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Category Archives: The Wine Wire
It is unusual in the opinionated and strong-willed world of wine that one name commands immediate respect and admiration, yet Jean Foillard is one such revered name. As quality levels in Beaujolais continue to sky-rocket, and winemaking becomes more thoughtful, there is no question that this region has risen above the scourge of cheap, banana-infested offerings that seemed to dominate store shelves in the 1980s and 1990s.
Thirty three years ago, Jean inherited his Father’s vineyards and strove immediately to remedy the health of the soils and vines. Not only is the Domaine blessed with some of the best real estate in Morgon (on the famed hillside known as Côte du Py, home to the highest elevation in all of Beaujolais) but also a plethora of older vines. He makes 3 distinct cuveés from the Cru of Morgon: Courcelette (from 80 year old vines planted in Schiste soils) Côte du Py (the aforementioned hillside) and 3.14 from 100+ year old vines planted on Granite, Manganese & Schiste). We get a small amount of these every year and the sell out pretty quickly. The wines are always tender, elegant, structured, lovely and incredibly age-worthy, although we won’t fault you if you drink them young!
2011 Foillard Morgon ‘Courcelette’ $38.99
2011 Foillard Morgon ‘Côte du Py’ $38.99
2009 Foillard Morgon ’3.14′ $64.99
In the last 10 years, happily, many Americans have embraced the concept of dry Rosés, and even more happily, American winemakers are now producing terrific dry Rosès in every hue, and from many different varieties. Two of our perennial favorites, are made from Pinot Noir and come from Benovia and Robert Sinskey, in Russian River Valley and Carneros, respectively. Sinskey’s is the press juice from grapes grown on his bucolic, Carneros farmland, farmed organically and always resulting in a fragile, delicious wine, an embodiment of summer. At Benovia, a similar philosophy of sustainability is practiced, and their version is a bit headier, but just as refreshing.These are always the first rosés to sell out in the shop, as they are made in such minute quantities. We suggest hoarding a few bottles, so that come August you will still have a few to drink.
2012 Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir Carneros, CA $27.99
2102 Benovia Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, CA $23.99
Here are 2 producers we are excited about right now, one in Corbières, the other in Pic-Saint-Loup.
2011 Maxime Magnon Corbières Blanc ‘La Bégou’ $35
Thirty year old Maxime Magnon has decided to eschew his Burgundian inheritance and instead tend to old vines in stony, arid Corbières. La Bégou is old vines Grenache Gris & Blanc aged in cement and used oak, a wine in possession of gorgeous texture. Ripe althaea flower root and apricots abound.
2008 Clos Marie Pic Saint Loup Rouge ‘Simon’ $42
Another great story of a young vigneron changing the historical, familial patterns. Christophe Peyroux made some decisions in the 1990s to cease selling to the local co-op, and convert all his family’s vineyard to biodynamic practices, and reduce yields drastically. This is all old vines fruit, composed of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, and finished with very little sulfur. The wine is aged 2 years in neutral barrel and named for Christophe’s son, Simon.
This is as profound and creamy as any Chardonnay we’ve had in a while (although yes, we are aware it is Verdicchio). harvested from 60 year old vines on Bucci’s pristine,64 acre property. The wine is fermented underground, naturally and aged in large botte. Very non-interventionist and ‘natural’- like, but clean, round and beautiful.
2007 Bucci Verdicchio Castello dei Jesi Classico Riserva ‘Villa Bucci’ Marche, Italy $41.99
Burgundy is changing. You know it, I know it. Masked by bucolic fields rippling with mustard plants and roaming sheep are million dollar real-estate deals, and a small spate of wines that only make it into the hand of the very wealthy and privileged. These wines are bought, then sold, then bought again, in an elite, expensive game of diminishing returns. At what point does one simply give up, knowing that Burgundy, at the top tier, is completely out of one’s league? At what point do you submit to the idea that this wine region, that you love so much, is beyond your means?
Vanquish these bleak thoughts. Immediately! And let us introduce you to the wines of Frédéric Esmonin.
Here’s the skinny. These guys are farmers, in the truest sense of the word. Not long-haired, mortor-cycle riding farmers, or orange-jeans, Ray-Ban sunglasses wearing farmers, but salt-of-the-earth, regular-folk farmers. Until about 1988, most all of their grapes were sold to negociants like Leroy, Drouhin & Jadot, with just a small run of bottlings for sale. Aside from a nice chuck of the Estournelles 1er Cru vineyard, they have tiny slices of village, 1er and Grand Cru holdings in Gevrey-Chambertain.
And they make fabulous wines. We have had the privilege of being able to taste their Ruchottes Grand Crus from 1949 (extraordinary) 1988, 1989, 1996, 1999 & 2000, as well as preview the 2008-2011. The Mazy Grand Crus from 1996, 1999 & 2000 showed tremendously recently, at a dinner, as well. I had a 2008 Bourgogne Rouge that charmed my socks off, with a friend a few months ago. And just this February (2013) I was able to taste through the young but lovely line-up of their 2011s. The confusing thing about the Esmonin wines is that they are unusually pretty in their youths, especially given the penchant for old vines in Gevrey to be, a bit reductive and hard in their infancies. And yet the Esmonin wines are as age-worthy as any other domaine in Gevrey.
But it is really the pricing for the wines of Frédéric Esmonin that leave us most stunned. This is very fine Burgundy at bargain basement pricing. And once the word gets out, well….buy now or forever be haunted by a good deal that slipped through your wine-stained fingertips.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Estournelles 1er Cru- $61.99
2008 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Estournelles 1er Cru- $49.99
Estournelles (sometimes spelled Etournelles and sometimes appended to St-Jacques) is a steep sloped vineyard, above Lavaux St-Jacques, pebbly and devoid of top soil. Buy the 2008 to drink now and the 2010 to cellar for several years.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain ‘Les Jouises’ VV (Old Vines) -$42.99
This lieux-dit of village Gevrey-Chambertain is in the center of the appellation and famous for producing perfumed and elegant wines.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertain Lavaux St-Jacques 1er Cru – $56.99
Lavaux St-Jacques is a cooler, south facing site. Wines from this site tend to be lacy and fine, exhibiting more red-fruit characteristics than some of its neighbors.
2010 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertain Grand Cru- $107.99
2008 Frédéric Esmonin Mazy-Chambertain Grand Cru- $81.99
Mazy (or sometimes Mazis) Grand Cru is the wild child of the 9 Grand Crus in Gevrey Chambertain. Firm, structured, complex.
2009 Frédéric Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertain Grand Cru – $151.99
The largest holding of the domaine ( .52ha) and whose name refers to the small stones that inhabit this particularly infertile piece of ground. There is a stated clarity of terroir that registers in wines made from here.
Thick and inky Cabernet Sauvignon seems to be the majority of the population’s idea of a good gift. Send so-and-so a nice Cab, around $30. So we do as we are asked, and certainly there are many nice labels available to fulfill this demand. But what is the recipient is not in the mood to be klonked on the head with oaked, ripe, warm-climate wine? What if the recipient wants something a bit more delicate, not so tongue- coating, and exotic. Here are two wines to try:
2009 Jacques Puffeney Arbois ‘Trousseau Cuveé Bérangères’. Jura, France-$38.99
Listen, I am with you when you say that the hipsters are ruining the Jura. Lord knows how this obscure region in Central France on the Swiss border become such a ‘phénome a la Brooklyn’, but perhaps the Jura’s lack of industrial centers and reliance upon artisan products and trades such as butchery, furniture-making, baking, resonated with that borough full of pickle-makers. It could be the facial hair of Jacques Puffeney ,whose beard rivals any young bartender working today. Whatever the case, if you are in the mood for a savory, subtle, complex and delicate wine, a Trousseau like this is a great way to go. Trousseau is demanding, and difficult to grow, but in the right hands (or beard in this case) can be as arresting and compelling as any cru Beaujolais or well-made village level Burgundy.
2010 Pascal Janvier Côteaux du Loire ‘Cuveé du Rosier’. Loire Valley, France-$19.99
Another light-hued beauty from the coolest of climates, made from ancient variety Pineau D’Aunis. There is not much still Pineau D’Aunis being made anymore, the variety is used mainly now for sparkling wine production. This is the kind of wine you can drink at four in the afternoon, chilled slightly in the cool shallows of a river bank, accompanied by some country pate and a hunk of robust bread. The fruit is tart and the acidity brazen. For palates like razors, we say.
Stunning Pinot Noir from the master of the Rheinhessen, Klaus Peter Keller
Holy sh$*! We are on a serious roll tasting great Pinot Noir.
Between Sheb and myself in the last two weeks we have been tasting some of the world’s great Pinot Noirs.
I had the amazing opportunity to taste through the entire line-up from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti from their 2010 vintage. Sheb traveled to San Francisco to meet with Frédéric Esmonin of Gevrey-Chambertin and taste the 2011 vintages. We tasted the new vintages from one of the legends of California, Ted Lemon of Littorai. And now this…
Listen to me very carefully when I say this – Germany produces some of the greatest Pinot Noir’s on earth. Better than your hyped-Cali stuff, better than some prestigious names in Burgundy, some world-class stuff we are talking about. I’m not saying that there are hundreds of great producers, but there are dozens.
One such producer is that of Klaus Peter Keller of the Rheinhessen.
The two wines I tasted today from the Grosse Gewächse (read Grand Cru) vineyards of Bürgel and Frauenberg were extraordinary, world-class, Grand Cru quality, simply amazing – get the picture?
Since the “Wine Wire” is supposed to be about brevity, I’ll stop here. But I do have to say, that if you are at all serious about sourcing the greatest Pinot Noir’s in the world, you won’t miss these. These are the best ever Pinot’s I’ve tasted from this estate.
2010 Keller Dalsheim Bürgel Spätburgunder Trocken – $91 per bottle – Only 120 bottles for the Illinois market
2010 Keller Nieder-Flörsheim Frauenberg Spätburgunder Trocken – $126 per bottle – Only 60 bottles for the Illinois market
The wine world is abuzz with adoration and renewed interest in Sicily. Etna, especially, has garnered intense interest, and producers are varied as the polarizing Franck Cornelisson and his Munjebel wines to our featured producer, Graci, a traditionalist with a soft touch. There is a uniting theme though, in their obvious affection for local variety Nerello Mascalese.
Nerello is a descendant of Sangiovese, and has a unique ability to dig its roots deep into the poor volcanic soils in which it is planted. Mount Etna is still dangerously active, so much so that on the evening of March 6th 2013 (a week prior to the writing of this post) lava plumes were seen fountaining into the night sky. Where is Instagram when you need it most?
Alberto Graci farms about 18 ha of vines and the Nerello Mascalese that makes up the Quota 600 Cuvee is a high-altitude, un-grafted plot of old vines from the time of his Grandfather. Older vines produce lower yields, and typically the resulting wines have added depth, complexity and concentration, and Graci’s is not an exception.
2009 Graci Etna Rosso ‘Quota 600′. Sicily, Italy-$48.99
There has been a revolution brewing for some time now and we are here to announce: Muscadet has arrived. The Pays Nantais sub-region of the Loire Valley is a 55 miles swatch of land devoted to a white grape called Melon de Bourgogne (yet another progeny of Gouais Blanc & Pinot Noir!). Melon de Bourgogne originated in Burgundy and was quickly kicked out of the kingdom (the dukes preferred Chardonnay), and then made its way up into Nantes where it remained. The wine drinkers among us born prior to the 1980s may remember Muscadets of old as industrial, dry, yeasty and uninspiring. Things have now changed.
A new generation of vignerons have taken hold of Muscadet and are producing some top-notch white wines, age-worthy, affordable and completely delicious. We have obtained magnums from two great producers, Marc Ollivier (Domaine de la Pépière) and Guy Bossard (along with protogeé Frédéric Niger Van Herck at Domaine l’Ecu). An endless stream of dry, citrus-y salinity to slake your parched and thirsty throats.
2010 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clisson MAGNUM-$47.99
2010 Domaine l’Ecu Muscadet Sèvre et Maine ‘Expression de Granite’ MAGNUM-$49.99
We don’t have a lot, fyi.
We get excited when we hear the new Littorai releases are going to be available and ready to taste. This esteemed Sonoma Coast Estate, headed by the venerable Ted Lemon, produces some of the best Pinot Noir in the United States.
Those of you that love Littorai and have purchased it in the past, be forewarned: there is precious little 2010 and 2011 to be had. Two sets of different challenges presented themselves respectively and the resulting wines, while wonderful, are in great scarcity. There is a poverty of wine to be had.
We asked about Chardonnay- there is none. There was even anxiety regarding the opening of the samples and not all the single vineyard designates were opened for evaluation. Even the fire-damamged 2008 vintage produced more wine.
So here’s the skinny. We were lucky enough to snag a case of 2010 ‘Hirsch Vineyard’ Pinot Noir and that is all the Littorai we will see until 2012 is released. Hirsch Vineyard lies atop a great winding road, at the end of the earth at the apex of the true Sonoma Coast. In the shade, succulents carpet every inch of ground. It seems barren and inhospitable where the vineyards are planted but it is an incredible site and the wines that come from this property are tremendous.
Ted farms his plot to his specific biodynamic standards. Ted’s Hirsch is always a tender play between lace and power, the fruit is brooding and black in character. There is always a beautiful vein of fennel that runs throughout, a small reminder of vinous complexity.
2010 Littorai Pinot Noir ‘Hirsch’ Sonoma Coast, CA. $67.99/ Bottle.
Until it runs out.