Friday, June 24, 2016

Two Great Washington State Red Wines

There may not be another American Viticultural Area named so poetically as the Horse Heaven HIlls AVA in eastern Washington state. With images in our heads of wild stallions leaping over grapevines, we turn to the Mercer Family for some wine befitting that waking dream.

The Mercer Estate Winery has a five-generation legacy of sustainable farming, not just for grapes, but other foods as well. A Scottish Highlander came to America before the Declaration of Independence was signed, and his descendants headed west and settled in what is now the Horse Heaven Hills region a hundred years later, growing cattle, sheep and wheat.

Don & Linda Mercer planted the family’s first grapes in the early ‘70s and started making wine about eleven year ago. Winemaker Jessica Munnell considers herself lucky to have access to the fruit of the Horse Heaven Hills in the Mercer’s seven vineyards

Samples of two of the Mercer Estates wines were provided to me for the purpose of this article..


Mercer Estates Malbec, Horse Heaven Hills  2013

304 cases of this wine were produced, and the bottles retail for $24.  The blend is simple: 76% Malbec and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and it has alcohol at 13.7% abv. The grapes for this wine came primarily from their Spice Cabinet Vineyard, sitting on a southeast slope above the Columbia River. It aged for 24 months in French and American oak barrels.

It’s a dark wine, inky. The nose is full of blackberry and spice, and to a lesser degree, earth and smoke. It smells, and tastes, a bit like Bordeaux - which I would guess they’d be pretty happy about in Washington State. In the sip there is dark fruit and plenty of it, but a savory aspect joins in for a really balanced approach. The tannins are capable enough to match up with tri tip, but they don't irritate if you just want to sip a good Malbec. A really good Malbec.

Mercer Estates Sharp Shisters Red Blend, Horse Heaven Hills 2013

They made 2,725 cases of this wine that sell for $24 per bottle. The kitchen-sink blend shows 47% Merlot, 41% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Sangiovese and 1% Petit Verdot. The Merlot and Cab came from their Princeton Vineyard, Syrah came out of the Dead Canyon Vineyard while the Sangiovese and Petit Verdot are from the Spice Cabinet Vineyard. The wine spent 20 months in French and American oak.

All those months in wood show up as soon as the glass is under the nose. Ripe red fruit and sweet oak notes explode in a showy perfume. There’s more. Smoke, forest floor and a boatload of spices - cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg. On the palate we have amazing fruit, and why not? The Merlot and Syrah handle that heavy lifting well enough. The Cabernet Sauvignon gives structure and focus. Additional complexity from the Sangiovese and Petit Verdot equal an embarrassment of riches.


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wine And Alzheimer's

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Portuguese Wines With Food

Portugal’s grapes and wines are fascinating.  They seem so foreign to the rest of the wine world - hard to understand, but easy to like.

Wines of Portugal served up a luncheon and education hour recently for a group of wine writers, educators and sommeliers in Los Angeles, to which I was happy to be invited. We congregated in the back area at Republique and got schooled by the speaker, Evan Goldstein, below.

The Master Sommelier opened with remarks about a few of the 300 grape varieties that are indigenous to Portugal, and some of the difficulty of wrapping one’s American head around them. He said it's not easy teaching folks about Portuguese wines. "Grapes that people can't pronounce and a language that sounds like a bunch of drunk Russians arguing," he said, "make a rather hazy platform for wine education."

The idea of serving lunch items with the wines, Goldstein said, was to put the wines in the context in which they want to be shown - with food. The wine expert offered some tips on pairing wine with food, and he says it boils down to three key elements.

First, Goldstein says protein is not always the star. Especially in restaurants, you may find several commanding flavors in the side dishes that beg to be addressed by the wine. 
Second, he emphasizes the cooking impact. Is the food grilled? Smoked? Blackened? He says all of these cooking styles can overwhelm a wine. 
Third, is there a sauce? If so, that's the key to a wine pairing. A wine you would match with plain pasta is very different from the one you’d match with a marinara sauce that goes into it.

Goldstein gave us the chance to mix and match with the lunch, which was served in three, two-stage courses, perfect Portuguese pairings prepared by Walter Manzke and Eric Bost of Republique and Telmo Faria of San Francisco's Uma Casa.


Before we sat, a wonderful aperitif wine was poured, the Esporão Verdelho, Alentejo 2015.  The wine makes a great opener, with a mineral-driven citrus nose and flavors of grapefruit and lemon in a crisp, fresh acidity. The 13.5% abv wine was made entirely from the Verdelho grape, grown in the Alentejo region, in the south-central part of Portugal. It was declared the best wine of the year in that country, the first time a white wine had ever won the honor.


