Volnay and its high limestone content sit in rare company with Chambolle-Musigny as one of Burgundy's most ethereal and delicate examples of Pinot Noir. Looking at the duo of D'Angerville and De Montille we're at the apex of what's proven possible here over many decades. While there may be no Grand Crus in the village, savvy collectors know these top Premier Crus transform and go the long haul as well as nearly anything from the Côte de Nuits.
Pronounced structure and tightly-coiled mineral tension make D'Angerville and De Montille perfect domaines to stash in the cellar, yet each has a more open-knit style than has been standard in the past. Today's list covers 2016 through 1985.
D'Angerville's protocol on excluding punchdowns and relying solely on pumpovers for fermentation give these wines a plush and soft-fruited personality that meshes brilliantly with the chalky terroir of Volnay. This combo brings enough slight austerity to make these both delicious and supremely thought-provoking.
De Montille has always been associated with whole cluster ferments, and, in turn, that elevated exotic spice component and stemmy crunch had made these famous for their fortress-like persona of the Hubert de Montille era. As son Etienne has taken over, these past decades have been moving to round their structure out a bit and provide an earlier drinking window. The style here is not a huge shift from one generation to the next as much as it is simply keen on allowing wines to offer more joy and expression in the early-going.
Sitting with friends at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe with a platter of oysters is one of life's great pleasures. This occurs far less frequently than I'd like, but after returning from a vineyard tour in Mendocino I found myself there before a late flight back home. 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. A friend wasted no time in choosing the perfect pairing of stainless steel Chablis. There may be several trustworthy options in this group, but nothing exceeds Louis Michel. And no bottling brings more obvious value than his famous Premier Cru, Montée de Tonnerre - or as it translates, Thunder Mountain.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2014, 2016, & 2017 Louis Michel Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre.
Montée de Tonnerre, much like Gevrey's Clos Saint Jacques or Chambolle's Les Amoureuses, is really Premier Cru in name only given the proper hands. The south-west facing slope sits next to the 7 Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis along the right bank of the Serein river. In the northernmost region for still Chardonnay this SW exposure is vital to bring ripeness, one that seriously separates the great from the modest in Chablis.
Louis Michel was an innovator in the 1960's, moving away from barrel aging of Chardonnay. The Kimmeridgian limestone soil here was viewed as so unique that stainless steel was the more ideal vessel to fully unmask the terroir. Steely Chablis and oysters can be a great combo, but the old vines of Montée de Tonnerre bring a sense of grandeur that marches to a different beat.
Michel's Thunder Mountain is always a favorite selection for the cellar, as the wine picks up flesh and deeper color with time. The crushed oyster shell component that is exhibited on day one is met with sweet cream and hazelnut notes that slowly develop.
In the context of great white Burgundy vineyards, Montée de Tonnerre is always part of the elite group. The price tag can start at $230+ from some Chablis domaines. Louis Michel's lineup has always been synonymous with value, but at as low as $45 per bottle his Thunder Mountain is unquestionably the gem of the region.
Tasting the entire range with Raphael Bérêche last year was a masterclass in champagne precision. While this stable of artisanal wines are produced in very small quantities, the Coteaux Champenois Rouge is simply on a different scale. I'm thrilled to showcase two warm vintages where this rare bird soars.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 1999 and 2015 Bereche Coteaux Champenois Rouge Les Montées for $109 per bottle.
Bérêches's Les Montées is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from old vines in the Montagne de Reims. The grapes are only partially de-stemmed and the fermentation is done in barrel, sometimes yielding only a single one. There is no fining or filtering before bottling.
On one hand, Raphael is as adventurous as any vigneron I've met, with a child-like joyous demeanor exuding enthusiasm at every turn in the cave. On the other hand, him and his brother, Vincent (who focuses in the vineyard) take an exacting approach to every detail in this domaine founded in 1847.
The nine hectares owned by Bérêche are farmed by ten full-time workers, an extremely unusual ratio. But, Rapha knows the quality in bottle will be dictated, above all, by the number of minutes each vine sees of hand working through the growing season.
The Bérêche estate also stands out for a vast array of terroir at their disposal. Starting at home base with the chalky soils of 1er Cru Ludes, ideal for Chardonnay (pictured below), all the way to the western Valée de la Marne and those heavier clay soils, where Pinot Noir and Meunier excel. In addition to the Coteaux Champenois Rouge, these other cuvées are available below.
NV Brut Resérve is comprised of equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The Premier Cru village Ludes in Montagne de Reims is where parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are sourced to bring that nervosity from chalky soils. And the broader and richer tones come from Pinot Meunier and additional Chardonnay parcels from Mareuil le Port in the western Vallée de la Marne.
35% of the Brut Réserve comes from a perpetual blend of reserve wine and is supplemented with 65% from the harvest listed below. It's this reserve portion of the blend that brings a sense of grandeur perfectly suited to mesh with the more taut structure from the single vintage. Fermentation is split between 60% neutral French oak barrels and 40% small vats, aging taking place in 600-liter neutral barrels.
Coteaux Champenois Blanc 1er Cru Les Monts Fournois is the rarest wine from the domaine. A still, single vineyard Chardonnay, this wine from a surprisingly warmer vintage (2013) in Champagne has all of the chalky drive and crystalline personality that you'd imagine, but with a definitive weight that fleshes out on the palate and finishes very long. I've stashed many bottles in my cellar and always am amazed at the evolution from one year to the next, slowly picking up more deeper color, orchard fruit tones, but framed by wild acidity, nonetheless.
Remensis Rosé comes from a single parcel in the Petite Montagne de Reims village of Ormes. 2/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Chardonnay, with all color coming from small addition of still wine. This has always been a favorite for its ginger and tangerine notes supported by beaming acidity and a precision rare to find in the world of rosé champagne. Today's offering features wines from the 2012 base vintage, the maturing in bottle has put this in a perfect spot where all of the notes are now more pronounced and expressive than I've ever tasted before, still finished by laser-focused salinity.
Les Beaux Regards is sourced primarily from vines planted in 1902 by Rapha's great-grandfather in his home village of Ludes (pictured below). The interplay between finely-woven threads of minerality and a concentrated driving force through the finish really had the tasting come to a halt in my mind. The balance is an ideal example of how Rapha is at the top of the echelon today. 2013 and 2014 available below.
Les Cran is equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming from old vines in the best mid-slope parcels in Ludes. Raphael has an interesting take, "[Le Cran] demonstrates that there is much more minerality in the mid-slope of a premier cru than at the base of the slope in a grand cru.”
Reflet d'Antan is as special as they come. Sourced from a solera started in 1985 by Rapha's father, Jean-Pierre. This is equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Each vintage 2/3 of each barrel is removed to blend with the Brut Reserve. "Reflection of yesteryear" tells the story of this esteemed producer, still showing the fine lacy texture and brimming energy that you will find with the youngest wines here.
"A softly spoken-perfectionist, Rémi Jobard produces beautifully pure and vibrant expressions of Meursault that merit considerable interest...The result is a precise, almost minimalist style that produces Meursault of unusual transparency: classy wines that evolve slowly in bottle. 2017 is an excellent vintage at this address."
Remi Jobard is on a roll. And the most exciting part may be that very few have really taken adequate notice. William Kelley, a true Burgundian authority in more ways than one as I see it, really nails why Remi Jobard stands out from the pack in Meursault.
Today, I'm very happy to offer four wines of Remi Jobard's 2017's that capture Meursault at its best. And, I've created special vertical 4-pack pricing on the domaine's most head-spinning value play.
Judging an entire domaine on their Bourgogne level wines is more than just fair, it's a requirement. After all, why should we pony up top dollar for Premier and Grand Crus from a domaine who can't wow us with their entry level offerings? And, in Meursault Rémi Jobard does precisely that. Sort of.
De-classifications in Burgundy might sound confusing, but in actuality they are pretty straight forward and exactly the wines I love to pounce on the most. Rémi Jobard produces three Bourgogne Blancs. I know, that's a bit odd, isn't it? I work with just one. The Cuvée Vielles Vignes (old vines) is sourced entirely from vines planted in the village of Meursault, all over 40 years of age. This is case in point for why declassifying Meursault into "Bourgogne Blanc" can be a lot of fun, very delicious, and our little secret.
Rémi Jobard has always been a personal favorite within Meursault. His protocol for fermentation is one that breaks with tradition, all with his eye's set on crystal clear reflection of terroir. This is the domaine I've turned to continually for the style of white Burgundy that hits the bulls-eye for me, especially in the face of rocketing pricing for Roulot and Arnaud Ente.
Jobard's wines are always noted for their emphasis on revealing place through an ultra-pale hue, citrus-inflection, and mouth-watering salinity that drives through the finish of each cuvée. With air in the glass they reveal ginger notes, hazelnut, and a crunchy minerality that's simply hypnotic.
The secret to these unique traits from Jobard are surely tied to his divergent protocol in the cellar. Half of Jobard's wines are aged in large foudres from Stockinger, the famed Austrian cooper celebrated for precision and deft use of oak. While the other half of production is aged in standard, smaller Burgundy barrels, of which no more than 20% new wood is used.
After one year in wood the wines are transferred to stainless steel for 6 months prior to bottling, a method employed to firm up the tension and preserve those crisp, mineral-drenched notes that this best class of Meursault vignerons have become rightfully admired for.
As I mentioned repeatedly, 2017 is the most exciting white Burgundy vintage since 2014. My vigneron friends in Burgundy remarked right after the wines settled in barrel on just how fantastic the balance was for all their 2017 whites. 2014 may have shown a touch more extract and breadth, but the 2017's may very well be the stronger vintage when all is said and done. Upon release, each four wines is already giving immediate pleasure.
Bourgogne Blanc Vieilles Vignes is sourced entirely from vines over 40-years-old, covering 6 parcels within the village of Meursault.
Meursault Les Chevalières is sourced from a 0.44 hectare parcel of 80+ year-old vines in this high altitude, and single most under-the-radar lieu dit of village. Always a site that imparts bursting salinity with a depth and finish that's anything but a villages-designate wine.
1er Cru Les Poruzots-Dessus comes from a 0.51 hectare parcel of 60+ yr-old vines in the upper "Dessus" portion of Poruzots. This Premier Cru is known for its power, but this upper parcel has much more limestone (as opposed to clay), and in turn, this showcases a much more fine-grained and graceful personality of this famous vineyard.
1er Cru Les Genevrières is Jobard's top wine, and part of the famous trio of Meursault's Premier Cru sites. A vineyard known for its elegance and regal structure that make it ideal for both the dining table and a dark corner of your cellar to slowly transform. From a 0.62 hectare parcel of 40+ year old vines.
Laurent Tribut is the greatest traditional producer in Chablis that you are unlikely to have come across. When you take a close look at his label it might jog your memory a bit. Yes, it bears more than a little resemblance to René Dauvissat's. And, being Réne's son-in-law you'd be correct to assume their kinship extends beyond family, and into bottle.
Today, I'm happy to offer Laurent Tribut's 2014 & 2012 Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy, his 2014 1er Cru Montmains, along with special pricing on mixed 3-Packs containing one of each.
Several of Dauvissat's parcels were handed down to his children, and from these holdings Marie-Clotilde and her husband Laurent Tribut built their own domaine. However, for many years Tribut produced his wines in Dauvissat's cellar and was afforded the luxury of closely learning from the master. His work from vines, to fermentation, to élevage mirror that of the great Réne Dauvissat.
What can you expect in bottle? Crisp and finely-chiseled Chardonnay's with minimal oak influence. And, of course, that unmistakable Kimmeridgian limestone minerality that this former ancient sea bed in the coldest pocket of Burgundy imparts like nowhere else. Lemon and green apple notes are front-and-center, with crushed oyster shell highlighting the complex mid-palate.
In the end, Tribut, like Dauvissat, is adored for one thing above all else: exquisite balance and a seamlessly woven, silky finish. With air, rich nutty flavors begin to emerge. 2014 and 2012 are simply spectacular vintages in Chablis. They have stuffing with high levels of extraction, yet they are marked equally for their brilliant frame of acidity.