The 2015 vintage in Bordeaux should easily be the best vintage since 2010, with reds, dry whites and sweet wines all showing the potential for greatness. This Saturday we are kicking off the first of many tastings to explore the diverse Bordeaux appellations and Châteaux within the frame of the 2015 growing season. We begin with two affordable wines from the interior of the region, Entre-Deux-Mers.
The Despagne family are by no means the only producers in Bordeaux trying to make great wine in less celebrated corners of the region but they certainly are the most successful. Situated between the rivers Garonne and Dordogne on the unsung terroirs of the Entre-Deux-Mers, they have become internationally recognized for the cuvée “Girolate” – a Bordeaux red of exceptional quality.
“Girolate” is made with a philosophy based on respect for the vines so that they will produce the most expressive fruit. This reasoning is employed for their less ambitious wines as well. Indeed, when Château Mont-Pérat was purchased by the Despagne’s in 1998, it was in a state of disrepair. But recognizing the estate’s potential and inspired by the general terroir of gravelly-clay on a limestone base, the family, along with Technical Director Joël Elissalde, rehabilitated the entire vineyard by establishing the proper grape varieties for the diverse soil structures and began a regime of high density planting to ensure quality.
The estate covers over 200 acres high up on the hillsides near the village of Capian. The Despagnes are currently developing their farming techniques to incorporate biodynamic principles. They continually promote diversity on their land for a healthier overall environment while at the same time limiting the use of external inputs to what is necessary for the fitness of the vines.
Château Mont-Pérat is notable for more than its quality. The Japanese manga Drops of God featured the 2001 Château Mont-Pérat early on in the series and subsequently found a massive following in the Asian market.
Château Mont-Pérat (Bordeaux Rouge 2015)
Produced mainly from Merlot grapes blended with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Château Mont-Pérat Bordeaux Rouge is aromatically intense, first with mixed dark berries before opening into notes of mocha, leather, and a leafy autumn hike. On the palate is a balanced mix of exuberant fruit, soft tannins, and a lengthy finish that all combine for an experience that punches well above its weight class. A glass of this might turn your grilled hamburger into a steakburger.
Château Mont-Pérat (Bordeaux Blanc 2015)
Château Mont-Pérat Bordeaux Blanc is a blend of Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle. On the nose it is an aromatic salad of peach, grapefruit, and lychee with an underlying note of grassy meadow. A sip is juicy and fresh, with just a hint of minerality. A party wine by every measure at a price made for stocking up in the event of a spontaneous gathering.
Rodolphe Demougeot’s star is on the rise. Based out of Meursault, since 1992 he has assembled nearly 20 acres of vines in distinguished village and Premier Cru vineyards of Meursault, Pommard, Beaune, Auxey-Duresses, Savigny-les-Beaune, and Monthelie. Although one of the most respected French wine publications, Le guide des vins Bettane & Desseauve, consistently praises his wines for their elegance and finesse, somehow Rodolphe’s work still escapes the notice of most wine pundits – making his wines some of the most significant values in Burgundy.
As with all the best winemakers, Rodolphe believes that wine is made in the vineyard. No chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers are applied. He follows the rhythm of the lunar cycle when moving his wines and making picking decisions. He plows his vineyards by horse to aerate the soils. Everything is done by hand and it shows in the ultimate quality of his wines.
Rodolphe believes the 2015 vintage is a great one, with the whites being “expressive, pure and rich in the mouth” while the reds are intense “with ripe red fruit nose” as well as “fleshy, silky and round.”
Domaine Demougeot (Bourgogne Blanc 2015)
100% Chardonnay from a 1.5 acre parcel on a plot named “Murger de Limozin” with deep calcerous clay in the commune of Meursault. The vines were planted in 1967, 1986, and 2003. The grapes are manually harvested in small, 600-liter bins. The wine is matured in barrels for one year (10% new oak) and for four to five months in tank. The batonnage is not systematic but decided according to the vintage characteristics. Bottling is done by gravity. The result is a wine with monumental aromas of white flowers, pale orchard fruits, and hints of earth manifested by exotic spice, green almonds, and a dusty stone road. On the palate the balance is ideal between ripe fruit and a lemony, mineral finish with lots of traction.
Domaine Demougeot “Les Clous” (Auxey-Duresses 2015)
100% Pinot Noir from a limestone and clay parcel of less than an acre adjacent to the village of Petit Auxey and just west of the Premier Cru plots on the hill of la Montagne du Burdon. The fruit was manually harvested in small crates to preserve the berries. After passage on a sorting table the grapes are fermented in vats for a period of 12 to 20 days. The wine is then matured in oak barrels for 14 to 16 months (15% new oak), and three months in tank. Bottling is done by gravity. The nose is classic Côte d’Or with a perfumed cherry licorice vibe along with some minor notes of fresh, grassy herbs. The vintage personality is clear with rich and ripe fruit balanced by a fresh acidity.
All prices based on 6-pack purchase (mix-and-match)
~$53 “Clos Saint-Désiré” (Beaune 2015)
From an acre parcel of limestone and white marl sandwiched between the Premiers Crus of Les Aigrots and Les Montrevenots and planted in 1986 and 1998. The wine is matured in barrels for one year (10% new) and for four to five months in tank.
~$67 Meursault (2015)
An assemblage of two lieux-dits, Les Chaumes (planted in 1957) and Les Pellans (planted in 1999), totaling about one acre. The wine is matured in barrels for one year (10% new) and for four to five months in tank.
~$62 “Les Peuillets” (Savigny-lès-Beaune, Premier Cru 2015)
From a tiny clay and limestone parcel of not even half an acre planted in 1945 and at the southern edge of the appellation. The wine is aged in barrels for 12 months (25% new) and then three months in tank.
~$89 “Les Vignots” (Pommard 2015)
From a half-acre parcel planted in 1983 and located on the northern edge of the commune abutting the Premier Cru vineyard of La Chanière. The wine is aged in barrels for 16 months (30% new) and then three months in tank.
$99 “Le Cœur des Dames – Charmots” (Pommard, Premier Cru 2016)
From a three-quarter-acre parcel on a heart-shaped, enclosed plot planted in 2001 (Le Cœur des Dames means The Ladies’ Heart) The wine is aged in barrels for 14 months (30% new) and then three months in tank.
Domaine Pinson Frères “La Forêt” (Chablis Premier Cru 2015)
Special 6-pack Price: $297/~$49/bottle
Despite a hailstorm on the eve of the harvest, 2015 was an excellent year in Chablis. On one hand, the wines reflect the warmth of the growing season with loads of ripe and rich fruit, on the other, they have plenty of freshness and balance. While these charming wines are approachable enough to please a crowd, the top vineyards have the aging potential to complement any cellar.
With family roots in Chablis that date back more than 350 years, the Pinsons are one of the oldest families in the region. Indeed, Louis Pinson was one of the first wine growers in Chablis to bottle and sell his wines direct to the public in the 1940s. Today it is Louis’ grandchildren, brothers Laurent and Christophe Pinson, along with Laurent’s daughter Charlène, that continue the family tradition of expressing the famous Kimmeridgian limestone marl of Chablis into wines of precision and cut.
The Pinson’s own 29 acres of prime vineyard real estate in the heart of Chablis, with holdings in six of the Premiers Crus as well as the Grand Cru of Les Clos. In 2003 the estate was modernized with a new press house and expanded cellars. All the farming is done in a sustainable manner without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Yet with all the work to do in the fields and cellars, the family still greets each guest that ambles into their tasting room in the town of Chablis that looks out upon one of the many canals of the River Serein.
One of the most respected French wine publications, Le guide des vins Bettane & Desseauve, rate Pinson as one of the top producers of the year. It’s clear when you taste the Premier Cru “La Forêt.” It is a gorgeous illustration of its type with aromatics of creamy lemon curd and petrichor that linger above a pulsing floral essence. A sip is at first fleshy orchard fruit before a stony tension emerges that lasts long into a classically saline finish. The vines of “La Forêt” are 60+ years old growing on a slope with east, southeast exposure. The wine was fermented in tank and them aged in neutral oak barrels. There is perhaps no better pairing for fresh oysters but we Midwesterners might find that a fresh pan-fried filet of whitefish or walleye would be just as sublime.
All prices based on 6-pack purchase (mix-and-match)
~$80 “Le Clos” (Chablis Grand Cru)
Often considered the best of all the Chablis Grands Crus, “Les Clos” is on par in flavor concentration with the top wines of the Côte de Beaune but with more of a nervy edge. Pinson’s vines have an average age of 50 years with the oldest vines planted in 1962. The wine is fermented in barrel (20% new) and then aged in one and two year-old barrels.
~$49 “Mont de Milieu” (Chablis Premier Cru)
“Mont de Milieu” is just a short hike south from the Grands Crus and is considered one of the top Premiers Crus in Chablis. The 45+ year-old vines here have an ideal southeastern exposure. The wine is mainly fermented in tank (90%) with the rest in new oak barrels. It is then aged in three and four year-old barrels.
~$23 Petit Chablis
A father-daughter collaboration, Laurent and Charlène produce this inexpensive bottling from 35+ year old vines from a vineyard with eastern exposure. The wine is fermented and aged in tank for a poundable expression of Chablis.
Raül Bobet has a long list of achievements: He has a masters degree in chemical engineering and a doctorate in oenology. He has 18 years of experience at Bodegas Torres, Spain’s largest producer of DO wines under its own label, where he served as chief oenologist. He is currently proprietor and chief oenologist at both Castell d’Encús in Costers del Segre and Ferrer Bobet in Priorat. There is no question that Raül Bobet knows how to make wine.
But Raül Bobet doesn’t merely make wine. With a Zen-like belief in the unity of art and science, he makes world-class, soulful wines with massive aromatics, wines that express a purity of fruit and concentrated intensity balanced by fresh acidity and elegance. He believes that by growing and vinifying international grape varieties he can take that work and that knowledge that has been accumulated through time and build upon them in a way that offers insight into the particulars of his own terroir.
The vineyards of Castell d’Encús lie in the northeast Spanish DO of Costers del Segre, at the high altitude sub-zone of Pallars Jussà around 3,000 feet in the sub-Pyrenees. Raül believes that this corner of Costers del Segre has the ideal climate for producing the type of wines that he wants to make. Wines with “…freshness, wines which can last, wines that aren’t explosive, more reflexive, with a more feminine and sensitive feel and less alcohol.” Raül discovered his property of overgrown terraces that provided the ideal conditions to suit his vision. He soon learned that this piece of land had once been cultivated by Hospitalier monks between the 12th and 18th centuries for the purpose of making wine. A further revelation was the existence of many old fermentation pools (lagares) that were carved out of stone centuries ago. He rehabilitated seven of these lagares and uses them today.
Raül likes to say that Castell d’Encús is less a winery and more of an experimental project. However you define it, it’s an estate as dynamic and exciting as you’ll find from any winemaking region in the world.
All Castell d’Encús Wines 15% Off Normal Price
~$36 Castell d’Encús “Taleia” (Costers del Segre, 2013) WHITE
The name “Taleia” comes from the Catalan word for obsessive commitment. Combining organic farming and ultra-modern vinification alongside the most ancient techniques, Taleia was intended to be something like a French Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé. It is produced from vines planted on chalky soils that fermented with natural yeasts in a combination of new French oak barrels, stainless steel, and stone lagares. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc with a little Semillon, the wine is simultaneously rich and crisp with heady aromatics of ripe white fruits, blossoming orchards and sun-baked stone. The mouth-coating finish is everlasting. 1,830 cases produced. (92+ Points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)
~$59 Castell d’Encús “Acusp” (Costers del Segre, 2013) RED
“Acusp” was named after a higher altitude hill within the estate where Pinot Noir was planted. 100% Pinot Noir, this wine is considered one of Spain’s best wines produced with this difficult to grow varietal. The wine is partially fermented in stone lagares and then raised in new French oak barrels. “Acusp” has a powerfully elegant structure similar to that of a Grand Cru Burgundy. Intensely aromatic of cherry licorice, pressed flowers, and sweet earth, there is a Côte de Nuits vibe to the nose while the cool, mountainous climate of Castell d’Encús comes through on the palate. It drinks like a champ presently but clearly has a long life ahead. 841 cases produced. (93 Points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)
~$59 Castell d’Encús “Thalarn” (Costers del Segre, 2013) RED
Thalarn is named after the village where Castell d’Encús is located. Comprised of 100% Syrah this is one of the most expressive wines for the varietal in all of Spain, and can be favorably compared to wines from the top appellations of Northern Rhône. “Thalarn” was fermented in stone lagares, oak vats and stainless steel tanks and then raised in new French oak barrels. A glass is jam-packed with aromas of wild dark berries, fresh fennel, cool slate, and just the slightest finishing hint of smoked meat. A sip is intense, ultra-concentrated, simultaneously rich and wiry with abundant yet polished tannins that call out for a plate of lamb chops. 1,298 cases produced. (93 Points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)
~$59 Castell d’Encús “Quest” (Costers del Segre, 2013) RED
“Quest” is a Bordeaux blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon along with Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The wine was fermented exclusively in stone lagares and raised in new French oak barrels for 18 months. While displaying its Bordeaux foundation the essence of “Quest” is clearly mountainous with some touches of Atlantic breeze. The unrestrained aromatics are predominantly herbs and spice over mixed berries. While easily the most full-bodied of the bunch, “Quest” clearly illustrates the aim toward balance that Raül Bobet seeks with a subtle elegance, refined tannins, and remarkable length. This wine is worthy of aging or pairing with the finest cuts of beef. 1,580 cases produced. (94 Points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate)
Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini Pinot Noir (Bourgogne 2014)
~$31/bottle Special Price (6-pack mix-and-match)
June 16th is Bloomsday – the international celebration of James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses, one of the essential works of modernist literature. The fictional protagonist of the novel, Leopold Bloom, spends a day kicking around Dublin, Ireland as a kind of contemporary Odysseus. In a passage that made the non-fictional establishment Davy Byrne’s Pub famous, Bloom orders a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of Burgundy.
What better way to observe Bloom’s wanderings than with a Burgundy tasting?
We’ll be sampling some of the Pinot Noir-based wines from Domaine Heresztyn-Mazzini with a focus on the superb value Bourgogne from declassified Gevrey-Chambertin vines. The vines are grown in the “Champ Franc” climat that was planted in 1986. Although easy drinking and deliciously seductive, this wine shows its breeding with some of the weight and perfume you expect from such hallowed ground in the Côte de Nuits. Only 430 cases are produced annually.
Heresztyn-Mazzini is a domaine reborn. It has been a family business since 1932 and although Florence Heresztyn had worked there for 13 years prior, 2012 marks the first vintage under the reorganized domaine that now belongs to Florence and her husband Simon Mazzini, a winemaker from Champagne who has worked at the domaine since 2003. They both began their influence in 2007 when they introduced whole bunch fermentation, which has become a fundamental principle at the domaine. Their approach in 13+ acres of vineyards spread across the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, and Chambolle-Musigny is both lutte raisonnée and organic, depending on the plot, with the intention of going fully biodynamic.
The couple place great importance on respecting nature and the environment, and use environmentally friendly pest control. To improve the yield, vines are de-budded and thinned early. To ensure only the healthiest fruit is made into wine, the grapes are always harvested by hand, sorted on a vibrating sorting table, with a final hand-sorting prior to fermentation with natural yeast. The wines are bottled at the estate, with no fining or filtration, and according to the lunar calendar.
Special Prices based on 6-pack mix-and-match
~$67 “Vieilles Vignes” (Gevrey-Chambertin)
Assembled from a range of Gevrey-Chambertin climat including, Billard, Es Murots, La Platière, and Puits de la Barraque from vines as old as 70 years. Complex and highly elegant on the palate. 540 cases produced.
~$76 “Les Songes” (Gevrey-Chambertin)
From the Gevrey-Chambertin climat En Songe and Les Gueulepines with vines planted between 1926 and 1952. Great complexity along with nice freshness. 160 cases produced.
$108 “La Perrière” (Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru)
From the Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru climat of “La Perrière” with vines planted in 1982. The finest of Heresztyn-Mazzini Gevrey Premiers Crus, elegant and harmonious. 150 cases produced.
$108 “Les Champonnets” (Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru)
From the Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru climat of “Les Champonnets” with vines planted in 1972. Deep and dense with light floral notes and well-suited for aging. Less than 100 cases produced.
$108 “Les Millandes” (Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru)
From the Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru climat of “Les Millandes” with vines planted in 1972. Structure, elegance, with a complex bouquet. 150 cases produced.
$225 Clos-Saint-Denis (Grand Cru)
From the Grand Cru climat of Clos-Saint-Denis with vines planted in 1980. Rich, complex, and elegant – A great wine for the cellar. 80 cases produced.