Sancerre Royalty: Domaine Vacheron
A visit to the eastern Loire in May 2016 was a great awakening to the potential and diversity within Sancerre. Styles of winemaking differ nearly as much as the change in soil throughout the region, from flint to marl and Kimmeridgian limestone. But when the tours concluded, it was Vacheron's duo of sites that stuck with me.
Vacheron's epic south-facing slopes of old vines immediately felt special when we hit the rocky terrain. In a marginal climate, where every last ray of sunlight counts, these Sauvignon Blancs have a generous cut and rigor. They develop faint notes of honey, ginger, and orchard fruit while maintaining a disciplined frame and finish with loads of crushed rocks and salinity.
It's rare in Sancerre to farm organically, as the weather can be brutal and uncooperative. Less than ten producers are certified organic including Vacheron (since 2000). In the cellar, they've transitioned to larger vessels such as foudre to ensure the wines are taut and structured, as temperatures in the region continue to climb. The wines ferment spontaneously with native yeasts, and the lunar cycle dictates when bottling occurs. No fining or filtering!
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Electric Slide to Jura: François Rousset-Martin
I’ve had an insatiable craving for Jura Chardonnay ever since drinking Stéphane Tissot's Les Bruyères Chardonnay. Granted, that was several years ago, and Tissot is a rare fish in the Jura's sea of white wines, many of them being too reductive, and the reds often too brett-heavy. But searching for other gems, François Rousset-Martin is a recent discovery that jolted my love for the Jura back to life.
The Château-Chalon appellation is best known for its sherry-like vin jaune wines, made from the Savagnin grape and aged under a veil of flor. But François is more interested in the ouillé (or topped-up) style and exploring micro-terroir (similar to what Stéphane Tissot has done in Arbois). He farms almost two-dozen small parcels (all of which are a hectare or less) in Château-Chalon and Côtes du Jura. Like the rest of the Jura, the soils are abundant in clay, marl, and limestone. Château-Chalon doesn't appear on any bottle labels, as these do not follow the custom vin jaune style.
François grew up in Burgundy, and his family has owned and farmed a parcel of vines in the Jura for generations. His interest in the science and terroir of wine stems from his father (He was a microbiologist for the Hospices de Beaune), and it was his great grandfather who taught him about the family's mystical winemaking lore. Rousset-Martin earned an enology degree and apprenticed in Rhône and Languedoc before starting his domaine in 2007. He vinifies each wine by climat (or parcel) with little to no sulfur and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
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Photo Credit: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant
The Final Release: Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux
Chateau Moulin de Tricot is the first place my mind goes when I think of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux. They personify all of the grace and regal structure that Margaux has been associated with for centuries. Unfortunately, the estate was recently sold, and the fruit will be blended into another chateau's Grand Vin de Bordeaux. The 2019 release is the last vintage of our go-to Margaux wine.
Margaux's gravel soils is especially suited to Cabernet Sauvignon. Still, Merlot plantings have steadily increased on the left bank to provide more soft-fruited wines that capitulate to a global palate. Moulin de Tricot always stuck with tradition, with 75% of the vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have unusually dense vine spacing with 9,500 vines per hectare, providing naturally concentrated yields.
Margaux wines have often been called "the iron fist in a velvet glove," explaining the balance between grace and dead-serious regal structure. Even more, every experience with Moulin de Tricot has felt like an "aha" moment. The intensity of dark fruit, graphite, cigar box, and a long finish is something extraordinary. Stock up on this final vintage while you can!
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Côte Chalonnaise Champion: Vincent Dureuil
It’s not every day that we spotlight Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise. However, there is one producer that we’re thrilled with: Vincent Dureuil in Rully. Vincent is a favorite producer among Burgundy’s circle of vignerons. With fervent backing from wine critic William Kelley, he’s getting his long-overdue spotlight in the mainstream. Allocations have dramatically shrunk, but today's offer includes several cases of Vincent's flagship Rully Blanc. In short, these humble Rully wines rise to the occasion of white Burgundy’s top echelon.
Rully sits on the northernmost border of the Côte Chalonnaise, just five miles south of Chassagne Montrachet, and therefore shares similar clay and limestone soils to the Côte de Beaune. The Rully Village comes from old vines across four lieu-dits and the Maizières from a single vineyard planted in 1997, after Vincent took over. Both wines are made in the same manner: Native fermentation in barrel with some stirring of the lees and 12 months of aging (20% new oak). The Rully is a clear picture of the cool, classic 2017 vintage, and Maizières’s east-facing exposure and clay-based soils always express bolder orchard fruit.
Vincent showed a keen talent for winemaking from an early age. He took over his family's domaine when he was 24 years old. For three decades, Vincent has upheld his appellation’s ability to produce as elegant and terroir-driven wines as anywhere else in Burgundy. He transitioned to organic farming in the mid-2000s and continues to skillfully care for the vines planted by his grandfather in 1949. Domaine Dureuil-Janthial epitomizes the purity and elegance we long for in white Burgundy!
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Photo Credit: North Berkeley Imports
Chenin Exemplar: 2020 Jacky Blot Release
Many make the case that Loire Chenin Blanc is a benchmark for diversity. The entire range is covered in the central Loire: Bone-dry, sparkling, off-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. Clos Rougeard's Brézé is the most famous name in this club, but beyond that, one name especially embodies the detail and clarity that top dry Chenin is capable of.
Jacky Blot's domaine, La Taille Aux Loups, primarily works with vineyards in Montlouis. However, Clos de la Bretonniere is his coveted parcel of 65-plus-year-old vines in Vouvray planted on pure limestone. Blot's Montlouis wines can show density and breadth, but this particular wine has mesmerizing detail and a shimmering range of flavors that dance on the palate.
Vouvray is most associated with off-dry and sweet styles of wine, but Blot has focused on bone-dry wines since 1993. He's no nonsense when it comes to farming, with organic and hands-on viticulture serving as the root of success for all his wines. Much like the disciplined Chenin found in Saumur, battonage is avoided and malolactic fermentation is blocked—a necessity in accentuating the laser-focus and sleek frame that draws comparisons to Burgundy.
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