Wine with Food: La Tache
By Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. | January 1985
I was stopped by a young mother at a shopping mall last month. She had her two children with her. They were restless, so I did not have the opportunity to answer her question fully. I did not catch her name. She had introduced herself as a reader of this column. I did the best I could between the interruptions of “Lets go-o-o, mummy…”, and, “Are you finished, mummy?” It did not bother me at all but I could see that it bothered her. In fact, to the point that she was not able to concentrate on her question and my answers.
So for her benefit and any others that might encounter this wonderful problem she asked me about here is my answer in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Question: “My grandfather lives in New York. He is a wine freak! He loves French wines, and I am told, collected burgundies. He has not been well for some years and has slowly disposed of his collection to his wine friends. He is now in a convalescent home, and my parents have broken up housekeeping for him. A few bottles of wine were left from his collection, and my parents felt the grandchildren should have them. My husband and I were given one bottle labeled La Tache. I do not know what it is. We would like to serve it, and make a special event of it. What shall I serve it with? Both my husband and I enjoy a glass of wine occasionally, but do not know much about the different types. Maybe this special bottle will encourage us to learn more.”
You see that this was a long story, and the kids were tugging away.
Well, here is my more detailed response Mrs. Lucky, wherever you are.
La Tache is a famous Burgundy. One of the seven most famous ones. It comes from around the small village of Vosne-Romanee, a landmark to wine enthusiasts. It is a red wine made from the Pinot Noir grape, very carefully and meticulously, like all the other seven Grands.
Cruz wines from this small area. The La Tache vineyards are only 15 acres, and the entire production for the world is 1720 cases of wine! If the wine is still sound, you are in for a treat! I say that because I do not know what vintage (year) the bottle you have is, and how it has been stored. If it is under 12 years old, and has been kept at cellar temperature, then it should be in good shape. If it is older than 12 years, then depending on the quality of the vintage and the cellaring temperature, you will have wine on its way to the peak of ageing, or a divine mature wine, or one that has started fading, or faded.
Nevertheless, since you wish to try it, (and I think that is a noble tribute you will pay to your wine enthusiast grandfather, and please do not call him a wine freak) this is what I suggest.
First, do it with company. Maybe another couple or some relatives who know your grandad. Wine is to enjoy with people and food.
Second, get a fine bottle or two of California Pinot Noir (Hanzell HMR, Navarro, Robert Stemmler) for two reasons. A chance to compare California’s contribution to this grape. and just in case you have a faded wine, you will have something else to enjoy. Check to see if the La Tache has a sediment due to ageing. If it does. stand it upright for at least 24 hours, and decant it after you carefully uncork it without disturbing the sediment. Serve it at room temperature.
Third, if you are having a dinner, serve roast duck, maybe with a light plum sauce, and wild rice. If you are not going the dinner route, serve some light pates, cheese (pyrenees, gruyere, or ementhaler), and crusty French bread.
Fourth, toast your grandpa!