Each lunch course was paired with four wines, from which we were to select the one that best fit the dish, according to our palates. This, Goldstein assured us, meant that there were no wrong answers.




First Course
Hamachi Crudo Gazpacho, Mustard Seed Oil  
The Sogrape Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde 2015 was the best with fish, fins down.
Sopa de Funcho, Chilled Fennel Soup; Dungeness Crab, Corn Salad  
As I suspected, the easiest sipper was the best with the soup, the Terras d’Alter Reserva Branco, Alentejo, 2014.

Second Course
Spinach Cavatelli, Forest Mushrooms 
I would have preferred a white wine with mushroom, I always do. Of the three reds, the best fit was probably the Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto, Alentejo, 2011.
Arroz de Pato, Morel Mushroom and Duck Confit Risotto; Seared Duck Breast, Red Wine Cherry Sauce  
All three reds did fine with this one, great in fact.  

Third Course
Beef Tenderloin, Sweet Onion, Oven-Dried Tomato, Bacon
Wines #11 and #12, from the Douro selections, were best. An elegant pairing where the tannins seemed put to good use
Carne a Jardineira, Braised Short Rib, New Potatoes, Baby Carrots, Summer Beans, Braising Jus
All four Douros were great with this course.


The wines:

1 Aveleda Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde 2015
 From the northwest part of the country; winemaker Manuel Soares; 11% abv
The Loueira grape gives the wines wonderful floral capacity, while the Alva Rinho grapes brings the fruit. Great acidity.

2 Sogrape Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, Vinho Verde 2015
Nearly all Loureira grapes, only 5% Pederna; 11% abv four months aging on the lees
The nose is chalky with muted citrus notes. Grapefruit flavors dominate with a very fresh acidity.

3 Caves Transmontanas Vértice Grande Reserva Branco, Douro 2013
Yes, a white from Douro, in the northern part of country, where Port comes from.
13.6% abv; half gouveio and half Viosinho; light oak
Muted mineral aromas of chalk and lemons, with a slight toastiness. Smooth and earthy in the mouth, full with a light citrus overlay.

4 Terras d’Alter Reserva Branco, Alentejo 2014
A five-grape blend from Alentejo, in the south central part of country.
25% Siria, 25% Arinto, 25% Verdelho, 10% Viosinho, 10% Gouveio and 5% Viognier; 13.5%; winemaker Retar Breight
A slight floral aroma precedes an elegant display of citrus. Peachy flavors are quite sippable in this full, less acidic wine.

5 Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional, Bairrada 2011
From  north central
All Touriga Nacional grapes from the north-central area.
Winemaker Manuel Soares; 13.5% abv; one year in French oak
The nose has lots of black cherry and spices, while the palate gives dark fruit and beautiful oak notes, like cedar. Nice tannic structure.

6 Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto, Barraida 2011
100% Baga grape, a winemaker’s fave;  40 year-old vines; 13% abv
A rosy perfume graces the nose, while black fruit and big minerals define the palate.

7 Cortes de Cima Tinto, Alentejo 2012
40% Aragonez (Tempranillo), 35% Syrah, 15% Touriga Nacional, 10% Petit Verdot;  12 months mostly French oak; 14% abv
The aromas here are beautiful. I even included an exclamation point in my notes. Syrupy, perfumed cherry and blueberry scents lead to flavors of black and blue fruit with spices and easy tannins.

8 Wine did not arrive

9 Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional, Douro 2012
100% Touriga Nacional; 14% abv; 16 months in 30% new oak
A dark, spicy nose predicts more darkness on the palate, with savory, spicy flavors and very nice tannins.

10 Sogrape Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Tinto, Douro 2013
Kitchen sink composition: 50% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 10% Tinto Roriz (again, Tempranillo), 5% Tinta Cao, 5% Touriga Fêmea and 5% "other;" 13.5%; 12-18 months in French oak
Violet and dark fruit on the nose, with a palate that’s fruity and savory, yet breezy.

11 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Tinto, Douro 2013
43% Touriga Nacional, 37% Touriga Franca and 20% traditional Douro grapes; 14% abv
Beautiful floral accents join the minerals on the nose. Flavors of black and blue fruit are draped with a savory aspect and a great acidity.

12 Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia, Douro 2013
50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 11% Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. The rest, who knows? 14 months French oak; 13.8%
This wine has an easy, rosy nose that is muted and light, but the earthy minerals make a strong showing on the palate. Savory and tannic.


