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Posts Tagged ‘Kermit Lynch’

“To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.”   Kermit Lynch

Jura is is home to some forty different grape varietals and its own style of winemaking that is quite unique.  While it might be a small and not very well known region, it is filled with some of the world’s great wine makers. One of my favorites is Jean-François Ganevat. His family has been making wine as far back as 1650, although the family supplemented their  grape growing with a dairy to support production of the local cheese, Comté, until 1976.

After working both for his father and for the prestigious Domaine Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet, Jean-François returned to the Jura in 1998 to take over the family domaine. With only eight-and-a-half hectares, the family had seventeen different local varietals planted of both red and white grapes—an incredible amount of variation considering the size.

Ganevat creates a stunning number of cuvées, ranging between thirty-five and forty every year. It is not only the number, but the manner in which he makes his wines. He is a fervent perfectionist and insatiable lover of details with each cuvée receiving a highly individualized élévage. He takes the time to de-stem by hand and each cluster is carefully trimmed with scissors. Other very well-run estates larger than Ganevat’s employ just one or two people. Ganevat, however, employs eight people full time to tend to every detail.

The domaine is certified as biodynamic and Ganevat only uses minimal doses of sulfur.  Many would fear it hurting the wines during transport, but he ages many of his whites on the lees for extended periods of time (from two to eleven years).

In the Jura, many of the wines go through a traditional, intentional oxidation; however Jean-François gravitates toward a more Burgundian style, using a method referred to in the Jura as “ouillé” (meaning the barrels are topped up as the wine ages). This is the normal practice throughout the world of wine, and prevents the wine from slowly oxidizing in the barrel. In contrast, a wine made using the “sous-voile” method is not topped up in the barrel. As a result, a thin layer of yeast forms on the top of the wine, which the Jura winemakers refer to as the “voile” or veil. This prevents the wine from turning into vinegar in the barrel, and allows it to slowly age and develop a range of unique flavours, including the nuttiness and spices that are so pronounced in Vin Jaune.

The Les Chalasses Marnes Bleue ’08 is Savagnin topped up. Aromatics of sherry, orchard fruit with some burnt rubber, funky cheese (?) and caramel. More orchard fruit and sherry notes on the palate with some citrus, nuttiness, tropical fruit and melting butter. Rich and complex — a beautiful and unique bottle of wine.

His ’08 Chardonnay Grusse en Billat might be even better, as least for my taste. The minerality comes through on the nose and the palate with orchard fruit and lemon oil. Taut and acidic, but with such purity and freshness. A very refined and elegant wine that really leaves a strong impression.

His red wines equal the whites. The ’09 Côtes du Jura Plein Sud and Cuvée Julien are both outstanding. I expect all of the wines are built for the long term, the whites included given the extended aging on their lees. His wines are not widely available, but they are worth seeking out and each one a treasure. His wines are imported by Jeffrey Alpert Selections and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker 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.

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, though it seems they are starting to get more attention.  Someone familiar with their wines from years ago recently told me they made some rather odd wines. He had not had any of their wines in a number of years. I poured him some of the 2008s from Domaine Gramenon and he seemed to like them and say these were not the wines that he remembered. I originally 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 flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. My first vintage of the Sierra du Sud was the 2007. I think I paid $28-32 a bottle. The 2009 can be found for about $22 a bottle.

The Sierra du Sud is 100% Syrah, half aged for seven months in old oak. Like the 2007, it is very deep, dark inky ruby in color, with bright aromatics of red and dark fruit and some earth and bubble gum. It explodes in your mouth with black currant, plum and more bubble gum. This is even more approachable than the 2007, perhaps just a bit more ripe as well. The 2008s had a bit of funk and a little more going on — which is not to say I didn’t like the 2008s, as I do consider myself to be pro-funk when it comes to wine. The 2009 might be a bit less complex — just pure, unadulterated fruit — definitely in the quaffable and fun category. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

More wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2000

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The holidays are usually a great time of year for wine. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we had some great wines from Pierre Luneau-Papin, Jacques Puffeney, Heymann-Lowenstein, Rhys and Marcel Lapierre.

Yesterday, I went to a tasting at Weygandt Wines for a vertical vintage tasting of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Charvin (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008). Really quite a remarkable tasting given that there are few free tastings of such high-caliber wines. It was really remarkable to taste how a great producer can start to blur the impact of vintage but also allow the characteristics of each vintage to speak. The 2001 and 2005 were excellent (as expected given the vintage), but I was also impressed with the 2004 and 2008.

During the last couple of months, I have also been drinking a number of wines from the 2009 Beaujolais vintage. I have had the Marcel Lapierre Morgon a few times and last week I had the Morgon from Jean-Paul Thévenet. Both wines are really quite outstanding. The Lapierre has really lovely aromatics and fruit, the Thévenet has great purity and feels quite Burgundian. These two wines have been the most memorable this holiday and expect that I will enjoy them again before the end of the year.

Jean-Paul Thévenet and Marcel Lapierre are part of a small group of producers that Kermit Lynch dubbed the Gang of Four (the others being Jean Foillard and Guy Breton).  The Gang of Four was not a formal group, but perhaps best embodied the “old school” qualities that these wine makers have championed in the region.

Thévenet works a plot in the Morgon appellation. The average age of the vines is 70 years and they are cultivated organically and yield very little fruit. The grapes are fermented with natural yeasts and, quite remarkably, often without the addition of any sulfur dioxide. After fermentation Thevenet ages the wine for six to eight months in used oak barrels that he manages to get from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is bottled without filtration. 13% alcohol.

It takes a little bit of work, but both wines can be found for about $25. While that might not be inexpensive, both are extremely high quality and outstanding values. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker 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. Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue making 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 Grenache with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. Some might not want to pay $30 for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, but I was able to pick up a sampler pack of their wine from Kermit Lynch at 25% off and each one of the wines has been a winner.

Last year I found some older vintages of Domaine Gramenon at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC — including a few bottles of their Ceps Centenaires La Mémé from 2000 and 2001. The Centenaires La Mémé is made from 100 year old Grenache vines. It is fermented with stems and aged without any sulfur dioxide additions. Gramenon’s wines are said to show best in their relative youth, so wasn’t sure what to expect from a bottle from the 2000 vintage. Copper plum in color, definitely showing a some age. Still showing some lush and silky fruit on the palate, though not as bright as the younger Gramenon’s I have had. It’s picked up a lot of complexity and has also softened and mellowed. Not sure I would sit on this much longer, but it was a memorable bottle. Add another notch to why this domaine is on my list of favorites.

Related posts:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007

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Muscadet is produced at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region neighboring the Brittany  Region. More Muscadet is produced than any other Loire wine. The Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sub-appellation is the most productive and notable region of Muscadet, producing more than three quarters of the region’s entire production. In fact, more AOC Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine is produced on a yearly basis than in any other single AOC in the entire Loire Valley.

It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often referred to simply as melon. The grape variety used to produced Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, is a relatively neutral grape. Winemaking techniques have involved in the region to adapt to the grape’s limitation and bring out more flavor and complexity. The most well known of these techniques is sur lie aging, where the wine stays in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation (the lees).  The technique was discovered, almost accidentally, in the early 20th century. Traditionally Muscadet producers would set aside a barrel of wine for special occasions, such as a family wedding. This “honeymoon barrel”, as it became known, would take on more flavor and texture due to it contact with the lees.  Through this process, autolysis occurs which contributes to a creamy mouthfeel that may the wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes during this process inhibits oxidation is also said to improve the aging potential of the wine.  During this process, the wine is usually not racked for several months. While in many wines, the lack of racking could have the undesired consequences of developing off flavors or other wine faults. However, the relative neutrality of the Melon de Bourgogne grape works in the favor of the Muscadet wine and poses minimal risk to developing off flavors.

Many top producers have been experimenting more and more with sur lie aging. Top producers like Marc Ollivier, Pierre Lunea-Papin, André-Michel Brégeon, and others are making great wines that showcase specific terroirs within Muscadet, and often involve lees aging for longer periods than are allowed under the appellation rules. In this case, Bregeon’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002  spent 85 months (over 7 years) on its lees before bottling. Michel first began experimenting with extended aging sur lie in 1982 and bottled his first wine using this technique in 1985. The results provide further evidence that Melon de Bourgogne is a noble grape.

I opened this bottle with some rather high expectations as Kermit Lynch wrote this is the most exciting Muscadet you will ever taste. I tasted this side by side with the Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005. Both wines are outstanding and deserve time in the cellar, but I have to say that I would give the edge to Marc Olivier’s “3” — of course that is my own subjective opinion, that said both wines are worth seeking out. They also offer tremendous value (in this case a that spent over 7 years on its lees for around $20).

Highly recommended. 12% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Related posts:
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007

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This is probably the purest expression of Gamay you’ll ever encounter, tipping the Richter scale in terms of its balance between complexity and pleasure. ~Kermit Lynch

Granted, he imports and sells the wine so you might be inclined to think his opinion is biased — and I expect it is but that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty close to the actual truth. Grown in what is considered one of the top granite soils in the region, all hand-harvested and vinified Burgundian style in barrel (no industrial yeasts) with little to no sulfur and bottled unfiltered. It certainly falls into the natural wine category — and naturally delicious by just about any standard.  Jean and Agnès Foillard are superstars in France, and their Morgon seems to always be well received and in short supply in the United States.

This wine is from the Côte du Py, a  small parcel of the cru of Morgon, one of 10 Beaujolais villages in the north of that region designated by AOC rules as special and allowed to label their wares by the village, not region, name. As a result, this wine is labeled with the name of it’s hillside of origin (Côte du Py) and the village from whence it came (Morgon), but no mention of the larger region of Beaujolais is made. While it would be correct to call this a Beaujolais, it is more closely aligned with a light & fragrant Burgundy. That all being said, descriptions don’t do it justice and it is just one of those wines that has to be experienced.

A little murky, but beautiful garnet color. Aromatics of cherry, strawberry, violets, earth and spice. On palate, raspberry, cherry, currant and plum — some spice, a homeopathic dose of funk and a whole lot of character. Great purity of fruit and minerality. Lush and silky smooth, but vibrant acidity. 13% alcohol. I also loved the 07 Jean Foillard Morgon Corcelette, but the Côte du Py might be its equal. The Corcelette is a bit more feminine and seductive, while the Côte du Py has a bit more structure and meat to it. Both are stunning wines and strongly recommended. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Related post:
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007

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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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