Page 3 Vatan/Hureau Vincent Ricard,
Breton, Vieux Pruniers, etc.
CHÂTEAU DU HUREAU
- We had tasted some of this estate's wines and usually found them to be
pretty good. I confirmed this in a blind-tasting of Cabernet Franc
wines from the Loire Valley when I had one of Monsieur Vatan's wines as my
top selection in the tasting.
Philippe Vatan runs the estate by himself, his brother having died in a
tragic accident several years ago. The estate comprises something
like 20 hectares of vines these days.
- The name of the estate, Hureau, refers to a wild boar. We didn't
see any on our brief visit to the estate, but we did taste some really
lovely wines. The cellar is immaculate.
The vineyards are planted on tuffeau, a sort of sedimentary
limestone that retains the warmth of the sun. It drains well,
causing the vines to plunge their roots deep into the earth, another
beneficial aspect of vines in this region.
- A few wines are matured in wood, but oak is not a major component in
most of Vatan's wines. I inquired about all the information
scribbled on the stainless steel fermentation tanks and Philippe explained
they like to record the wine's progress during its fermentation.
We're big fans of the basic bottling of Saumur-Champigny, but even more
these days, the Fours a Chaux.
This is made entirely of Cabernet Franc.
Vatan was amused when a
famous French sommelier tasted his entry-level wine and told him "The oak is
perfectly integrated with the fruit." When you're a sommelier
in France, you know everything about wine. Of course.
Funny thing is, though, that Hureau Saumur-Champigny bottling the fellow had tasted
was vinified in stainless steel and never saw the inside of an oak
No wonder the wine had such good integration of the oak...it didn't have
We currently have his Fours à Chaux bottling of Saumur-Champigny.
And this wine does see a bit of wood.
Philippe explains this site is akin to a grand cru site if they
were to classify vineyards within the appellation. Seriously good
The vineyards range from 20 to 50 years of age. The grapes are
hand-harvested and then placed on a sorting table as another means of
The grapes are then de-stemmed and go into a tank for the
fermentation. Vatan employs a long maceration period for this wine,
wanting to produce a complex and structured red wine. After about a
month on the skins, the wine is pressed and goes into foudre (wooden
vat) for a year or year and a half.
This 2014 is a wonderful bottle of Cabernet Franc...beautifully drinkable
now and it can probably last another 5+ years.
Vatan's white wine is periodically in stock... It does
see a bit of wood and we have found the past few vintages to be
exceptionally good. The wine displays a lovely, intense, melon-like
character of Chenin Blanc. It's got a nice bit of oak, perhaps
somewhat unusual for most white wines from the Loire. This is a
wonderful bottle of wine.
Currently in stock: 2014 Saumur-Champigny
"Fours à Chaux" $24.99
Saumur Blanc Sold Out
Laporte family owned this estate for many years, but it is now
operated by the folks at the famed Henri Bourgeois property who have quite
a Loire Valley wine empire.
René Laporte managed the estate into the mid-1980s. He had a
somewhat different idea in those days for making wine. While the
neighbors were, as the French say, "exploiting" (they mean this
to say "managing," but in this instance, exploiting is not a bad
way to describe what they were doing) their vineyards by obtaining the
largest legally allowable yields possible, Laporte pruned more severely to
limit crop size in order to make a superior wine.
The domaine is comprised of about 75 acres presently and we're told they
We've periodically had a Laporte wine in the shop. Their 2015
Sancerre called "La Comtesse" is exceptional as it has been for
a number of vintages. It comes
from a vineyard within the Chavignol area, a prime, top place, in the
They hand pick the grapes and the juice is fermented using its indigenous
yeast but with some temperature controlled fermentation tanks.
This vintage is really intensely aromatic...we are big fans as it's
unmistakable as seriously good Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
Pair this with some seafood...it's an outstanding match to all sorts of
Currently in stock: 2015 LAPORTE SANCERRE "La
is a small, family domaine located in the town of Chaudoux, three miles
northwest of beautiful downtown Sancerre.
They have approximately 11 hectares of vineyards, mostly planted to Sauvignon
Blanc, with maybe 1.5 hectares of Pinot Noir. These are split
amongst some 20 parcels within the commune of Verdigny (Chaudoux is a tiny
Young Bertrand Riffault has taken the reins of the domaine from
his father, Pierre. He graduated from the wine school in Beaune, but seems
to have a typical Sancerrois styling to the wine, more than a Burgundian
With a bit of diversity in soil types (dry, stony chalk along with a chalky/clay
terroir), they're able to produce a nicely minerally, almost 'flinty' style of
Sancerre Blanc. The wine doesn't see wood and it's matured on the spent
yeast following the fermentation.
It's a crisp, tangy style of Sancerre that we enjoy with oysters or some simple
preparation of fish (such as Rex Sole or Sand Dabs), as it's not especially
fruity but more stony/minerally with that underlying flinty quality.
Currently in stock: 2014 DOMAINE RIFFAULT
SANCERRE Sold Out
DOMAINE DE LA TAILLE AUX LOUPS
domaine was founded by a fellow from Bordeaux, Christian Prudhomme, who
had been affiliated with Mouton-Rothschild and Opus One. He found
that Chenin Blanc was less "in demand" than the trophy wines
with which he'd been familiar.
As people didn't pay much attention to his wine, the domaine was sold in
1989, or so. The new owner is a dynamic guy named Jacky Blot.
Blot helped put Montlouis on the map. Francois Chidiane certainly
pushed the Montlouis appellation to the fore and with Blot's efforts, the
area is now highly regarded in many wine circles.
The wines have been very good across the board and Blot now
makes not only good Montlouis and Sparkling wine, but terrific Vouvray, as
The general philosophy at Taille aux Loups has been to cultivate
small production in terms of tonnage in the vineyard. Blot has even
purchased more vineyards so the holdings of Chenin Blanc tally to about 60
hectares and his other domaine (Domaine de la Butte in Bourgueil)
comprises 15 hectares.
Another "secret" of Blot's is to pick in stages.
He'll send a crew through a vineyard and demand they pick only 'ripe'
grapes. This takes more time than if you simply harvest everything in one
Indigenous yeast fermentations are the rule and Blot ferments and ages his wines
in various size wood cooperage, from barriques to demi-muids (600
liters) to foudres (maybe 4500 liter capacity).
The 2015 Vouvray is their Clos de la Bretonniere bottling. Except it no
longer carries the Vouvray appellation, despite the vineyard being located
within the delimited Vouvray area.
In a brilliant stroke of genius, it's been decided that unless you vinify the
wine within the designated appellation of Vouvray, the wine can no longer be
called anything other than "Vin de France."
Curiously, though, Blot was given the green light on making "Vouvray"
in his Montlouis cellars back in 1999 and there was no mention of rescinding
this approval at any future date. But the past few years, Blot has been
told he cannot label the wine as Vouvray.
So despite the wine from Blot (and another vintner, Francois Chidaine)
attracting attention to the appellation of Vouvray as their wines are routinely
stellar, they may not be label with their proper appellation of origin!
This is a 4
hectare parcel owned solely by Monsieur Blot. The yields are reduced by
severe pruning allowing them to obtain but a rather meager quantity of
wine. All the juice goes into barrique, with one-quarter of the barrels
being brand new. It's a great expression of Chenin Blanc and it's one of
those wines which will make you a believer (or not).
There's a terrific sparkling wine, too. We like their
"Triple Zero" which is slightly less fizzy than a Champagne or
It's made entirely of Chenin Blanc from 40+ year old, organically-farmed vines.
No chaptalization for the first fermentation.
No sugar added to do the secondary fermentation in the bottle.
No sugar added as a dosage after the wine is disgorged after about two
years en tirage.
Currently in stock: 2011 TAILLE AUX LOUPS TRIPLE
ZERO Sparkling Wine $29.99
2015 TAILLE AUX LOUPS "Used to be a Vouvray" "Clos de la Bretonniere"
Philippe & his Pop, Jacky Blot
One of the top names in Montlouis is that of the
They have their own vineyards and winery, but I also understand they operate a
small negociant business, as well.
The domaine comprises some 27 hectares of vineyards, predominantly Chenin Blanc
(some 2% of their holdings are Sauvignon Blanc). Some 17 hectares are in
Montlouis, but they recently added ten in Vouvray*! François started his
winery in 1988. His father, Yves, has long been entrenched in Montlouis,
even being the chairman of the local grower's association.
François is a believer in organic farming, yet you wouldn't know it by looking
at his labels. That's because there's no mention of this on the bottle,
but his vineyards have been certified as such.
If you look closely at this photo, you will notice the letters "D S L
S" on the barrel...so, obviously Monsieur Chidaine buys used cooperage from
his buddy (another organically-farming fellow) Didier Daguenau from the Pouilly-Fumé
As noted elsewhere on our site, "D S L S" is the acronym for however
the French would say "God Only Knows". This refers to the
widely-held belief that those who sell barrels don't really know the origins of
the wood they're selling.
Yields are kept to
sensible levels, averaging about 30-34 hectoliters per hectare.
We sampled a tremendous range of barrels in this place, various lots being from
old vines, special sites, etc.
Their Clos de Breuil is a particularly famous wine of the Montlouis
appellation. Clos Habert is another.
The 2005 Montlouis of the Clos du Breuil site is excellent. This comes
from a 3.5 hectare site of mature vines. They're something close to 45
years old and Chidaine obtains sensible yields to maximize quality. In a
vintage such as 2005, you'd better turn in your winemaking license if you didn't
make an excellent wine. We think Chidaine gets to keep his license.
The wine offers hints of melon and white flowers on the nose and palate.
It's gentle and supple in texture with a nice finish.
*The "addition" of Vouvray to the portfolio here is because Chidaine
now manages the Vouvray estate of the Poniatowski family, the Clos Baudoin.
- Currently in stock: FRANÇOIS CHIDAINE 2005 "CLOS du
BREUIL" MONTLOUIS Sold Out
DOMAINE DES VIEUX PRUNIERS
Christian Thirot is located in the famous little Sancerre village of Bué.
Soils are chalky and they have about 10 hectares in total, seven being devoted
to Sauvignon Blanc and the rest planted in Pinot Noir. They're now farming
sustainably, by the way.
He makes terrific Sancerre, capturing the citrusy notes of the Sauvignon with a
mildly minerally note in the background. The wines are about 20 years of
age, so they're mature and hitting their prime. The juice is fermented in
tank and with somewhat low temperatures, it proceeds for about 2 weeks before
the wine is bone dry.
No oak, as he wants to highlight the stony, minerally and citrusy notes of the
2017 vintage is stone, bone dry.
It is a magnificent example of Loire Valley Sauvignon. Thirot likes
to ferment the juice at low temperatures and he ages the wine on its spent
yeast, two of his "secrets."
The 2017 is delicious and perfect for seafood!
Currently in stock: 2017 VIEUX PRUNIERS Sancerre (list $26) SALE $21.99
2013 VIEUX PRUNIERS Sancerre Rose Sold Out
DOMAINE DU SALVARD
Cheverny appellation is rather overlooked by most French wine
Your average French citizen is imbued with wine expertise at birth and
many have no trouble to tell you "This is a good wine" merely by
looking at the label and knowing the fame of the wine's appellation.
"Oh, Gevrey-Chambertin...that's a good wine" they will say, even
if they have never tasted wine from that particular producer. You
see, it's easy to generalize.
Since the French have a penchant for classifications, they know
which appellations are the most prominent and best. Meursault and
Puligny-Montrachet are excellent, no matter the vintage or vintner.
They might look at a range of Sauvignon Blanc wines from the Loire and
will "know" the Sancerre is good, while a wine from the Cheverny
appellation is automatically regarded as "less good" to
The Delaille family owns this property. I read an article concerning
the wines of Cheverny and the difficulty in selling wines from this
appellation to people in France. You see, it's simply not as chi-chi
a neighborhood as Sancerre. As a result, when dining in Paris, you
can find Sancerre in virtually every neighborhood bistro, but Cheverny is
not on their radar screens.
Too much history. Too many classifications. Too little
Too bad for the winemakers of Cheverny.
Winemaker Emmanuel Delaille was quoted in an article in the French
journal, Le Point, as saying "In France, too many people believe to
know all and the lessons one learns about French wine. Abroad, the professionals say:
'It is good or it is not good.' There is no border when one is
outside our country. Only the wine counts. In France, it is very
sectarian. One is never invited to visit Château Margaux, whereas at Mondavi, yes."
We have had several producers' wines from the Cheverny appellation.
It's a region where Sauvignon Blanc is the main player, but typically
Chardonnay makes a small contribution to the wines. The Salvard
property has vines averaging about a quarter-century in age. Their
wine usually has about 15% Chardonnay in the blend, but it's a wonderfully
crisp, steely, Chablis-meets-Touraine sort of white wine. No
These have been consistently good since our first vintage handling them,
2007. The 2017 is currently in stock...crisp and stony.
We enjoyed a perfectly chilled bottle at the Hog Island Oyster
Company at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza market. It's a steely, lightly
minerally wine, so you can imagine it was a sheer delight paired with a range of
fresh, tangy oysters. In the Loire they'll also serve this with local goat
We enjoyed a bottle with some fresh pasta, homemade pesto and rock shrimp.
The wine has enough acidity to deal with the pesto and it's sufficiently herbal
& citrusy to match up with the basil.
Currently in stock: DOMAINE du SALVARD 2017
DOMAINE DU BEL AIR
a delightful little Cabernet Franc from a 15 hectare estate in the Bourgueil
They're about a five minute ride from beautiful downtown Bourgueil in the
village of Benais.
This small town had 1600 residents according to census figures from the
1830s, but today there are not even a thousand people living there.
Catherine and Pierre Gauthier (and now their son Rodolphe) believe in eco-friendly farming and modest
yields in the vineyards. Pierre's Great Grandfather had been
making pottery but bought a smallish estate and planted garlic, beans,
carrots, onions and beets, amongst other things.
Catherine & Pierre Gauthier
Gauthier's father André appreciated a sensible philosophy towards
farming. He was the last one in their town to still use a horse to
cultivate the land and so Pierre continues his dad's organic farming
practices. He had heard the neighbors touting modern farming, but he
eventually thought the notion of using weed-killers and fertilizers under
the guise of "progress" were foolish, so he returned to the old,
tried & true methods in the vineyards.
Gauthier speaks of growers being "addicted" to the latest and
greatest chemical products being sold by big corporate giants. He
questioned using these and decided to get back to "real" farming
and being more in touch with the land and the environment. As of the
year 2000 he converted the vineyards back to organic farming and he's much
happier with the results.
The domaine has about 20 hectares these days.
We've had several of their wines in the shop over the past decade, or so.
Currently we have their 2017 Jour de Soif, which is an entry-level
wine. It's made entirely of Cabernet Franc that gets a
pre-fermentation cold soak and then it's fermented using native
yeasts. It's racked into barrels and matured for a few months, being
bottled in the spring to capture the bright red fruit of the Cabernet
We like serving this at cool cellar temp and it seems to improve with an
hour of aeration in a decanter.
- So, if you're thirsty for a medium-bodied, youthful Cabernet Franc, this
may be worth trying.
Currently in stock: BEL AIR 2017 "BOURGUEIL"
Jour du Soif $16.99
DOMAINE DE L'ECU
Bossard has been making wine for decades and is viewed as a leading light
in the world of "Muscadet."
Of course the grape of Muscadet, the Melon de Bourgogne, tends to produce
a rather innocuous dry white wine if left to its own devices. But
cultivated with care and vinified skillfully, the grape can produce a most
satisfying wine which exhibits some measure of terroir.
It's not as "noble" a variety as Riesling or Pinot Noir, but
paired with the right food, a bottle of Muscadet can make for a most
satisfying gastronomical experience.
Bossard was an early advocate of some sort of organic farming, shunning
the new-fangled chemicals popular with many growers back in the
1970s. In the 1990s he began converting to Biodynamic farming.
And his wines have "stuffing," which is unusual for
Muscadet. Most are superficial, simple, dry, light white wines
without any particular character.
But taste a Bossard rendition and you have a veritable symphony in the
glass, with notes of lemon, stones, minerals, hazelnuts and maybe even a
whiff of salt "air" from the ocean...
We currently have the Gneiss bottling, a wine from a 3 hectare parcel of
vines which are in the range of 50 years old. The vines are
harvested by hand...natural yeasts...it's aged in the winery for a bit
more than a year before being bottled...
You can pair this with 'normal' Muscadet fare such as oysters, but it's
big enough to stand up to a soulful bowl of steamed mussels or clams or
even roasted chicken or pork! That's saying something.
