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Gros NoreMy favorite baseball team was ousted on Sunday from the 2014 MLB playoffs and temperatures peaked in the triple digits over the weekend, yes, we were firmly in fall. Overloading on football and baseball, while I ate some North Hollywood Thai and sipped on a domestic Picpoul (Whoa! I’m that guy), it was a pretty lousy sports weekend. It might have been the heat or the string of defeats for the day, but I suddenly wished to be reliving another, more cheerful Sunday.

I drifted into a rosé reverie from earlier in the summer; transported alongside of an ice cream sandwich and pretzel floaty (waterbeds), a ton of friends, excellent fare and a magnum of Bandol rosé.

Domaine du Gros Noré hails from Bandol, making an excellent pink wine of Mourvèdre, Cinsaut and Grenache. Bandol, an appellation of Provence, was made famous by Domaine Tempier and the use of Mourvèdre in the reds and rosés of the region. Gros Noré, like most producers, is often overshadowed by Tempier’s rosé every year, as far as buying trends are concerned, but delivers scintillating aromatics, a suave mouth feel and lengthy finish that makes it a great value (about $10 less, and still available in wine shops where you might be laughed at for asking about Tempier by now).

With a paper plate’s worth of Wisconsin bräts and pickled sides, I uncorked the 1.5 liter bottle. Red flowers, summer berries, apricot, peach over a riverbed of wet stones filled my nose. Fanning out over the palate and propped up by moderate acidity were lengthy notes of Rainier cherries, strawberries, rubbed herbs and minerals. It was youthful, bright and weighty, living up to its place.

A companion to a multitude of flavors like spicy mustard and jalapeño relish that were drizzled on the brät, the Gros Noré rosé crawled out of the shadow of some the vaunted producers of the region to forge one of my favorite memories of this summer.

Unfortunately, when I came to, I was sweating in a dark apartment watching the Cincinnati Bengals suffer an ugly and similar fate to all of my teams that fell earlier on that Sunday. One can only hope a little summer’s rosé magic will start to follow my teams. Victory and rosé would go so well together.

Normally, a penchant for shorts and flip-flops extended into Fall by unseasonably warm weather would be a major up-indicator for rosé. Retailers see the decline of rosé (suffering “seasonal affective drinking disorder”) by the time the ocean waters have become unforgiving cold and summer’s gone. Though seasons in Southern California are a bit more elastic, weather is just one factor for what can be found in my glass—food pairing and mood complete the theorem. Earlier this week I opened a bottle of rosé as the blush wine season (air quotes) hit the dimmer switch.

I had received a bottle of wine from a customer, a gift, something they were keen on and wanted me to try. I was told the story of the wine, recited facts that were impossible to check—due to a faulty link on the back label—, and in the end given a seven-fifty of an intriguing bottle of 2010 S&M Rosé. How would this gift, caught out of season, fare?

The color was gorgeous, a swatch that was painted a touch more Bandol than Tavel (salmon rather than intensely ruby hued), but a cross nonetheless. Serving it slightly chilled, I nosed the perfume that was redolent of ripe yellow plum, cranberry, Rainier cherry and tart apricot preserves. Youthful on the nose, as was the palate, brimming with more primary fruit notes: golden cherries and tart red berries rounded out by butterscotch and vanilla accents. The rosé weighed in at medium full, with medium acidity, leaving my mouth with the echoes of a robust finish.

Regardless of season it was perfect for the occasion, holding up to my charcuterie, as I knifed the salametto from Fra’Mani while reading about Cognac. Keeping things light. S&M Rosé served as a reminder that context is equally important, and sometimes, outweighs the season’s script. As the rosé season has officially ended and my wine stacks have to be rebuilt in favor of heartier red wines I will be content to sit on my personal stock of rosés like Domaine Tempier Rosé to cellar for later drinking—even in the dead of winter!

Apple Pan is an institution in Los Angeles; the legendary burger joint has been offering its exclusive menu for years as part of their strict adherence to keeping things simple and never changing. Something new to me was that they offered burgers to go. I opted for the take-out menu last Friday night to pair with a few wines over dinner with a friend after work.

When my friend arrived with a split (375ml bottle) of 2003 Château Kirwan (#177) in hand, I had been upstaged by vintage and value, after pulling my random 2005 La Bastide Blanche Bandol (#176) for the purposes of burgering. I scrambled to find something more interesting but he said it didn’t matter and he was more curious about judging where his wine was in terms of readiness to drink. We uncorked both bottles, encouraging both to open up while we went out to Apple Pan to pay too much for two burgers.

We stepped foot in the perennially busy restaurant about five minutes later, timing the ebb and flow of eaters just right, managing to squeeze in and order “Two steak burgers” one with cheese and the other without for an exorbitant total of fifteen dollars without waiting. Yikes, fifteen dollars for two simple burgers! We waited a few minutes, watching our burgers be created and in a short time we were handed our white paper bag and were off to my residence to check up on the wine.

Unwrapping the tiny packages and staging the photo shoot, with the wines in perfect position—even the half bottle was dwarfing the burger—we took the shot before we ate. My buddy spied too much mayo for his liking and asked for the knife to begin a scrape.

It might have had something to do with the putty knife the chef used to administer the mayonnaise or the simple fact that all the condiments were excessive, including the cloyingly sweet relish. It was unnerving to see the amount of mayo that my friend removed from his hamburger but after that we kind of looked past the faults and started eating because… at least we had the wines.

The Bandol was stunted on the nose, reminiscent of a newly opened package of photocopy paper—it was fair to say that it was slightly corked—but still drinkable. On the palate it wore less of that funk, showcasing earth and savory qualities that meshed incredibly well with the burger. Later, the nose would open up, presenting some interesting fruit notes tied into anise that had been obscured earlier in the tasting. An interesting experience to see a wine work to shake off its funk, but that is exactly what happened and, so, I will reserve my final judgment of Bandol for the Domaine Tempier Bandol later in the year.

We had two glasses each, to keep each presentation clean and undisturbed for each wine poured. We transferred the contents of the Bordeaux from Margaux into the second glass. With notes of blackberry, cassis and some leather highlights that were readily detected as we swirled the glass and on the palate, the wine was drinking well, showing polished tannins that massaged the tongue and some lengthy notes of fruit and dried herbs (thyme) that stayed with me on the finish. It paired well with the burger but was much more enjoyable on its own. The sweet relish was not as forgiving to the Bordeaux.

I was really disappointed by the price of the Apple Pan burger. If not for that, I could see myself eating there again, but, in reality,  I can only see myself acting as the host offering guide tips to out-of-towners, shepherding someone else there for their first time. The wines, especially the Bordeaux over-delivered on their end; the Bandol could have done with less controversy (partially blighted) but it was still a solid pairing with the burger. I was astonished by the quality of the 2003 Bordeaux still showing some character and having a backbone in a hot vintage even if the food accompaniment was less than stellar—I am just going to have to change the location of the eatery in the future to match the caliber of the wines. Easier said than done!

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