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Monday, June 20, 2016

A French Twist On Rosé Wine

Moncigale is one of France's largest wine producers. They are in the south of France and bottle wines primarily from Provence and Corsica. They have a bottling for the American market called Fruits and Wine, which delivers exactly what is advertised.

A mix of wine and fruit juice isn't really a new idea. Think "Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers" from the 1980s. Their product was referred to, though, as a "cooler" because it was actually a malt drink

This one, - Fruits and Wine, by Moncigale - is actual wine mixed with fruit juices and a little carbonation thrown in. It's not a bad little beverage, for what it is.

I don’t often mix things with wine, but that’s because I want to experience what the wine has to offer. If it doesn’t offer much, mix. A recent report showed that 66% of consumers are "eager to mix wine with fruit/juices." And Fruits and Wine is already a popular item at poolside parties in Provence, I’m told, so maybe the younger wave of consumers can be responsible for the return of wine coolers, as well as the onset of the $17 hamburger.

Fruits and Wine is billed as a guilt free product with less sugar than a classic cola and less alcohol than the classic wine - it hits only 7% abv. It employs real fruit juice and no fruit syrup, according to the company. They seem to be targeting younger women I with this product, and possibly trying to act as a transition drink to get cider and craft beer drinkers to start exploring wine.  

Their website offers some tantalizing fun-in-the-sun shots and hits the notion that this is a "no fuss" alternative to actually pouring one thing into another. Homemade sangria, of course, is a lot more trouble than simply opening this bottle, so maybe they're on to something.  The theme of freeing one's self, escaping confinement, recurs on the web page as well. It fits right into younger wine drinkers’ "no rules" attitude.

I tried their Rosé and Grapefruit version, and I must say it's very tasty. It has a pretty and deep pink/orange hue and a nose that comes on like sweet candy. Its aroma reminds me rather of a Big Red soda, if you remember those. The flavors are similar to that soda as well, with a splash of grapefruit thrown in for a slight tanginess. The acidity is nice, falling just short of crisp. Although it's not what I want when I want wine, I can easily see this being a delightful sip on the back porch during a long, hot summer.



Friday, June 17, 2016

Chardonnay In Chablis: Premier Cru

A recent Twitter gathering of Chablis lovers took place, with some wine writers invited to join in the fun with samples provided. I was there, hashtagging #PureChablis. The samples were great examples of what Chardonnay, in Chablis can offer. I don't know if you can really go wrong by simply ordering "Chablis," with no other information given. If you have had trouble in that area, I'd love to know about it. My thoughts on the wines follow comments from some of the other participants.

One Twitter Taster branded Chablis as, "Wonderful elegant white wines from France," which the Chablis people must be happy with. Another posted that "most people in the 'ABC Club' usually find their way out by way of #Chablis," referring to the blinkered 'Anything But Chardonnay' crowd. What’s good about it and why? "Nowhere else produces Chardonnay like Chablis: vines grow on prehistoric sea, w/ saline geology."

Chablis, owing to its fresh acidity and flinty flavor profile, is a great wine to have with brunch. Have it with breakfast if you want, I’m not going to judge. It pairs great with eggs and croissants, in addition to the usual shellfish and sushi. Try it with guacamole and chips. Your football Sunday will never be the same.

The French phrase Premier Cru refers, in Burgundy, to a classified vineyard, the second-highest such ranking, just below grand cru.


Chablis Premier Cru, William Fèvre, Fourchaume, 2013

There’s a lovely nose here, light oak, citrus, tropical, everything under control. The palate is wildly fruity and the acidity is fresh, everything just right. If this were from one of the best vineyards in California, would I be more impressed than when it’s from one of the best vineyards in Burgundy? I don’t know. In California the wine would probably be bigger. Or lighter. One or the other. I’m just going to stop worrying about it and enjoy. There’s plenty to enjoy.


Chablis Premier Cru, Domaine Fourrey, Côte de Léchet, 2013

This one has a greenish tint and an absolutely amazing minerality on the nose - wet rocks, limes, seashore - it’s beautiful. The same goes for the palate - minerals, minerals, minerals. There is a Meyer lemon note at mid-palate that goes right through the finish. This is a lean Chardonnay, and one that will hit the right notes with oysters. On the virtual tasting event, one commenter chirped that the wine was :going to pair so well w/my Moroccan chicken for dinner tonight." And I'm sure it did.



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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Chardonnay In Chablis

Chablis is a region in France’s Burgundy wine region. Chablis wine is made with the Chardonnay grape. In America we call that "white wine." Or, at least, some of us do.

The biggest hurdle most introductory wine drinkers have to clear is understanding all the nuances, like the fact that French wine is labeled by region, not grape. Chablis is Chardonnay, you just sound a lot more continental when ordering it their way.

