During the holidays, the staff was treated to a smorgasbord tasting of champagnes in the Kogod cellar. I wasn’t able to attend, unfortunately, but Max was kind enough to hand-deliver some of the highlights to my doorstep here in Los Angeles, including David L'eclapart and Marguet. But he insisted that I needed to try Olivier Horiot, a micro-producer in the village of Les Riceys. We revisited Horiot’s Champagnes last month, and they continue to indulge us.
Les Riceys is a commune of three villages situated in the southernmost part of Champagne. The Kimmeridgian soil is the same you'll find Chablis and Sancerre, except these slopes are primarily planted to Pinot Noir. They produce champagne here, of course, but the village is also known for its Rosé des Riceys, a long-held tradition that’s now kept alive by a mere 15 to 20 producers.
Following in his grandfather and father’s footsteps, Olivier is the third generation to pursue viticulture. They primarily sold their fruit to the local cave coopérative until 1999, when Olivier decided he wanted to vinify his own wines. The Horiots farm a total of seven hectares but keep just two hectares. Olivier jokingly calls it the Champagne equilibrium. “This balance [allows us] to have more fun with the stuff we vinify independently, to craft them more to our taste,” he told U.S. importer Louis/Dressner.
Horiot produces four sparkling cuvées, though, they vinify each of the eight terroirs separately before blending. 5 Sens is the highlight of the lineup and has the most breadth; a blend of Arbane, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir planted on Kimmeridgian and chalk soils. However, the Sève Blanc de Noirs is the perfect middle ground for its fine bubbles and perfect composition of dense, yellow fruit, lively acidity, and just a touch oxidative; it's sourced from En Barmont, one of Horiot's prized Pinot Noir parcels, also used to produce Rosé des Riceys. The sparkling wines are bottled as Brut Nature.
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Today, I'm happy to offer one of our first rosé releases of the year, the 2020 Arnot-Roberts rosé of Touriga Nacional for $28 per bottle. Always a house pink of mine, year in and year out.
This is the rosé I find myself reaching for continually through all occasions and all times of the year. Based on Touriga Nacional planted at 1,400 feet in the Clear Lake AVA, this pink always follows a high wire act of melding topicality with a salty and refreshingly mineral finish.
Duncan Arnot and Nathan Roberts have long been celebrated for carving their own path in California. They've proved time after time that marginal climates once considered too severe can actually craft some of America's finest and most age-worthy wines. Between Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Falanghina, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Trousseau, and today's favorite rosé, this duo is unrivaled in how they excel across such a wide spectrum.
In the obscure Clear Lake area, Duncan and Nathan have tapped the variety most known for comprising Port. Here, on volcanic cobble, Touriga Nacional has annually been the backbone of this rosé that's seen its loyal fan-base continually expand. There's always a dizzying array of tropical fruits like guava, pomegranate, and passion fruit that meet savory orange peel with a quintessential saline snap on the finish that evokes sea breezes.
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In the hills above Dijon, you can find the roots to one of Burgundy's greatest inception stories. While it's is a fresh departure from a domaine's normal evolution in Burgundy, the wines in bottle are the most thrilling element from Marc Soyard. In only a few vintages, they have gone from obscure to seeing a cult following.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2019 Domaine de la Cras L'Equilibriste Bourgogne Rosé of Pinot Noir.
This is one of the only Pinot Noir rosés that has the kind of cut and salinity to hook me. Couple that with Soyard's zero sulphur, natural approach, and you have what's one of the most impressive 2019 releases to date. As a vintage, 2019 has already turned out razor-defined Burgundies of all colors, simultaneously boasting harmonious tannin and acid structure.
Domaine de la Cras goes against the grain of what Burgundian law has dictated for centuries. Five years ago, the city of Dijon purchased a vineyard just outside their limits. The city essentially held a casting call to find a winemaker for the property. The criteria was that they must be young, have no family vineyard holdings, be prepared for organic farming, and open the domaine for educational tours. The rent for the land would be paid each year to the city in bottles, 2,000 exactly.
Marc Soyard, originally from the nearby Jura, was chosen. Soyard does not come from a family of vignerons, but he had worked previously for the esteemed and tiny Domaine Bizot in Vosne-Romanée. Bizot is known for their rigorous vineyard work, minuscule sulphur regimen, and their use of whole grape clusters for fermentation.
For many, Mediterranean's seaside towns of Saint-Tropez and Nice represent France's most luxurious enclaves. However, once it's clear that not all that glitters is gold you may very well be lucky enough to come across Cassis. Likely, this is first via an abrupt stop to take in the dramatic Cap Canaille, France's highest sea cliff. Celebrities looking for a more private setting nestle into homes along these windy roads that can resemble the Hollywood hills.
While the seemingly never-ending pallets of Domaine Ott might distract those impressionable by glossy double-page magazine ads, those who understand the smaller grower-producer estates offer the highest quality and complexity might be lucky enough to come across my single favorite rosé of last year.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé for $35 per bottle, and down to $32.95 for orders of 3 bottles or more.
Bagnol's Cassis rosé is comprised of 55% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre, and 14% Cinsault. The setting of the vineyards (pictured below) is directly on top of the Mediterranean, endowing a salty sea-breeze element taken quite step further than your typical ocean-influenced pink. My first sip of Bagnol's rosé was a proverbial light bulb moment. The combo of deliciousness with finely-etched mineral threads woven throughout this complex rosé was simply in a league of its own.
If Tempier's Mourvedre-dominant rosé shows Provence's most exquitsite full-bodied form, then Bagnol's Grenache-dominant example is all about racy, wild strawberry fruit and citrus tones lingering with salinity on its long finish. Bagnol might not have the same wide-cast spotlight as Tempier, but with only 500 cases annually imported to the entire U.S. it is my most secret pink for my home cellar. Our allocation from Neal Rosenthal is six cases.
Today's magnum-only offer is a first. But, I cannot think of a wine better suited to the format than Enfield Wine Co's 2015 Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay. While 750ml's disappeared in a flash, I made sure to go deep on magnums of this personal favorite, from the growing legend that is, John Lockwood.
When John Lockwood's 2015 Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay floored me, his initial reaction was to point to a "perfect storm" of growing conditions. Knowing John, this modesty is key to the success in all his wines. But actually, it's his relentless curiosity and ever-questioning approach that's responsible for one of the greatest wines from California I've yet to drink.
Sommeliers have blinded it as Pierre Yves Colin-Morey. Descriptors like laser-focused and weightless flood the mind when tasting. Lockwood has produced some terrific wines, but for me the 2015 Haynes Chardonnay is his most thrilling achievement to date. This month, Eric Asimov of the New York Times gave us a close look into Lockwood's steady rise in becoming a household name in the wine world.
Today, I'm happy to offer John's 2015 Enfield Wine Co. Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay 1.5L for $100 per bottle. Also featured is a wide range of additional wines from Lockwood.
John and I met while working at Failla Wines in 2011. From a solar-powered cabin on the extreme Sonoma Coast, four of us in total organically-farmed the Failla Estate Vineyard, home to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. In retrospect, taking the leap to that plot of vines was perhaps the single most important professional choice I've made.
Getting to know John in tight quarters and amongst vine rows was a never-ending exploration into all things wine. Early mornings, late nights, the discussions never ceased. It was clear immediately that his thirst for discovery would be the root of all accomplishments to come. It was that summer of 2011 that John bottled his very first wine for his Enfield Wine Co. label, from Haynes Vineyard.
Haynes, located in Napa's coolest AVA Coombsville, is home to a special parcel of 51-yr-old Chardonnay vines. These same vines were the source of John Kongsgaard's early work with the seminal Newton "Unfiltered" Chardonnay of the 70's. Lockwood had sourced from Haynes since 2010, but it wasn't until 2015 that he was given the opportunity to work with this prized, old vine parcel.
The magic of these old vines isn't just in the obvious concentration, but rather it's a story of soil. Haynes is famous for a very high pH powdery white volcanic ash subsoil, endowing wines with wild levels of acidity that are rare to find in this region where ripeness is never too shy. The younger vines John had previously worked with here had shallower root systems that only tapped into the alluvial gravel topsoil. When the change was made to the old vine parcel in 2015 the real magic of this fascinating subsoil came to fruition in bottle.
The 2015 growing season saw a heat spike toward the end where sugars rapidly rose, outpacing the expected drop in natural acidity. Lockwood was given substantially ripe Chardonnay with wildly high acidity levels - an easy comparison would be 2010 in the Mosel. The wine was gently and directly-pressed to avoid any unwanted phenolic character. And the wine was aged in large 500L neutral French oak barrels and did not see sulphur until after 1 year in barrel.
For me, finding white wines in California that are built upon their focus and agility is the ultimate rarity. There's a head-spinning level of refinement and incisiveness to this wine that will appeal to every single white Burgundy lover. There are no bones thrown when it comes to selections for the shop. I buy what I love to drink, it's that simple.
And, I'm so confident this wine will appeal to lovers of finely-tuned styled white Burgundy and Chenin Blanc that I will give a full credit to the shop for anyone who isn't pleased with what they find in their glass. That's a guarantee.