"The 2017 Felseneck Grosses Gewächs is yet another utterly brilliant young wine...with a rock solid core, laser-like focus and great cut and grip on the complex, long and utterly seamless finish. This is pure magic."
- John Gilman of View from the Cellar
To nobody's surprise, Tim Frölich has yet again set the bar for dry Riesling in 2017 with his Felseneck GG. Today I'm happy to offer both the 2017 and 2016 vintages with special pricing on mixed 4-packs.
The Felseneck is a prime 7.5 hectare vineyard composed of an unusual mix of blue Devonian slate, basalt, and quartz. Within the range of GG's from Fröhlich it's the Felseneck that has always been the most uncompromising in its rigor and incisive mineral thread. It's built upon grace not reliant on showy tendencies of forward ripeness, instead displaying its white stone fruit in a velvet glove and relentless sense of grip.
The descriptors may give the impression of serious austerity in Felseneck, but all these elements are prerequisites for the intense and driving finish that puts this bottling in a category unto itself.
There's no producer in Germany who's seen a meteoric rise to stardom like that of the Nahe's Tim Fröhlich. In 2005 he was named Newcomer of the Year by Gault-Millau, and in 2010 their Winemaker of the Year - the youngest ever to receive the honor. The range at Schäfer-Fröhlich has somehow continued to improve even from the estate's magical vintages produced over the past decade.
Sylvain Pataille is famous for three things. Producing some of the most texturally seamless and balanced wines in the Côte de Nuits, serving as oenologist to over 15 other domaines, and having really, really awesome hair. Visiting at the domaine on my birthday in July ended up being a masterclass in terroir, as we tasted over 20 different wines from Marsannay.
Today, I'm happy to offer my favorite red from Sylvain Pataille, the 2016 Marsannay Clos du Roy for $64 per bottle.
Marsannay and Pataille are a match made in heaven. Both have seemingly flown under-the-radar for far too long. Search through any savvy Burgundy collector's cellar and next to the Rousseau and Dujac you're sure to find a host of Pataille Marsannay.
Located in the very north of the Côte de Nuits above Gevrey Chambertin, the village has a complicated history. Planted with Gamay during the time of classifications, by law no vineyards could receive status higher than villages. But, today there is no debate, Clos du Roy would undoubtedly be a Premier Cru.
The "Kings Vineyard" is comprised of a mix of light red clay and sand on top of Comblanchien limestone, with vines planted as far back as 1952. Pataille is a big proponent of whole cluster fermentation, and we see 100% here.
I buy Pataille's Clos du Roy vintage after vintage because it's a steal within the hierarchy of Burgundy's elite bottlings. It always finds that elusive mix between power and elegance. There's never any shyness from Clos du Roy, but the silken tannins Pataille endows here without relying on overt new oak influence is remarkable.
While Sylvain's wines are fabulous from top to bottom, the Clos du Roy is the bottling that demands the greatest admiration. At $59 per bottle, this is the Côte de Nuits' best and most serious value play year after year.
* Addtionally, I've listed an Aligote (1949-planted) and Chardonnay (1985-planted) from Pataille's La Charmes Aux Prêtres vineyard in Marsannay. I've never found a white vineyard in the Côte de Nuits that rivals the same fascination and delicious factor from what Pataille has bottled here. This very porous vineyard produces both Aligote and Chardonnay with extremely pronounced reductive traits (flinty, matchstick, smokey) in its wines. Côte de Nuits whites are known for their weightier texture and more broad shouldered personality. While this is true even here, the reductive element adds a fresh, saline streak I find absolutely captivating. While not inexpensive, these two unique cuvées are among my favorites in all of Burgundy. Do not miss them!
If I had to pick one wine to make a case for Sangiovese's greatness it would be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte. Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 Le Pergole Torte in 750ml, 1.5L, and 3L formats, along with a deep collection of back-vintages.
2015 at Montevertine, as Antonio Galloni illustrates below, is a very exciting vintage. A warmer year for Tuscany, and in Radda's northern and higher altitude setting the wines have a definition and focus that marries perfectly to the riper crop. When I visited the region for 2 weeks of tastings in July 2017, the 2015's in cask had producers from every corner of Tuscany powerless in containing their child-like enthusiasm. It was, and is, a vintage that gave the opportunity to showcase the very best of their sites.
"Montevertine is one of the most privileged spots for wine anywhere in the world. If I had to choose only one Sangiovese to cellar, it might very well be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte.""The 2015 Le Pergole Torte is explosive and powerful while showing a remarkable level of precision. Pliant and beautifully resonant, it captures all the best qualities of the year. The oak still needs time to fully assimilate. Even so, the wine's pedigree and potential are very much in evidence today. In a word: superb." (01/18)- Antonio Galloni of Vinous
The case is made by many that Loire Valley Chenin Blanc is the benchmark for diversity within the world of wine. And I'm not one to argue with that sentiment. Bone-dry, sparkling, off-dry, semi-sweet, and sweet. The entire range is covered here in the central Loire. However, this perspective has become a bit of a double-edged sword for Chenin. If everything can be done well, is anything actually exceptional? I won't make the case, as some do, that top sparkling examples rival great champagne. But, I will gladly tell you that the zenith of bone-dry Chenin Blanc is deadly serious.