On a recent Twitter gathering of Chablis lovers, some wine writers were invited to join in the fun with samples provided. I was there. The four samples were all consistently good examples of what Chardonnay, er, Chablis can offer. I don't know if you can really go wrong by simply ordering "Chablis," with no other information given. If you have had trouble in that area, I'd love to know about it. My thoughts on the wines follow comments from some of the other participants.

One Twitter Taster branded Chablis as, "Wonderful elegant white wines from France," which the Chablis people must be happy with. Another posted that "most people in the "ABC Club" usually find their way out by way of #Chablis," referring to the blinkered "Anything But Chardonnay" crowd. What’s good about it and why? "Nowhere else produces Chardonnay like Chablis: vines grow on prehistoric sea, w/ saline geology."

The cool climate in this northern neck of the Bourgogne woods also has a lot to with it. The Chardonnay comes out leaner, steelier, flintier than a big, ripe California Chardonnay.  As one Tweeter put it, "#Chablis is the essence of terroir."

Chablis, owing to its fresh acidity and flinty flavor profile, is a great wine to have with brunch. Have it with breakfast if you want, I’m not going to judge. It pairs great with eggs and croissants, in addition to the usual shellfish and sushi. Try it with guacamole and chips. Your football Sunday will never be the same.

Chablis, Albert Bichot, Domaine Long-Depaquit 2014

Utilizing grapes from four estate vineyards in Burgundy, this Chardonnay clocks in at a super-low 12.5% abv.  The nose shows its minerals well, in a shower of wet rocks, lemons and tropical fruit. The flinty palate fits perfectly with any type of seafood, but bring me some oysters Rockefeller.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Chardonnay Wine In Chablis: Petit Chablis

How many times have I heard someone ask, "What kind of grape is Chablis?" It has happened more often than a wine nerd might think. It's almost as common as confusing "sparkling wine" with "Champagne," and right along the same lines, although nobody has ever asked me what kind of grape Champagne is. As long as it tickles the nose, what do they care?

Chablis, of course, is a region in France’s Burgundy wine region. Chablis wine is made with the Chardonnay grape. In America we call that "white wine." Or, at least, some of us do.

The biggest hurdle most introductory wine drinkers have to clear is understanding all the nuances, like the fact that French wine is labeled by region, not grape. Chablis is Chardonnay, you just sound a lot more continental when ordering it that way.

A recent Twitter gathering of Chablis lovers took place, with some wine writers invited to join in the fun with samples provided. I was there. The four samples were all consistently good examples of what Chardonnay, er, Chablis can offer. I don't know if you can really go wrong by simply ordering "Chablis," with no other information given. If you have had trouble in that area, I'd love to know about it. My thoughts on the wines follow comments from some of the other participants.

One Twitter Taster branded Chablis as, "Wonderful elegant white wines from France," which the Chablis people must be happy with. Another posted that "most people in the "ABC Club" usually find their way out by way of #Chablis," referring to the blinkered "Anything But Chardonnay" crowd. What’s good about it and why? "Nowhere else produces Chardonnay like Chablis: vines grow on prehistoric sea, w/ saline geology."

The cool climate in this northern neck of the Bourgogne woods also has a lot to with it. The Chardonnay comes out leaner, steelier, flintier than a big, ripe California Chardonnay.  As one Tweeter put it, "#Chablis is the essence of terroir."

Chablis, owing to its fresh acidity and flinty flavor profile, is a great wine to have with brunch. Have it with breakfast if you want, I’m not going to judge. It pairs great with eggs and croissants, in addition to the usual shellfish and sushi. Try it with guacamole and chips. Your football Sunday will never be the same.


Petit Chablis, Domaine Vincent Dampt, 2015

Petit Chablis is an appellation within the Chablis region. An incredibly golden hue is a delight to look at, but quit looking and pour. The nose is great, full of minerals and citrus and an earthy sense that underlies it all. The palate is full of apples and lemons. An earthy streak rides from the front to the finish, the acidity is very refreshing and the mouthfeel is full and round. This is a great Caesar salad wine, or with pasta primavera. On Twitter, comments like this one summed up the wine: "loved it, drank it, did not spit it out. Light and minerally, brisk and ethereal!"


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Friday, June 10, 2016

Mendocino County Zinfandel: Edmeades Shamrock Vineyard

Mendocino County has a rich history dating back through the Pomos Indians, Spanish explorers, timber cutters and gold rushers.  It was in the latter part of the 19th century that Italian immigrants began to come to California in droves, and many settled in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. For Italians looking to make themselves feel at home in a new land, grapevines were a big item, of course.

