Descending into the cellar with Dominique at Comte Lafon, it became clear I was about to begin a comprehensive masterclass on White Burgundy. While Lafon's reds may still be the most under-appreciated Pinot Noirs of the Côte de Beaune, his whites from an array of parcels in Meursault and the Macon are a gold standard.
The Macon wines see the same organic and biodynamic viticulture approach as his Meursault vines. The distinction between the two in the cellar comes down to aging, with Macon's more luscious fruit finding the tension they need through aging in larger formats giving less oxygen exchange. Bottling also takes place well before the Meursault cuvées, again to preserve the snap and precision that works so well in this warmer, more southern appellation.
Le Monsard was a "wow" moment for me, even after tasting Lafon's excellent Meursaults. Likely the highest-altitude vineyard in Maconnais, this site sees warmer temperatures and a more fruit-forward profile than the Côte de Beaune, with another level of detail and mineral backbone.
Lafon's entire lineup from the Macon is terrific and well worth your attention, but the 2019 Viré-Clessé is in a league of its own. The wine embodies Macon's ability to turn out razor-precise Chardonnay, still founded upon the same regal structure that makes Lafon's Meursault so enviable. Of course, with much more palatable pricing!
Wineries like Werlitsch in Austria's Styria region perpetuate those dreamy biodynamic farm vibes we've seen springing up in Eastern Europe. Sure, the scenes are breathtaking and make for a good selling point, but what winemaker Ewald Tscheppe produces from his opok-rich soils restores our faith in the far reaches of natural wine.
Our team once blind-tasted the Ex Vero I together. It had a matchstick quality on the nose, followed by white florals, fresh citrus, coconut milk-like texture, and electric acidity on the palate. Still, the wine's focal point was its lively energy and slightly waxy texture. I guessed it was from the Jura, thinking it had a Burgundy gone rogue feeling, but it turned out to be a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (aka Chardonnay). Ex Vero is a three-part series showcasing the varied levels of altitude and soil composition on Werlitsch's steep hillside. These vines grow on limestone and clay soil rich in minerals and marine fossils, which locals refer to as opok. Frankly, the wines are unlike anything you'll taste from Austria or elsewhere.
Ewald and his friends discovered biodynamics while studying wine in the early 1980s. As a true devotee of the naturalist movement, he believes that nature always does it better—for him, that means gravity-flow winemaking, natural yeast, no temperature control, and no sulfur. In 2004, Ewald began to apply biodynamics to his family's estate, which also inhabits fruit trees, wild herbs, vegetables, and forests.
The careful study and delineation of Burgundy's vineyards over centuries mean there are secret cuvées to be had if you look close enough. Florence Cholet's Les Enseignères is precisely one of those wines whose magic is realized when you learn about this lieu dit's special real estate.
Puligny's Les Enseignères is located at the foot of Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet. As one can imagine, this site imbues the power and richness that Bâtard-Montrachet is famous for while still showcasing loads of saline-drenched minerality and verve. Truly a Puligny-Montrachet that delivers the regal frame and layered depth that's made it the most prized village for Chardonnay on the planet. Also, the Bourgogne Blanc is a new addition for us, sourced from Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault-adjacent vines.
2019 marks the domaine's transition from Christian Cholet-Pelletier to his daughter Florence Cholet. The winemaking at this four-generation domaine is traditional with a real focus on the vineyards. Neutral and second-year barrels are used for aging to minimize new oak influence. After one year in wood, the wine is moved to tank prior to bottling to ensure tension and structure remain highlighted.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside the Cholet-Pelletier family at various points during the 2012 growing season before my time at Domaine Dujac. It was at this domaine that I was introduced to Bernard Boisson. Like Boisson, these wines are produced in minuscule quantities. I've gone deep on the 2019 vintage, and there's no wine I've devoted more cellar space to than today's ultimate insider bottling.
Sitting with friends at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe with a platter of oysters is one of life's great pleasures. Zuni's wine list is one of the best in the city, and it's always a challenge to be decisive before the oysters arrive. However, a friend wasted no time choosing the perfect pairing of stainless steel Chablis: Louis Michel's famous Premier Cru, Montée de Tonnerre, or "Thunder Mountain," as it translates.
As the name might suggest, Montée de Tonnerre isn't your typical Premier Cru, and even more so in the proper hands. The southwest-facing slope sits next to the seven Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis along the right bank of the Serein river. The old vines here add a sense of grandeur, as the wine picks up flesh and deeper color with time.
Louis Michel was an innovator in the 1960s that moved away from barrel aging Chardonnay. Chablis's Kimmeridgian limestone soil was so unique that stainless steel was the ideal vessel to unmask its terroir. This domaine has always been synonymous with value, and Montée de Tonnerre is unquestionably a gem.
Perhaps no grower-producer in the Blanc de Blancs Champagne category nails the non-dosage form better than Larmandier-Bernier of Vertus. Ripe, forward fruit and full malolactic fermentation in oak help carry off this tight-rope balancing act. Larmandier-Bernier's early adoption of biodynamic viticulture has put these prime parcels in a position to turn out the very best, razor-precise examples of Chardonnay.
Terre de Vertus is a special selection of Larmandier-Bernier's top two mid-slope vineyards, Les Barilles and Les Faucherets. Aging four years on the lees also helps soften this cuvée's contours and allows its pulverized rock core to come through with beautiful harmony and balance. Larmandier-Bernier's cellar approach adds buffering texture and breadth to these inherently mineral-infused, laser-focused Champagnes.