Wine Offerings

Power and Silkiness, Red Wines from Domaine du Gros ‘Noré in Bandol — the Grand Cru of Provence

Do a little digging into the work of Alain Pascal of Domaine du Gros ‘Noré and the first thing the wine pundits want you to know is how much of an outsized character he is. While it is true that Alain — a burly former amateur boxer and enthusiastic hunter — is quite the personality, it is mainly his exceptional wines that speak of sunny Provence, and the rolling hillsides around La Cadière-d’Azur, that define him.

Born in a small house set among the vineyards of Bandol, Alain always knew he wanted to be a farmer. At first, Alain sold most of his precious fruit to Domaine Ott and Château de Pibarnon, only producing wine for his family to consume. After the death of his father, Honoré, he decided to make his own wine and built a cellar dedicated to him, whose nickname was Gros Noré, due to his ample build. He bottled his first estate wines in 1997.

From the very beginning, Alain produced his wines with minimal intervention — bottled without filtering and fermented with indigenous yeasts. Initially he made a name for the estate by producing ripe and full-bodied wines. Over the years he has strived to push his wines toward more freshness and complexity. To accomplish this, harvesting is being completed slightly earlier while whole-cluster fermentations and less extraction are employed allowing Alain to produce wines that are both balanced and robust.

Today the estate is a total of 42 acres and Alain is helped by his brother Guy and nephew Jordan. Cultivation is essentially organic, as no chemicals are used on the vines. Most parcels are located on slopes that receive the optimal sunshine that the Mourvèdre grape loves, with a moderating Mistral wind. Although production totals only about 6,000 cases annually (mostly red), Domaine du Gros ‘Noré is considered one of the top estates in the Grand Cru of Provence.

We are offering multiple vintages of two different cuvées.
Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)

~$42 Bandol (2016)

AND

~$71 Bandol (2011) LIBRARY RELEASE

Bandol appellation law demands that each blend includes at least 50% Mourvèdre. To provide more power and concentration Alain uses 80% (mostly whole-cluster) in this, his flagship cuvée. The rest of the blend is 15% Grenache and 5% Cinsault. The wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and then aged for 18 months in large oak foudres. The 2016 vintage has a lovely, elegant nose of jellied black cherry fruit and mediterranean herbs. It’s bold yet supple on the palate with concentrated fruit, clean earth, stone, and refined tannins. With a few years of maturity, the 2011 vintage shows similar characteristics, but has softened and integrated a bit more.

~$89 “Antoinette” (Bandol 2010) LIBRARY RELEASE

AND

~$89 “Antoinette” (Bandol 2013) LIBRARY RELEASE

The cuvée “Antoinette” comes from Alain’s highest parcel that he planted while he was a very young man. Since 2008, he has used this fruit from 40+ year old vines on 2.5 acres for this cuvée, named for his mother, Antoinette. The blend is 95% Mourvèdre and 5% Grenache, providing loads of power to pair with plenty of finesse. A taste of the 2013 vintage reveals all of the regular cuvée’s attributes even more intensely. Add to this some red meat, eucalyptus, and smoldering earth for a special cuvée, indeed. While both vintages of “Antoinette” are approachable now, they likely have another 10-15 years of development ahead of them.

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Posted on 2019.11.14 in France, Provence, Saturday Sips  |  Read more...

 

Combel-La-Serre Cahors — Superbly Balanced, Old-World Malbec from its Homeland in Southwest France

Before the Malbec grape variety became the darling of Argentina, it was the most commonly planted vine throughout southwest France, including Bordeaux. That is until the severe winter of 1956 killed off a large portion of the vines. While Bordeaux replanted more glamorous varieties, the appellation of Cahors (starting about 50 miles from the western boundary of Bordeaux) stuck with Malbec, better known there as Côt or Auxerrois.

Cahors has been famous for the depth and longevity of its wines since the Middle Ages. Often called “black wines” due to their deep color, Cahors are generally more tannic and structured than the more common Argentine Malbecs, which tend to be more plush in texture, and often get oak-flavor treatment.

Young Julien Ilbert of Combel-la-Serre is one of the regions forward thinking vignerons. His wines offer superb value and are neither the alcoholic and heavyweight versions that are the norm in Argentina, nor are they the rustic style of Cahors that might turn off a modern wine enthusiast.

Vines have been in the Ilbert family for generations, with the fruit being sold to a local cooperative. It wasn’t until 1998 that Julien became the first of his family to start his own estate. At first he provided fruit to another producer making high-quality wines but Julien eventually began producing under his own label in 2005.

Today, the estate is about 60 acres of Malbec planted on a diverse amount of terroirs, and has been certified organic since the 2015 vintage. The regulations for Cahors stipulate a minimum of 70% of Malbec yet Julien’s wines are all comprised of 100% of the variety as he believes it is the only grape suitable to create the proper balance he is aiming for in his red wines — wines of aromatic power, without overripeness, and the more ambitious cuvées possessing the structure and intensity to mature brilliantly.

 

Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)

 

~$15 “Le Pur Fruit du Causse” (Cahors 2018)

100% Malbec from seven different sites around the village of Cournou. The vines average 35 years old and the soils are clay and limestone. A traditional, low temperature vinification is employed with indigenous yeasts for a short period of time to extract maximum fruit. The wine ages over winter on its lees in cement tanks. It is then bottled quickly to best preserve its rollicking and youthful fruit. It’s a thirst-quenching “vin de soif” with a brilliant acidic lift, bright black fruit, and a lovely floral scent.

 

~$19 “Château Combel-La-Serre” (Cahors 2017)

A step up in body, tannin, and complexity compared to the crushable Le Pur Fruit, the cuvée Château is 100% Malbec from three different sites around the village of Cournou. The vines average 40 years old and the soils are mainly red clay with some limestone. Vinification is employed with indigenous yeasts in a mix of cement, fiberglass, and steel. The wine matures in 500 liter wood barrels for a year. Wild herbs, mint, and plum define the aromatics while generous fruit and lively acidity define the palate.

 

~$24 “Au Cerisier” (Cahors 2017)

100% Malbec from a single, three acre parcel next door to a cherry orchard which gives this cuvée its name. The vines average 40 years old and the soils are mainly red and yellow clay over limestone bedrock. Vinification is employed with indigenous yeasts and the wine matures in cement tank for 12 to 14 months. Even more ambitious in substance than the cuvée Château, “Au Cerisier” shows a bit more floral aromatics alongside sweet plums and herbs. A sip is concentrated, with even more fruit, yet superbly balanced.

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Posted on 2019.11.07 in France, South West  |  Read more...

 

Piedmont Red & White from a Pioneer of the Biodynamic Movement

“An agricultural product is a flower that blossoms from the encounter of love between the creativity of nature and that of man.” — Stefano Bellotti

The Italian town of Gavi lay in the easternmost reaches of the Monferrato hills at the foot of the Ligurian Apennines mountain range. It is a region historically linked to Genoa and still expresses that city’s Mediterranean influence in customs, speech, and even climate. Hailing from a Genoese family, influential biodynamic winemaker Stefano Bellotti spent much of his youth in a nearby farming community and never gave up his love for agriculture and the countryside.

Stefano was only 11 years old when he began participating in the harvest at his small, family farm of Cascina degli Ulivi near the village of Tassarolo, just a few miles north of Gavi and at the time more of a hobby garden than an estate. At 17 years old he managed a harvest on his own, with the help of his elderly neighbor, Pietro Toccalino, who was illiterate yet full of winemaking knowledge. It was then that Stefano decided to move to Cascina degli Ulivi permanently and become a full-time farmer.

He had immediate aspirations to grow wheat and vegetables for sale but the ferrous red clay soils were not particularly suitable for those types of crops, presenting a challenge in terms of income. He decided to focus on the vines. In this regard, he was lucky enough to be guided by the last of the area peasants, “heirs of ancient knowledge and custodians of ancestral practices.”

A man very much in touch with what he understood as freedom and authenticity, Stefano respected the ways of his ancestors, and was one of the first winemakers of the modern era to implement biodynamic practices in the early 1980s, before they were trendy. Today, the estate is around 40 acres and works as a self-sufficient farm, growing their own vegetables and cereals, breeding animals for milk, meat, and eggs, and making bread and cheese. Sadly, Stefano passed away a little over a year ago but we can still enjoy some of the wines made under his unwavering belief in producing wine expressive of place and without artifice.

Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)

Stefano Bellotti advised letting his wines breathe in the glass, “Discovering a good wine is like making a meeting full of promise,” he says, “I want to leave the wine the time it takes to open up and let me discover its wonders little by little. The wine will be different after 15 minutes, it will evolve after 30 minutes, and its flavors will change again after an hour. We must not be in a hurry, let the charm act naturally!”

~$34 “Nibiô” (Vino Rosso 2013) RED

Declassified Monferrato DOC, “Nibiô” is the name for the red-stemmed Dolcetto grape in the local dialect. The wine is 100% Dolcetto fermented with indigenous yeasts, macerated on the skins for four weeks, and then aged for 24 months in 2,500 and 5,000 liter wood barrels. No sulfites are added. “Nibiô” is no simple Dolcetto. The nose is redolent of decaying flowers and juicy, wild orchard fruit. A sip expresses concentrated summer berries with a streak of wet stone and some gentle tannins to balance the wealth of fruit. The earthiness of this wine might pair exceptionally well with a goat cheese and mushroom pizza.

~$34 “Montemarino” (Vino Bianco 2017) WHITE

Declassified Monferrato DOC made from 100% Cortese, “Montemarino” is the name of a vineyard located on top of one of the highest hills in Gavi. The clay and limestone parcel receives full sun due to its southern exposure as well as maritime winds blowing in from the Mediterranean. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts in 1,500 liter wooden vats “sur lies” for 11 months. No sulfites are added. Aromas of ripe apple, pear, and a wisp of apricot, hover above subtle notes of hazelnut. It is round on the palate yet not overly fat, with a finish just acidic enough to make for a superbly balanced wine.

~$34 “Filagnotti” (Vino Bianco 2017) WHITE

Declassified Gavi DOCG made from 100% Cortese, “Filagnotti” is named after a parcel located near the town of Tassarolo with southwestern exposure and ferrous, red clay soils. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts in 2,500 liter acacia wood vats “sur lies” for 15 months. No sulfites are added. The aromas are reminiscent of hawthorn blossoms and citrus. On the palate there is a ferrous minerality with notes of fresh lemon and honey. It’s dense yet drinkable.

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Posted on 2019.10.31 in Italy, Piedmont, Saturday Sips  |  Read more...

 

Closing Chapter for the Portuguese Estate Quinta do Centro, Deeply Reduced Prices on the Last of the Red Wines from Sonho Lusitano

We’ve gone through many vintages of the wines of Sonho Lusitano Vinhos and even had owner Richard Mayson host a dinner party here in Birmingham a few years ago. After 12 harvests, this Portuguese project has come to an end but the team are proud to have helped to put the sub-region of Portalegre on the map. While we await the next chapter for Richard Mayson, his winemaker and partner Rui Reguinga, and the estate of Quinta do Centro, we are offering the last of their production at a significant price reduction. These are not wines at the end of life. On the contrary, they are presently in an ideal drinking window.

As a distinguished wine writer and author of five books on Portuguese wine, the British-born Richard Mayson has championed Portugal as a treasure trove of varied terroir and indigenous grapes with world-class potential. He fell in love with Portugal in 1979 when he worked for a summer at a restaurant in Algarve. As early as 1989 he had identified the under-the-radar Portalegre sub-region in the Alentejo in the south as an ideal breeding ground for great wine: The high altitude of the Serra de São Mamede mountain range, the moderate climate, and the stony soil all promised to produce excellent wines.

With the goal of producing wines firmly rooted in the local terroir, Richard purchased the Quinta do Centro vineyard in 2005 and created Sonho Lusitano (Lusitanian Dream) with winemaker and consultant Rui Reguinga. Rui hails from the central province of Ribatejo and began his winemaking career in 1991 working at the local co-operative in Portalegre. After working with well-known winemaker João Portugal Ramos he established his own wine consultancy business where he advises a number of leading properties, mainly in the southern half of Portugal.

Quinta do Centro is located on the slopes of Serra de São Mamede at around 1,600 to 1,800 feet above sea level. The property lies on the edge of the São Mamede Natural Park where it spans a shallow valley where the soils are poor, full of granite, and generally well drained. It is an estate with a bright future, indeed.

Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)

 

~$18 “Pedra Basta” (Alentejano 2013) Original Price: $25

Drinking at its peak, “Pedra Basta” (Enough Stone) is a blend of Trincadeira, Arragonez (aka Tempranillo) and Alicante Bouschet in roughly equal proportions with a small quantity of  Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is aged in new and second year barrels for 12 to 18 months before bottling. Richard Mayson’s own tasting notes declare, “the tannins are good, broad and ripe and the wine is characterised by the freshness which is our hallmark here in the Serra de São Mamede.”

 

~$31 “Pedra Y Alma” (Alentejano 2013) Original Price: $45

“Pedra Y Alma” (Stone and Soul) is Sonho Lusitano Vinhos reserve wine produced only in the best years and from the oldest vines on the property. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Arragonez, Alicante Bouschet, and Grand Noir that is aged for two years in new French oak barriques. The 2013 vintage saw a late harvest that began in searing heat and ended in rain. It was a highly successful year for Trincadeira and the estate picked the old vine fruit just before the weather broke at the end of September. It is a tight-knit but generous and well-balanced red that will keep on giving.

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Posted on 2019.10.24 in Alentejo, Portugal, Saturday Sips  |  Read more...

 

Pinot Noir with Muscles — New Vintage Gevrey-Chambertin from Domaine Dominique Gallois

Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the most recognized appellations in Burgundy for good reason. At the commune level, these can be immensely satisfying Pinot Noir-based wines, substantial, dark-hued, infused with assertive fruit and heady aromatics. The distinction of Gevrey-Chambertin becomes unmistakable in the Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. There you find the muscularity and structure that sets this appellation apart from all others.

Fourth-generation winemaker Dominique Gallois took over the family vineyards from his father in 1989. The small domaine is around 10 acres, the bulk of which is centered in Gevrey-Chambertin. The Gallois cellars were constructed by Dominique’s great grandfather, Guillaume Bizot, in 1901. They are reputed to be some of the coldest in the region, which helps to create wines of great depth and longevity.

Cultivation and winemaking are aimed at producing wines that are pure and speak of their unique terroir. In the vineyards, the domain has adapted a lutte raisonée (reasoned struggle) approach that includes plowing to force the roots deep and minimal use of herbicides or pesticides. Harvesting and sorting are all done by hand. In the cellar, only indigenous yeasts transform the fruit into wine. The wines are aged in oak barrels from the Allier region, with care to ensure that the portion of new oak, which varies depending on the vineyard parcels, does not dominate the wine’s aromas.

2016 was no parade for producers in Burgundy. A frost blanket and recurring mildew plagued growers throughout the season. Despite these issues, the Côte d’Or has once again provided an outstanding, classic vintage featuring some hauntingly beautiful red wines.

Special prices based on purchase of 6-pack (mix-and-match)

~$67 Gevrey-Chambertin (2016)

A true taste of the appellation, the wine is a blend from 10 climats situated around the village of Gevrey-Chambertin including En Songe, En Jouise, En Billard, En Dérée, Croix des Champs, Sylvie, La Justice, Charreux, and two parcels of the clos surrounding the Gallois home. Average age of vines from these parcels is around fifty years. 800 cases annual production.

$117 “La Combe Aux Moines” (Gevrey-Chambertin, Premier Cru 2016)

One of Gallois’ most sought after offerings, the “La Combe Aux Moines” Premier Cru vineyard is comprised of shallow clay-limestone on slabs of rock, with very little topsoil. The vines, planted in 1954, are on steep slopes at around 1,000 feet in elevation that are ideally exposed to morning sunshine. Yields from this parcel are naturally low and the ideal climat helps ripen the fruit to perfection. 200 cases annual production.

$225 Charmes-Chambertin (Grand Cru 2016)

Seriously old vines planted in 1910 from a climat that produces some of the most powerful and elegant expressions of Pinot Noir on earth. Gallois’ tiny 0.7 acre parcel is near the border of the Grand Cru Griotte-Chambertin and Dominique claims this wine has all of “the elegance of Charmes, the power of Chambertin and the roundness of Griotte.” These are vineyards composed of thin and poor clay-limestone soils that are littered with small stones, marls, and iron. It’s a landscape where Pinot Noir vines thrive. 133 cases annual production.


Ask us about our selection of previous vintages (2005-2015) from Domaine Dominique Gallois. 

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Posted on 2019.10.17 in Burgundy, France, Saturday Sips  |  Read more...

 


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