Farther inland from the Anderson Valley Pinots and Chardonnays are the Zinfandel vineyards of Mendocino. Edmeades was founded by a Pasadena cardiologist in 1963, making him a real modern-day pioneer of Mendocino wines.

Vineyards like Gianoli, Perli, and Piffero still mark the region’s immigrant influence. A few of Edmeades’ single-vineyard Zinfandels were supplied to me for the purpose of this series.  Using grapes grown in Mendocino County’s rugged coastal mountains, Edmeades is known for limited bottlings of Zinfandels that are expressive and distinct. Winemaker Ben Salazar likes the grapes to do the talking, so he uses a light touch in the cellar.

Edmeades Shamrock Zinfandel 2013

The elevation on the Shamrock vineyard -  2,900 feet - makes the young site one of the highest in Mendocino County. Planted in 2001, the vineyard is part of a 17,000-acre ranch of forest and grassland that also sports 300 head of cattle. Mike Prescott oversees the grapes as well as the cows.

The wine consists of 97% Zinfandel, with the remainder being Syrah. 15 months in oak, mostly neutral French and American. It has an alcohol content of 15.5% abv and the 250 cases produced sell at retail for $31.

If you want a Zinfandel that delivers its elegance in a closed fist, here it is. It’s like a great looking guy wearing a tuxedo a half size too small. It’s ready for action, just not the action it was expecting.  The nose is incredibly perfumed, shielding layer after layer of spice. There is a savory aspect here that tempers the fruit, a youthful exuberance that spits in the general direction of Perli and Gianoli vineyards. It’s a brash and brawny wine, with toothy tannins, enough to rope and hogtie a rowdy steer. It’s probably a bit much for the lentil soup, but fire up the grill and throw some rosemary in there with the beef.



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mendocino County Zinfandel: Edmeades Gianoli Vineyard

Mendocino County has a rich history dating back through the Pomos Indians, Spanish explorers, timber cutters and gold rushers.  It was in the latter part of the 19th century that Italian immigrants began to come to California in droves, and many settled in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. For Italians looking to make themselves feel at home in a new land, grapevines were a big item, of course.

Farther inland from the Anderson Valley Pinots and Chardonnays are the Zinfandel vineyards of Mendocino. Edmeades was founded by a Pasadena cardiologist in 1963, making him a real modern-day pioneer of Mendocino wines.

Vineyards like Gianoli, Perli, and Piffero still mark the region’s immigrant influence. A few of Edmeades’ single-vineyard Zinfandels were supplied to me for the purpose of this series.  Using grapes grown in Mendocino County’s rugged coastal mountains, Edmeades is known for limited bottlings of Zinfandels that are expressive and distinct. Winemaker Ben Salazar likes the grapes to do the talking, so he uses a light touch in the cellar.

Edmeades Gianoli Zinfandel 2013

The Gianoli family homesteaded this ranch in 1882, planting 20 acres of Zinfandel.  According to the winery, the vineyard can be reached only by way of an old dirt road winding through forests of Redwood and Douglas fir. The grapes grow at an elevation of about 1,900 feet, almost always above the thick fogs below. Owners Mike and Jenny Kelly (at right) say they love this place as much as any on earth.

The wine registers a super-ripe 15.5% abv that was aged in predominantly neutral oak, French and American. They only made 250 cases and it retails for $35.

This Zin expresses an amazing, brambly nose with spice and red fruit. The palate is bright and lively, showing cherry, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and chocolate leading to a long finish. It paired quite successfully with a pan-seared ribeye infused with blue cheese.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Mendocino County Zinfandel: Edmeades Perli Vineyards

Mendocino County has a rich history dating back through the Pomos Indians, Spanish explorers, timber cutters and gold rushers.  It was in the latter part of the 19th century that Italian immigrants began to come to California in droves, and many settled in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. For Italians looking to make themselves feel at home in a new land, grapevines were a big item, of course.

Farther inland from the Anderson Valley Pinots and Chardonnays are the Zinfandel vineyards of Mendocino. Edmeades was founded by a Pasadena cardiologist in 1963, making him a real modern-day pioneer of Mendocino wines.

Vineyards like Gianoli, Perli, and Piffero still mark the region’s immigrant influence. A few of Edmeades’ single-vineyard Zinfandels were supplied to me for the purpose of this series.  Using grapes grown in Mendocino County’s rugged coastal mountains, Edmeades is known for limited bottlings of Zinfandels that are expressive and distinct. Winemaker Ben Salazar likes the grapes to do the talking, so he uses a light touch in the cellar.

