• Côte Rôtie's Wild Side

    Côte Rôtie's Wild Side

    In July 2012, a friend and I experienced our first Bastille Day celebration in epic fashion at Marcel Lapierre's annual feast in Villié-Morgon. A few days later, it seemed fitting to meet with Jean-Michel Stephan atop the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie, who notes Lapierre as his greatest inspiration.

    Stephan takes an approach to vinification that differs drastically from his neighbors in Côte Rôtie. From his time in Villié-Morgon, Stephan's philosophy employs full carbonic fermentation, a process customarily reserved for Gamay in Beaujolais. Still, the most profound bottles hit the same mark as great traditionalists like Jamet, Benetière, and Levet.

    As Stephan explained to us, the whole clusters go into fermentation tanks free of sulfur additions. He pumps in some CO2, closes the hatch, and walks away. When he returns, the intracellular or carbonic fermentation is complete. This method gives a fruitier note to Syrah, but the use of whole clusters counters that with spice, tannin, and freshness.

    At first glance, Stephan's wines may come across as Côte Rôtie through a Beaujolais prism, but for me, they offer a mineral streak and wildly aromatic range that is so unique. The dark and brambly fruit is unadulterated through the complete absence of sulfur additions. With decanting, these young wines open up to reveal a side of Côte Rôtie that makes it feel like it's your first time drinking Syrah.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Best Champagne Under $85

    Best Champagne Under $85

    While Jacquesson's vintage champagnes are deserving of every ounce of praise it receives for their crystalline transparency, the 700-cuvée series offer the same brilliant detail at a more palatable, everyday price point. When the discussion arises on the best champagnes under $85, Jacquesson is a leader of the pack. This is a non-vintage for the most serious and classic-leaning champagne enthusiasts.

    Talking about Jacquesson's 700-cuvée series in the same breath as other non-vintage standouts doesn't seem right, and the quality has only continued to rise over the past decade as their farming practices reach new heights. 30% reserve wine meets the 2016 vintage of 55% Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from Aÿ, Dizy, and Hautvillers, 45% Chardonnay from Avize and Oiry; and less than one gram/liter of dosage.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Hommage to Saint Joseph

    Hommage to Saint Joseph

    Syrah shows many different sides in California, but no producer in the state has a passion for the variety quite like Pax Mahle. For many years, Pax has worked with a wide range of Syrah vineyards in California bottled under his namesake label, formerly under Wind Gap. He's obsessed with tapping vineyards on the extreme to prove this grape can flourish in conditions that other winemakers thought were too marginal.

    Pax's love for this variety traces back to the birthplace of Syrah. Starting in 2016, he wanted to pay tribute to Saint Joseph's Raymond Trollat, a legend of the old guard. As one would imagine, Sonoma-Hillsides is 100% whole cluster fermented. Sourcing comes from three vineyards that capture the essence of cool-climate, California Syrah: Castelli-Knight Ranch and Walker Vine Hill from Russian River Valley, and the iconic Griffin's Lair Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Through Pax's illustrious career, sites like these have best expressed the fresh, vibrant personality that Syrah is capable of.

    At 12.5% alcohol, the Sonoma-Hillsides cuvée exemplifies everything thrilling about the more savory, spicy, and mineral-inflected qualities of Syrah. Pax is a benchmark for what other producers in California aspire to craft and serves as a mentor to much of the younger generation. He has a long history with Syrah, but it's this hommage to Raymond Trollat that hits the sweet spot for me more so than any other bottling.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • First-Class Chablis

    First-Class Chablis

    Savary's old-vine bottling captures everything I love about Chablis: Crushed oyster shell, cool-fruited citrus, and green apple, etc. At $33 per bottle, this old-vine cuvée is a great value wine to go deep on from these famed Kimmeridgian slopes.

    Chablis may be a part of Burgundy, but its extreme northern setting and soil, comprised of fossilized seashells, share more in common with Champagne and Sancerre than with the more luscious Chardonnay found 80 miles southeast in the Côte d'Or. Burgundy's mineral expression matched with Chablis' cold climate is magical for crafting wines brimming with mouth-watering salinity and faint nutty flavors that appear with air.

    Much of Chablis is harvested too early, with many vignerons resting their laurels on the iconic appellation that's 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. Fermentation occurs in 20% neutral wood and 80% stainless steel for the Vielles Vignes cuvée; the wine then ages in neutral demi-muids 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 U.S.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Chambolle-Musigny Classicism

    Chambolle-Musigny Classicism

    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