Clos Rougeard's Brézé is the most famous name in this club, with current releases starting at $200 per bottle. But, beyond that there's one name that embodies the detail and clarity that top dry Chenin is capable of. Jacky Blot's domaine, La Taille Aux Loups works primarily with vineyards in Montlouis, but in Vouvray there's one parcel of old vines that produce his most coveted wine. Precision is the first word that comes to mind when I taste his monopole, Clos de la Bretonniere. At $41 per bottle, this is the greatest bone-dry Chenin Blanc that still lies under-the-radar.
Blot takes his cue's from Burgundy gods, Coche-Dury and Roulot. After a slow barrel fermentation (20% new wood here) he moves his wine into steel for several months prior to bottling. Much like the disciplined Chenin found in Saumur, here battonage is avoided and malolactic fermentation is blocked - a necessity in accentuating the laser-focus and sleek frame that draws comparisons to Burgundy.
Blot is no nonsense when it comes to farming, with organic and hands-on viticulture serving as the root of success for all his wines. However, Clos de la Bretonniere stands out in his lineup. While his Montlouis wines can show density and breadth, this rare Vouvray parcel of 62-yr-old vines on pure limestone is a different beast. There's a mesmerizing level of detail and shimmering range of flavors that seemingly dance on the palate. It's a drinking sensation that you do not want to end.
Vouvray is most associated with off-dry and sweet styles of wine. Since 1993 Jacky has focused on bone-dry wines, a choice that was not received warmly for the first two vintages in the Loire. But, after some time, people began to see what he was after. Today, the Clos de la Bretonniere is one of the greatest examples of dry Chenin Blanc in the world. But, like the Loire in 1993, people are still just catching on. 2017 has proven so far to be a thrilling vintage for the whites of the Loire, but even in this context the dry wines from the vintage have a unmistakable featherweight presence on the palate that's pure magic.
It's not often you can tell drinkers of Coche and Roulot to pick up a bottle of dry Chenin and expect to be be floored. At $41 per bottle, today is definitely that day.
Many visits along the wine route have left significant impressions on me. At the very top of the list is surely a July 2012 visit with Jean-Michel Stephan in Côte Rôtie. My friend and I had just finished taking in our first Bastille Day celebration in epic fashion at Lapierre's annual feast in Villié-Morgon. It's fitting that only days later we found ourselves atop the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie with a vigneron who remembers Marcel Lapierre as his greatest inspiration.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the truly singular Côte Rôties from Jean-Michel Stephan.
Jean-Michel takes an approach to vinification in Côte Rôtie that differs drastically from his neighbors. But, the most profound bottles hit the same mark as great traditionalists like Jamet, Benetière, and Levet. Stephan's philosophy, coming from his time in Villié-Morgon, mean that he employs full carbonic fermentation for his Syrah - a process customarily reserved for Gamay in Beaujolais.
As he explained to us, the whole clusters are placed into fermentation tanks free of sulphur additions, he pumps in some CO2, closes the hatch, and walks away. When he returns, the intracellular or "carbonic fermentation" is complete. On one hand this gives a fruitier note to Syrah, but the addition of stems counter that with spice, tannin, and freshness.
Stephan's Côte Rôtie "Classique" is comprised of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier, sourced from various parcels throughout the appellation.
Côte Rôtie "So'Brune" is also comprised of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier, but this comes from a high elevation parcel planted on mica schist. This very forward and plush in style. Dark and very soft-fruited in the warm 2017 vintage.
Stephan's Coteaux Bassenon is comprised of 60% Syrah, 30% Sérine, and 10% Viognier (oldest vines planted in 1896 and 1902). This parcel is on darker mica schist soils in the northern part of the appellation. This soil is more commonly found in the Côte Brune.
Stephan also stands out for his use of 100% Serine in his Coteaux du Tupin cuvée. This is remembered by vignerons as the ancient clone of Syrah. Differing with a move oval shaped berry, providing a darker take on the already wild Syrah variety, and doubling down on the violet aromatic notes. Old Serine vines here are planted on granitic gneiss with white mica schist, the same commonly found in the Côte Blonde.Finally,
En Coteaux Vieilles Vignes is produced only in select vintages and sources from the oldest Serine vines in Bassenon and is supplemented with 15% of old vine Viognier.
At first glance it may appear that Stephan's wines are Côte Rôtie through a Beaujolais prism. I don't see them like this at all. For me, they offer a mineral streak and wild aromatic range that is so very unique. However, each of the four cuvées do show an immediacy that is akin to Beaujolais. The dark and brambly fruit is unadulterated through the complete absence of sulphur additions. With a decant these young wines open up to reveal a side of Côte Rôtie that makes you feel like they are your first. They are exceptional, and they are singular.