 10 single-vineyard estate reds and whites from Côte-Rôtie to Crozes-Hermitage and St.-Péray and a négociant arm that bottles another 27 labels from as far south as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Total production is around 47,000 cases, and the company has 15 employees. 

Back in 1996, this trio purchased and rejuvenated the old terroir of the vineyard of Seyssuel, located on the left bank at Rhone's northernmost point, north of Cote-Rotie. Seyssuel wines date back in history to the Roman era, the Middle Ages, and the 19th century. The wines of Le Vins de Vienne represent the Northern Rhone at its best with outstanding wines with great QPR - quality price ratios. 

Starting with just 10 acres in Seyssuel, they systematically increasing their plantings over the following years. Seyssuel vineyards are comprised of steep slopes with great exposure to the sun rising up from the eastern bank of the zig-zagging Rhône River. On the other side of the river, to the south, is the hill that forms the backside of the famed Côte-Rôtie appellation.

They named the wines after those cited for excellence by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder. Sotanum was the first red, produced in 1998, followed in 2000 by white Taburnum and in 2004 by a second, lighter red, Heluicum, which currently retails around $47 versus $80 for the first two. All three received outstanding scores in the 2016 vintage.

With 2015, a good vintage for the Rhône, Les Vins de Vienne released no less than 30 wines that scored 90 points or higher in Wine Spectator blind tastings

This label is an entry level offering that is 100% Syrah. 

Deep inky blackish garnet colored, medium bodied complex bright vibrant black and blue fruits with notes of spices, herbs, white pepper, tobacco and hints of cassis floral and vanilla with medium acidity and moderate tannins on the finish. 

RM 88 points. 

This was awarded 90 points by Vinous and Jeb Dunnuck, and 90-92 points by Wine Advocate.