• The 2017 Alsatian Sensations:   André Ostertag Dry Riesling

    The 2017 Alsatian Sensations: André Ostertag Dry Riesling

    Although my focus on Alsatian wines is very narrow, André Ostertag's 2017 release was the first thing I jumped on when importer, Kermit Lynch's new arrivals were announced. And, tasting this new vintage recently with the domaine's manager, Thomas Lamoyer, again cemented Ostertag's position in the Alsatian hierarchy as I see it.

    Ostertag has long gone against the grain of Alsatian expectations, crafting dry, disciplined wines that still summon the sunshine that most marks the region. His Fronholz and Grand Cru Muenchberg Rieslings both highlight a vintage imbued with, as André aptly describes, the transparency and purity of a mountain lake. This is the moment of clarity for Alsace.

    Many elements stand André Ostertag apart from the norm. He studied viticulture in Burgundy, returning home to employ organic and biodynamic principles in the vineyard in 1998. He also chose to ferment and age his Rieslings completely dry in stainless steel. Even though Alace is tucked into the cool northeast pocket of France, its protection from the Vosges Mountains means it receives the very least amount of rainfall of any region. This abudnand sunshine has long given Alsatian wines a rounded and golden orchard fruit quality, often with a dollop of residual sugar.

    Ostertag showcases his departure from this style the vey best in these two ulta-focused, dry Rieslings: 

    Fronholz comes from a one hectare parcel located at the very top of this southwest-facing slope. Quartz, clay, and marl are all featured here, but it's the particular white sand most responsible for the finely-etched mineral component. Bracing acidity met with late afternoons bathed in sunshine give a pitch perfect balance. A cool white peach, ginger, and faint honeyed quality are all kept dry, chiseled, and racy.

    Muenchberg is Grand Cru Alsace at its most regal. "Muench" is derived from the Cistercian monks who first planted vines here in the 11th centrury. The south-facing amphitheater is composed of pink sandstone, volanic sediment, and limestone. At 300 meters above sea level, Muenchberg is all about definition and lenghth of finish. It's unmistakably Grand Cru, harnessing those oily, textural peach and green apple notes, but with a flinty crushed rock character that finishes as if minerality were dancing on the palate.

    Today, Alsace is famous for having the highest percentage of organic and biodynmic producers in all of France. While the quality at harvest couldn't be higher, I still find few producers that execute with a similar crystalline sense of harmony that Ostertag is so adored for. 2017 and its ultra-precise style is exactly the vintage I look for here.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Alsatian Supernova:  Bruno Schueller Mind-Bending Pinot Gris Reserve

    Alsatian Supernova: Bruno Schueller Mind-Bending Pinot Gris Reserve

    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.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • 2016 Savoie Fresh Streak:    Domaine des Ardoisières Schiste & Argile

    2016 Savoie Fresh Streak: Domaine des Ardoisières Schiste & Argile

    Over the last few years I've found myself reaching more and more for new cool climate French wines, and the summer is no exception. The one region that has captured my attention the very most is the Savoie, located just along the Swiss border in view of Mont Blanc. Although history is as steep as the slopes here, it's a younger domaine that's arguably making the most exciting wines. When I'm craving those cool alpine inflections and mineral spring purity in both whites and reds, it's Domaine des Ardoisières I turn to. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the two wines from Ardoisières that bring the greatest thrills and the most electric mineral intensity, the Schiste Blanc and Argile Rouge. 

    Ardoisières works with two sites in the Savoie, 
    Cevins and St. Pierre de Soucy, both farmed biodynamically since its 1998 founding. Although, these same vineyards had been planted back in Roman times, but had become taken over by forests as the region fell into obscurity. A group had cleared these forests in the late 1990's for replanting, and then in 2005 Champagne native, Brice Omont took the lead on winemaking. This small-production estate has become the darling of the Savoie, and has been a champion in making the case for the region's great potential. 

    Ardoisières' most mineral-driven and age-worthy white, Schiste, is comprised of
     40% Jacquere with 30% Roussanne, 20% Pinot Gris, and 10% Mondeuse Blanche. These decomposed granite soils in Cevins give a racy personality with a pulverized rocky core that make it one of my favorite crisp whites in all of France. There's a yellow stone fruit quality that's backed up by a laser-like mineral precision that brings superb freshness. On a steamy Bordeaux night last month I stumbled onto a killer wine bar and it took me about 10 seconds to make this selection from a sea of gems. In all, that first glass may have been the single most satisfying one through my three week tour. 

    The top red of the domaine, Argile, is comprised of 80% Gamay and 20% Persan coming from the clay-dominant soils of 
    St. Pierre de Soucy. As compared to the Gamay we're all more accustomed to from Beaujolais, this Savoie rendition has a lighter body and more pepper tones with a super pronounced mineral finish. The fruit profile is more in the red raspberry realm vs. those plush grape-ey traits from Beaujolais. And the finish lingers with a brisk mineral flicker that's lip-smacking good!
    Posted by Alexander Rosen