• Volnay's Dynmaic Duo: D'Angerville & De Montille

    Volnay's Dynmaic Duo: D'Angerville & De Montille

    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. While there may be no Grand Crus in the village, savvy collectors know these top Premier Crus transform and go the long haul, as nearly anything from the Côte de Nuits.

    D'Angerville and De Montille are at the apex of what's been proven possible here in Volnay for decades. 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.

    D'Angerville's protocol of excluding punch-downs and relying solely on pump-overs for fermentation gives 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 delicious and supremely thought-provoking.

    De Montille is associated with whole-cluster ferments. That elevated exotic spice component and stemmy crunch made these famous for their fortress-like persona during the Hubert de Montille era. As son Etienne has taken over, recent decades have moved toward rounder structure. There hasn't been a huge style shift from one generation to the next. Rather, Etienne is simply keen on allowing wines to offer more joy and expression sooner.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Classic Chambolle: 2019 François Bertheau

    Classic Chambolle: 2019 François Bertheau

    Seeing François Bertheau for a second time was a great reminder of how these wines are definitive examples of Chambolle-Musigny that express a purity of Pinot Noir like nowhere else. Sourcing from only six hectares of vines, Bertheau's understated style perfectly suits what I've come to expect from my favorite village in Burgundy.

    Tasting the 2017's in barrel with François was a masterclass focused exclusively on Chambolle-Musigny. Sensitive and thoughtful are the two traits of François that always seem to ring true. There is only ultimate craftsmanship in this cellar ranging a handful of cuvées from parcels spread throughout Chambolle. Hand labeling for to-go orders (pictured below) is a touch that illustrates François' sensibilities.

    Bottlings of Bertheau back to the '80s are still among my list of the most profound Burgundy wines I've ever had, as they embody the essence of what makes Pinot Noir from this village so cherished. The wines stay lifted while holding onto a finely woven thread of chalky minerality that supports structure for the long haul in the cellar.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Champagne Crescendo: Bérêche Brut Reserve

    Champagne Crescendo: Bérêche Brut Reserve

    The Bérêche brothers illustrate just how profound a non-vintage bottling can be. Their Brut Réserve is one of the first bottles I turn to when choosing cellar selections. Tasting their entire range on a visit in 2018 was truly a masterclass. Raphaël is as adventurous as any vigneron I've met, with a joyous demeanor exuding enthusiasm at every turn in the cave. On the other hand, he and Vincent, who focuses on the vineyard, take an exacting approach to every detail.

    Bérêche's nine hectares are farmed by ten full-time workers, an extremely unusual ratio, but Raphael knows quality will be dictated by the number of minutes each vine is cared for through the growing season. The Bérêche estate also stands out for a vast array of terroir at their disposal: Starting at their home base with the chalky soils of 1er Cru Ludes, ideal for Chardonnay, all the way to the western Valée de la Marne and their heavier clay soils, where Pinot Noir and Meunier excel.

    The non-vintage Brut Resérve is equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Premier Cru village Ludes in Montagne de Reims 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. This reserve portion brings a sense of grandeur perfectly suited to mesh with the more taut structure from the single vintage (Currently the 2017-base). Fermentation occurs in 60% neutral French oak barrels and 40% small vats, with aging in 600-liter neutral barrels.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Thunder Mountain Strikes: 2019 Louis Michel Chablis

    Thunder Mountain Strikes: 2019 Louis Michel Chablis

    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.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Invigorating Vertus: Champagne Larmandier-Bernier

    Invigorating Vertus: Champagne Larmandier-Bernier

    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.

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    Posted by Max Kogod