Archive for October, 2009

IMG_1673The father and daughter team of Joseph and Silvia Puig named their winery Odysseus in honor of the Greeks who first brought vines to Spain. Odysseus makes Garnacha Tinta based reds, as virtually all of the producers in Priorat, but they have attracted the most attention for their Garnacha Blanca.

This is a White Priorat wine made from native Garnacha Blanca grapes from 80 year old vines. The wine is carefully fermented in the “old-style” without temperature control. A cold maceration for between 10 and 18 hours in new French oak barrels (which they later re-use for the red wines) is followed by native yeast fermentation in temperature controlled (frozen liter bottles of water are tossed in with the must) in stainless steel vats.

Light golden color. Pear, stone fruit and honeydew aromatics solid minerality with a touch of smoke. On the palate, pear, peach and nectarine with a spicy herbaceous quality and a little citrus and salt water. Rich, textured, with good acidity and loaded with minerality. Distinguished and strongly recommended — one of my favorite white wine discoveries of the year. 14 percent alcohol. Less than 500 cases produced.

This wine is available for $24-33 a bottle depending on the source. Imported by Vinos Unico.


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IMG_1669Domaine Leon Barral consists of 25 hectares in the Haut Languedoc, north of Bezier. Didier Barral (Leon was his grandfatehr) is considered one of the best wine makers (and by many the best) in this traditionally undervalued appellation, drawing acclaim for his very naturally made wines, with low levels of sulfur. Barral relies on biodynamic farming techniques in the vineyard and employs an ancient-style basket press.

The 2006 Barral Faugères is predominantly Grenache and Carignan with some Syrah and Mourvedre (never de-stemmed and raised in tank). Complex and vibrant nose of violets, cherry, black olive, leather, a little old world must and barnyard. On the palate, velvety and textured flavors of cherry and currant with some pepper and tobacco as well as a generous dose of earthiness, wild game and a hint of funky vegetables. 13% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

I have seen this priced in the $17-25 a bottle range. It is a steal under $20. Recommended.

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weygandt-logoThe newest wine store in DC is also the best and one of the best in the United States. New York has Chambers Street Wines and Astor Wines, LA has the Wine Exchange, Berkeley has Kermit Lynch — and now Weygandt Wines put DC on the map with a truly great wine store.

There isn’t another store in the United States that has this selection of wines — the whole Weygandt portfolio under one roof. Some might say it is limited to the Weygandt portfolio — but that is the beauty of it. You won’t find everything here, but it isn’t about finding everything — it’s about finding a selection of items you won’t find at any other wine store. As just one example, there isn’t another wine store in the U.S that has the whole Gérard Gauby porfolio — only in DC. Obviously you won’t find any domestic wines in the store, but the selection is amazing considering it is from the portfolio of a single importer — and the selection of French wines is outstanding. It won’t be the only wine destination on my map, but it will be one of the most trusted and reliable.

Peter Weygandt is one of the most trusted importers in the world — don’t trust me read the article in Slate — I have 3 go to importers — Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch and Weygandt. A wine with his name on it brings a certain sense of quality and security. They have a good selection at a variety of price points — perhaps very limited under $10 — but a very good selection at $15 — and it’s worth a little extra to know you are getting a treasure instead of a bottle of plonk. They taste wines each and every day from 4-8 pm — and staff are super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Peter Weygandt is often expected to be in the store on Saturdays. He helped me pick out some wines — he was extremely approachable, modest, sincere and generous with his time and knowledge.

This really is a gem of a store — and something very unique and wonderful to DC. A must visit.

Weygandt Wines just announced an offer on their site for a 25% off a purchase when you sign up for the email list — they usually just send a weekly email detailing the Saturday tasting line up and any other special events or sales….to sign up go to http://www.weygandtwines.com/ and click “Join our email list” and you’ll receive the coupon in the confirmation email.

Outstanding value wines from France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Australia and Slovenia with a large selections scoring 90+ points from The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Burghound.

Most of their wines are biodynamic. Biodynamics is based on the 1920s teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist and philosopher who applied astronomy and homeopathic treatments to farming. The practice is holistic, blending philosophy and spirituality with agriculture. Biodynamic winemakers approach the vineyard as a self-sustaining ecosystem and view the soil as a living organism. So, biodynamic wine is not only 100% organic, in addition, the grower has gone beyond to try to bring the farming process more closely in tune with nature.

Since 1987, Peter Weygandt has been an importer of French wines and has gained a national and international reputation for the quality of his selections and his portfolio of top “boutique” French wines. His wines are a near constant feature of top wine journals including Robert M. Parker, Jr.’s The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator and Burghound. In recent years he has expanded his portfolio to include Italian, German, Austrian, Australian, and Spanish wines, more than 100 producers in all.

Weygandt Wines is the next natural step for the Weygandt-Metzler portfolio; to create a retail store dedicated to showcasing all of the diverse selections, value, and quality of Peter Weygandt Selections, from both the most well-known viticultural regions, and from lesser-known regions and up-and-coming producers.

3519 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 10
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 362-9463

Related posts:
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas
Mourges du Gres Terre d’Argence Blanc 2007

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IMG_1664As I have written before, Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In Robert Parker’s book on the wines of the Rhône valley, he classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel. Today, Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis. I found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality.

The Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008 is 100% Viognier from 25 year old vines. Aromatics of peach, tangerine and honeysuckle with mineral notes and a touch of smoke. On the palate, apricot, apple, pear and limestone. Complex, but there is also a persistent underlying, distinct note that is difficult to describe but seems to be characteristic of all of Gramenon’s wines. Good minerality and richness, but also elegant. Nicely textured with soft acidity. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

I thought this was yet another great wine from Domaine Gramenon. All of their wines are strongly recommended, but the Sierra du Sud and La Sagesse from the 07 vintage are stand outs in my opinion.

Other wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007

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IMG_1658Mourges du Gres is a 98 acre estate is owned and meticulously run by Anne and François Collard. François decided to come back to the family estate in 1990 and bottled his first red wine in 1993. The terroir is made up of ‘de galets’ called gres. The vineyards flat pebbles protect the soil from evaporation and add a touch of minerality and freshness to the taste of the wines. Robert Parker has called Mourges du Gres “one of the most impressive estates in the Costières de Nîmes; a treasure-trove of value-priced wines…”

The 2007 Terre d’Argence Blanc 2007 is a blend of Viognier, Roussane and Grenache Blanc. Tropical aromatics with peach and honeysuckle. On the palate, pear and apricot, some pineapple and lemon curd. Lots of chalky minerality with crisp acidity — and a solid persistent finish. A very nice wine for  $13 dollars a bottle — this would near the top of my white wine values, right after the Mas des Bressades Roussanne-Viognier 2007. 14% alcohol.  A Peter Weygandt Selection.

The Galets Rouges and Terre d’Argence Rouge got a lot more attention given the 92 point ratings from Parker, but I thought the Terre d’Argence Blanc was the sleeper in their portfolio.  Recommended.

Related posts — recent French white wines:
Domaine Ricard Cuvee Les Trois Chênes 2008
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Paul Jaboulet Chevalier Sterimberg Hermitage Blanc 2004
Pierre Gonon St. Joseph Blanc Les Oliviers 2007
Mas des Bressades Roussanne-Viognier 2007
Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (and 2007)
Pierre Gaillard Condrieu 2006
René Rostaing Puech Chaud Blanc Coteaux du Languedoc 2005
Cheverny Le Petit Chambord Domaine Francois Cazin 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Martin Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne “Haut Coustias” Blanc 2007

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IMG_1657Château Pesquié is one of the Côtes du Ventoux’s top  and most storied estates. There is evidence of vine cultivation at Château Pesquié that dates to two thousand years. In the early 1970’s, Odette & René Bastide, bought Château Pesquié from an heir of the famous Provençal writer, Alphonse Daudet. They were wine pioneers of sorts, as the Appellation Côtes du Ventoux was not created until 1973. Today, the vines average 35 to 40 years of age — and the oldest are over 100 years of age.

In the mid-1980’s, Edith & Paul Chaudière (René & Odette’s daughter and son-in-law), gave up their medical careers to take over the family estate. To prepare for their change in profession, they studied for and passed the Consultant Sommelier exams at the “Université du Vin” in Suze-La-Rousse and prepared a thesis on terroir selection. They went on several research trips to other wine regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, Oregon…) and completed their academic preparation with vocational training at the wine institute in Orange, where Paul’s father, Charles Chaudière, was an oenology professor.

Once completed with their studies, they set up the Château Pesquié cellars in 1989 and carried out their first vinifications in 1990 (for the previous twenty years, the grapes grown on the estate were taken to two cooperative wineries). At the time, the Appellation had fewer than 10 independent cellars. In 2003, Paul & Edith’s two sons, Alexandre & Frédéric, and their cousin Renaud, took over the Domaine. Today, Château Pesquié is considered one of the leading estates in the Appellation of Côtes du Ventoux and the southern Rhône Valley.

The 2007 Terrasses Rouge is a custom cuvée created for importer Eric Solomon, made from 70 % Grenache and 30 % Syrah (with some traces of Carignan and Cinsault), one-third is aged in small barrels and the rest in foudre and tank. Ruby red in color with aromatics of raspberry, pepper, violet and garrigue (with a hint of alcohol and green leaves/stems). On the palate, bright raspberry with black cherry with a bit of licorice, leather and earth. Medium weight with solid balance and depth — perhaps a bit simple, but good purity of fruit. 14% alcohol. This is another great example of the quality of the 2007 vintage in the southern Rhône and a steal at $11 a bottle.  Recommended.

