• No Stone Unturned:  2015 & 2016 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph

    No Stone Unturned: 2015 & 2016 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph

    Since 1481, there have been 16 generations of unbroken lineage at the Chave estate along the Rhone River's towering granite slopes. When we look closely at the birthplace of Syrah there's no name more respected than that of Jean-Louis Chave.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 & 2016 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph, along with back-vintage Hermitage Rouge and Blanc stretching through 1985.

    Chave's Saint Joseph captures everything that thrills the senses from Northern Rhone Syrah, while offering an immediacy and generosity upon release that Hermitage simply cannot. Each vintage flaunts a huge spectrum of black, blue, and red fruits. Spices range from exotic Indian to cracked black pepper. And the tell-tale notes of violets, olive tapenade, and roasted meats are always on full display.

    However, it's the underlying mineral component from these granite terraced slopes serving as the backbone of Chave's wines. It's this definition that allows the wines to age effortlessly, and makes reaching for another sip habitual. Examples of the Saint Joseph from the late 1990's have floored me for their sense of vivacity, freshness, and still-present regal structure.

    Jean-Louis Chave joined his father Gérard in 1992, following his studies in Enology at UC Davis. Once home, he undertook his primary mission of re-planting the steep slopes of Saint Joseph, as his ancestors had done centuries ago. In fact, it was precisely on this hillside that the domaine officially started in 1481. These vineyards had remained fallow since phylloxera decimated vineyards throughout France in the late 19th century.

    Along with carrying on the tradition of producing the the iconic Hermitage bottlings, Jean-Louis knew that these treacherously steep hillsides in Saint Joseph were capable of producing magnificent wines, and offered a value to consumers that Hermitage could not. 25 years have now passed since these terraces began to be re-built by hand, and vines have been re-planted among the traditional échalas stakes. Today, the results are stunning wines that remind us the root of all success in the Rhone comes from hands-on work and fastidious attention to detail, something the Chave family has personified for hundreds of years.

    Since the Saint Joseph appellation was officially given AOC status in 1956 the boundaries have expanded immensely. It's these choice parcels that represent the best and most serious terroir for the zone. Slopes that the Chave's knew were capable of producing intensely concentrated, structured, and age-worthy Syrah. Land where machines were incapable of working, as everything must be done entirely by hand. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Barbaresco Benchmark:  Produttori del Barbaresco 1964 Thru 2017

    Barbaresco Benchmark: Produttori del Barbaresco 1964 Thru 2017

    I've slowly been amassing this collection from Barbaresco's most historic estate. There's no winery in Piedmont, or perhaps the world, which exemplifies the spirit of collective contribution quite like the Produttori del Barbaresco. While the single-vineyard Barbarescos garner much of the fame, the blended straight Barbaresco has proven to be one of the world's great values in cellar-worthy wine. Today's collection features wines as far back as 1964 through the current releases.

    It was in 1894 when the headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba, Domizio Cavazza, created the cooperative by pulling together nine vineyard owners to bottle their wines in his castle. Before then, grapes had been sold off to Barolo producers or simply labeled as "Nebbiolo di Barbaresco". This Cantine Sociali was then closed in the 1930's due to the economic restrictions of fascism. In 1958, the priest of Barbaresco gathered together nineteen growers, knowing the only chance at prosperity was to form as one - the Produttori del Barbaresco was officially founded.

    Today, 51 growers are the backbone of production covering nine great single-vineyard Barbarescos: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota, and Rio Sordo. Truly reflecting this band of brothers, these prized Barbarescos will only be produced if each one meets the highest standards. Should only one vineyard not make the cut then there will be no single-vineyard wines produced that year. 

    The Langhe Nebbiolo is the entry-level wine of the Produttori, offering immediate accessibility. The straight Barbaresco is made each year comprised of grapes within the DOCG zone. For me, this is the benchmark bottling of the region, offering a value that consistently delivers well above its price point. In exceptional years, the nine single-vineyard Barbarescos will be produced. The rigorous standards today are as strong as ever. 
     
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Renegade of Provence:  Domaine de Trévallon Blanc et Rouge

    Renegade of Provence: Domaine de Trévallon Blanc et Rouge

    Eloi Dürrbach believed Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon made a compelling duo in a very particular pocket of Provence. Through the decades he's proved this slice in Les Alpilles, The Little Alps, can produce some of the very most celebrated wines in France.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range from Domaine de Trévallon.

    Domaine de Trévallon set out from inception in 1973 to tell the story of place despite rigorous opposition. 44 years later Eloi Dürrbach's vision of a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend from his family's estate has won the hearts of collectors across the globe. Burgundy, Rhone, Bordeaux, and Loire have taken the lion’s share of my most significant experiences drinking French reds over the years, but the consistency and heights that Trévallon achieves each vintage is unsurpassed. These are Grand Crulevel wines in all but name, with pricing that’s a welcomed reminder of its humble origins.


    Eloi Dürrbach planted these two varieties in the remote village of Saint-Etienne-du-Grès, a limestone goldmine on the north side of Alpilles mountains. Before phylloxera ravaged vineyards throughout France in the late 19th century Cabernet Sauvignon had been widely planted here. The appellation system set rules in the 1930's to establish which varieties could be labeled under particular zones, and Cabernet Sauvignon was given the boot. Dürbach understood his unique terroir offered the Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah blend potential for greatness, so he chose to label his wines as France’s lowly Vin de Pays category.

    Driving north into the hills of Provence from Bandol on one sweltering July afternoon I began to wonder just how Cabernet Sauvignon could strive here. As I climbed the Alpilles with the Mediterranean shrinking in my rear-view, the road began to narrow and the incline slowly steepened. Coming down onto the northern side temperatures quickly dropped and I immediately felt ushered into this new land, Baux de Provence. The garrigue shrubbery of the south was quickly replaced by the picturesque roadway (below) leading to Trévallon.

    The Trévallon estate covers 17 hectares of almond and olive trees and vines, of which nearly all are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. 

    The whole cluster-fermented reds age in large, old foudre, a critical element in giving this wine its tremendous clarity and brightness. While the gravel of Bordeaux is home to the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon, and the granite northern Rhone to the greatest Syrah, Dürbach knows here on limestone the sum of the parts achieves something far greater than each posses on their own.

    These are magnificent wines that call to mind the dark graphite and tobacco-inflected wines of Pauillac, the black olive and violet of Côte Rôtie. And a seductive quality that reminds me each time of the treasure trove of older Burgundy that lined Eloi's personal cellar.

    To give context to the aging curve of these wines, a bottle of 1988 opened in September was incredibly fresh and continued to develop in the glass. It single-handedly made the case for the elegance and cellar potential that Provence is capable of.

    The rare blanc (3 bottles available) is comprised of 50% Marsanne, 24% Roussanne, 10% Chardonnay, 8% Grenache Blanc, 8% Clairette. Each grape variety is aged separately in barrel prior to assemblage and bottling. 

    Posted by Alexander Rosen