Edmeades Perli Vineyard Zinfandel 2013

Their website says the plot from which these grapes come was planted in the late 1800s by Santo and Rosie Perli, immigrants from Italy.  The Perli Vineyard is in the vast Mendocino Ridge appellation, with elevations ranging from 1,800 to 2,200 feet, above the fogline on most days. The grapes are planted on very steep slopes, giving the fruit "unusual concentration and intensity, with tiny, low-yielding berries packing plenty of flavor." The vineyard is now owned and farmed by Steve Alden (on right) and his family. They've been supplying Edmeades with Zinfandel grapes since the mid-90s.

It’s mostly Zinfandel, with 3% Syrah in the wine, which sells for $31 retail. It aged for 15 months in mainly neutral French and American oak, and it hits 15.5% abv in alcohol. 750 cases were made.

It’s an elegant Zin, with rich cherry notes and a suitable amount of earth, both in the aromas and the flavors. The structure is well-defined and the tannins don’t bite very hard at all. Black berries and all kinds of spice make for a complex palate, with some chocolate appearing midway. There’s plenty of acidity and the finish is quite long and satisfying.


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Friday, June 3, 2016

The Hidden Gems Of Bourgogne: Reds

Here are three excellent red Burgundy wines poured recently by some very nice folks from the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne. More about them in the repeat of the article below the wines.


Vincent Girardin’s Cuvée Saint-Vincent 2013 comes from an area near Volnay and Pommard, in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, in the hills west of Beaune. The grapes of 40-year-old vines are vinified in steel, mostly, with about ten-percent seeing oak age. The $30 retail price puts it in the affordable range for Bourgogne Rouge. The perfumed, floral nose is a hallmark of the region, while the easy, low tannins make it extremely drinkable.



Frederic Esmonin’s La Belle Vue 2014 is a Côtes Nuit-Villages wine, also at $30. It’s made from grapes grown in Comblanchien and is a straightforward drink with beautiful roses and cherries on the nose and palate, and a stronger tannic structure than the Girardin.






The Michel Briday Les 4 Vignes Rully Rouge 2012 is produced using grapes from four different parcels in the Côte Chalonnaise. The 35-year-old vines make for a youthful and rustic Pinot Noir that retails for $20. More cherry notes than in the previous wines grace the nose, which is still a perfumed wonder. Bright cherry flavors dominate the palate.





The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne, says their leaflet. It is the Burgundian expression of terroir. Weather, soil and exposure, combined with non-interventionist cellar practices is what make Bourgogne Bourgogne. It’s what makes Burgundy Burgundy.

Twenty centuries of winemaking have taught them a thing or two in Burgundy since the Romans first planted vines there. They claim that Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences to the north and oceanic influences to the west make for a vast and varied wine region, one with which none can compare.

Of course, Bordeaux will take exception to that, as will the Rhône Valley, the Languedoc, Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes and the high plains of Texas. I mean, what kind of wine region would you be if you didn't think your dirt was the best?

Native Burgundian Amaury Devillard (right) comes from a family that has owned vineyards in the Mercurey region of Bourgogne since the 12th Century. His father got a comparatively late start, waiting until 1934 to produce his wine.

Devillard was in Los Angeles recently for a spate of tastings and met with me for a picnic in the park. He and Cécile Mathiaud (left), the head of PR for Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, along with Sopexa publicist Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry brought wine, a fine spread and their magnetic personalities to brighten an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. Mathiaud offered a theme for the picnic when she said, "In France, food is as serious as wine." While Devillard and I moved to the end of the picnic table, where the wine was, to let the ladies set up the feast, she quipped, "Ah, as always, the women in the kitchen and the men in the cellar!"

Devillard was here to, naturally, extol the virtues of Burgundy. He put a fine point on his effort, though, and emphasized the "hidden gems" of the region. "The mark of Bourgogne is balance," he said, referring to the scales of ripeness, flavor and acidity playing against each other. But he also wanted to show that there is balance at the checkout stand. "People think Bourgogne is expensive, but it does not have to be," he said. "These wines," he waved over the picnic table, "are quite affordable, very affordable, and they are excellent wines. You get a lot for your money."

I always think of of Pinot Noir when I think of Burgundy. But actually, 61% of Bourgogne wines are white, Chardonnay. 29% are red, 9% are cremant and just a fraction are rosé. Two-thirds of the winemakers in Bougogne are small producers, says Devillard.

In France they have a term for a farming philosophy which allows "treatments of the vines only when absolutely necessary," says their info. It’s called called Luttes Raisonnées - an idiomatic expression that literally means "reasoned fight" in English. Why they don't just call it laissez faire, I don't know. Maybe some vintners have to duke it out every now and then to protect their biodynamic and organic viticulture practices

Schooled in France, Devillard made wine in South Africa and worked in Spain for a while before returning to France to sell wine barrels. He later moved to New York and represented the Bourgogne négociant Antonin Rodet and has been back in Burgundy for eleven years, watching over the family’s domaines.

Here are my thoughts on Devillard’s own wine, the Chateau de la Chamirey 2012 Mercurey. In the coming days, we’ll sample some of the other "hidden gems" of Bougogne that they brought with them.

The Chateau de la Chamirey is a Chardonnay that is 50% steel aged, 50% oak.  It sells for $30, which makes it one of the more expensive gems on the table this day.  The nose is rich and funky, with a wonderful earthy aspect that balanced the fruit perfectly. On the palate, the limestone soil of the vineyard comes though plainly, with a flinty touch that I find irresistible in white wines. Devillard pointed out the "increased greasiness" of the wine, which I translated as an oily character - full and round.




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Hidden Gems of Bourgogne: Whites

Here are three excellent white Burgundy wines poured recently by some very nice folks from the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne. More about them in the repeat of the article below the wines.


Louis Moreau Chablis 2014 is 100% Chardonnay with no oak, only natural yeast and a little more than two weeks in fermentation. It’s another of those "hidden gems" Devillard spoke about at just $19.  The nose smells just like the sea, loaded with minerals and salinity.  Flavors of fresh, crisp apples grace the clean palate.



Chateau de la Greffiere La Roche-Vineuse Sous Le Bois 2014 comes from another family estate. The wine is aged on the lees (spent yeast cells) in steel tanks. Devillard says this one comes from "down south." We might say, Mâcon, in southern Burgundy. Aromas of flowers are a delight, and the salinity on the palate definitely threw me off. I forgot where I was for a second and wondered aloud, "Sauvignon Blanc?" Devillard shot me a look and a grin. It’s an $18 bottle., and worth every penny.



The Jacques Bavard Saint-Romain 2013 from Puligny-Montrachet is grown at a high altitude, and has the cool-climate trademarks to show for it. The $20 retail is a steal for a Chardonnay with little oak, nice weight, fresh acidity and bright spice. It’s flinty, but round.









The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne, says their leaflet. It is the Burgundian expression of terroir. Weather, soil and exposure, combined with non-interventionist cellar practices is what make Bourgogne Bourgogne. It’s what makes Burgundy Burgundy.

Twenty centuries of winemaking have taught them a thing or two in Burgundy since the Romans first planted vines there. They claim that Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences to the north and oceanic influences to the west make for a vast and varied wine region, one with which none can compare.

Of course, Bordeaux will take exception to that, as will the Rhône Valley, the Languedoc, Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes and the high plains of Texas. I mean, what kind of wine region would you be if you didn't think your dirt was the best?

Native Burgundian Amaury Devillard (right) comes from a family that has owned vineyards in the Mercurey region of Bourgogne since the 12th Century. His father got a comparatively late start, waiting until 1934 to produce his wine.

Devillard was in Los Angeles recently for a spate of tastings and met with me for a picnic in the park. He and Cécile Mathiaud (left), the head of PR for Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, along with Sopexa publicist Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry brought wine, a fine spread and their magnetic personalities to brighten an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. Mathiaud offered a theme for the picnic when she said, "In France, food is as serious as wine." While Devillard and I moved to the end of the picnic table, where the wine was, to let the ladies set up the feast, she quipped, "Ah, as always, the women in the kitchen and the men in the cellar!"

Devillard was here to, naturally, extol the virtues of Burgundy. He put a fine point on his effort, though, and emphasized the "hidden gems" of the region. "The mark of Bourgogne is balance," he said, referring to the scales of ripeness, flavor and acidity playing against each other. But he also wanted to show that there is balance at the checkout stand. "People think Bourgogne is expensive, but it does not have to be," he said. "These wines," he waved over the picnic table, "are quite affordable, very affordable, and they are excellent wines. You get a lot for your money."

I always think of of Pinot Noir when I think of Burgundy. But actually, 61% of Bourgogne wines are white, Chardonnay. 29% are red, 9% are cremant and just a fraction are rosé. Two-thirds of the winemakers in Bougogne are small producers, says Devillard.

