Visiting with Christoph Schaefer seven years ago at his family's cellar at the foot of the wickedly steep Domprobst vineyard of Graach (pictured above) was an unforgettable experience. The wines have long impressed me for their featherweight lightness and mineral spring purity of fruit. The balance found throughout the wines coming from the Mosel River Valley captivate us at every turn, but, for me, those from Willi Schaefer sit in a select category. Along with J.J. Prüm, this is where the Mosel reaches its crescendo.
Today, I'm happy to offer the full range of in-stock Willi Schaefer Rieslings.
The list covers current releases as well as extreme rarities. Value can be found with age, now at 15 years the 2004 Riesling QBA at $34/btl is a great example of the magic capable of developing in bottle. And, several Auction (Grosser Ring) bottlings with a big emphasis on the epic 2001 vintage certainly marks the highlight of this group.
Schaefer's minute holding of 4.2 hectares almost exclusively focuses on two vineyards in the village of Graach, the Himmelreich and Domprobst - both comprised of Devonian slate soils.
The Himmelreich, in its youth, is the more approachable, fruity, and silky. Lots of citrus and white peach tend to dominate. There's an agility and sense of weightlessness to Himmelreich that personifies the magic of the Mosel.
The Domprobst is the more deep, spicy, and powerful. Earthy characteristics reveal themselves here in wines with slightly higher acidity. Flavor profile tends to push further away from the citrus register and into yellow and red orchard fruit notes.
An epic retrospective tasting of the wines from Giuseppe Rinaldi were featured by Antonio Galloni in Vinous in May of 2017. This dinner in London was complete with vintages spanning 1990-2010. Looking back at these notes recently was the impetus for today's offer. A visit just before harvest in 2012 to the cantina was one of my very fondest memories of travels on the wine route. It was a true privilege to meet the family and taste the wines, including the monumental 2010's still in botti.
Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range from Giuseppe Rinaldi stretching back to the epic 1967 Brunate Riserva.
The first wines labeled under Giuseppe Rinaldi came in 1921 (pictured below). Battista Rinaldi continued the tradition at the estate in 1945, and after his passing his son Beppe returned home in 1992. Beppe's spirit over the last decades has been even more immortalized than the legendary wines he's produced. It was over this span that worldwide attention on Piedmont had gradually increased, and even in the last 15 years pricing and scarcity of the wines has drastically changed. In 2010 Beppe's daughter's Marta and Carlotta began making the wines, continuing in the same traditional fashion.
Along with drinking the wines of Bartolo Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno, Rinaldis are among the most memorable I've had in Barolo. They appeal to every aspect of the senses and continually remind me that no matter how articulate experiences can be conveyed the true magic of them is a deeply personal one.
As noted by Galloni, most of the production from this cantina had been sold to private customers. Finding back-vintage wines is not a common occurrence today. I was thrilled to be able to work over the last year with Rinaldi's US importer, Vinifera Imports, to acquire several older wines directly from the Rinaldi estate.
Rinaldi is a revered traditionalist, following the techniques Battista and Giuseppe had employed in the early and mid 1900's. Wines are macerated on their skins for a long time, and aging takes place large botti. The results are powerful, deep Barolos that are met with the precision and aromatics that make them incomparable. They offer wild spices, gamey notes, and of course Nebbiolo's tell-tale tar and roses.
Essentially two Barolos were made, the Brunate-Le Coste and the Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera. Laws recently changed and now multiple crus aren't permitted on labels. Starting in 2010 the Brunate-Le Coste was bottled with a higher 85% Brunate and just 15% Le Coste (the maximum legal addition). The Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera began to implement wine from Le Coste and the new name for the bottling is "Tre Tine" (three vats).
The highlight through eight days in Burgundy in July 2018 was undoubtedly visiting for the first time with Frédéric Lafarge in Volnay. The village is synonymous with grace and delicacy, but ardent collectors know in the traditional realm they can be among the most long-lived in Burgundy. The wines of Domaine Michel Lafarge are models for this tightrope act of finesse and tension, and they are among my favorites for this reason precisely.
Today, I'm happy to offer a deep lineup from Domaine Michel Lafarge, highlighted by one of the regions's greatest value Pinot Noir, the Bourgogne Rouge from 2015 & 2014.
The Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from one hectare of 41-52 yr-old vines in the lieu dit, Petit Pré. Within the context of this most humble Burgundy appellation, Lafarge's example is the stuff I simply dream to drink on a nightly basis. It's highlighted by a purity and ethereal lift that's almost never realized at this level in Burgundy.
Domaine Michel Lafarge was founded in the early 1800's, and today is managed by Michel, with his son Frédéric, and granddaughter Clothilde. The trio has seen dramatic trends sweep through Burgundy in their time. During the 1950's, vignerons started incorporating chemicals in the vineyard, but Lafarge never considered it. In the mid to late 80's when the practice of elevated extraction was rampant this domaine continued their own path founded on transparency. And then in 1995, Lafarge was one of the very first to begin biodynamic practices in the vineyard.
Tradition can mean so many things in Burgundy, but the use of hand-destemming and reliance on nearly all older barrels for aging places the domaine in a very specific position.
It may be unfair to jump in categorizing Volnay as feminine and ethereal, leading one to believe the wines lack the rigid structure required for serious aging. Michel Lafarge touched on this really eloquently in his terrific interview with Levi Dalton on I'll Drink to That! Wine Podcast:
"It's difficult to achieve the silkiness in tannins, but in Volnay it's unacceptable to have hardness. It's the silkiness of the tannins that define the overriding definition of Volnay."
Domaine Lafarge holds vineyards primarily in Volnay, with plots in Pommard, Beaune, and Meursault. All wines have a regal frame met with the translucent qualities that put terroir firmly in the crosshairs. Volnay may not have Grand Cru vineyards, but if given the opportunity to drink any Côte de Beaune reds, my first choice is always Volnay.
Volnay Vendanges Sélectionnées comes from multiple parcels in the middle of Volnay adjacent to Premier Cru vineyards. 1.25 hectares of 50-yr-old vines. Aged in 7% new wood.
Beaune 1er Cru Clos des Aigrots comes from a 0.88 hectare parcel of vines planted as far back as 1949. Soil here is limestone and clay, but with a mix of gravel and red clay.
Beaune 1er Cru Grèves comes from a 0.38 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1951 on light gravel soils over limestone.
Volnay 1er Cru Les Caillerets comes from a 0.28 hectare parcel planted in 1957 on red and brown clay soils over limestone. Aged in 15% new wood.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos du Château des Ducs (Monopole) comes from a 0.57 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1946 on deep brown clay soils over limestone. This vineyard is owned exclusively by Lafarge and located next to their home garden. Aged in neutral oak.
Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes comes from a 0.9 hectare parcel planted as far back as 1951 on shallow red clay soils over limestone on the lower portion of the vineyard.
Two things initially jumped out when visiting Saumur in the Loire River Valley. The idyllic, undulating hills perfectly matched my notion of pastoral France, but I hadn't the first clue on where to spot the grand terroir. Since the middle ages, the hill of Brézé was esteemed as any white wine terroir in France, but the secret was in the bedrock of this unassuming, gentle slope.
Here, the famed tuffeau limestone is the backbone of France's single most celebrated Chenin Blanc, Clos Rougeard's Brézé bottling, which surpasses $400 per bottle. But, the Brézé producer who offers the ultimate intersection between this site's brilliance and value is, undoubtedly, Romain Guiberteau. After mentoring under the Foucault family of Clos Rougeard, Guiberteau's eponymous domaine today captures Chenin Blanc at its most crystalline and pure.
Today, I'm happy to offer Guiberteau's top white and reds from the famous hill of Brézé.
For more than 100 years the Guiberteau's have farmed Saumur's hill of Brézé. But, it was when Romain left Clos Rougeard and implemented critical changes in the vineyard that quality began to soar. Unlike the Chenin Blanc coming from neighboring appellations where rounded, more overt orchard fruit dominates, in Saumur the alkaline limestone soils bring the same sense of cut and lacy minerality that shares much more in common with Chablis and Champagne.
Guiberteau's Brézé bottling comes from a 1.2 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1933 and 1952. This parcel's limestone soil also contains sand and clay, bringing a textural weight that balances the razor sharp focus from Brézé's tuffeau bedrock. Simply put, this is world class Chenin Blanc to rival top white Burgs.
Arboises is a 1 hectare, south-facing portion on Brézé of 1957-planted Cabernet Franc. Sand and silt sits over the limestone bedrock here. All grapes are de-stemmed. Aging takes place in 80% new French oak. This is a wickedly precise and mineral-driven style of Cabernet Franc that elicits Burgundy before Bourgueil.
Les Motelles is another 1 hectare parcel of Cabernet Franc vines, planted in 1955 on sand and gravel above clay. As you'd imagine, versus Arboises, there is more breadth and density on the palate here, but the absence of weight is a perfect example of Guiberteau's deft touch. Aged in 2-3 year-old French barrels.
Saumur Rouge comes from a 2 hectare parcel of 1955 & 1957-planted Cabernet Franc over silt and sand over a softer limestone. 100% de-stemmed and aged in steel. The quintessential example of how sophistication Cabernet Franc is capable of does not need to be tied to price.
Les Moulins comes from a 1.9 hectare portion of Chenin Blanc vines ranging from 7 to 80-yrs-old planted on sand over a limestone-clay mix. Aged in stainless steel. Nervy, supremely fresh, dominated by citrus tones that slowly open to reveal more typical orchard fruit and faint lanolin.
Clos des Guichaux comes from a 1.3 hectare parcel of Chenin Blanc planted on silt and sand over limestone. Vines were planted in 2003. Aged 9 months in neutral oak. As compared to Les Moulins, the enclosed Guichaux has an intensity and long finish that belies the younger age of these vines.
The long-used selling point for the wines of Brézé have been that they're the first place in the Loire Valley for white Burgundy collectors to turn. But, at the highest order from Guiberteau (and Clos Rougeard), these are whites that simply exist among the most royal in all of France.
Tempier defies all rules of the rosé category. In 1941, the domaine just about single-handedly petitioned the Bandol appellation into existence. While there's a push each year to get the new vintage of their rosé on the market to quench the ever-increasing thirst of summer's appetite, the best of Tempier's rosé is always yet to come through bottle development.
That's why today I'm happy to offer the 2018 & 2016 Tempier Rosé, complete with special pricing on mixed 4-packs.
The blend of the rosé is 55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, and 20% Cinsault, planted on limestone and clay just above the Mediterranean coast. Much of the secret of this highly coveted pink is in its ability to transform over time, continuing to hold onto that critical freshness. Visiting the domaine in July 2016 again proved these back vintage rosés and reds deserve their place atop France's hierarchy of cherished estates.