• Catching Fire: G.D. Vajra 2013 Barolo

    Catching Fire: G.D. Vajra 2013 Barolo

    "By now I have run out of superlatives for Vajra. Suffice it to say these are some of the finest, artisan wines being made in Piedmont today. At at time when prices for so many wines are skyrocketing out of control, Vajra's prices are a breath of fresh air...My only regret is not buying these wines more heavily in the past. 
    - Antonio Galloni of Vinous (February, 2017)

    G.D. Vajra has been on fire. The 2013 vintage in Piedmont for Barolo only magnfiies this fact. In the case of Vajra's contemporaries like Bartolo Mascarello and Giuseppe Rinaldi, their wines are nearly impossible to source, and when you do the pricing exceeds $300 per bottle. Vajra's top two Baroli offered today are still modestly priced under $100, and both are among the greatest insider wines of Barolo. In a vintage that has opened the floodgates of interest, today's offer of Bricco delle Viole and Ravera is not to be missed while these last.

    Aldo and Milena Vaira bottled their first vintage in 1978 from vineyards planted by Aldo's father in 1948. Vajra's vineyards are set at the highest elevation in the commune of Barolo. From the start Aldo was heavily influenced by the traditional approach of his neighbors down the hill, Bartolo Mascarello and Beppe Rinaldi

    The Vajra wines stand at a perfect intersection between two styles. Aldo has noted descriptions of the estate as "The most modern of the traditionalists and the most traditional of the modernists". Though traditional fermentation and aging is the common approach, the accessibility and seamless texture of the wines calls to mind modern sensibilities.

    Bricco delle Viole was planted in 1949 and named for the abudance of violets (viole) that appear here each spring and the ridge (bricco) where the vineyard is located. The soil is composted of Tortonian mix of limestone and clay. The vineyard does not hold much heat in these very porous and rocky soils, and harvest often takes place two weeks after more protected vineyards in Barolo.

    Ravera is one of Barolo's elite vineyards, known for producing wines built upon structure, energy, and wild perfume. The soil is also a mix of limestone and clay, but with substantial portions of sand and iron. Ravera offers an unrivaled opportunity to develop slowly in the cellar, and 2013 is a perfect example to watch unfold and transform.

    If you would like to learn more about G.D. Vajra I highly recommend listening to the always indispensable work of Levi Dalton of I'll Drink To That, and his interview of Aldo and Giuseppe Vaira. 

    2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera
    $85 per bottle.

    2013 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco Delle Viole
    $90 per bottle.

    2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo "Albe" 

    $39 per bottle.
    "Vajra crafts the Albe to be accessible young...The Albe is one of the very finest Barolos in its price range." - Antonio Galloni of Vinous

    1x 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 1.5L  
    $114 per bottle

    1x 2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 3.0L 
    $239 per bottle.

    2015 G.D. Vajra Dolcetto d'Alba 
    $20 per bottle.

    2013 G.D. Vajra Coste & Fossati Dolcetto d'Alba 
    $30 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Volnay Tradition Personified: Domaine Michel Lafarge

    Volnay Tradition Personified: Domaine Michel Lafarge

    The village of Volnay is synonymous with grace and delicacy, but ardent collectors know in the traditional realm they can be among the most age-worthy in Burgundy. And, without hesitation, the wines of Domaine Michel Lafarge are the model for this tightrope act of finesse and longevity. I'm very happy to offer a wine range today stretching from the 2015 Bourgogne Rouge back through Lafarge's magnum opus, the Premier Cru Clos des Chênes from 1990. 

    Domaine Michel Lafarge was founded in the early 1800's. And today is managed by Michel and his son, Frédéric. The duo has seen a dramatic trends sweep through Burgundy in their time. During the 1950's vignerons started incorporating chemicals in the vineyard, but Lafarge never considered it. In the mid to late 80's when the practice of elevated extraction was rampant this domaine continued their own path. And then in 1995 Lafarge was one of the very first to begin biodynamic practices in the vineyard. Tradition can mean so many things in Burgundy, but the use of hand-destemming and reliance on nearly all older barrels for aging places the domaine in a very specific position.

    It may be unfair to jump in categorizing Volnay as feminine and ethereal, leading one to believe the wines lack the rigid structure required for serious aging. Michel Lafarge touched on this really eloquently in his terrific interview with Levi Dalton on I'll Drink to That! Wine Podcast:

    "It's difficult to achieve the silkiness in tannins, but in Volnay it's unacceptable to have hardness. It's the silkiness of the tannins that define the overriding definition of Volnay."

    Lafarge holds vineyards primarily in Volnay, with plots in Pommard, Beaune, and Meursault. All wines have a regal frame met with the translucent qualities that put terroir firmly in the crosshairs. A bottle opened at La Paulée of the 2000 Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs was a much needed reminder that when these are met at the right moment, the experience is breathtaking. 

    Volnay may not have Grand Cru vineyards, but if given the opportunity to drink anyCôte de Beaune reds, I'm positive the vast majority of my choices would come from Volnay's 1ers.

    I've loved Burgundy for some time now, but truth be told, the wines of Lafarge had initially been difficult to grasp. Their transparency and quiet confidence were not met with open engagement on my part. Trying too hard to be touched by the magic in these rare Volnays left me searching for impact, for some explosive declaration. But, as experiences grew, I began to hear an undercurrent to the wines, one that maybe asked me to meet them half way. And like a symphony, each experience grew more and more to a crescendo. Today they speak as commanding as any wine in the Côte d'Or, with whip-sharp focus and a finish that's as haunting as it is magical.

    12x 2015 Lafarge Bourgogne Rouge
    $44 per bottle.

    1x 2015 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole)
    $299 per bottle.

    3x 2015 Lafarge Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots
    $128 per bottle.

    3x 2014 Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées 
    $89 per bottle.

    10x 2010 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets
    $273 per bottle.

    12x 2010 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
    $354 per bottle.

    3x 2009 Lafarge Beaune 1er Cru Grèves 
    $129 per bottle.

    1x 2008 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes 
    $195 per bottle.

    1x 2005 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets
    $284 per bottle.

    1x 2005 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole)
    $299 per bottle.

    1x 2002 Lafarge Beaune 1er Cru Grèves
    $159 per bottle.

    1x 2002 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes 1.5L
    $899 per bottle.

    2x 2001 Lafarge Pommard 1er Cru Les Pézerolles 
    $269 per bottle.

    3x 2000 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole)
    $209 per bottle.

    1x 2000 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets
    $227 per bottle.

    5x 1996 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole)
    $344 per bottle.

    3x 1996 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
    $399 per bottle.

    1x 1995 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
    $359 per bottle.

    2x 1993 Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées 
    $299 per bottle.

    3x 1991 Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées
    $299 per bottle.

    2x 1990 Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
    $799 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • 2010 Vouvray Dreamscape: Huet's Horizontal

    2010 Vouvray Dreamscape: Huet's Horizontal

    If there was to be only one gold standard for Chenin Blanc it would be Huet. Loire Valley's village of Vouvray has been home to the domaine since its first of three famous vineyards, Le Haut-Lieu, was purchased in 1928. Today's offer features an incredibly rare horizontal of the dry, or "Sec" cuvées, from the most prized vintage of the decade, 2010. 

    Huet's brilliance is their work running the entire range from dry sparkling (the Pétillant featured below) all the way through the very sweetest (Cuvée Constance, also featured below). As an appellation, Vouvray traces production back to the 9th century, but it wasn't until Victor Huët relocated here from Paris that he began the domaine. Victor's son Gaston took over in 1937, and after spending five years in a German POW camp he returned home and purchased the next duo of vineyards, Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. Today, this Grand Cru level trio of bottlings are revered for their expressive site specificity, as well as their transformative prowess. 

    Le Haut-Lieu's deep limestone and clay make this the richest, most plush, and approachable of the range.

    Le Mont has far less clay, and the wines are the most mineral-driven and racy of the trio.