In France they have a term for a farming philosophy which allows "treatments of the vines only when absolutely necessary," says their info. It’s called called Luttes Raisonnées - an idiomatic expression that literally means "reasoned fight" in English. Why they don't just call it laissez faire, I don't know. Maybe some vintners have to duke it out every now and then to protect their biodynamic and organic viticulture practices

Schooled in France, Devillard made wine in South Africa and worked in Spain for a while before returning to France to sell wine barrels. He later moved to New York and represented the Bourgogne négociant Antonin Rodet and has been back in Burgundy for eleven years, watching over the family’s domaines.

Here are my thoughts on Devillard’s own wine, the Chateau de la Chamirey 2012 Mercurey. In the coming days, we’ll sample some of the other "hidden gems" of Bougogne that they brought with them.

The Chateau de la Chamirey is a Chardonnay that is 50% steel aged, 50% oak.  It sells for $30, which makes it one of the more expensive gems on the table this day.  The nose is rich and funky, with a wonderful earthy aspect that balanced the fruit perfectly. On the palate, the limestone soil of the vineyard comes though plainly, with a flinty touch that I find irresistible in white wines. Devillard pointed out the "increased greasiness" of the wine, which I translated as an oily character - full and round.


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Monday, May 30, 2016

Picnic In L.A. With The Hidden Gems Of Bourgogne

The term Climat is unique to Bourgogne, says their leaflet. It is the Burgundian expression of terroir. Weather, soil and exposure, combined with non-interventionist cellar practices is what make Bourgogne Bourgogne. It’s what makes Burgundy Burgundy.

Twenty centuries of winemaking have taught them a thing or two in Burgundy since the Romans first planted vines there. They claim that Mediterranean influences to the south, continental influences to the north and oceanic influences to the west make for a vast and varied wine region, one with which none can compare.

Of course, Bordeaux will take exception to that, as will the Rhône Valley, the Languedoc, Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes and the high plains of Texas. I mean, what kind of wine region would you be if you didn't think your dirt was the best?

Native Burgundian Amaury Devillard (right) comes from a family that has owned vineyards in the Mercurey region of Bourgogne since the 12th Century. His father got a comparatively late start, waiting until 1934 to produce his wine.

Devillard was in Los Angeles recently for a spate of tastings and met with me for a picnic in the park. He and Cécile Mathiaud (left), the head of PR for Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne, along with Sopexa publicist Marguerite de Chaumont Quitry brought wine, a fine spread and their magnetic personalities to brighten an ordinary Wednesday afternoon. Mathiaud offered a theme for the picnic when she said, "In France, food is as serious as wine." While Devillard and I moved to the end of the picnic table, where the wine was, to let the ladies set up the feast, she quipped, "Ah, as always, the women in the kitchen and the men in the cellar!"

Devillard was here to, naturally, extol the virtues of Burgundy. He put a fine point on his effort, though, and emphasized the "hidden gems" of the region. "The mark of Bourgogne is balance," he said, referring to the scales of ripeness, flavor and acidity playing against each other. But he also wanted to show that there is balance at the checkout stand. "People think Bourgogne is expensive, but it does not have to be," he said. "These wines," he waved over the picnic table, "are quite affordable, very affordable, and they are excellent wines. You get a lot for your money."

I always think of of Pinot Noir when I think of Burgundy. But actually, 61% of Bourgogne wines are white, Chardonnay. 29% are red, 9% are cremant and just a fraction are rosé. Two-thirds of the winemakers in Bougogne are small producers, says Devillard.

In France they have a term for a farming philosophy which allows "treatments of the vines only when absolutely necessary," says their info. It’s called called Luttes Raisonnées - an idiomatic expression that literally means "reasoned fight" in English. Why they don't just call it laissez faire, I don't know. Maybe some vintners have to duke it out every now and then to protect their biodynamic and organic viticulture practices

Schooled in France, Devillard made wine in South Africa and worked in Spain for a while before returning to France to sell wine barrels. He later moved to New York and represented the Bourgogne négociant Antonin Rodet and has been back in Burgundy for eleven years, watching over the family’s domaines.

Here are my thoughts on Devillard’s own wine, the Chateau de la Chamirey 2012 Mercurey. In the coming days, we’ll sample some of the other "hidden gems" of Bougogne that they brought with them.

The Chateau de la Chamirey is a Chardonnay that is 50% steel aged, 50% oak.  It sells for $30, which makes it one of the more expensive gems on the table this day.  The nose is rich and funky, with a wonderful earthy aspect that balanced the fruit perfectly. On the palate, the limestone soil of the vineyard comes though plainly, with a flinty touch that I find irresistible in white wines. Devillard pointed out the "increased greasiness" of the wine, which I translated as an oily character - full and round.


Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter