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.
Sometimes wine takes you to unusual settings, and introductions the most mystical wines ensue. In July, that meant finding myself in rural, northern Sweden for dinner atFäviken with an eclectic mix of wine lovers from various backgrounds. There aren't many words to adequately sum up this magical weekend organized by Rajat Parr, but suffice to say, it was incredibly special. While lunches and dinners saw tables lined with everything from DRC to Raveneau to Conterno to Selosse, the true walk-away experience for me was what I found in Bruno Schueller's Alsatian Pinot Gris Reserve.
Today, I'm happy to offer Schueller's 2017 and 2011 Pinot Gris Reserve for $44 per bottle, and down to $41 per bottle on vertical 2-packs.
Schueller's Pinot Gris Reserve comes from Grand Cru vineyards Eichberg and Pfersigberg, both with heavily limestone-dominant soils, perched west high above Colmar at the start of the dense forests of the Vosges mountains. The "Reserve" denotes extra time in barrel, and like every aspect of Bruno's approach, it's this methodical and patient pace that informs what we find in bottle.
The Pinot Gris Reserve takes everything you've come to expect from top Grand Cru Alsace and adds about three more gears and revs up the RPM's for a level of complexity and layered depth that's in a league of its own. White peach and nectarine meet electric-charged green apple and meyer lemon, with honeysuckle and ginger notes wrapping up in an almond paste finish and a pulverized sense of minerality.Of course, tasting notes are subjective and a bit silly, but I want to impart a touch of the story on the diverse personality at hand here.
Schueller's magic in bottle is very much traced to an extremely long growing season for his varieties, assisted by pronounced leaf cover that allows his vines to be harvested weeks after his neighbors, still maintaining equal sugar levels. There is no ploughing, nearly zero use of sulphur sprays, and there are no additives used in the cellar.Long aging for the Pinot Gris Reserve takes place in his frigid cellar in large, old foudre.
At $44 per bottle, and down to $41 on vertical packs, Schueller's wizardry reflects everything that is so exciting in the discovery of wine and new producers still floating under-the-radar. Of course, like all great things, availability is limited. Today, we have only 12 bottles only of each vintage.
The Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger is the source of the most quintessential chalky and dead-serious blanc de blancs champagnes of all. Here, the name Pierre Péters exists in rare company with the likes of Jacques Selosse, Krug and Salon. Chardonnay excels in Mesnil's porous, chalky slopes and there's no producer that covers the entire range like Pierre Péters.
Today, I'm happy offer a wide collection from Champagne Pierre Péters, starting of course, with the flagship Cuvée Réserve with special pricing.The non-vintage Cuvée Réserve, 100% Chardonnay sourced entirely from grand cru villages, is the reference point for the Côtes de Blancs. Sourced from 63 parcels and supplemented by the perpetual reserve.While the story behind Pierre Péters warrants significant time, I'd like to start with some technical information gleaned during my visit that really helped me understand exactly why the wines are as focused and profound as they are.- Mesnil's unique broken chalky soil allows vines to easily travel deep, picking up nutrients and mineral expressions from this bedrock, in turn, supplying the wines with that chalk-inflected and unmistakable saline note that stands apart from even the neighboring villages in the Côte de Blancs. If Mesnil is winter, then Avize is summer, Crammant fall, and Oger spring. - Stainless steel is used for the aging here (with the exception of reserve wines, we will get to that later). The use of oak in Mesnil is believed to bring a nutty character that may work well in many other villages, but here it becomes far too pronounced and detracts from the taut and straight-line focus that is its calling card. In short, stainless steel provides a balance that is ideal for Mesnil Chardonnay.- There's a maximum of 3 hours between harvesting a cluster to the time it is pressed. In the world of white winemaking this is as rapid as it gets. The idea is that degradation of Chardonnay will begin, even in the most faint respects, after this 3 hour period has passed. The extremely rare luxury of two pneumatic presses allows for pressing on an ideal, un-rushed schedule.- There's a noble bitterness and citrus pith note to the fruit here matched with the salinity that's the foundation for the house style. Ultimately, in my estimation, the most crystalline reflection of chalky terroir. With age (yes, the NV warrants cellaring too) the nutty and slightest of caramel notes can arise. If I had to choose one village to visit in bottle after decades, it would be Mesnil for this wild combo.- An average of 65% of this Chardonnay completes malolactic fermentation. In cooler years, this percentage can rise to 80%. Fuller the malo, more creamy the texture. In ripe years such as 2003 and 2009 the partial blocking of malo maintains the tension of structure that otherwise would become too flabby.
- The perpetual blend (source of reserve wine) was started in 1997 and contains wine from: 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996. Vintages like 1999 and 2003 were excluded, for instance, because they brought a hefty weight that was not ideal.
- Before 1997, instead of using a perpetual blend, Rodolphe's father chose single vintage reserve tanks to pull from to supplement the NV.
- Today, the perpetual reserve is kept in a combination of three formats:Stockinger foudre (wood) 18%, concrete 38%, and steel 44%. The foudre brings fine tannins and faint nutty development. The concrete brings out the chalky character, while paradoxically keeping the lees settled. The steel brings the bright citrus and fresh fruit qualities.- The L'Esprit is sourced from 4 parcels contained in Grand Cru village: Mesnil, Cramant, and Avize. (ALL LARGE FORMAT NV RESERVE IS ACTUALLY 100% L'ESPRIT)
- Oubliée Reserve taps the three best reserve vessels (foudre, concrete, steel) and then spends two years in steel tank.
- L'Etonnant Monsieur Victor is a newer bottling that taps the best tank of Les Chétillons, the best Reserve wine, and the Oubilée.
The transition from grower to grower-producer is never a seamless one. Pierre Péters historically sold all grapes to large champagne houses until 1919 when Camille Péters chose to bottle his first wine. Camille's son Pierre, only 12 years old, took an interest in the newly formed estate, showing wines at exhibitions in Paris. Upon Camille's passing, Pierre took control of production in 1944 at the age of 24. It was under his tenure that new vineyards were acquired, attention to detail grew, and the estate Pierre Péters rose in stature.Of Pierre's two sons, Jacques went on to become Chef de Cave at Clicquot and François chose to stay at the domaine. The choice by François was not necessarily an easy one, as at this time the larger houses like Clicquot cast a large shadow on the more emerging grower-producer movement. Pierre saw fame and accolades while François continued to fight the good fight, honing in on improving his vineyards and working closely with his contemporaries. François was a founding member of the Special Club.François's eldest son, Rodolphe began to focus on wine after initially studying marine biology. A close friend convinced him of the spectacularly rare gift that awaited him at home. Rodolphe earned an Oenology degree and an MBA before working in various aspects of the wine trade. He joined his father in 2000, and in 2008 he took control of production. Over the last decade Rodolphe has taken the Pierre Péters to even greater heights. The estate now covers 18 hectares primarily in Le Mesnil (45 of 63 parcels), as well as vines in grand crus, Cramant and Avize. In 4000 Champagnes, Richard Juhlin sums up the estate well:"Pierre Péters is a hidden treasure of Champagne . . . and the prices are laughable considering the quality of the wines.”