    Clos du Bourg has the most shallow and rockiest soils, but its signature is actually a middle ground: The mineral component of Le Mont with the more sensual, flashy texture of Le Haut-Lieu.

    Upon release, the young 2016 Huet Sec wines offer upfront notes of white peach, pineapple, and chalky minerality. But, with now six vintages in bottle, the 2010 captures what all the excitement for this estate is about. White flowers and honeycomb notes have emerged, and the integration of all pieces have fallen beautifully into place. The 2010 vintage is most heralded for its balance between bright, mouth-watering acidities and luscious ripeness, a combo we see all too infrequently.

    2010 Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec
    $69 per bottle.

    2010 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec
    $69 per bottle.

    2010 Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec
    $69 per bottle.

    Also Available:

    12x 2013 Huet Vouvray Brut Pétillant
    $35 per bottle.

    1x 2010 Huet Vouvray Brut Pétillant 
    $49 per bottle.

    1x 2008 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec
    $69 per bottle.

    7x 2007 Huet Le Mont Vouvray Demi-Sec
    $69 per bottle.

    2x 2002 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec
    $76 per bottle.

    2x 2002 Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 500ml
    $182 per bottle.

    1x 2002 Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Demi-Sec
    $79 per bottle.

    2x 2000 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec
    $77 per bottle.

    2x 1999 Huet Vouvray Le Mont Demi-Sec
    $79 per bottle.

    1x 1997 Huet Vouvray Cuvée Constance 500ml
    $227 per bottle.

    2x 1995 Huet Vouvray Clos Du Bourg Demi-Sec
    $109 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • The Last Chapter of Beaujolais: Métras Fleurie

    The Last Chapter of Beaujolais: Métras Fleurie

    When I travel to France there's always one producer I crave to drink, Yvon Métras. The Fleurie-based vigneron is famous for spellbinding and pillow-soft Gamay with a magic touch of complexity often calling to mind Grand Cru Burgundy before Beaujolais. That's obviously a bold statement, but I've lost count of the times this thought struck me upon first sip. When the wines are on, there is nothing that hits the same high. Unfortunately, Yvon is equally famous for his disdain of paperwork, and so the wines that once were regularly imported to the US have, more or less, stopped. Today, I'm very happy to offer a wide range that I've slowly been collecting, including a rare four-bottle vertical of his flagship, Fleurie.

    Métras Fleurie is sourced primarily from two celebrated vineyards, La Madonne and Grille Midi. The former named for the church built on top of the steep hill, and the latter loosely translating to "roasts at noon", as this site garners substantial afternoon heat. Both parcels in these two vineyards are even more prized due to Yvon's collection of vines that top 120-years of age.

    Métras, like Foillard and Lapierre, was heavily influenced by the teachings of Jules Chauvet. Organic viticulture, native yeast ferments, and no sulphur additions. Yvon follows traditional whole cluster, semi-carbonic fermentation in concrete tanks prior to raising in neutral oak.

    If you, like me, have ever had that epiphany moment with Beaujolais where the subtle, but brilliant, conviction of the wines strikes a chord, then Métras is akin to the ultimate, final discovery.

    The Queen of Beaujolais, Fleurie is built around silken texture, pure red cherry and strawberry tones, and finely-woven granitic lacing. Where the Métras wines seem to go above and beyond even his greatest contemporaries is their gripping saturation and relentless finish, still gathering like a cloud on the palate. For Métras, much of the magic is in what we'll never learn, what's unable to be revealed through methods in the cuverie or the vineyard.. And it's this mystery that makes the experience that much more exhilarating to discover for yourself. 

    2016 Métras Fleurie
    $79 per bottle.

    2016 Métras Fleurie 1.5L 
    $169 per bottle.

    Special E-Mail Vertical 4-pack (2013, 2014, 2015, & 2016 Fleurie)
    $259 (Regularly $282)

    Also available:

    1x 2012 Métras Fleurie 1.5L
    $149 per bottle.

    1x 2012 Métras Moulin-à-Vent 1.5L 
    $149 per bottle.

    5x 2013 Métras Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 
    $59 per bottle.

    5x 2013 Métras Moulin-à-Vent
    $59 per bottle.

    4x 2013 Métras Fleurie Vieilles Vignes 1.5L
    $139 per bottle.

    4x 2014 Jules Métras Beaujolais Villages Bijou
    $40 per bottle.

    5x 2014 Métras Fleurie 1.5L
    $139 per bottle.

    3x 2014 Métras Fleurie L'Ultime
    $149 per bottle.

    6x 2014 Métras Fleurie Vieilles Vignes
    $69 per bottle.

    3x 2014 Métras Moulin-à-Vent 1.5L 
    $139 per bottle.

    33x 2015 Métras Fleurie 
    $75 per bottle.

    6x 2015 Métras Fleurie 1.5L 
    $149 per bottle.

    3x 2015 Métras Moulin à Vent 1.5L
    $149 per bottle.

    6x 2016 Métras Beaujolais "Madame Germaine"

    $42 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Overachierver Baby Monte Bello: 2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

    Overachierver Baby Monte Bello: 2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

    Monte Bello Estate vineyard atop the Santa Cruz Mountains needs little introduction. The Monte Bello designate Cabernet Sauvignon releases around $200 per bottle. What's still somewhat under-the-radar is their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, comprised of 15 to 20 parcels on the Monte Bello vineyard that have historically shown a more approachable and softer fruit profile. Each vintage the Estate Cabernet is a favorite, still displaying the magic that Paul Draper started here in 1969. The drought conditions of 2014 gave an added element of concentration and weight to this Baby Monte Bellocuvée. For lovers of old school California Cabernet Sauvignon from the coolest, Pacific-influenced mountain terrain, this is a moment to take notice.

    Monte Bello's black fruit, racy mint and graphite tones always impress, but the experiences come at the expense of long bottle aging. The Estate Cabernet has all of these same inherent Monte Bello vineyard characteristics, only showing them through a softer focus. In all years this is the case, but 2014 was immediately recognized as something quite special:

    "Readers who are looking for a more affordable alternative to Ridge's iconic Monte Bello should consider the 2014 Estate. Look for the Estate to be a real overachiever in 2014 as well as one of the best - possibly the best - California Cabernet in its price range."

    The history of Monte Bello extends as far back as 1885 when the 180 acres was purchased and planted by San Francisco doctor, Osea Perrone. Through a tumultuous series including prohibition, multiple sales, and re-planting, the Monte Bello estate really comes into its own with Paul Draper's arrival in 1969. Draper's insistence on producing "Pre-Industrial" wines has received a lot of attention, as he challenged winemakers to put the full list of ingredients on their labels. Draper's end goal is producing wines that reflect site, relying on native yeast ferments and strictly opposing modern manipulations such as Ultra/Mega purple concentrate, reverse osmosis, and the like.

    Ridge also stands out from much of California Cabernet Sauvignon in their deft use of American oak. The limestone soils of Monte Bello have long stood up to the new oak regimen (here 70%), providing more silken texture and elegance without obscuring terroir - easy to say, not so easy to execute. Along with the fabulously open-knit 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, today's list features perfectly stored, back-vintage Monte Bello bottlings.

    2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
    $65 per bottle.

    Special E-mail 4-pack Pricing: $236 ($59 per bottle)

    "Sustainably farmed, hand-harvested, estate-grown grapes; destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.25g/L calcium carbonate to moderate high natural acidity in four of twenty distinct parcels; 1.7% water addition to twelve of the twenty lots; minimum effective sulfur (25ppm at crush, 120 ppm during aging); a fining of 5 fresh, egg whites per barrel for the press wine; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions."

    2x 1980 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
    $307 per bottle.

    1x 1991 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
    $489 per bottle.

    4x 1997 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
    $283 per bottle.

    2x 2001 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
    $449 per bottle.

    1x 2002 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 1.5L
    $383 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod