• Loire Valley Mastery for a Song: Pépière Muscadet

    Loire Valley Mastery for a Song: Pépière Muscadet

    The intersection of greatness and value in France takes you directly to the western edge of the Loire River Valley and to the peerless Muscadets of Domaine de la Pépière. Here, the Melon de Bourgogne grape is reflected at its most complex. Under ideal stewardship Muscadet is capable of reaching thrilling heights. For me, Pépière captures the most mesmerizing elements of this often overlooked region. The wines offer immediate satisfaction, age gracefully, and rival the sophistication expected from top tier Sancerre and Chablis.

    Marc Olivier and Rémi Branger work magic at Domaine de la Pépière, showcasing the distinct terroir of each of these specific plots. The long, undisturbed aging in glass-lined tanks gives these a pure, lively, and energetic personality. The common practice of stirring the lees (bâtonnage) adds weight and texture while also amplifying that brioche quality that really matches brilliantly with the natural citrus notes of the Melon variety.

    While oysters and Muscadet is the quintessential pairing from Paris to Seattle, the dynamic personality of these wines make them ideal matches for a wide range at the dinner table. Their upfront immediate joy cannot be overstated, but the journey they take though decades in bottle is something everyone should have an opportunity to experience. These are the most versatile and regal white wines under $30 that you will find anywhere in the world.

    2015 La Pepie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
    The flagship bottling of the estate.
    $18 per bottle.

    2015 Pepière Muscadet Clos des Briords Cuvée Vieilles Vignes

    From a parcel of 60-year old vines planted on granite, with mix of sand and clay.
    $22 per bottle.

    2014 Pepière Muscadet Clos des Briords 1.5L
    From a parcel of 60-year old vines planted on granite, with mix of sand and clay.

    $68 per bottle.

    2013 Pepière Muscadet Clisson
    From a parcel of 50-110-year-old-vines on granite, with mix of gravel.
    $27 per bottle.

    2014 Pepière Muscadet Clisson
    From a parcel of 50-110-year-old-vines on granite, with mix of gravel.

    $29 per bottle.

    2014 Pepière Muscadet Clisson 1.5L
    From a parcel of 50-110-year-old-vines on granite, with mix of gravel.

    $63 per bottle.

    2014 Pepière Muscadet Clisson 3L
    From a parcel of 50-110-year-old-vines on granite, with mix of gravel.

    $168 per bottle.

    2010 Pepière Muscadet Quatre 3L
    Aged 4 years on its lees.
    $174 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Côte de Beaune Sweet Spot: 2014 Pascal Arnoux Bourgogne Blanc

    Côte de Beaune Sweet Spot: 2014 Pascal Arnoux Bourgogne Blanc

    The search for serious value White Burgundy that reverberates with me is an ongoing hunt. The pricing premium on 55 degree storage for all our wines only exacerbates this task. That's why my reaction to tasting a new producer, Pascal Arnoux, was a very enthusiastic one. While the region is moving into the luscious and rich 2015 vintage, I was even more thrilled to see the classic, pitch-perfect 2014 vintage was just released. Many fall into the trap of criticizing Burgundy for falling short on value. I say nothing could be further from the truth. Pascal Arnoux's Bourgogne Blanc at $24 is where I'd turn first to make my case.

    Pascal is the 4th generation of his family to farm these Côte de Beaune vineyards. After finishing school at the prestigious Lycée Viticole in Beaune he began working alongside his uncles. In 2007 Pascal took the reigns completely. Arnoux's small US importer is the same that turned me onto several mind-spinning releases, like those ofChambeyron' Côte Rotie Côte Brune, Thibaud Boudignon's Anjou, and Villet's Jura Pinot Noir. When they presented a new discovery in Burgundy I was ready to taste.

    Pascal's Bourgogne Blanc is released at the perfect time. Aged entirely in stainless steel, the obvious cut and crispness from this format is married with a layered and textural quality that Côte de Beaune Chardonnay has like nowhere else in the world. On one hand it's supremely refreshing this time of year, but offers a serious depth that grabs the attention of the most avid Burgundy lover. Coupled with perhaps the most complete White Burgundy vintage since 1992 this hits a sweet spot that's very rare.

