Sometimes I wish I spoke French. My ears are drawn to that language as I am currently in a French rut, riffling through Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg albums in heavy rotation, while not understanding a word, trying desperately to get my fix. I have also tasted a lot of French wine lately, in particular, adoring the Loire Valley whites that have been transported across shores to shelf to my glass. It was no surprise then that I looked forward to the Loire Valley themed tasting that one of the member’s from my group was hosting to invite more palate exposure to the wines that had me enraptured.

Arriving at 7 p.m. (in hopes of not letting the tasting run too late) to a beautiful home off Melrose, we quickly shuffled in and unsheathed our white wines from the paper totes. We were being treated to an ambitious menu, pairing two to three wines per course, beginning with creamy potato and leek soup, chilled aspargus with vinaigrette and eggs mimosa and finishing the meal with salmon and sorrel Troigros (a strained cream sauce cooked with mushrooms, shallots and sorrel).

We gathered around the table in the outdoor patio catching an hour’s worth of fleeting daylight to start the dinner and the tasting.

We went through these wines:

2007 Damien Laureau  Les Genêts Savennières

2009 Lucien Crochet Sancerre La Croix du Roi

2010 Domaine Daulny Sancerre

2010 Domaine de Saint Pierre Sancerre

2010 Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Blanc

2008 Domaine Le Captaine Vouvray Demi Sec

2008 Château de l’Eperonniere Savennières

The wines, for the most part, were fresh and crisp, opening with the Chinon blanc that primed our palates for the first course of soup and the following wines. We had the soup that was absolutely phenomenal—no cream, strictly vegetables—partnered with the Domaine Daulny Sancerre that had well balanced components that lifted the wine and the soup to the next level of excellence. The other wine/soup duo—Ch. L’Eperonniere Savennières with our soup, showed better on its own. The medium bodied Chenin Blanc had a distinct fragrance of nuts and the brine of olives, with notes of butterscotch, nuts and green apple in the mouth. The wine was unique and had finesse; its deep flavors intrigued me to no end (the favorite wine of the evening for me).

We continued to the second course, selecting two wines from the pool that might best compliment the egg mimosa and the aspargus (enemy of most wines!). It turned out that another Sancerre—Domaine de Saint Pierre Sancerre—was the key to avoiding the tininess one tastes after mixing wine with asparagus. It was a nice moment in pairing (and I might make use of it when I become a Sommelier) but the apex of the evening and dining experience was reserved for the final course.

Our chef darted for the kitchen after we had cleared our plates, making haste to plate the last entrée.

The salmon came crust up, upon a pale colored sauce, making it a rigorous exam for the final few wines to preserve the flavors in the creamy broth while having enough oomph to carry the salmon and cleanse our palates. The skin was flaky and crisp and downright delicious on its own, the sauce was light and delicate with balanced flavors of mushroom and shallots. The Savennières from Damien Laureau was first, resembling the earlier Savennières with nutty and almost Sherry like esters on the nose but a lighter style that did not mesh perfectly with the salmon while the Lucien Crochet Sancerre paired better in contrast.

I learned a lot about the wide range of Chenin Blanc, from a nuttier, deep and oxidative profile to an off-dry approach with more fruit preservation, Chenin Blanc could do a lot (we didn’t even have a crémant). Meanwhile my appreciation for the food pairing sensibilities of Sancerre were left unscathed—a miraculously clean and mineral-driven expression of Sauvignon Blanc—that could pair with a gamut of cuisine. Afterwards, many lively conversations ensued, dessert was served and I was happy to call the night quits with the Loire Valley having shown me its fullest potential, thinking about the Savennières while listening to Serge Gainsbourg’s L’Histoire de Melody Nelson on my drive back home.