At this moment, there's no white wine in America that pulls me in with more excitement than the Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay. As much as its mesmerizing style is all about the extreme site, this rare saline-driven California Chardonnay has a delicious-factor that I cannot get over.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay for $48 per bottle.
Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr established two wineries in the Santa Rita Hills to tap the ultimate potential from this extreme, marginal climate within eyesight of the Pacific. The north-facing Bentrock vineyard lies on shale and diatomaceous soils, the sort that call to mind the chalky limestone in Meursault's higher elevation sites. This poor soil in Bentrock endows a great sense of minerality, but also naturally keeps yields low and concentration of fruit very high.
These nitrogen deficient soils have an interesting effect during fermentation, and without wandering too far down this path we can say that a lack of oxygen creates areductive style of wine. In the most deft execution in Burgundy we may call this noble reduction.
The interplay between fresh apple, white peach with the crushed rock, seashell component throughout is just mesmerizing. The finish hints at the faintest note of caramel carried through with awesome salinity, making this glass impossible to set down. Every element of the wine reaches out to different senses, still composed in a tightly-knit and beautifully balanced mold.
Speaking about Bentrock and leaving out the name Jean-Marc Roulot is difficult for me. When you taste the wine you immediately sense the kindred spirit, with this magical reductive element meshing with spectacular grace and delicacy. Sashi and Raj are both close with the Meursault superstar, and countless visits between the three in both Santa Rita Hills and Meursault have left an indelible mark on the winemaking philosophy.
If one component of Bentrock stands out the most it's surely the quickness and ease in finishing the bottle - the ultimate attribute of greatness. Burgundian sensibilities may be deeply rooted here, but Bentrock is a testament to the heights that terroir-driven California Chardonnay can achieve.
"The 2017 Felseneck Grosses Gewächs is yet another utterly brilliant young wine...with a rock solid core, laser-like focus and great cut and grip on the complex, long and utterly seamless finish. This is pure magic."
- John Gilman of View from the Cellar
To nobody's surprise, Tim Frölich has yet again set the bar for dry Riesling in 2017 with his Felseneck GG. Today I'm happy to offer both the 2017 and 2016 vintages with special pricing on mixed 4-packs.
The Felseneck is a prime 7.5 hectare vineyard composed of an unusual mix of blue Devonian slate, basalt, and quartz. Within the range of GG's from Fröhlich it's the Felseneck that has always been the most uncompromising in its rigor and incisive mineral thread. It's built upon grace not reliant on showy tendencies of forward ripeness, instead displaying its white stone fruit in a velvet glove and relentless sense of grip.
The descriptors may give the impression of serious austerity in Felseneck, but all these elements are prerequisites for the intense and driving finish that puts this bottling in a category unto itself.
There's no producer in Germany who's seen a meteoric rise to stardom like that of the Nahe's Tim Fröhlich. In 2005 he was named Newcomer of the Year by Gault-Millau, and in 2010 their Winemaker of the Year - the youngest ever to receive the honor. The range at Schäfer-Fröhlich has somehow continued to improve even from the estate's magical vintages produced over the past decade.
Sylvain Pataille is famous for three things. Producing some of the most texturally seamless and balanced wines in the Côte de Nuits, serving as oenologist to over 15 other domaines, and having really, really awesome hair. Visiting at the domaine on my birthday in July ended up being a masterclass in terroir, as we tasted over 20 different wines from Marsannay.
Today, I'm happy to offer my favorite red from Sylvain Pataille, the 2016 Marsannay Clos du Roy for $64 per bottle.
Marsannay and Pataille are a match made in heaven. Both have seemingly flown under-the-radar for far too long. Search through any savvy Burgundy collector's cellar and next to the Rousseau and Dujac you're sure to find a host of Pataille Marsannay.
Located in the very north of the Côte de Nuits above Gevrey Chambertin, the village has a complicated history. Planted with Gamay during the time of classifications, by law no vineyards could receive status higher than villages. But, today there is no debate, Clos du Roy would undoubtedly be a Premier Cru.
The "Kings Vineyard" is comprised of a mix of light red clay and sand on top of Comblanchien limestone, with vines planted as far back as 1952. Pataille is a big proponent of whole cluster fermentation, and we see 100% here.
I buy Pataille's Clos du Roy vintage after vintage because it's a steal within the hierarchy of Burgundy's elite bottlings. It always finds that elusive mix between power and elegance. There's never any shyness from Clos du Roy, but the silken tannins Pataille endows here without relying on overt new oak influence is remarkable.
While Sylvain's wines are fabulous from top to bottom, the Clos du Roy is the bottling that demands the greatest admiration. At $59 per bottle, this is the Côte de Nuits' best and most serious value play year after year.
* Addtionally, I've listed an Aligote (1949-planted) and Chardonnay (1985-planted) from Pataille's La Charmes Aux Prêtres vineyard in Marsannay. I've never found a white vineyard in the Côte de Nuits that rivals the same fascination and delicious factor from what Pataille has bottled here. This very porous vineyard produces both Aligote and Chardonnay with extremely pronounced reductive traits (flinty, matchstick, smokey) in its wines. Côte de Nuits whites are known for their weightier texture and more broad shouldered personality. While this is true even here, the reductive element adds a fresh, saline streak I find absolutely captivating. While not inexpensive, these two unique cuvées are among my favorites in all of Burgundy. Do not miss them!
I've been waiting a long time for this offer. In 2016 I had the pleasure of visiting with Amélie Berthaut at her family's small domaine in Fixin. To date, it was one of the most memorable visits I've ever had. Or course the wines tasted were an integral part of that, but it also marked a rare moment where I understood the obscurity of this vigneron was going to change at a pace like I've never witnessed before. Indeed, today's very small allocation of her 2016 vintage is proof of that.
A few weeks ago in Los Angeles I tasted through all of Amélie's 2016's in bottle with her importer. Coming off the heels of her fantastic 2015's, truly, I was not prepared for just how thrilling the 2016's would show.
Today, I'm happy to offer a very limited allocation of the 2016 Berthaut-Gerbet wines. Covered are humble appellations like Hautes Côte de Nuits through monumental vineyards such as Grand Cru Clos Vougeot, and her 1900-planted Vosne Romanée Les Suchots.
The elephant in the room today is the small quantities available. That's why I implore you to strongly consider going deep on the one wine with good availability, with possibly more coming this week: the 2016 Fixin Les Crais. The 2015 rendition was hands down the Burgundy highlight from customer responses last year. The 2016 personifies Amélie's unique strength in balancing sweet, forward fruit, with grace and underlying mineral tension.
Fixin is Pinot Noir territory, and much like the wines from Gevrey Chambertin we see a dark and powerful expression from these rocky, marl-dominant soils. Les Crais is a 1.38 hectare lieu-dit with vines planted as far back as 1946 on extremely rocky and well-drained soils.
Carved into stone at the domaine are the words, Ien faire vax miev que dir, “Doing right is better than talk.” Amélie proved again in 2016 her soft spoken nature and serious commitment to viticulture informs everything that's come to realization in bottle. This lineup is not to be missed.
Syrah shows many different sides in California, from San Diego north through Mendocino. But, one thing is understood here by all: There's no producer in the state whose passion for the variety surpasses that of Pax Mahle.
For many years Pax has worked with a wide range of Syrah vineyards in California bottled under the Pax label, as well as Wind Gap. He's become obsessed with tapping vineyards on the extreme to prove the grape can flourish in conditions many thought were far too marginal. His fascination and love of the variety can be traced back to the traditionalists of the Northern Rhone Valley, the birthplace of Syrah. In 2016 Pax chose to pay tribute to one of the legends of the old guard, Raymond Trollat of Saint Joseph.
The 2016 Sonoma-Hillsides was met with, well, an enthusiasm from critics that wasn't short of praise, literally. The Vinous review can be found below without a score listed, per our custom. The 2017 marks the 2nd-ever bottling of this hommage.
As one would imagine, Sonoma-Hillsides is again 100% whole cluster fermented. Sourcing comes from three vineyards Pax feels capture the essence of cooler climate hillside California Syrah. Castelli-Knight Ranch and Walker Vine Hill from Russian River Valley, and the iconic Griffin's Lair vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Through Pax's illustrious career it's sites like these that have best expressed the fresh and vibrant personality that Syrah is capable of. His visits with Trollat and other vignerons in the Rhone have been a huge influence on his viticulture and vinification practices.
At 12.9% the Sonoma-Hillsides cuvée exemplifies everything that's so thrilling about the more savory, spicy, and mineral-inflected qualities of Syrah. Trollat, whose vines are now farmed by Gonon, personified the soul and authenticity found in the best of Saint-Joseph. Pax, too, stands as a benchmark for what other producers in California aspire to craft, having served as a mentor to much of the younger generation of winemakers. He has a long history with the variety here, but it's this hommage to Raymond Trollat that hit the sweet spot with me more so than any other bottling to date. This is not to be missed!
Antonio Galloni's Vinous review of the last release, the 2016:
"The 2016 Syrah Sonoma-Hillsides has been nothing less than stunning on the three occasions I have tasted it so far. A wine of extraordinary purity and depth, the 2016 dazzles from the very first taste. The richness and power are simply breathtaking. Bacon fat, smoke, grilled herb and lavender are woven into a graceful, seamless core of inky blue/purplish fruit. Even with all of its intensity, the 2016 remains remarkably light on its feet. The Sonoma-Hillsides is a blend of fruit from Castelli-Knight Ranch, Griffin's Lair and Walker Vine Hill, done with 100% whole clusters and aged in a combination of concrete and neutral oak, with no SO2. I am not sure how the 2016 will age, but I am also not sure it will matter, as most bottles will be long gone before that is an issue. Quite simply, the Sonoma-Hillsides is a total pleasure bomb and a modern-day benchmark for Syrah in California. Don't miss it!