For Pierre Morey – the former (and legendary) winemaker of Domaine Leflaive, and proprietor of his own Domaine Pierre Morey in Burgundy, France – farming biodynamically (his vineyards Biodyvin certified since 1997) is a matter of stewardship: turning over vineyards from one generation to another at the peak of health and productivity.
Morey is particularly known for his white wines, with family holdings in Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, the original home, and center of the universe, as far as any producer of Chardonnay is concerned. But if you are drawing the conclusion that these white wines espouse enormous body, power and concentration of Chardonnay character, let me gently say: it is in the expression of the terroir, rather than grape, that the wines of Domaine Morey excel.
You may pay, for instance, about $94 (suggested retail) for a bottle of 2006 Pierre Morey Meursault, but what you get is not a wham-bam wine stuffed with “gobs” of sweet Chardonnay sensations, but rather a wine of uncommonly delicate, refined balance and texture; everything according to a moderately weighted scale to express fresh, honeyed apples, notes of mineral, slivers of toasted nuts, and a transparent, silken backdrop of mildly charred oak draped over a foundation of polished, stony dryness.
In other words, a taste of Meursault, not Chardonnay.
Which also happens to whet my appetite for this twist of the classic Burgundian dish — usually made with a red wine, but which we make a white — that we call Coq Au Vin Blanc:
8 pieces chicken thighs (mostly) and legs (or one 5 lb. chicken, cut in serving pieces)
24-30 pearl onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 oz. bacon strips or slab, squared or cubed
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 bottle (750 ml.) white wine (inexpensive Chardonnay will do)
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth
Cut off root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with knife in its place. Bring 2-3 cups water to boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove onions from pot, allow to cool, and peel (onions should slide right out of skin). Set aside.
Blanch bacon briefly in boiling water; drain, and dice or cube. Fry to render fat; remove meat and set aside, and save fat for frying.
Sprinkle chicken pieces on all sides with salt and ground pepper. Place chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1-2 gallon) sealable plastic bag along with flour; shake to coat chicken completely. Remove chicken from bag, and fry in bacon fat, just until crust is crisp. Set chicken pieces aside.
In same pan, add pearl onions to fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, sautéing until lightly brown (approximately 8-10 minutes). Remove onions from pan and set aside. Transfer chicken into a 7-8 quart enameled cast (like Le Creuset) or cast iron Dutch oven.
Add mushrooms to the same 12 inch sauté pan, adding 1 tbsp. butter if needed, and sauté until liquid is released (approximately 5 minutes). Store onions, mushrooms and bacon in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pour off remaining fat and deglaze pan with approximately 1 cup of wine. Pour this into Dutch oven along with chicken stock, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Preheat oven to 325° F.
Place chicken in oven and cook for 2 to 2½ hours, or until chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.
Once chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place in oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a sieve and degrease (discard carrots, celery, thyme, garlic and bay leaf). Return the sauce to a pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3 (depending on how much liquid you began with, this should take 20-45 minutes).
When sauce has thickened, add pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon, and cook another 15 minutes or until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary; remove from heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve from Dutch oven with either long grained white rice or lightly buttered egg noodles; and of course, with a classic white Burgundy such as Meursault.
Note: if sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together, starting with 1 tbsp. each. Whisk this in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, and repeat if necessary.