Archive for January, 2010

As I mentioned in a previous post, I made a few wine resolutions for 2010. One of them was to drink more Muscadet.

Muscadet has always been the perfect pairing with oysters, so I usually will order it in a restaurant since I don’t shuck many oysters at home. However, Muscadet is not only for pairing for oysters. It is a very versatile food wine. The low alcohol doesn’t overwhelm and the wine’s acidity makes it a great pairing for many rich dishes — and certainly a great pairing for most seafood. Muscadet often is a very good value play as well.

Beyond the virtues of the grape, there are some very talented winemakers from the appellation as well. No survey of Muscadet would be complete without experiencing the wines from Domaine de la Pépière, home to Marc Ollivier. This particular bottle is a very-old-vine cuvée of Muscadet from a single-plot vineyard in schist, the Clos des Briords. These are among the oldest vines in his estate (planted in 1930) and all the vineyards are from original stock. Ollivier is the only grower in the Muscadet who does not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards.

Ollivier takes his time in the vineyard and the cellar. Ripening is slower, and the longer hang-time before harvest allows for optimal maturity.  He hand harvests (also a rarity in the region), uses natural yeasts, waits for the wine to finish and bottles with a very light filtration. Because of the soil and greater concentration achieved with old vines, the Clos des Briords is a more powerful wine that most Muscadets. It is very mineral and quite austere in its youth, rather than fruity and light. Over a few months, or even years, if one can wait for it, it develops much complexity in aromatics and structure.

Aromatics of apple, citrus and saline. Great precision on the palate with sharp acidity. Loaded with citrus and crushed rock with some orchard fruit. Briney, stoney and chalky. A tremendous value at $16-$17 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Also interesting to note, that Joe Dressner tweeted on January 30 —  Finished Tasting in Muscadet. Marc Olliver thinks 2009 is best he has made — I will certainly be on the look out for the 2009s.

Related post:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007

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One of my white wine resolutions for 2010 was to drink more Muscadet in 2010. I have always been a fan, but for some reason I tend to only drink it with a select number of foods — so I usually have it when I go out to eat.  But the problem with Muscadet is that while it is widely available, a lot of it fails to excite me. I was in a wine shop the other day and they only had one muscadet, so I opted instead for a Sancerre from Domaine Fernand. Can you go wrong with a French white wine from the Loire imported by Louis/Dressner? Probably not…

The Domaine Girard is run by parents, Fernand and Monique, and son, Alain. They come from several generations of winemakers in the tiny village of Chaudoux, located a few miles northwest of the town of Sancerre and directly north of the famous town of Chavignol. They tend 12 hectares of vines in total, sell some cuvées to négociants and bottle only a portion of their production under their own name. Their La Garenne cuvée comes from a 2.5-hectare vineyard of that name, a plot on a steep east-facing slope with a very rocky limestone soil.

On the nose, citrus and pear with some briny notes. On the palate, grapefruit, lime, kiwi, cut grass, wet stones and herbs. Good acidity, though a bit more tropical than I would have expected. A very good bottle of wine, though given the choice, I would opt for the Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy Sancerre Cuvée Les Coûtes 2008.

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Last night I wanted some comfort — but I didn’t want to make the effort to try and put comfort on a plate. It was a long week and I didn’t have the energy. So I went downstairs and tried to find the best bet in a bottle. I opted for the Beaumont from Catherine and Pierre Breton. I have never had a wine from them that I didn’t enjoy and the 04 Beaumont delivered it in spades. Deep purple in color. Instant satisfaction from aromatics of dark fruit, violet, earth, black olive with smoke, herbs and some funk. Ripe, velvety and textured on the palate. A interesting mash of black and green — black cherry, blackcurrant and black olive with green olive, green vegetable, tobacco leaf and herbs.

A lot of wine and comfort at $13 a bottle. Strongly recommended. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

The 2005 Breton Beaumont was an LA Times pick of the week.

Other wines from Catherine & Pierre Breton:
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières 2005
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Nuits d’Ivresse, 2004
Charles Joguet

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Pascal and Nicolas Reverdy took over the running of this domaine when their father retired in 1993. In 2007, however, tragedy struck, with the death of Nicolas when he and his brother were felling a tree. Fortunately, the fine traditions of the domaine live on as Nicolas’ widow and son Pascal continue Nicolas’ commitment to excellence.

The domaine’s reputation comes from the quality of their white as well as red cuvées (and they also produce an excellent rosé). In the vineyard, yields are restricted and fruit is hand harvested. Each plot is fermented separately, and the cellar is well equipped with the option of stainless steel or wood for the fermentation and, naturally, temperature control to preserve the freshness that characterizes the white wines of the region.

This is one of four white cuvées produced by Reverdy.  The Les Coûtes is from a single hillside plot of 50 year old vines, harvested at 45 hl/ha. All their wines rest on their lees over the winter, before bottling the following spring. Like other recent Reverdy bottlings produced for the United States, this was neither cold-stabilized nor filtered.

Grapefruit, lemon/lime with powedered rock and white flowers on the nose. The citrus is also prominent on the palate with some orchard fruit, gooseberry and briny seawater. Solid acidity and loaded with chalky minerality. Oily and a little viscous, but also elegant and nuanced. 13% alcohol. Imported by Weygandt Metzler. Recommended — and while it does come in at about $20 a bottle, it is still a good value and a lot of wine for the money.

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The Bandol wine region, located near the coast east of Marseille and Cassis, is one of Provence’s most internationally recognized wine regions. Bandol’s vineyards are some of the oldest in France. The Romans planted the first vines some 2,500 years ago. Mourvèdre is the king of Bandol — actually Bandol is the only French wine region that is dominated by the Mourvèdre grape.

For both the red and rosé wines, Mourvèdre must account for at least 50% of the blend, though most producers will use more, with Grenache & Cinsaut usually filling out the rest of the wine’s composition. Syrah and Carignan are restricted in Bandol to composing no more than 15% of the blend or 10% individually. Nearly 70% of the region’s production is red wine with rosé wine being around 27% and a small amount of white production; however, Bandol is probably best known for their rosé. These are two of my favorites from Bandol or anywhere else for that matter.

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé 2008
Domaine Tempier owns 30 hectares. It produces AOC Bandol exclusively – an average of 68% red, 29% rosé and 3% white wines, approximately 120,000 bottles per year.

On October 27, 1943, Lucien Peyraud bottled his first wine, a rosé. Today, the harvest is 100% manual and the fruit is fully destemmed before temperature-controlled fermentation. The rosé is fermented in steel after a cold soak, then matured in vat for 6-8 months before bottling.

The Tempier is 50% Mourvèdre, the rest Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan. It is a beautiful pink gris color with a copper/orange hue. Evocative and vibrant nose of strawberry, watermelon, rose water with some green apple and spice. Equally compelling on the palate with a flavor profile quite similar to the nose, but also with some white pepper and spice. Crisp acidity and rich — but there is a certain understated elegance as well. A lot of hype around this wine — but all well deserved in my opinion.

Imported by Kermit Lynch.

2008 Domaine de la Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé
In the early 70’s Michel and Louis Bronzo acquired the property of the Bastide Blanche, with an eye to producing from appellation Bandol wines the equal of more famous appellations like Chateauneuf. Their painstaking efforts were rewarded in 1993 when vintage conditions created the benchmark year to put Bandol in general and Bastide-Blanche, in particular, on the map of top producers in France. Not surprisingly, there is a rosé in the portfolio of wines, made from predominantly Mourvedre, with Grenache and Cinsault.

This has a bit more body, the fruit is a bit more forward (think more strawberry, less spice). It doesn’t have the same amount of spice, nuance or complexity as the Tempier, but it is also very good. Overall, I prefer the Tempier — but the Domaine de la Bastide is the value choice between the two.

Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.

Related posts:
Mas de Bressades — they make a great rosé and a Roussanne/Viognier — both in the $12-$13 a bottle range
Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé
Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Blanc 2007 — great white wine from Cassis appellation in Provence

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Happy New Year! Here are my favorite wines (and some favorite wine related things as well) from the past year. These are in some sort of order, though the top four and maybe even 5 red wines would all have to be considered contenders for the top spot.

