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Archive for August, 2010

In the early 1980s, Marc Olivier (an engineer at the time) decided to move to the country for a slower pace of life. His father owned some vineyards in the cool Atlantic-influenced zone of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine but was not a winemaker. He took over his father’s vineyards and bought a parcel called Clos de Briords from a neighbor. Marc’s first vintage was 1985 and his primary goal as a winemaker at the time was to simply complete fermentation. As such, he began fermentation using cultured yeasts and finished the wine off with a dose of SO2.

As he matured as a winemaker, he experimented with ambient yeasts and began bottling with minimal amounts of SO2. The results were extraordinary; the wines showed greater depth, richness and complexity. Encouraged by his success, Marc began transitioning all his vineyards to organic and continued his minimalist approach in the winery. His wines have since become the benchmark for the region and have exposed a world of previously unknown potential in the area.

Marc Ollivier’s wines are the antithesis of a modern commercial “product.” He hand harvests (a rarity in the region). Ripening is slower, and the longer hang-time before harvest allows for optimal maturity. He only uses natural indigenous yeasts to start fermentation. The vinification techniques are traditional for the area: no skin maceration but direct pressing within 2 hours of picking, racking of the must after 12 hours to remove the solid matter, and controlled temperatures, not to exceed 71.6 degrees F, for the fermentation. He never uses sterile filtration, only permitting one light filtration prior to bottling.

He is the only grower in the whole region to not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards. Over the last century grape growers have lost a huge proportion of the plant diversity in their fields. It’s a rare treat to be able to buy wine from a grower that still has all original genetic stock in his vines. The virtues of Ollivier are reflected in his wines, they are some of the finest expressions of Muscadet, not to mention that they are also a tremendous value given their caliber.

The grapes for the Pepiere “3” come from the same parcel as the famous “Granite de Clisson” bottling and have spent three years on the lees and an additional 1.5 years in the bottle, making it rounder on the palate. This is a new release from Marc Ollivier, the wine was a vat of 100 hectolitres, 80% from designated “Granite de Clisson” vines and 20% from old vines in the Pepiere vineyard (also on Clisson granite).

Rich, supple and broad on the palate. Pronounced acidity —  balanced with some fat and richness. Citrus, with saline, a little tropical fruit and loaded with minerality. 12% alcohol.  Imported by Louis Dressner. Highly recommended.

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Peter Weygandt of Weygandt Selections and Weygandt-Metzler, met Jesse Skiles of Fausse Piste at Hospice du Rhone 2009. This summer, Fausse Piste wines found their way to the shelves at Weygandt Wines in Washington, DC. Fausse Piste produces very limited quantities of stellar Rhone-style reds and whites from small, well-placed vineyards in the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla areas of Washington State, and Amaranth Ridge in Oregon.

Peter Weygandt wasn’t the only one to take notice of Fausse Piste at Hospice du Rhone. Gang of Pour was also impressed and had the following to say: “Perhaps the most unforgettable example of Viognier comes from newbie Fausse Piste; both new to the event and new winemaker from Oregon. If ever a wine expresses the purity of Viognier fruit, the ’08 C’est la Viognier, Outlook Vineyard Find this wine in Yakima Valley does. Fermented one half in barrel and one half in tank, the wine retains a lively crispness, while showing white peach, lemon grass, anise and cream flavors. If this is not the finest Viognier of the show, it is certainly in the top five.”

In 2009, the Yakima Valley had one of the warmest vintages in quite some time. A perfect spring rolled in to unusually hot summer, which was lucky, given an early frost across much of the state on October 11th.  The heat seemed to have less impact on Rhone Varietals as on  wines based on Bordeaux varietals. Harvested on September 14th at 25.8 Brix with unusually high acid and a ph of 3.6 the Viognier was ripe, but also well-balanced due to low yields of 2.4 tons per acre.

Handpicked then chilled at the winery overnight, following Hand sorting and then pressed whole cluster over a long and delicate press run.  Settled overnight in tank then fermented in equal parts neutral French Oak, Stainless steel 75 gallon drums and a Concrete “egg” from Numblot in France using a combination of native and yeast isolated from the Rhone Valley. After weekly battonage and a long cool fermentation, the wine is not allowed to undergo Malolactic fermentation. Lightly fined using bentonite, minimally sulphered and filtered sterile in a single pass through a plate and frame and bottled on March 19th 2010, then released May 1st 2010.

On the nose, mineral notes with stone fruit, honeydew with a little saline and lemon oil. On the palate, more stone fruit with green apple, citrus, some beeswax and thyme. Good steely minerality with crisp acidity. This would be interesting to pour blind and see if it was a ringer as a New World wine, I’m not sure I would have been able to place it. Certainly not your extra rich, creamy and overoaked style of Viognier. I really enjoyed this bottle and was even more impressed with it on the second day. 163 cases produced. 14.1% alcohol. Recommended and a fairly decent value at $21 a bottle.

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