Currently in stock: DOMAINE DE L'ECU 2015
are numerous Reverdy family wineries in Sancerre and you'd be correct in
judging this book by its cover: This producer makes "old
The vineyards and cellar are in the town of Verdigny, a sleepy little burg
of about 300 residents.
The Hippo, as we suspect he was known to his buddies, had grapes as a part
of their farming business back in the 1940s. After World War II, the
family found an increasing demand for wine and bottled some of their own
and sold grapes to the local grower's co-op cellar.
One of Hip's sons took over the domaine in the 1980s when Dad died and the
other two sons passed away. Today the estate comprises something
like 14 hectares with a little bit of red wine as part of their
The vineyards are farmed sustainably, by the way. The Sauvignon
Blanc vines are approximately 25 years of age.
The 2017 Sancerre is currently in stock. This is one of those
minerally, grapefruity, stony dry white wines. It's a wine intended
to pair with dinner, so the acidity is nice and crisp and the wine
blossoms once opened and allowed to get some air.
You know how some products are marketed as "This is not your father's
fill-in-the-blank (like Oldsmobile)"??? Well, this IS
your father's Sancerre!
Currently in stock: 2017 Sancerre Blanc $28.99
Daniel Chotard and his son Simon
Chotard family has a long history of farming and winemaking in the village
of Reigny, about 6 kilometers west of Sancerre.
Daniel Chotard fancies himself as a musician as well as a
Their 16, or so, hectares of vineyards are on several soil types...Flint,
clay and limestone...
Since 2011 Chotard's son Simon has been working in the family
business. He studied winemaking in Toulouse, but on top of his
university education, even more valuable is the schooling he got from his
The Chotards prefer to pick at slightly riper levels of maturity than many of
his neighbors, but his wine still strikes us as having crisp acidity and a
beautifully minerally note to go along with the mildly lemony Sauvignon
The 2017 is the current release.
Currently in stock: 2017 CHOTARD
Here are some photos provided by the Chotard winery:
Some grapes are hand-harvested.
Some vineyards are machine-harvested.
And then they put them on a sorting table to cull out any fruit that is not
Daniel Chotard makes harmonious Sancerre.
Ricard is making some of the most impressive Touraine wines in the Loire
Valley and it's clear this fellow has learned from his mentors.
Ricard was an intern at the estate of Philippe Alliet in Chinon, where he
learned about red wine production and he spent time with Francois
Chidaine's uncle, Claude Levasseur, learning about white wine. And
We understand Vincent's grandfather was instrumental in establishing a
modest grape grower's cooperative winery in the Touraine appellation which
still exists today.
The family estate features some rather old vines. This is but one of
the secrets of Domaine Ricard. Vincent is well-versed in biodynamic
farming and organic viticulture and he reportedly employees
environmentally-friendly techniques. We recall him saying he
didn't want to use "organic" as a marketing tool and he said
many of the wines sold on the basis of being so were really poor quality.
Still, he did get certification of his biodynamic farming practices which he's
employed for many years prior to the documentation.
The domaine presently is made of up 30 hectares.
Touraine. 21 hectares are simple Touraine Blanc and 4 are Touraine
Rouge. Ricard has 5 hectares of Touraine in the sub-appellation of
Touraine Chenonceaux, a new appellation since the 2011 vintage.
Ricard calls the Chenonceaux wine "Tasciaca" which is some
ancient reference to Thésée, a small town near his winery.
The vines are 30 to 40 years old and the grapes are picked by
Ricard ferments 75% in 400 liter puncheons and the remainder goes into
special conical-shaped tanks.
The wine is quite different from typically Loire Valley Sauvignon...it's almost
floral along the lines of a Riesling. It's really exotic and tastes like
the Rheingau meets the Loire Valley.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Ricard makes a Touraine white called
"?" and this is, unquestionably, a remarkably fine wine.
No question about it.
Sauvignon Blanc from low-yielding vines and the juice spends about 3 months
fermenting in the cool, underground cellar used by Ricard. The wine is
then racked into new oak and it spends nearly a year in wood. I find it
stylistically similar to Dagueneau's fabulous Pur Sang bottling.
This will set you back $39.99. Don't miss it.
Currently in stock: 2016 RICARD
TOURAINE "CHENONCEAUX" SAUVIGNON BLANC $18.99
2010 RICARD "?" Touraine $39.99
Under construction, of course.