• Electric Slide to Jura: François Rousset-Martin

    Electric Slide to Jura: François Rousset-Martin

    I’ve had an insatiable craving for Jura Chardonnay ever since drinking Stéphane Tissot's Les Bruyères Chardonnay. Granted, that was several years ago, and Tissot is a rare fish in the Jura's sea of white wines, many of them being too reductive, and the reds often too brett-heavy. But searching for other gems, François Rousset-Martin is a recent discovery that jolted my love for the Jura back to life.

    The Château-Chalon appellation is best known for its sherry-like vin jaune wines, made from the Savagnin grape and aged under a veil of flor. But François is more interested in the ouillé (or topped-up) style and exploring micro-terroir (similar to what Stéphane Tissot has done in Arbois). He farms almost two-dozen small parcels (all of which are a hectare or less) in Château-Chalon and Côtes du Jura. Like the rest of the Jura, the soils are abundant in clay, marl, and limestone. Château-Chalon doesn't appear on any bottle labels, as these do not follow the custom vin jaune style.

    François grew up in Burgundy, and his family has owned and farmed a parcel of vines in the Jura for generations. His interest in the science and terroir of wine stems from his father (He was a microbiologist for the Hospices de Beaune), and it was his great grandfather who taught him about the family's mystical winemaking lore. Rousset-Martin earned an enology degree and apprenticed in Rhône and Languedoc before starting his domaine in 2007. He vinifies each wine by climat (or parcel) with little to no sulfur and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

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    Photo Credit: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Côte Chalonnaise Champion: Vincent Dureuil

    Côte Chalonnaise Champion: Vincent Dureuil

    It’s not every day that we spotlight Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise. However, there is one producer that we’re thrilled with: Vincent Dureuil in Rully. Vincent is a favorite producer among Burgundy’s circle of vignerons. With fervent backing from wine critic William Kelley, he’s getting his long-overdue spotlight in the mainstream. Allocations have dramatically shrunk, but today's offer includes several cases of Vincent's flagship Rully Blanc. In short, these humble Rully wines rise to the occasion of white Burgundy’s top echelon.

    Rully sits on the northernmost border of the Côte Chalonnaise, just five miles south of Chassagne Montrachet, and therefore shares similar clay and limestone soils to the Côte de Beaune. The Rully Village comes from old vines across four lieu-dits and the Maizières from a single vineyard planted in 1997, after Vincent took over. Both wines are made in the same manner: Native fermentation in barrel with some stirring of the lees and 12 months of aging (20% new oak). The Rully is a clear picture of the cool, classic 2017 vintage, and Maizières’s east-facing exposure and clay-based soils always express bolder orchard fruit.

    Vincent showed a keen talent for winemaking from an early age. He took over his family's domaine when he was 24 years old. For three decades, Vincent has upheld his appellation’s ability to produce as elegant and terroir-driven wines as anywhere else in Burgundy. He transitioned to organic farming in the mid-2000s and continues to skillfully care for the vines planted by his grandfather in 1949. Domaine Dureuil-Janthial epitomizes the purity and elegance we long for in white Burgundy!

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    Photo Credit: North Berkeley Imports

    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Willamette Valley Star: Walter Scott

    Willamette Valley Star: Walter Scott

    The pinnacle of the range from Erica Landon and Ken Pahlow of Walter Scott rests with their X Novo and Seven Springs Vineyard Chardonnays, though the Pinot Noirs are also among the best in America today. These are Grand Cru-level expressions of Eola-Amity Hills!

    Most of the 1983-planted Seven Springs Vineyard was devastated by phylloxera, until 2007, when Raj Parr and Sashi Moorman of Evening Land leased and revitalized the vineyard. Walter Scott is one of the few wineries with access to this site, sourcing less than two acres of Chardonnay from the south ridge.

    Pahlow's annual harvest visits to work alongside Dominique Lafon must have left a mark, as his Chardonnays elicit Burgundy's precise form of noble reduction and filigree. Notes of crushed oyster shell, lemon zest, and mouth-watering salinity are at the forefront, but like Comtes Lafon's brilliant whites, these are all about fine-grained texture and balance.

    If Walter Scott's Chardonnays are a master class in tension and balance, then the Pinot Noirs stand out for their silken tannin structure and full-bodied, concentrated style. The suave frame and harmony of fruit and earth meld perfectly with the slight whole cluster addition (15%) and modest application of new oak (35%).

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Anjou Outlier: Pierre Menard

    Anjou Outlier: Pierre Menard

    Pierre Menard reaches cult status in Europe for his lieu-dit (single-vineyard) Chenin Blancs. Still, I'm choosing to begin this producer introduction with a different wine, the Laïka Sauvignon Blanc. Simply put, Chenin gets the prime slopes in Anjou, where schist dominates, and the flatlands with boring soils may see some Sauvignon Blanc. However, Menard discovered one of the first Sauvignon Blanc parcels in this region, the tiny 1957-planted Clos de la Roche, located atop a slope in Faye d'Anjou.

    Before tasting Laïka, you'd be well served to expel any notion of what this variety's personality is about to deliver. "Typical" grapefruit and lime fade into the background, much like earth did when the first living creature, the dog Laïka, was rocketed into space in 1957 (hence, the name). Those flavors are replaced by saffron butter, a kaleidoscope of yellow fruits, and a mineral underpinning that only the schist-laden slopes of Anjou convey. A Parisian bistro summer sipper, this is not.

    The fermentation and aging regimen is as progressive as Menard's desire to work with this Anjou outcast grape variety. Older barrels, sandstone amphora, and tank are the vessels that combine to give us Laïka. Only a few cases enter the U.S. each year, and I'm thrilled to offer a 3-vintage vertical today. Also, do not miss his stellar Chenin Blancs below, in equally small quantities.

    We don't focus on many sweet/dessert wines outside of German Riesling, but Menard's "Cosmos" Coteaux du Layon (500ml bottles) blew us away last month, and it's the perfect pairing for cheese or dessert.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • First-Class Chablis: 2021 Famille Savary

    First-Class Chablis: 2021 Famille Savary

    Savary's old-vine bottling captures everything I love about Chablis: Crushed oyster shell, cool-fruited citrus, green apple, etc. This old-vine cuvée from Chablis's famed Kimmeridgian slopes is a great value wine to go deep on.

    Much of Chablis is harvested too early, with many vignerons resting their laurels on the iconic appellation printed on the label. Savary is a prime example of what the region can do at its very best, pushing ripeness in this frigid climate to the maximum while preserving tension. For the Vielles Vignes cuvéee, fermentation occurs in 20% neutral wood and 80% stainless steel. It then ages in neutral demi-muid barrels.

    Olivier Savary follows a long history of vignerons, but due to challenging vintages, his parents chose not to continue the family domaine. Olivier had to start over when he finished enology school in Dijon. Since 1984, he and his wife, Francine, slowly built what was once lost. A serendipitous introduction to importer Kermit Lynch by François Raveneau brought these wines to the States.

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    Posted by Max Kogod