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...More White Burgundies

 

MOREY-COFFINET
This small property is the work of Michel Morey, whose wife's family is the "Coffinet" part of the family tree.

With holdings in Chassagne-Montrachet, we've been delighted with the red wines made by this domaine.  

 
 

Thibault Morey.
 

Unusually good is their entry-level Bourgogne Blanc.  Few winemakers devote much in the way of oak to this level of white Burgundy, but Morey-Coffinet's shows a whiff of wood.  The 2015 has a bright, stony, minerally edge to it which we like quite a bit.  Nice richness, too.

Also from the 2016 vintage we have a stellar Chassagne-Montrachet which is a beautiful example of Morey-Coffinet's style. It comes from a site called Les Houillères and this is a small patch of vines at the northern part of Chassagne not far, actually, from Montrachet.  It's a south, southwest-facing site.   Morey-Coffinet's wine is a classic white Burgundy showing toasty and smoky notes and a minerally, stony character.  It's crisp and bone dry, of course.  If you're interested in tasting what White Burgundy is all about without dropping a few hundred bucks on a trophy bottle, check out this wine, please.
 
 
 
 
 


 


Currently in stock:  
2015 Bourgogne Blanc $29.99
2016 Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Houillères"  $62.99




MICHEL NIELLON

Owning something like 7.5 hectares of vines, Michel Niellon is an exceptional winemaker. We are periodically fortunate enough to receive some bottles of his glorious white Burgundies. 
They have about 2/3s of the domaine in Chardonnay and the rest planted to Pinot Noir being centered in Chassagne-Montrachet.

Niellon is still active in the winery, assisted by his son-in-law, Michel Coutoux and grandson Matthieu Bresson.

The vineyards are farmed without weed control and they shun herbicides.  They say they're practicing lutte raisonnée, which means they'll address mildew and pests only if they need to.  

Niellon strives for crisp acidity in the wines, so they pick earlier than many of their neighbors.  If your vineyards have sensible crop levels, this can work out nicely.  

His wines, noted for their intensity and richness, are almost oily in texture. The real proof is that in so-called "smaller" vintages, this fellow's wines are terrific.  

The musts are fermented in stainless steel tanks and as they're close to finishing, the wine is racked into barrels where it undergoes its secondary, malolactic fermentation.   They typically use about 25% new wood for the wines.  We find the balance of oak and smoky, leesy notes to be quite attractive.

Niellon is a master winemaker...his wines always have style and we've never been disappointed, so we routinely try to have some of his wine in the shop.


We currently have their 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet from the Champgains cru.  It's a wine with some of the classic smoky notes we like in Niellon wines and there's a bit of pear or ripe apple-like fruit.  Medium-bodied and still youthful.  


Currently available:  
2013 Bâtard-Montrachet $359.99 

2015 CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET "LES CHAMPGAINS"  $119.99

 

 
 



 
 
 
 

 

 


RAMONET
The Ramonet family is the "first family" of Chassagne-Montrachet.   They routinely make exceptional wines for which there is great world-wide demand.   With something like 14 hectares of vineyards, brothers Noël and Jean-Claude have assumed the reins from Papa André.  We have been big fans of their red wines, though the enterprise is known for the Chardonnays.

They make quite a range of wines.  In the Premier cru  you'll find Ruchottes, Morgeots, Caillerets, Clos-de-la-Boudriotte, Clos-Saint-Jean, Chaumées and Vergers.

They own a small parcel of Montrachet (the story or legend goes that the old man, in 1978, went to Beaune to a lawyer's office and paid for that vineyard land in cash.   une They also have a small parcel in Batard Montrachet and in Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet.  

They also have holdings in Puligny Montrachet as well as a bit of vineyard land in nearby Saint Aubin. 
The wines are started in some sort of neutral tank such as stainless-steel before being transferred into cask.   They use about 35% new wood for their premier cru wines (more for the grand cru level bottlings) and it's from Chatillonais and Tronçais oak. While many Burgundian winemakers stir the lees, Ramonet does not. They do, however, leave the wine in contact with the lees for a lengthy period.

