Curious about alpine red wines? Then, you have to check out the Savoie's native red grape variety, Mondeuse. One of the best examples we’ve encountered comes from the young Nicolas Ferrand. We spread the word to as many of our customers as possible and are down to only a few cases.
Coteau de la Mort ($79) has the depth of Northern Rhône Syrah, with high-toned black cherry, black pepper, and pressed rose petals, though this Mondeuse is also surprisingly juicy and sleek. Ferrand does a semi-carbonic fermentation without any piegeage (pressing of the skins), no fining or filtering, uses minimal sulfur, and ages in larger format barrels.The cuvée's name, hill of death, refers to the ancient hillside vineyards re-planted during Savoie’s renaissance in the 1990s, thanks to early champions, like Michel Grisard of Prieuré St-Christophe, who I've written about in past offers. In 2013, the vineyard fell under the stewardship of Ferrand when starting Domaine des Côtes Rousses.
One of the Savoie’s top crus for Mondeuse, Saint Jean de la Porte has distinct red clay soils (the inspiration behind the domaine name), as well as limestone and moraine. Ferrand has farmed organically from the beginning and utilizes horses and sheep in partnership with his neighbors. He's native to the area, but his family previously farmed cattle, making him a first-generation vigneron.In the last decade, Ferrand's vineyard holdings have increased, and so has the buzz for his wines. Savoie expert and author Wink Lorch says, “Nicolas’s wines should become a staple in every Savoie wine lover’s cellar,” and we fervently agree. Coteau de la Mort is a refreshing take on Savoie history.
In 2019, Roberto Conterno released only one Barolo, the Cerretta from Serralunga d'Alba. Arione and Vigna Francia will be put into the Riserva Monfortino for later release. Though also located in Serralunga, Cerretta shares a soil composition reminiscent of what's found across the valley in La Morra, where more elegant and less statuesque Barolos are commonly seen. The 2019 has bright red and black fruits with incredible focus, delineation, and a crystalline sense of purity that I love.
The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings. If one producer was tied to this moniker, it's undoubtedly Barolo's Roberto Conterno. From Giacomo to Giovanni to Roberto, this estate has been the standard bearer for the grandest wines in Italy—Nebbiolo from Serralunga d'Alba.
Visiting with Roberto in November 2012 offered a glimpse into the genius behind his quiet and reserved exterior. Conterno's immaculate cellar and eye for detail, specifically with cleanliness, are unlike anything I've seen in person. The methods here are traditional through and through. Still, one could point to vineyard practices as relatively modern, with a reliance on coaxing maximum ripeness from vines—I find this to be a massive element in why the dark and tannic Nebbiolo of Serralunga's terroir exudes so much charm when poured.
Purchased in 1974 by Giovanni Conterno, the flagship Francia is about the melding of power and finesse. Arione debuted in 2015, and now, with four releases under the stewardship of Roberto, we get to see even darker and more intense Serralunga terroir, where iron-tinged minerality meets lavender, orange peel, and menthol.
We all have regrets. One of mine was passing on Bitouzet-Prieur Volnay and Meursault when I turned on the lights in 2015. A friend once said, “If you’re not embarrassed by choices made in the previous year, then you’re not growing.” The 2020 vintage of this domaine marks my redemption.
With winemaking medals galore filling the home of Vincent Bitouzet back in 1860, the marriage to Annie Prieur after that marked the official start of what is now the most classic domaine in Volnay, along with Lafarge. And the whites from vineyards like Meursault 1er Cru Charmes and Perrières are now another great reminder that value is alive and well in the Côte de Beaune.
I only have a few wines from Bitouzet-Prieur, but they are the best cuvées to me after an extensive tasting with the domaine in Brooklyn last year. The Volnay is destemmed, and pigeage (punchdowns) occur twice per day—a process that has seemingly gone out of fashion in Burgundy of late as many opt for remontage (pumpovers) to bring softer contours and more immediacy to the fruit. But the 2020 Volnay is pure class and is precisely the type of Burgundy I seek out—from the greatest red village of the Côte de Beaune.
The whites see extended lees contact and a maximum of 20% new oak. They pull back on the fruity Chardonnay traits, instead digging deep for a saturating mineral through-line that reminds me of wines common pre-2005 heat. Still bursting with site-specificity and deliciousness, they take my mind back to another time with their soft-spoken spirit.
For the first time, the iconic Hirsch Vineyards has allocated the release of their flagship San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir ($78). And it's no surprise why. 2021 marks not only the most successful vintage for Sonoma Pinot Noir in the 21st century but also the best-ever bottling of this wine.
Hirsch sits half a mile from the San Andreas Fault line. With 34 vineyard blocks comprising the eponymous cuvée, this signature blend is the ultimate snapshot of place. As David Hirsch notes, the fragmentation is unmatched even by the famously subdivided vineyards of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. The result is a wine exploding with fresh red cherry, strawberry, and mint notes that segue into a precise finish with dark chocolate, orange skin, and dusty minerality.Driving the winding road from downtown Sonoma to the property at the far edge of California’s coast is a rite of passage. I was lucky enough to work one ridgeline over at Failla’s Estate Vineyard, and I can tell you, despite the acclaim of the Pinot Noirs, the extreme Sonoma Coast’s rugged terrain remains built for a few. David was the first to plant Pinot Noir here in 1980, and the location remains completely remote.Producing wines of consistent ripeness and grace in a marginal climate like this one is no easy feat, especially when the grapes are known for having formidable tannins. And yet, that is precisely the tall task that daughter Jasmine Hirsch and Consulting Winemaker Michael Cruse have accomplished.
The style has changed throughout the last twenty years since David built a winery and began putting Hirsch Vineyards on his own label. Today, they have opted for 100% de-stemming across the board and about 30% new oak for this particular cuvée. Again, 2021 is the most successful version of Hirsch’s San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir, and in a vintage where the entire lineup has received “perfect” praise.
Florence Cholet's under the radar wines