Pierre Menard reaches cult status in Europe for his lieu-dit (single-vineyard) Chenin Blancs. Still, I'm choosing to begin this producer introduction with a different wine, the Laïka Sauvignon Blanc. Simply put, Chenin gets the prime slopes in Anjou, where schist dominates, and the flatlands with boring soils may see some Sauvignon Blanc. However, Menard discovered one of the first Sauvignon Blanc parcels in this region, the tiny 1957-planted Clos de la Roche, located atop a slope in Faye d'Anjou.

Before tasting Laïka, you'd be well served to expel any notion of what this variety's personality is about to deliver. "Typical" grapefruit and lime fade into the background, much like earth did when the first living creature, the dog Laïka, was rocketed into space in 1957 (hence, the name). Those flavors are replaced by saffron butter, a kaleidoscope of yellow fruits, and a mineral underpinning that only the schist-laden slopes of Anjou convey. A Parisian bistro summer sipper, this is not.

The fermentation and aging regimen is as progressive as Menard's desire to work with this Anjou outcast grape variety. Older barrels, sandstone amphora, and tank are the vessels that combine to give us Laïka. Only a few cases enter the U.S. each year, and I'm thrilled to offer a 3-vintage vertical today. Also, do not miss his stellar Chenin Blancs below, in equally small quantities.

We don't focus on many sweet/dessert wines outside of German Riesling, but Menard's "Cosmos" Coteaux du Layon (500ml bottles) blew us away last month, and it's the perfect pairing for cheese or dessert.

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