Honey and hazelnuts are the typical notes one finds in a Ramonet Chassagne. The wines have a subtle quality about them, yet there's an underlying power and weight to these wines. Undoubtedly, this is a result of old vines, small yields and meticulous vinification. The Ramonets consider vines of less than 18 years to be "young" vines!  

Our first tastes of Ramonet wines back in the 1980s were impressive.  Then there was a time in the late 1990s/early 2000s when the wines did not seem quite as striking.

More recently, though, they have been quite good.  But while in those "old days," Ramonet was one of the very few domaines making such remarkable wines, these days there are numerous estates where one finds seriously good bottlings.

We've been privileged to taste a number of of their recent releases and can report the wines are in the "very good" to "outstanding" category.  

We've seen this nice lady whom we gather is a family member...
She poured a handful of Ramonet wines, finishing with the exceptional 2014 Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet.  With a twinkle in her eye she cautioned us to be careful swirling the wine.
"You don't want to spill any of that," she said.  "You'll lose about $50 worth of wine if you do!"
In fact, she may have been underestimating the retail cost of the wine in our glass.





I read an amusing article about this crew.  They shun the spotlight and are not keen to have visitors.  One the Ramonets is standing in front of the winery, having an appointment with a visitor.  A woman arrives for her rendezvous, only to be told the fellow she intends to meet had other business and is not available after all.  The funny part was, of course, the appointment was with the very Ramonet brother who brushed off this visitor! 

A friend told me of arriving for an appointment with a famed vigneron in another village.  The fellow told this trio of American visitors he couldn't see them, as he had an appointment or business elsewhere.  He jumped in his car and drove off.  They were curious, so they jumped into their chariot and followed him.   All the way around the corner and back in front of his winery.  He got out and returned to his work (or whatever), apparently happy that he avoided  another appointment with "foreigners" or "customers."
 

Currently available:
Sold Out


SYLVAIN BZIKOT

If you're wondering what sort of French name Bzikot is, well, you're right...it's not French.

At least, such a name doesn't have French roots, but these days, it's decidedly Burgundian with an Eastern European origin.

Sylvain Bzikot's grandfather made his way from Poland in the 1930s and arrived in Burgundy with the clothes on his back.  Grandpa Bzikot went to work for some vignerons in the area and was able to acquire something like 4 hectares of land in and around Puligny-Montrachet.  
Today the family takes care of approximately 16 hectares and they also have holdings in Volnay, Santenay and Auxey-Duresses.  
 
 


We don't have a lot of experience with the wines from this domaine, but the few we've tasted have been seriously good, even down to the entry-level bottlings.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 

We have Bzikot's 2015 Puligny-Montrachet from the lieu-dit site called "La Rousselle."  
They have less than half of a hectare of that site which is quite close to the Premier Cru site of Les Perrières.
 


The grapes are hand-harvested and then they sort through them.  The grapes are pressed in a gentle manner and the juice is allowed to settle in a tank, as we understand it.  It's then racked into barrel where it ferments in barrel, with 25% of the wood being new.  They leave it in wood until about six months before bottling.  Then the wine goes into stainless steel tanks to further settle.  

The 2015 is gorgeous.  

The wine shows a beautiful smoky and mildly woodsy bouquet with some stony notes.  The fruit is a bit reminiscent of peach/ripe melon, apple and pears.  You might also detect some toasted nuts.  It's dry and crisp.  Very fine.  We wish more wines made of Chardonnay resembled this.

Currently in stock:  BZIKOT 2015 PULIGNY MONTRACHET  "La Rousselle"  $89.99


 

 

 

DOMAINE PHILIPPE BOUZEREAU

The Bouzereau name is associated with the village of Meursault.  There are at least half a dozen wineries with the Bouzereau family name and maybe a couple of others in nearby towns.

The branch of the family running the Château de Citeaux was run by Philippe Senior starting in the 1960s and his son, Junior, took over in 2006 after getting some winemaking experiences in Beaujolais, Australia and New Zealand.   The property presently comprises about 18 hectares of vineyards and these are farmed sustainably, or as the French say, Lutte Raisonnée. 

They make a number of different appellations of white Burgundy, with holdings in a number of well-known cru sites.  Within the Meursault home base they own vineyards within 4 Premier Cru locations.

Philippe says he wants to showcase the special characteristics of each site, so while they do employ a bit of new oak for these wines, they don't go overboard.  

Bouzereau has less than half a hectare in the Premier Cru site of Genevrières.  Some of the vines were planted in 1960 and some in 1980, so they're all in a good state of maturity.
And those vines are worked without weed-killers.


The juice is gently pressed from the grapes and transferred into barrel for the fermentation.     They stir the lees regularly and the wine stays in wood for about a year.  Typically they'll use 30% new barrels.  After this aging in oak, the wine then is racked into stainless steel tanks and left for maybe half a year before it's bottled.

We love the minerality and bright pear notes which have a complex, toasty quality in this 2016 vintage.  This is another one of those wines you have to stop and look at the label to make sure you remember the producer, cru and vintage.  (That's why we often have either a cell phone camera or a pocket camera to take a snapshot of worthy wines.)



Currently in stock:  PHILIPPE BOUZEREAU 2016 MEURSAULT "Genevrières"  SALE $99.99

 

 


 

 

 

PAUL PERNOT & FILS

The Pernot winery is highly regarded for its Puligny-Montrachet wines, though the number of bottles of this arriving in the market is but a tiny percentage of what they actually grow and make.

Since the late 1950s this domaine has been providing wine in bulk to the negociant firms, principally Joseph Drouhin.

We're privileged to taste their wines every year and these are a bit more fruit driven than the really minerally, leesy, smoky style we enjoy so much.

These days the family has about 23 hectares of vineyards, mostly in Puligny-Montrachet.

We currently have two 2015 vintage wines in the shop.


Their basic Bourgogne Blanc features the typical Pernot fragrances centering on yellow fruits with an exotic note reminiscent of mango or papaya.  Oak is not a feature here.


Their 2015 Puligny-Montrachet does see a bit of wood, but the oak is well in the background as Pernot looks for some minerally tones and the yellow fruit, ripe pear sort of elements we find here.







Currently in stock:  PAUL PERNOT 2015 BOURGOGNE BLANC  $30.99
2015 PAUL PERNOT PULIGNY-MONTRACHET  SALE $64.99

 


Paul Pernot owns a hefty percentage of the Folatieres cru in Puligny.

 

 


 


BONNEAU DU MARTRAY
bonneau_du_martray.gif (6777 bytes)2004 Corton-Charlemagne (list $150) SALE $139.99
2007 Corton-Charlemagne (list $150) SALE $129.99
This famous domaine is run by the Count and Countess Jean le Bault de la Morinire.   The property has been the possession of René Bonneau du Martray, the uncle of the countess.  The property consists of 9 hectares of Corton-Charlemagne and two hectares of Corton.
The Bonneau du Martray wines are the standard by which other Corton-Charlemagne wines are judged.  However, they take years to blossom, so drinking a three or four year old wine would be a bit premature. 

The Chardonnay starts its fermentation in stainless steel before finishing its fermentation in wood.  One-third new Limousin oak barrels are used, one-third are second year barrels and the rest are third year cooperage.  After nearly a year the wine returns to stainless steel for another six months to await bottling. 

The 2004 is marvelous and has great potential.  There's an appley aspect to the wine presently, with some steely notes.  It's dry and crisp and will only improve over the next five to eight years as it becomes, truly, "grand."

The 2007 is a baby...but refined and poised to be a grand bottle.


Image result for chateau de puligny




CHATEAU de PULIGNY-MONTRACHET
This property was taken over by a bank, the Caisse d'Espargne back at the turn of the century, or thereabouts.  It's a lovely estate, with some 20 hectares of vines, 2/3s of which are in Chardonnay grapes.  

Management of the firm was then assumed by Monsieur Etienne de Montille, a famous name from nearby Volnay.  We found the wines here to be of very fine quality.
Etienne brought the domaine back to life and finally in 2012 he and his sister, Alix de Montille, purchased the estate and have been running it ever since.

 
 
 
 
 

The simple "Bourgogne Blanc" is a really good indicator of the style and quality of wines you'll find here.  It's called "Clos du Château" and it comes from a single parcel of 5 hectares that's right in front of the chateau.  This is right on the border of Puligny Montrachet, so it's a terrific entry-level wine to the world of Pulignys.

 

The fruit is hand-harvested and the juice is pressed immediately and they figure out how hard to press dependent upon the vintage.  After a short period of settling the juice, it's transferred to wood.  Some of the cooperage holds 600 liters and some 228 liters.  New oak is scaled according to the vintage as well, ranging, as we understand it from 5 to 20 percent.  Light toast.  Allier oak.

 

The 2015 doesn't seem to have much in the way of wood...it's a mildly stony dry white.  We might prefer a bit more wood, but that's just us.  The wine sells quite well with many bottles leaving the shop with people who had one previously and have returned for another.  That's a good sign!

 

We can special order their other wines, if you like.
The range is impressive...





I asked Etienne's son Louis to pose for the camera in the vast barrel room (ages ago!)  The little fellow was more than happy to oblige!
 
 

Currently in stock:  2015 "Clos du Château" BOURGOGNE BLANC SALE $35.99


 

MICHEL GROS

Michel Gros is a highly-regarded winemaker and he works in all phases of his domaine.

The photo above shows him at a trade tasting event in France in 2016 and, as you can see, he's pouring red wine.  His estate's vineyards tally to about 26 hectares if we've understood the various vineyard plantings correctly.  

Only 12% of his vineyards are planted to Chardonnay but when you taste his "simple" Hautes Côtes de Nuits, you'll think this guy is an old master at white wine.  This is such a fabulous bottle of wine, it puts to shame so many whites from places you expect to have great White Burgundy.  Chassagne?  Puligny?  Meursault?  

The vineyard for this are about 20+ years of age.  The grapes are hand-harvested and the juice is settled briefly before he starts the fermentation.  If we understand correctly, the fermentation begins in tank but then, when it's two-thirds completed, this goes into oak barrels.  Twenty percent of the wood is new.  They stir the wine when they top up the barrels, which is fairly often at the outset.  
We currently have the 2014 vintage in stock.  Very showy wine and it beats the hell out of far more prestigious wines that cost serious money.

Attending a big wine event in Burgundy a few years ago, we hoped to make a discovery and find a good, serious quality, well-priced white.  After tasting hundreds of wines, we saw our old friend Michel Gros standing behind his table and pouring a little vin blancMon dieu!  Here was our wine!!

Intensely fruity aromatics were balanced by a bit of toasty oak.  The wine was dry and fairly full on the palate.  
Bull's-eye!

We have now had several vintages of this.  
The current bottling in stock is the 2014.  

If you're searching for a well-priced White Burgundy and you enjoy a bit of oak, don't miss this!


Post Script:  A local couple hosted a dinner and invited a fellow whom they consider to be a wine "expert" as he pays more money for a bottle of wine than they do.
The hostess said she wanted something "affordable," but a wine that might impress their friend.  We suggested this, knowing it would pair well with the food at the very least and maybe the expert would find it to be of interest.
A day after the dinner party, the expert called to inquire if we had any bottles of the Michel Gros white Burgundy.  We did and he stopped by to pick up a case.

 

Currently in stock:  MICHEL GROS 2014 HAUTES CÔTES DE NUITS BLANC  $35.99

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

 


A sommelier bringing bottles from "the cellar" to the restaurant.

 

 

 

 



 

JOSEPH DROUHIN

Over the past few decades, Burgundy has become a remarkably complicated maze for most wine drinkers to explore.  

It used to be easy:  The names of the various villages or bus stops were well known and all you had to do was find a reliable "shipper" (the various negociant firms were called 'shippers' by the old-timers) to buy a decent bottle of wine.

The famous names were those such as Bouchard, Louis Jadot, Faiveley, Patriarche, Mommessin, Coron Pere et Fils, Pierre Andre, Moillard, Louis Latour and Joseph Drouhin.

The firms dominated the Burgundy market, buying grapes and sometimes wine from small growers who were thought to be too small to compete with these big companies.  The big houses could dominate the market, dictating prices for grapes during the harvest and for wine post-harvest.

But years ago a number of small growers began bottling their own wines and, over the years, more of these little companies have decided to stop selling fruit and/or wine to the large houses.  This caused some issues for the big guys.

Drouhin is still a family-operated company and I'd bet most Burgundian growers and vintners have the utmost respect for this winery.  They've been good about being a serious ambassador for Burgundy, traveling around the world to meet & greet trade partners and consumers.   And they helped put Oregon on the world's wine map when they purchased a property there and set up a thriving winery in the Willamette Valley where they make some very good Pinot Noir.

We've long been friendly with the Drouhin family, having first visited their Burgundy cellar in Beaune decades ago.  The wines have routinely been elegant and classy.  And the wines continue to improve.


BEAUNE CLOS DES MOUCHES BLANC
The word "mouches" refers to flies, but this vineyard parcel is not really named after those little insects, but after honey bees, "mouches à miel."
The vineyard is located south of the city of Beaune and just near the border of the appellation of Pommard.   The Chardonnay vines in this Premier Cru site average about 45 years of age and Drouhin routinely short-crops the vines to well under the legal maximum production.

The grapes are pressed after being sorted and the juice is then settled before the cleaner, clearer juice goes into small French oak before the start of fermentation.  Drouhin insists on proper weathering or seasoning of its oak barrels, another detail adding to the quality.



 

 

CHABLIS 

Chablis is a major part of Drouhin's portfolio.  Robert Drouhin realized several decades ago that Chablis was, in fact, a wine of special characteristics.  With many growers abandoning vineyards (in the 1950s there was a major frost which killed a lot of vineyards and into the 1960s, demand for Chablis was not great.

He purchased a lot of vineyards and today Joseph Drouhin is a bit of a Chablis specialist.  (And unlike some of the Chablis specialists which are actually headquartered in Chablis, you won't find Drouhin's wine in anything resembling a "hipster" bottle.)

They usually keep the pricing on the basic Chablis at a reasonable level, so we've had a most attractive wine at a most attractive price.

The Chablis sees a brief pass in oak, but not a single barrel is new.  The wood is used to mature the wine, not give it oak flavors.  As a result, you'll find this to be snappy and bone dry, with hints of green apple and a slightly chalky, flinty note.  

We enjoy this wine from time to time as a white to set up a more important red.  So in our world, this is typically paired with seafood, though we enjoyed a pour at a place in The City paired with Fried Okra and Crayfish Hush Puppies and it was delicious.  2015 presently...

 

 




CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET Premier Cru "MORGEOT"
This parcel of Morgeot is owned by the Laguiche family, who also own a prime parcel in Le Montrachet.

Drouhin has long been buying the fruit from those two vineyard sites and making truly wonderful wines.

For this Chassagne Montrachet, the wine is barrel fermented and Drouhin says they use about 20% new oak.  Whatever they're doing, they're doing it right.

The wine exudes class.

It's beautifully balanced, showing magnificent fruit and just the right amount of toasty oak.  It's dry, of course, and complex...there's just something about this site and it sings here.

 

 

 

Currently in stock:  2011 BEAUNE "CLOS DES MOUCHES" Blanc Sold Out
2015 CHABLIS  Sale $19.99
2011 CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET "Morgeot" Sold Out




MAISON LOUIS JADOT

I know this firm gets some nice reviews from various journals.  I buy bottles of their wines, from time to time, in hopes of tasting something that's extraordinary.  I simply haven't found much in their line-up of reasonably-priced wines that excites my taste-buds.  I suppose when you produce 150 wines annually, you're not going to excel at all of them 

We did taste through a handful of new releases in early 2012 and had to admit the wines are better than the dreary plonk we'd been accustomed to tasting some years ago.
I made a point of sampling a handful of Jadot offerings at a big event in Burgundy in 2016 and can't say I found anything compelling.  
I was surprised by their use of oak in a Premier Cru Chablis...now I like wood in a wine, but this tasted like a brandy that had been in the barrel for too long!  It was oaked to a fare-thee-well and then some.  So I wondered why there's not someone in charge of actually monitoring their wines and having a somewhat consistent house style.

The winery enjoyed a nice bit of popularity some years ago when Louis Jadot's Pouilly-Fuisse was all the rage and a sign of a "sophisticated" wine drinker.  Society folks from Hillsborough would amble in and request a bottle of "Lew-ie Jar-dot's Poo-wee Foo-see" back in those days, knowing a bottle of this on tonight's dinner table signified they knew their shit when it came to wine.

These days those people buy Rombauer wines, either in Feinherb Chardonnay or Spatlese Zinfandel.

Jadot must make a couple of dozen different white Burgundy wines and while things are competently made, we're not privileged to taste those wines which might, in fact, be somewhat exciting.
  

Currently in stock:  Special orders are possible if you're hell-bent on their wines.

ALAIN GEOFFROY

We have fond memories of the early vintages we had tasted of Chablis from this modest-sized domaine in Chablis.

It was so long ago, we've forgotten the name of the importer back in the 1980s.

One day a fellow comes in to the shop and he and the Mrs. are here in California on vacation.  The couple is poking around the shop and it's slightly disorganized wine displays when there's a loud "Oh my God!" eruption (in French...probably Mon dieu!).  

It was Monsieur et Madame Geoffroy and they had just seen their wine displayed in our little corner of the store devoted to Burgundy.
There, right in front of them, about 10,000 kilometers from home, were bottles of wine he had made himself!

He introduced himself and though he didn't speak much English and we were not capable of much French, we both spoke a common language: wine!

It was around midday so we ran off to get a baguette, some salami and locally-made cheeses.  Some bottles of wine were opened and we had a nice little in-store "picnic."

Geoffroy's wines disappeared from the market a few years later and it was a delight when a good, local importer started working with them.  

For the past few years we have had access to the Geoffroy family's wines.

I've seen family members (as noted above with the photo of Nathalie Geoffroy) at a wine fair in Europe every year and the wines are always well-made and typical of Chablis.  they're not terribly well-known here in the U.S. as they don't advertise with wine publications and they don't come visit the market to publicize their wines.

Their only advertising is word-of-mouth and we've seen this at work.  Customers buy a bottle for a dinner and then friends come in to buy a second bottle, having liked the one they were served.  They seem to be especially happy with the quality/price ratio.  $19.99 for a bottle of good Chablis.

 

The domaine now covers approximately 50 hectares and they produce about ten different bottlings annually.

We currently have their basic Chablis in the shop.

It comes from typical Kimmeridgian limestone soils and it's a crisp, dry, fresh, youthful white wine.

You won't find any evidence of the wine having been in an oak barrel as Geoffroy believes basic Chablis should be all about the grape and the vineyard, highlighting the mildly minerally notes which are typical.

We currently have his 2016 in the shop.  
The winery is a bit of a tourist destination, as Geoffroy has a huge collection of corkscrews.  It's said to be the second largest such collection in Europe.
And yet the 2016 Chablis is in a screw-capped bottle!
No corkscrew needed.

 

Currently in stock:  ALAIN GEOFFROY 2016 CHABLIS  $19.99

 

 

 

 


 
 
 




FÈVRE-FÈVRE

 
 


If you have any experience with wines from the Chablis region in the northern reaches of Burgundy, you probably know the name of the Fèvre family.

They can trace their family tree back to the 1700s, well before the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The famous William Fèvre was born in 1929 and established the Domaine de la Maladière winery in 1959.  That winery was purchased in 1998 by the Champagne house of Henriot, who also owned the Bouchard Pères et Fils.

The William Fèvre winery is not related to the Fèvre-Fèvre cellar as an economic entity, though Gilles Fèvre is a distant cousin to William.

It's a complicated family tree, but it seems anyone named Fèvre in Chablis is somehow related.

Gilles studied winemaking at the university in Dijon and not only did he obtain an education there, he also married a fellow student, Nathalie.

Their daughter Julie has also graduated from the same school as her parents and she's now involved in this little winemaking enterprise, hence the name Fèvre-Fèvre.

The grapes from this domaine had been sold to the famous "La Chablisienne" co-op winery.  Gilles grandfather and his dad had both held the job of President at the co-op.  Grandpa was a founding member of the co-op.

If my calculations are correct, they cultivate about 48 hectares of vineyards and Gilles is out looking after these various parcels of vines.
He's been farming "sustainably" for many years and a significant portion of their vines are farmed organically.  We have seen some environmental organization certifying the Fèvres  are doing the right thing.  
We appreciate that wineries seek to farm organically or biodynamically but we don't make that the first priority in searching for wine.  We prize quality and if a winemakers farms properly, all the better.
(Parenthetically, we taste many wines where the first priority is naturalness and frequently these wines miss the mark.)


Gilles' wife Nathalie had been the winemaker at La Chablisienne but in 2004 they decided to launch their own brand amd so she's been busy with making her own Chablis wines.

They confuse the hell out of people with their labels.  Some say "Marcel and Blanche," while others are "Gilles & Nathalie."
Such is the nature of the wine industry.  We must remind ourselves that alcohol is involved and this can contribute to the chaos.

We tasted a really good Premier Cru wine from Marcel & Blanche, though it's really made by Gilles & Nathalie.

The 2016 Fourchaume comes from parcels planted between 1942 and 1989.  The wine is vinified in stainless steel and this bottling never sees an oak barrel.  Nathalie leaves the wine on the spent yeast for about a year.  Filtration depends on the condition of the wine in tank, but we gather she likes to "polish" the wine before putting it in bottle.

They suggest serving this with Ham cooked in Chablis or dishes incorporating a bit of curry.

We like local Dungeness Crab, Monterey Calamari, Oysters and Rex Sole (our late colleague Bob was a master of Rex Sole!).

Currently in stock:  FÈVRE-FÈVRE 2016 CHABLIS 1er Cru FOURCHAUME  $39.99


Gilles & Nathalie

 

 

 

 

 

DOMAINE ALEXANDRE

This is a small father & son domaine that's located about a ten minute drive north of the town of Chablis.

They own about 13 hectares of vineyards in four towns near the winery.  

We have a nice bottling of Petit Chablis from them.  It arrives here through a little importer who's keeping her day job as a defense attorney here in Northern California.  She's a wine geek, speaks French an took a plunge into importing some wines as a sort of hobby enterprise, though she's got the idea to make this a viable side gig.

The wine comes from vineyards that are approximately 25 years of age.  Despite its diminutive appellation of "Petit Chablis," the wine is a pleasant surprise and has solidly stony, flinty Chablis charracter.

It's fermented in stainless steel tanks and then transferred to what must be rather neutral French oak barrels where they let is blossom for about 10 months.  

We like the classic Chablis notes of Chardonnay.  It's, as mentioned, showing a mildly minerally character and we like the faintly lemony and Granny Smith apple elements.  The wine is, of course, bone dry and youthful.  ((But don't plan on aging it...this should be consumed over the next two or three years.))

 

Currently in Stock:  DOMAINE ALEXANDRE 2016 PETIT CHABLIS  $21.99



 
 
 
 

 

DOMAINE DES TERRES DE VELLE

So many of our favorite Burgundy domaines are family-operated enterprises, handed down from generation to generation and tracing the family tree back hundreds of years.  This isn't one of those stories, however.

It's a story of three young people, two from Burgundy, pooling their resources and starting a brand new winery.  Fabrice Laronze and his wife Sophie are from the region.  He studied winemaking in Beaune (and Montpellier), while Madame Laronze did some school work in Germany and Champagne before returning back to Burgundy and the wine business.

Fabrice worked producing sparkling wine, then at a little winery in Pommard before becoming the cellar guy at the Alex Gambal wine facility (a negociant firm which also makes a bit of wine...owned by an American fellow, in fact).  Sophie worked for the big negociant firm of Albert Bichot before working for a barrel building company in Mercurey.  

They are joined by a Japanese friend, Junji Hashimoto.  This fellow left his home country to follow his dream in France and met Fabrice working at a domaine in Pommard, Lejeune.  He studied French and can now order sushi in several languages when dining out in Beaune and environs.  Hashimoto-san also worked at the domaine of Hubert Lignier in Morey-Saint-Denis, so he's no stranger to good Burgundy.

The cellar under construction in 2011.
 

These days the place is fully-constructed.

The cellar is in an old mill resembling a small garage on the outskirts of Auxey-Duresses when we visited in 2011.  They were building a new cellar at that time and we understand the place is now functional.

Fabrice had a nice line-up of all their wines for us...

We tasted a nice range of wines on our visit...all showing good quality, good rocks, good fruit and good cellar practices.  

Now back home, it's always interesting to re-taste wines you made notes about "on the road" and compare the findings from here to back there.  You know, for many people, wine simply tastes better at the source.  Whether you're visiting a tasting room in California, Washington or in Europe (or elsewhere), the fact that you're a bit in tourist "mode" makes for a better reception than tasting the same wine at home with the phone ringing, the kids screaming and the door-bell ringing...

I've been pleasantly surprised to re-taste some wines I'd tasted across the pond and find them better than I did at the cellar door!

The Terres de Velle (did I mentioned the "Velle" is a little stream running near the winery?) Bourgogne Blanc showed nicely when we visited, but I think it's showing better now (maybe some time in bottle has allowed it to grow and blossom a bit).  

The 2012 Bourgogne comes from two parcels.  There's a patch of vines which are 30 years old and are located on the plain below Puligny-Montrachet and two-thirds comes from a parcel in Meursault.  It sees about 10% new oak, not enough to be particularly noticeable as a wood-aged wine.  It's showing a faint note of pineapple (we detect a light spice note) and some pear-like tones.  There's some minerality in there, as well and the wine tastes like "Bourgogne" from the Cote de Beaune which is what it should taste like, after all.  

Their 2011 Monthelie comes from a tiny parcel (less than a quarter of a hectare!) situated on a steep hill with an eastern exposure.  The vines are now mature and produce a classic white Burgundy.  And, since the town of Monthelie is not on most consumer's shopping list, the wine sells for a price which should attract those who have taste for classy Burgundy, but not the deepest of pockets.  We like the stony notes of this beautiful dry white and its mildly toasty elements, probably a combination of oak (30% new barrels) and some lees-stirring.  Young at this stage, but still quite drinkable...we expect it will really blossom in 2014, or so.

The 2013 Meursault is an old vines bottling from a parcel called Les Luchets.  These vines were planted in 1936 and they have about 1/3 of a hectare of it.  The grapes are gently pressed and the juice is settled overnight in a stainless steel tank before being transferred to barrel for its fermentation.  Perhaps 25% new oak is employed and the wine shows more the grape than the barrel.  It's bone dry and nicely acidic.  Medium bodied.  Very fine and elegant, so we suggest serving it just lightly chilled to maybe 50-degrees.  

Currently in stock:  2012 DOMAINE TERRES DE VELLE BOURGOGNE BLANC  $26.99
2011 DOMAINE TERRES DE VELLE MONTHELIE BLANC $36.99
2013 DOMAINE TERRES DE VELLE MEURSAULT  Sale $54.99

 

 


  
 
 
 

 


CHÂTEAU DES RONTETS

A couple of architects didn't have any designs on making wine, but when an elderly relative died and left them this estate, they soon found themselves up to their eyeballs in grapes.

Claire Gazeau and her Italian-born husband Fabio Montrasi run this small domaine just a short drive south of the town of Fuissé.  
 
There are about 6 hectares of Pouilly-Fuissé and a half a hectare of Gamay in Saint Amour.  The couple took over the estate in 1994 and their first vintage was 1999.   

The property is nice and the couple farms in an organic fashion.  "We don't like chemical farming." explained Fabio.  "We do a lot of plowing and work responsibly in the vineyards."

They do not acidify their wines and they avoid chaptalization, too.  Fabio says he did more battonage with the wines (stirring the yeast in barrel) when they started.  Now he prefers to do a bit of battonage when the fermentation is slowing down and finishing.  

We have now had quite a few vintages of Rontets Pouilly-Fuisse in the shop.  These have been consistently fine and they've even gotten bette over the past decade.  Routinely, though, our favorite is a wine called Birbettes.  This comes from the oldest patch of vines within their Clos Varambon vineyard.  This part of the vineyard has four patches.  Two of them were planted around 1920 and the other two went into the ground shortly after World War II. They produce some fruit which makes a wine rivaling Chassagne and Meursault wines for which you'd pay a bit more.    Only 10% of the cooperage used to mature this wine is new...so there's a hint of wood, lots of stony Chardonnay on display and a faintly smoky tone in the background.

The importer for this lovely winery has had some ups and downs and we're waiting for a shipment of a new vintage.  We tasted the range of wines in March of 2018 over in Burgundy and they were quite good.
Stay tuned.

Currently in stock:  CHÂTEAU des RONTETS 2013 POUILLY-FUISSÉ  "Birbettes"  List $50  Sold Out 


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