Other Côtes du Rhônes from the 07 vintage:
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Côtes du Rhône Maxime-François Laurent Il Fait Soif 2007
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhônes (2007 & 2008)
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Depeyre Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Domaine de l’Oratoire Saint-Martin Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne “Haut Coustias” Blanc 2007

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IMG_1274Updated on October 1, 2009 with notes on the Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008.

Domaine des Escaravailles belongs to the Ferran family for three generations. It was brought by Gilles Ferran’s Grandfather, Jean-Louis Ferran in 1953. He called his new estate “Escaravailles,” the Occitan word for beetles and nickname for the black-robed monks of the area’s hill-perched Catholic monasteries in centuries past.

The great advantage of the Escaravailles’ terroir is being located at a high altitude (820 feet above sea level) with steep slopes. These conditions are fundamental for the quality of the wine as the slope facilitates drainage and exposure, the clay subsoil preserves some water and the altitude provides an important range in temperatures between the day and the night.

The winery spreads out over 99 acres on Rasteau and 62 acres on Cairanne, Villedieu and Saint Roman. The use of chemicals is minimal and the soils are worked mechanically all year round. Harvest is done manually with two sortings (one the vine and the other upon delivery to the cellar). The grapes are totally destemmed, vinifiyed and aged in a cellar semi underground situated on the heights of Rasteau. Annual production is currently 300,000 bottles / 25,000 cases.

Up until the late 1990s, Escaravailles was considered good, but not great. In 1999, Gilles Ferran took control of the estate. Gilles is an educated enologist from Montpellier and had assisted his father for 10 years. Gilles Ferran is the 3th generation at the domain. At the wine university, he was classmates with Philippe Cambie (Clos St. Jean, Clos du Caillou, Pegau, countless others).

When he took control, Ferran enlisted the services of the Cambie to help craft the wines and the results have been immediate and superb. Cambie directed them to drop fruit,  limit yields, get the Grenache plants into balance and wait to harvest until ripeness is optimal regardless of the risk. Ferran took Cambie for his word and followed each suggestion, but on occasion challenged Cambie. Eventually, the relationship grew into one of Cambie’s closest, with each friend pushing the other. The results of this partnership are undeniable. Robert Parker raved about the ’06s from Escaravailles, citing them in his “World’s Greatest Wine Values.” The 2007s might be even better.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Les Sablieres 2007
One example of the results, a terrific Côtes du Rhône called “Les Sablieres.” This is a blend of 70% Grenache (40 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks. The Grenache really shines with beautiful and bright cherry, raspberry, strawberry with some earthniness and pepper on the palate. Ripe, but not overdone and medium bodied. Textured, focused and intense, but also extremely well balanced.

It is a great value and a really beautiful bottle of wine. You could told me this cost twice as much and I would not have been surprised or disappointed. Certainly one my favorites of the 07 Côtes du Rhônes I have tasted this year.

This was only $12 a bottle at Wine Exchange. 14% alcohol. I thought this was tremendous at the price point and strongly recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Les Antimagnes 2007
The Les Antimagnes is also an amazing value, priced at about $14-$15 a bottle. It is a blend of 70% Grenache (60 years old), 30% Syrah (30 years old). The Grenache and Syrah are vinified in separate cement tanks.

Similar to the Les Sablieres, it showcases the Grenache component. On the nose, ripe raspberry, kirsch with a touch of bubble gum and licorice. On the palate, loaded with dark red fruit — black cherry, raspberry and blackberry with some meaty notes, earthiness and pepper. This is a bigger wine and weighs in at 15% alcohol.  I thought the Les Sablieres showed a bit more restraint, was more food friendly and had better balance. That being said, this is another very good value and also recommended.

Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône Le Ponce Blanc 2008
This wine is a blend of 40% Rousanne, 40% Marsanne, 10% Grenache and 10% Clairette. I was excited about the blend also considering my experience with their other wines from Escaravailles. This is another solid effort. Aromatics of stone fruit, green apple, stone fruit and some floral components. On the palate, pear and apple with some lingering tangerine and pineapple. Crisp and rich, but perhaps a bit hollow in the mid-palate.

I didn’t feel the need to run out and buy more of this (like I was with the the Cuvée Les Sablieres) but I won’t hesitate to open another bottle. An enjoyable and food-friendly bottle of wine, not to mention a great value at $13-14.

The wines are imported by Jeff Welburn Selections.

Favorite Côtes du Rhônes 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Alary Cairanne La Font d’Estevenas
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

Other Côtes du Rhônes from the 07 vintage:
Côtes du Rhône Maxime-François Laurent Il Fait Soif 2007
Domaine Depeyre Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2007
Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007
Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2007

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