Red wines
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Edmunds St. John Bassetti Syrah 2005
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Daniel Bouland Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2008
Arianna Occhipinti Il Frappato Sicilia IGT 2006
Rhys Alesia Sonoma Coast Chileno Vally Pinot Noir 2006
Château de Fonsalette Côtes du Rhône Reserve 2005
Les Aphillanthes Côtes du Rhône 2007
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Cappellano Barbera d’Alba Gabutti 2004
Charles Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied 2005
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières 2005

White wines
Clos Sainte Magdeleine Cassis Blanc 2007
André Perret Saint Jospeh 2007
Viñedos de Ithaca Odysseus Garnacha Blanca Priorat 2008
2008 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina

Lopez de Heredia Rioja Tondonia Rosé 1998

Captain Tumor Man — the best post I read all year was in September when Joe Dressner’s results of his last MRI were so good that he had to consider retirement for Captain Tumor Man — though some of his thoughts are so weird they would even make David Lynch uncomfortable…one of my biggest wishes for 2010 is to be invited to his Jan 30th event.

Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology — the book is a scream. As if we needed proof that there not a more original and talented American in the wine business than Randall Grahm….the most fun I have had reading a book this year. I have to say another thing about Randall as I think he has done something very few people have been capable of achieving. He has made wine more accessible — but not by just giving people what they want, making it cheaper and the usual short cuts. Instead, he has offered the more esoteric as well as speaking and writing in a language that requires a special wine geek decoder ring — and somehow achieved much more in the process.

Chambers Street Wines — still one of my favorite places to spend an hour in NYC.
Weygandt Wines — the new shop in DC featuring the portfolio of Peter Weygandt.

Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch and Weygandt-Metzler

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Founded in 1957, the domain’s objective is to highlight the Chinon terroirs (a combination of soil and microclimate), with a simple idea in mind: each wine is the expression of a particular terroir.

Charles Joquet studied painting and sculpture in Paris in 1949, but returned home after his father died. He worked the domain with his mother, Mrs. Joguet-Malécault (her initials are still found on the wines foil caps). After 40 years, Charles retired in 1997 and returned to painting and sculpture. Charles had planned for his retirement long before and had taken steps to ensure the preservation of his accomplishments by introducing 3 key people to the domain.

In 1983, Charles Joguet met Michel Pinard, who became his key man for everything concerning vines and vinification. After having refined his skills thanks to the teachings of Charles, Michel Pinard began overseeing all the vinifications in 1988. At the beginning of 2005, Michel Pinard turned over control to François-Xavier Barc.

In 1985, Jacques Genet joined the domain and became Charles Joguet’s partner. In addition to a couple of acres of vine on the lovely Monplaisir hillside, whose soil closely resembles that of Chêne Vert, Genet brought with him the land he owned in Beaumont-en-Véron. Finally, Alain Delaunay joined the domain in 1986. and soon became the mainstay of client relations and commercial activities for the domain.

Charles Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos Franc de Pied 2005
100% Cabernet Franc from a one hectare plot of ungrafted vines in the vineyard. The Varennes Franc de Pied is only produced in the vintages we deem truly worthy of bearing the label reserve — and 2005 certainly qualifies as a great vintage.

Dark and dense ruby color. Aromatics of red fruit, violet and  green vegetables with lots of pine and a little clove. On the palate, bright cherry and plum with earth, tobacco and chalky graphite. Great balance and depth. Impressive purity of fruit with a velvety texture and excellent tannic structure. 13.5% alcohol. The Joguet website indicates that this should show well from 20008-2009, but this certainly has a good number of years left in the bottle and seems like its best years are yet to come. Recommended.

The wine retails for about $40 a bottle. I was able to find it at Wine Exchange for $27 a bottle.

Charles Joguet Chinon Petites Roches 2002
This is 100% Cabernet Franc, a jeunes vignes cuvée using only free-run wine, the press wine going into Joguet’s Cuvée Terroir. I bought this bottle a 4-5 years ago. I was a little worried that it might have already hit its prime, but actually thought is showed extremely well. Light ruby in color — a little bit of brown starting to be introduced. On the nose, sour cherry with some vegetable, earth and a little funk (think dirty socks). On the palate, tart and tangy cherry and cranberry with green vegetables, wild game, black olive and herbs. Good acidity and finish with some grip and minerality. This has held up pretty well — a really nice bottle of Cabernet Franc for about $18 a bottle. 12.5% alcohol.

The wines are imported by Kermit Lynch. Lynch is currently offering a 6-bottle Joguet sampler that would be a great introduction to his wines.

More recommended Cabernet Franc
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières 2005
Catherine & Pierre Breton Chinon Beaumont 2004 (the 05 is even better — see LA Times pick of the week)
Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Nuits d’Ivresse, 2004
Baudry Le Clos Guillot Chinon 2005

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