    They say the best way to judge a domaine is not by tasting their Grand Crus, but by their Bourgogne level. This is a rule that's grown more and more true for me over time. After all, the Bourgogne wines from the likes of Roumier, Dancer, Roulot, andD'Angerville would gladly be poured at my house ahead of more heralded appellations from so many others. Pascal Arnoux is a brand new arrival and today's 2014 Bourgogne Blanc is the only listing in the US.

    2014 Pascal Arnoux Bourgogne Blanc
    $24 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Quiet Rise in Gevrey Chambertin: 2014 Duroché

    Quiet Rise in Gevrey Chambertin: 2014 Duroché "Le Clos"

    Tasting elite domaines from the most revered vineyards in Burgundy side-by-side at La Paulée is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The snowy March morning in New York City was a dreamscape for collectors. As thrilling as it is to taste Roumierand Mugneret-Gibourg speaking with the winemakers next to one another, it's equally exhilarating to find newer producers that hold their own in this most celebrated crowd. Without a doubt, the reds that left the greatest impression were those of Domaine Duroché of Gevrey Chambertin. Today, I'm thrilled to offer one of the smallest cuvées, a .38 hectare parcel from the single vineyard "Le Clos".

    Pierre Duroché is the 5th generation at his family's domaine, assisting his father in 2003 and taking over full control of operations at this 8 hectare estate in 2009. Duroché covers Bourgogne level sites all the way up through Grand Crus Griotte Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, and Chambertin-Clos de Beze. However, it's Duroché's micro-production lieu dits (single vineyards) that offer the greatest value.

    Gevrey Chambertin is often characterized as showing the most structure, dark earth, and muscle of the Côte de Nuits villages, often leading winemakers to implement more new oak and push for maximum extraction and flash. Pierre takes his cue's from an entirely different playbook. The wines here are models for the transparency and fine tannins that Gevrey is capable of, without sacrificing the inherent richness and depth its terroir is so famous for. Duroché's wines have a hallmark of featherweight texture and lacy minerality that persist in the most impressive way. 

    The lieu dit of "Le Clos" is a minuscule parcel of less than half a hectare. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed and raised in 15-20% maximum new oak. There's no fining or filtering here. Le Clos offers everything that's to be adored in Pinot Noir from Burgundy, with a sensibility in the cellar that more closely calls to mind Mugnier andD'Angerville than it does some of the brawny powerhouse-style neighbors in Gevrey.

    Production is very small, and I hope to be able to offer a wide range of Grand Crus from this estate that's clearly entering the consciousness of collectors in a big way.Leaving La Paulée the name Duroché seemed to be passing the lips of everyone.For today, the only wine offered in California from their importer is this beautiful single vineyard bottling. Before the Grand Crus land I can't recommend enough familiarizing yourself today with the best value Duroché has to offer.

    2014 Duroché Gevrey Chambertin Le Clos
    $57 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Sangiovese at its Most Timeless: 2010 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva

    Sangiovese at its Most Timeless: 2010 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva

    Today is our last offer from Chianti, and I've saved this for the bittersweet end. No estate during my trip has garnered the same enthusiasm and respect from winemakers and sommeliers quite like Castell'in Villa. From Rome through Florence, top wine lists all find a space for these age-worthy Chianti Classicos from vintages stretching back to the early 70's. This is where the longevity and transformative capabilities of Sangiovese is best personified. The opportunity to offer this late release from the spellbinding 2010 vintage is a real treat, and truth be told I took every last case that entered California for today's offer.

    Castell'in Villa doesn't fall into any easy category, outside of being staunchly traditional in their vinification and aging. The estate's soil in Castelnuovo Berardenga has an unusual makeup of fossilized fragments that conjure Chablis more so than Tuscany. The limestone-based soil is still the mother rock here as it is throughout Chianti Classico, but the ancient artifacts point to a time long ago when this vineyard was under a small sea. And, as you can imagine, the mineral component endowed to this wine is profound. Met with the structure from these choice old vines dedicated to the Riservawe have a magical combo that's made this arguably the most sought-after aged wine in all of Tuscany. At $59 per bottle from the greatest vintage in decades it's no wonder why this disappeared from their importer in a flash.

    The Greek Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa has overseen the property here for many years, residing in the 13th century tower above the winery. She's been committed to old fashioned winemaking here ensuring her top wine would not just endure with time, but transform. She keeps a healthy stock of back vintages, namely the epic 1971 Chianti Classico Riserva that's still found on top Michelin starred wine lists in Italy.

    The 2010's from Tuscany have come and gone. Being able to source a late release like this from the most timeless estate in the commune was an unexpected surprise. The Chianti Classico Riserva is one that warrants an hour in the decanter. All the components come together in this time revealing a wine built on classic structure, dark fruits, and quintessential Sangiovese tertiary characteristics. There's no doubt in 40 years we'll be looking back on the 2010 vintage much like we are now on the revered 1971. I've created special pricing today on 6 and 12 bottle packaging. I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to follow this monumental gem through it's slow evolution.

    2010 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva
    $59 per bottle.

    6-Pack Pricing Regularly $354, Down to $336 ($56.05 per bottle)

    12-Pack Pricing Regularly $708, Down to $637 ($53.10 per bottle)

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Perfect Storm: 2013 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Rancia

    Perfect Storm: 2013 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Rancia

    One of the most anticipated visits of the trip was to the legendary Fèlsina estate in Chianti Classico's Castelnuovo Berardenga. Fèlsina has long stood with tradition in crafting 100% Sangiovese wines, never following the trends of adding Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to appeal to a more global market. They've been the epitome of value for Sangiovese, and the entire lineup of wines from top to bottom deliver consistently in a way the entire region emulates. Today, we take a look at their top Chianti Classico, the Rancia Riserva from the powerful and classic 2013 vintage.

    Fèlsina was established in 1966 when Domenico Poggiali found a cellar tucked into the limestone hillside in Castelnuovo Berardenga. The property had formerly been established by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. Poggiali slowly built up his estate based upon the foundation of tradition and the highest standards of organic viticulture.

    Fèlsina sits at an interesting point, straddling the border between Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senesi. Walking through the vineyards in a great lesson in terroir. Fèlsina has two flagship wines, and on my left I see the Fontalloro vineyard of Colli Senesi, and on my right is Rancia, in Chianti Classico. Limestone has a more prominent role in the soils of Chianti Classico as compared to the greater concentration of clay loam in Colli Senesi. For me, it's Rancia and this limestone foundation that's always offered the most thrills with its bright, lacey, fine-grained mineral notes. Fontalloro has a weight and richer texture thanks to the clay that shows a more powerful and broad side of the region.

    Looking closer at Rancia you can see a divide between the upper and lower slope, with more limestone at the top and greater blue-grey sandstone at the base. The former rendering lift, delicacy, and floral tones, while the latter gives way to darker fruit and tell-tale licorice and tobacco notes. Still, at 1,400 feet elevation Rancia shows the estate's most nimble side of Sangiovese.

    Another secret is revealed in the cellars. The Fontalloro sees about 30% new French barrique for aging, whereas the Rancia is aged entirely in neutral oak. There's no doubt that with age the new oak integrates really well with Fontolloro, but on this day tasting the 2013's there's no comparison for me, the Rancia has it all. The 2013 vintage has everyone in the region very excited, calling to mind many of the qualities that made 2010 such a success.

    We went very deep on this vintage for Rancia, in part because it's just as wild a value as you're to find in Tuscany, but also because the challenging 2014 vintage may very well mean there will not be another Rancia produced until the 2015 is released in two year from now. 

    Rancia's liveliness and agility make it such a thrill to drink today. It pulls me back for sip after sip, perfectly placing into focus the vintage that's given rich fruit, tremendous concentration, with a shimmering finish that quietly convinces this will be a great one to follow in the cellar for decades to come. 

    Antonio Galloni of Vinous really captures what's so appealing about Rancia this year,

    "Fèlsina's 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia bristles with energy, with veins of underlying acidity that give the wine its focus and drive. Dark red cherry, plum, rose petal, herb and licorice are some of the signatures. Most of the Fèlsina Chianti Classicos are defined by their dark fruit and savory notes, but the Rancia is also wonderfully bright and lifted from start to finish while staying very much true to the house style."

    2013 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 
    $57 per bottle.

    Special 6-pack pricing, $325 (Regularly $342)

    Special 12-pack pricing, $615 (Regularly $684)

    Also available:

    2004 Fèlsina Fontalloro
    $74 per bottle.

    1990 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia
    $199 per bottle.

    1990 Fèlsina Fontalloro
    $199 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod