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Burgundy is the biggest mine-field in the world of wine. There
are fabulous wines to be had here, but for a variety of reasons, it's one of the most
difficult wines to understand.
First, the producers tend to be tiny. While a Bordeaux property might make thousands
of cases of a single wine each vintage, in Burgundy a producer might make but a couple of
thousand cases. Of this production, they may make six or twelve different wines,
meaning that each batch of wine is very small, sometimes amounting to but one or two
barrels of a particular wine.
Add to the mix that the wines are made of Pinot Noir. This is perhaps the
greatest red grape, but because it's not as easy to understand as Cabernet, Merlot,
Zinfandel or Syrah, you have a variety of opinions as to the quality of a particular
wine. There are a number of critics who, for one reason or another, cannot assess
Burgundy. When you're tasting Pinot Noir and expecting it to have the color of
Syrah, the body of Zinfandel and the tannins of Cabernet, it's not surprising your tasting
assessments and ours are not in agreement.
Many producers are wary of many of these critics.
Robert Parker had to send an associate to write about Burgundy as Monsieur Parker
was sometimes not a welcomed taster.
Wine Spectator is also not welcome on the grounds of a number of top domaines.
is due, in part, to the winemakers' feeling their wines are not fairly judged. We
can understand the stinging criticism from wine writers can be difficult to accept.
How would you like it were your work held up to a worldwide audience and someone who has
not traveled in your shoes writes something to the effect that your work for that year
should never have seen the light of day? I am thinking specifically of one
producer's wines. Had someone on the Left Coast made the same exact wine, these
critics would herald them with great enthusiasm and pronounce the winemaker a
Sometimes the standards are different.
There's a publication called Burghound written by a fellow who's passionate
about Burgundy. You'll find a paragraph, or two, featuring information a
particular vintner has whispered in the author's ear...that may be of some
value. As for numerical scores: they mirror the nobility and
hierarchy of the various bottlings and crus.
The descriptions of the wines are interesting, but I gather the wines are not
tasted 'blind' and so the ratings conform to the pecking order (and price) of
((Parenthetically, wouldn't it be a good idea for these wine critics to taste
the wines 'blind' to see if the Grand Cru level wines are really superior to the
premier cru level bottlings or the simple 'village' wines??))
A wonderful facet of Burgundy is the variation in vintages.
Some years produce
wines with very high levels of tannin. The critics tend to view these are
Lighter wines or those which are drinkable in their
youth tend to be maligned.
If dinner is tonight, what's wrong with putting a young
and ready-to-drink bottle on the table?
Warmer vintages are often cited as superior, but we find over-ripe notes of
Pinot Noir are not of interest.
Paramount is "it's who made the wine that's important."
make good wines. The rubes get lucky in a good vintage and are lost the rest of the
time. Good winemakers are sensitive to the vintage and adjust their winemaking
Taste wines from vintages such as 1991 and 1992. This is where
you can separate good winemakers from poor. We had a wonderful "mixed
appellation" tasting of 1992s---one wine was poor, but seven were delicious,
including a wine from the producer whom the Wine Spectator said shouldn't have bottled
anything (that vintage). It won the tasting, by the way.
Some estates use lots of new oak. We've visited some cellars where the American
importer supplies the barrels! Some importers dictate other winemaking practices
such as "no filtration". The "field" is varied and there
is an incredible array of red Burgundy to be had. Some are great. Some are
schlock. Almost all are expensive!
We don't have a large or deep collection of Burgundy. We select wines we like.
If the critics don't give them their highest scores, I DON'T CARE!
The wines are good quality and represent good value.
And a number of Burgundy lovers will tell you to turn upside-down the
ratings from Robert Parker and The Wine Spectator. Many times these people are
looking for the same characteristics in Burgundy as one looks for in Cabernets.
Tasting in a Burgundy cellar...
Some Burgundies We Like:
what I've read about Joseph Roty, he was quite a curmudgeon and quite a
perfectionist. Sounds like our kind of vintner!
He'd been described as an "enfant terrible" by some
I noticed that despite the fame and wide recognition for
his wines, you won't find an entry for the estate in the annual wine guide
from Revue de Vin de France. Nor will you find the wines tasted by the
Guide Hachette crew. The Roty family doesn't submit wine to these
The domaine was run by his son, Philippe until he had a bout with pancreatic
cancer, as we understand it.. Sister Patrice takes care
of the office chores. Brother Pierre Jean works in the vineyards and now
makes the wines.
Mom, Francoise, was in the cellar when I visited, topping barrels. The
"kids" represent the 11th generation!
The domaine began bottling its own wines in the 1950s. They currently own
12.5 hectares of vineyards, while Philippe owns another 2 hectares, as well as
buying fruit from a 'rented' vineyard. Some of the wines have the
Joseph Roty name on them and there were some bearing Philippe's name.
Mom, Francoise...Pierre-Jean and Philippe in 2011.
They have very old vines,
with most of their vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin and
Marsannay. Farming is said to be biologique and they
tend to have very old vines. The Marsannay from Les Ouzeloy comes
from vines over 90 years old. The small production of fruit per vine
accounts for the rather amazing character and quality of this wine.
We have a few of Roty's wines in stock presently.
- Currently in stock: 2015 Marsannay 375ml $29.99
2017 Gevrey-Chambertin $79.99 (750ml)
2013 Charmes Chambertin TVV (Very old vines) Sold Out
2017 Marsannay $55.99 (750ml)
is a small wine village north of the "metropolis" of
Beaune. The vineyards in this appellation cover some 380+ hectares,
a sizeable quantity. As a result, value conscious Burgundy drinkers
know this town as a potentially good source of wine.
Lucien Camus-Bruchon, his wife Bernadette and their son Guillaume farm some 9.2 hectares of
vines, mostly Pinot Noir. Lucien took over from his father in 1971
and he's the sixth generation, son Bill is the 7th...
Like most vintners in this area, Lucien's holdings are scattered amongst
several different crus. You'll encounter Les Lavières, Les
Narbantons, Les Gravains along with an old vines' bottling of
Savigny. They also make a small amount of Pommard from the Premier
Cru site of Les Arvelets (a recently purchased vineyard), as well as a
Beaune Premier cru, Clos-du-Roi.
At this domaine, as with many others, the wines are "made in the
vineyard" and the Camus-Bruchon team are down-to-earth farmers at
heart. And the work in the cellar is done with care and precision along
with a chef's sensitivity to cooking...
The "Vieilles Vignes" bottling of Savigny-Les-Beaune comes from
89 year old+ vines in Savigny. The Aux Grands Liards (a
"liard" is a black poplar) comes from vineyards planted in 1913
and 1922. Old vines are a way of life at this domaine, although his
white wine is from a vineyard planted in the early
We tasted some exceptional wines in this cellar. Especially
surprising is Camus-Bruchon's white wine, a Savigny-Les-Beaune Blanc
"Les Goudelettes." This is a delicious, smoky, toasty
Chardonnay that spends about eleven months in wood. Lucien stirs the
lees during the secondary, malolactic fermentation. As a result,
you'll find a nice bit of fruit and toasty notes here. Quite dry, of
course. Don't have any presently...
The red wines of Camus-Bruchon are quite good in their youth.
However, they also generally have good structure for cellaring. We
tasted a rather youthful 1993 Vieilles Vignes bottling, while the 1982
vintage was amazingly fine! This demonstrated the dedication of the
winemaker, as 1982 is not especially highly regarded. Yet a 20 year
old bottle is magnificent and memorable.
You're quite in luck should you own a bottle of 1976 Savigny-Les-Beaune
"Les Lavières." This wine displayed some gamey Pinot Noir
aromas with earthy, truffley aromas and some pencil lead
The 2015 Savigny from the Le Pimentiers site, comes from Pinot Noir vines
of 80-something years of age. It's a classic example of Burgundy and
the wine is medium-garnet in color and teeming with cherryish fruit and a
faint floral note, reminiscent of violets. There's a hint of
wood...just a hint, though, as the fruit really shines here.
We find this to be delicious now and suspect it will cellar well for 5-10
more years, maybe even longer.
The wines from this property are well worth purchasing, on the basis of
high quality and outstanding value.
Lucien & Bernadette in the early 2000s
- Currently available: 2015 CAMUS-BRUCHON Savigny-Les-Beaune
"Les Pimentiers" $36.99
- MICHEL MOREY-COFFINET
- A small domaine of less than
9 hectares, Michel Morey is the son of Marc Morey, another
famous Chassagne producer. Michel's son Thibault is now running
We've been pleased with the white wines from this estate and a number of the
reds have been remarkably good. We have a good, youthful, showy Chassagne rouge.
It's a wine that punches well above its weight class, if you get my drift. If you're a fan
of good Pinots and are hunting for something sensibly-priced, you may find
this to be as fine a bargain as we do.
Recently shipped to the Bay Area is a Bourgogne Rouge which puts to shame
many "village" level Burgundies. I'd venture to guess most
tasters would probably identify this wine, if tasted blind, as some sort of
pretty good Burgundy such as a Volnay, Chassagne rouge or even something
from farther north. In fact, it's more stylish and charming than just
about any "Bourgogne Rouge" we ever tasted. The price is
also remarkable, especially considering how well this does on the dinner
table. It's a medium-bodied, cherryish Pinot with a nice touch of
oak. Drinkable now (and how!), this is best served at cool cellar
- Currently available: 2017 Bourgogne Rouge $29.99
Thibault in 2011.
DOMAINE MICHEL GROS
estate was Domaine Jean Gros, once upon a time...I recall visiting
ages ago and we met the widow of Jean Gros...she was the mayor of
The property was passed down to Michel Gros, who began working in the
business in 1979. In 1995, or so, the name of the domaine was
changed and today it's Domaine Michel Gros.
Back then the winery was famed for its "Monopole" wine from
Vosne-Romanee, a site called Clos des Reas. Michel produces a
grand cru wine from a small parcel in Clos Vougeot, but the Premier
Cru of Clos des Reas still attracts connoisseurs around the world.
And why not? The wine is routinely delicious! It is
hand-harvested, of course and run through their sorting table at the
cellar. Michel is meticulous in his winemaking and it shows up
in the bottle.
We had some 2009 Clos des Reas and this bottle is adorned by that old
label art you see above in gold...a replica of a label of a bygone
era. The wine is strikingly showy Burgundy, displaying wonderfully
fruity cherry notes and some sweetly smoky oak. It's
young, but mighty nice now and yet it ought to develop handsomely with
another decade of bottle aging.
The 2012 Clos des Reas is stellar. It's a beautiful
Burgundy...deep in fruit and with a sweetly oaked note (but not too
much wood). We enjoyed a bottle dining out in The City in
November of 2014...we offered the sommelier a taste and she was
thrilled (and didn't ask us to pay their $20 corkage fee) and
The crew at the shop tasted the wine the next morning...still
showy and quite good...they demanded we bring some in to share with
Currently in stock:
2012 VOSNE-ROMANEE "CLOS DES REAS" Sold Out
DOMAINE DES COMTES LAFON
of the living legends in the world of Burgundy is Dominique Lafon, a
famed vintner headquartered in Meursault.
The winery is his 'baby,' though he comes from a long line of Burgundian
vineyard owners. His father simply rented the vineyards to various
winemakers, as he lived and worked in Paris. But Dominique wanted
to produce wine and in the early 1990s, when various lease agreements
expired, he was able to assume control of numerous vineyard
The domaine is viewed as a reference point for Meursault and they
produce a small bit of Montrachet. Red wines are beautifully
elegant and the epitome of finesse.
They have holdings in Monthelie and Volnay, along with Meursault and the
Montrachet and these tally to a bit more than 16 hectares of
vines. Dominique also is working in Macon, producing some
wonderful wines in that region.
He is hired by a west coast vintner to "consult" on wines
produced in Oregon and California. That is the Evening Land
project, though the prices of those West Coast wines exceeds their
quality in our view.
We have a range of vintages of Monthelie and Volnay and the wines have
been very good. They really show off their terroir, while
retaining a measure of the fingerprints on Monsieur Lafon.
- Currently in stock: Please inquire
- DOMAINE DE LA ROMANÉE-CONTI
- What can I possibly add to what has already been written about this
producer? It is the top estate in the world of red Burgundy. It is a target
for wine writers who can easily bemoan about the high prices these wines
fetch. We're partial to their "cheap" wine from the Echezeaux
appellation, being content with the DRC style at their "entry level"
Owning some 24 hectares of vines, the wines include the famous
Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Grands Echezeaux and
Echezeaux. All new oak. Low yields. Truly hand-made wines (our last
visit we saw the cellar master hand-racking from barrel to barrel). They also make a
modest amount of Le Montrachet and we sometimes can purchase their brandy (marc or
fine). DRC reds are the standard by which all others are measured.
We are amused by the reviews this estate gets from The Wine Spectator.
A few years ago the Spectator bashed an entire vintage of DRC wines. I
recall a blind-tasting we conducted of 1992s, I believe, and the DRC wine
won the tasting. The Spectator had written something along the lines
of "these wines should never have been bottled."
Participants in that tasting felt most of the wines were worthy of
I had sent off a note to another winery, saying we enjoyed their wine in
this particular tasting and they forwarded my note, bemoaning the lack of
taste on the part of some journalists. One of the owners of DRC,
Aubert de Villaine, called them immediately to say it was pleasant to see
signs of intelligent life in, of all places, the USA! The wife of the
owner of the other domain, by the way, sent a note back saying few wine
writers recognize the work that goes in to making these wines, especially in
In any case, we were told a few years ago that Wine Spectator staffers were
not permitted to visit the domaine! I don't know if this policy has
changed, but we were amused upon hearing of a local hotel stopping by to
purchase a case of DRC wines and the DRC staff were certain these bottles
were for a Dictator tasting.
Look on any vintage chart and you'll see poor ratings of 1982 and
1984. Those vintages of DRC wines sold for modest money. We
enjoyed the wines in their youth. In June of 2001, a friend opened a
bottle of the 1982 DRC Echezeaux and this was the wine of the evening!
I don't want to beat the drum too enthusiastically, but wish to merely point
out: taste what's in your glass.
Unfortunately the wines of "The Domaine" (as many people call it)
are purchased by people who do not intend to ever pull the cork. These
people are "investors," speculating that the wines will increase
in value. This tends to drive up demand in those harvests dubbed by
"experts" as "top vintages." If you want to get an
idea of what this winery produces, splurge on their wine in a so-called
"smaller" year. I have never been disappointed.
- The 2008s are the most recent arrivals. The prices are a reflection of several
factors: the increasing demand for the wines of DRC, the weak dollar
and the US importer having to sell these wines to dining establishments with
ostentatious wine lists. (I'm most specifically referring to the
sudden huge demand for these wines in Las Vegas, for example.)
In tasting the 2002s I found the wines to be quite good, with the Romanée-Conti
being a shade lighter in color than the other wines and not quite as
impressive as La Tâche or Richebourg. In 2002 they produced for but
the third time in their history as "Vosne-Romanée" appellation
wine. This is a lovely Burgundy unless you serve it alongside
one of the other heavy hitter bottlings.
We had a bottle of 2000 La Tâche at Thanksgiving in 2007. Lovely
wine. Really nice fruit and beautifully balanced. I just
received an offer from an importer for this wine...it turns out the current
value is about a thousand bucks for a single bottle! Yikes.
Our dear friend, the late Mario Perelli Minetti had long spoken about wanting to taste
a DRC wine. The man was 97 years old at the time, so we figured we'd better hurry
up and pop the cork. I picked him up at home and we drove to a spiffy
restaurant. We had a lovely bottle of Laurent Perrier's Grande Siecle
Champagne to start.
Mario ordered the Sea Scallops.
"Mario," I cautioned, "we're opening a bottle of fine
Burgundy tonight...maybe you might find something else?"
"Hell, I'll drink the wine with sea scallops. I don't mind."
So we poured the wine and he tasted it.
"Say, this is damned fine Pinot Noir. What's a bottle of this
"Mario, it's a ten year old vintage. The most recent is being
offered for $440 a bottle wholesale."
"Wow...they have a strong marketing department!"
More recently, a Chicago-based wine rep told us she'd worked for a company
in Illinois, selling (okay, taking orders) DRC wines and she'd never been
offered a taste. When she was heading to California on a sales trip,
we extended an invitation to dinner...
- ...and we opened a bottle of 2000 vintage Grands-Echezeaux. This
wine, at 9+ years of age, was a delight. It's a classic
Burgundy...essence of Burgundy...deep cherry notes with toasty oak, forest
floor fragrances and a bit of truffle...magnificent!
We brought a bottle of the 2002 Echézeaux to dinner in San Francisco
in February of 2020 as the fabulous restaurant La Folie was in its final
A friend had flown out from New York to dine there and graciously extended
We had a remarkable meal (as you can see in the photo above).
The food was exceptional and the wine was sheer perfection.
If you had any idea for Pinot Noir and French Burgundy, you would
certainly have agreed.
But you can find numerical scores merely in the low 90s for such a
bottle. The only way that could be possible is if you had other
wines alongside this one which over-shadowed it.
We could not have asked for more out of that wine...it was absolutely
stunning and complex, with dark cherry fruit, mildly toasty notes, a bit
of forest-floor earthiness and maybe a note of truffle.
Currently available: The wines are so highly
allocated and so costly that in 2016 we said "Non Merci" to our
pitifully small allocation.
These are now wines intended for the filthy rich.
- This little domaine is situated in a town called Barizey, a few
miles west of Givry in the Cote Chalonnaise. They own about ten
hectares of their own vines and buy fruit from maybe 15 more if we
understand things correctly.
Fabrice Masse is the vigneron and he took over from his father some
years ago. Winemaking runs in the family as his uncle Roland ran
the winemaking operations at the Hospices de Beaune until 2014, or
The fellow claims to be environmentally-conscious as well as
interested in restricting yields to be able to produce wines of good
We've tasted a few things from Domaine Masse and selected a 2018
vintage Givry 1er Cru called La Brûlée.
We found the fruity, cherryish Pinot Noir fragrances to be spot-on and
there's even a touch of wood giving the wine a bit more charm and
The vines for this wine are about 60 years of age which may account,
to some degree, for the intensity of this lovely wine. It's
quite drinkable now and will continue to become more supple over the
next five to ten years.
Currently in stock: 2019 DOMAINE MASSE GIVRY
1er CRU LA BRÛLÉE $29.99
Comte Georges de Vogüé
estates in Burgundy have remarkable histories.
This is one of them.
The family can trace its roots back to the mid-1400s. Comtes Georges
died in 1987 and the estate was run by his daughter, Elizabeth.
Since these people often have titles, hers is "Baronne Bertrand de
Ladoucette." Now her two daughters are involved and they are the
Comtesse Gerard de Caussans and her sis, Marie de Vogüé.
Their wines tend to be a bit 'severe' or quiet when they're young.
These are not made with an eye towards fashion, nor do they make wines for
today's critics who rush to judge the most recently crushed grapes in an effort
to be the first to bestow praise or criticism on a wine. The wines of this
domaine, like it or not, are wines for those who have the patience and storage
conditions to allow these Burgundies to actually develop and, in fact, mature.
If you're looking for instant gratification, you'll undoubtedly be disappointed
in the Comte de Vogüé wines. These are not as flashy as the wines of the
Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, for example. They're more difficult to
assess when they're young and, unless you're willing to wait a decade (or two or
three), these may not be the wines for you.
The property comprises nearly 12-and-a-half hectares. A significant
percentage is in the vaunted Musigny appellation, with 2.75 hectares in Bonnes-Mares.
They also make a tiny bit of "Bourgogne Blanc," the wine coming from
vineyards within the Musigny appellation. I think they make about 4 or 5
barrels of this annually.
There's a lovely, elegant Chambolle-Musigny and a Chambolle-Musigny Premier
Cru. Along with these they make a few barrels of Chambolle-Musigny Premier
Cru "Les Amoureuses." Then there are the grand cru wines of
Bonnes-Mares and Musigny.
We periodically see some bottles of the Comte de Vogüé wines.
- Currently in stock: 2005 COMTE DE VOGÜÉ Chambolle-Musigny
Premier Cru $399.99
- MORE RED BURGUNDIES