• 2014 Red Burgundy Grand Tour: Dijon to Santenay

    2014 Red Burgundy Grand Tour: Dijon to Santenay

    A week in Burgundy this past June offered a terrific opportunity to familiarize myself with the recently released 2014 vintage, but was also an awakening to some newer producers that I'm thrilled to now be working with. What impressed so much about the 2014 Red Burgundy vintage was the exceptional consistency across the board, and the tremendous accessibility of the very young wines.

    2014 red burgundies show a great sense of balance, and are certainly mid weight in style. They are fleshy, show darker fruit characteristics that the 2013's, and have a supple quality to the tannins that's largely responsible for their early drinking appeal. While these villages and premier cru wines will develop beautifully over the next decade there is something to be said for catching these wines shortly after release when the fruit is vibrant and that connection to the raw material is displayed in high definition.

    It should be said that the looming 2015 red burgundy vintage (with its record heat not seen since 2003) will receive accolades for it's density and power, and the wines from barrel were impressive. However, the more classically proportioned 2014's offer a sense of clarity, energy, and terroir reflection that's on a very different scale. These are gorgeous wines from Bourgogne level through the grand crus.

    Here's a look at the most exciting producers from the most revered villages in the Côte d'Or.

    2014 Domaine de la Cras "Cras" Coteaux de Dijon Bourgogne Rouge
    $44.95 per bottle.

    Down to $40.45 with any 6 bottles or more!

    Domaine de la Cras is one of the more exciting producers to come our way, and the story of its inception goes very much against the grain of what Burgundian law has dictated for centuries. Three years ago the city of Dijon purchased a vineyard just outside their city 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.

    The "Cras" bottling is one of the top Pinot Noirs from Soyard's estate. Like Bizot, there is a very high proportion of whole clusters used for fermentation and sulphur is added only very minimally at bottling. The "Cras" is one of the more fascinating and singular wines I've tasted over the last year. It has an abundance of high toned, crunchy, and spicy notes from the stem inclusion, and its very low alcohol level puts the aromatics of the wine front and center. For a region so steeped in tradition it's thrilling to see a new generation learn from the past and provide their own voice for the future. Perhaps the greatest endorsement of this new project is that along with being delicious the wines are absolutely singular in their expression of the hillside vineyards above Dijon.

    2014 Pierre Guillemot Savigny les Beaune 1er Cru Serpentières
    $45.95 per bottle.
    Down to $41.35 with any 6 bottles or more!

    If Marc Soyard represents the new upstart vigneron, then Domaine Pierre Guillemot certainly embodies the best aspects of tradition, as they are now onto the 8th generation. Winemaking here has remained largely unchanged, but of course for some modernization to ensure cleanliness and efficiency in the cuverie. Their dank cellar left an imprint in my mind like few others have, and memories of these wines going back over a decade are a large reason for why I planned my year in Beaune starting in January 2012. And when it came time to setup a very first visit upon landing the choice was clear.

    Guillemot ferments their reds in wooden vats and aging occurs in barrels with no more than 10% new oak employed. Their 1er Cru Serpentières is the domaines most distinguished red (outside of their grand cru Corton). The soil is largely comprised of marl (clayey limestone), and their is a terrific track record of aging. Just last year I opened bottles of 2002 and 1999 and both were stunningly fresh. 

    2014 Sylvain Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy
    $53.95 per bottle.
    Down to $48.55 with any 6 bottles or more!

    The village of Marsannay has an interesting past. When vineyard classifications were made by Jules Lavalle in 1855 the entirety of Marsannay was planted to Gamay. And truth be told the appellation wasn't officially even recognized until 1987 for all three colors (white, rosé, red). Much of this delay had to do with objection from villages like Fixin and Corgoloin. In short, Marsannay has very, very good terroir, but it's the top producers such as Pataille and Bruno Clair who are able to coax brilliance. The fact is if Pinot Noir had been planted here in the distant past several vineyards would've received premier cru status, and Clos du Roy would be at the top of that list.

    Pataille is known for a light touch in the cellar, as the wines never show hard edges or rustic tannins. They are always graceful and beg to be drunk. Finding a suave and sexy texture to red burgundy can often come at the expense of excessive new oak, but here that is not the case. The wines are highlighted by exceptional fruit, a finely etched mineral streak, and outrageous floral notes.

    2014 Lignier-Michelot Morey Saint Denis En la Rue de Vergy
    $63.95 per bottle
    Down to $57.55 with any 6 bottles or more!

    Back in 2012 the word around the Côte de Nuits was to make sure to check out what was happening at Lignier-Michelot. The wines had alway been good, but things were clearly ascending very rapidly. A tasting then put them on my radar, but it wasn't until the 2014 vintage that I knew these were wines that I must have. Morey Saint Denis is a small village, but the concentration of iconic domaines is quite long. Dujac, Lignier,Lambrays, Clos du Tart, Truchot, Ponsot, and now the young Tissier-Charlopin.

    En la Rue de Vergy sits above grand cru Clos de Tart. Its thin topsoil and extremely rocky limestone base breed a wine with tremendous minerality and tension, but still very much showcase the forward fruit that Clos de Tart below is known for. From 40-year old vines, this wine is fermented with 30% whole clusters and sees about 30% new oak. The wines of Morey often are spoken of in the way they perhaps relate to the northern and tannic, dark earth of Gevrey-Chambertin and to the south the ethereal and lifted style of Chambolle-Musigny. To be fair Morey exists on its own with 5 grand crus all held in a remarkably small 137 hectares. This wine does seem to embody some of those characteristics from its northern and southern village neighbors, but I love how it's decidedly Morey Saint Denis, wild and spicy, still with a regal disposition. When looking to be introduced to quintessential Côte de Nuits from the most storied villages this bottling is simply the ideal place to start.

    2014 Benjamin Leroux Gevrey Chambertin Aux Etelois
    $79.95
    Down to $71.95 with any 6 bottles or more!

    From the age of 15 Benjamin Leroux worked part time with the famed Domaine du Comte Armand of Pommard, and after 8 years he took on duty as winemaker there in 1999. His own domaine focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from several different appellations throughout the Côte d'Or. Finding hidden gems in the greatest villages is truly one of the highlights of being a wine merchant. And first taste of Leroux's Aux Etelois was one of those moments that reminds you there are steals to be had in Burgundy, even at $70.

    Etelois sits at the base of grand cru Griotte-Chambertin in a former quarry. Like Griotte, the sweet cherry fruit of Etelois is front and center. There is a fine texture to all of Leroux wines that stand out above all else. His deft use of new oak is another element that continuously surprises. While Griotte-Chambertin from Ponsot and Fourrier can top $1,000 per bottle it's nice to see that you can stay in relatively similar real estate for well under $100!

    2014 Fabrice Vigot Vosne Romanée Les Damaudes
    $85.95 per bottle
    Down to $77.35 with any 6 bottles or more!

    Fabrice Vigot is one of the newest discoveries for me, and the wines have just now appeared in the US. Fabrice manages many of the Mugneret-Gibourg vineyards, but the stylistic connections from bottle are quite deep between the two.

    Like the wines of Mugneret-Gibourg, here too the velvety texture and forward ripeness are obvious immediately. Terroir specificity is also on full display despite the plush nature of the wines. While Vigot's Echezeaux and Colombière show that exotic spice of Vosne-Romanée, the Daumaudes bottling stands out in its own way. If you look on a map at the surrounding vineyards of Daumaudes you will see some familiar names most noted for price tags that regularly exceed $500 per bottle, to say nothing of the $3,000 per bottle of La Tâche.

    This southern section of Vosne-Romanée is home to the most prized real estate in Burgundy. The trick is finding producers like Vigot whose production and market presence is small enough to be able to take advantage of the sharp pricing. Exposure to these wines will undoubtedly climb rapidly over the coming years now that these are stateside. Daumaudes is the perfect wine of the Fabrice Vigot lineup to get acquainted with today, and Vosne-Romanée is a village that always deserves attention.

    2014 Mugnier, Jacques-Frédéric Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Marechale
    $119.95 per bottle

    Down to $107.95 with any 6 bottles or more!

    *Also available:

    2013 vintage $119.95 per bottle
    Down to $107.95 with any 6 bottles or more!

    2012 vintage $134.95 per bottle
    Down to $121.45 with any 6 bottles or more!

    The wines of Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier capture the very most ethereal qualities of red burgundy. When asked about desert island wines I speak of Mugnier right off the bat. The wines drink well from day one, and their charm and levity make them tug at the heartstrings like few other wines in the world. Mugnier de-stems 100% of fruit, relies on extremely gentle extraction, and very modest amounts of new oak influence in the cellar. The wines are aromatic and sensual like none other.

    Nearly all holdings of the domaine are in Chambolle-Musigny, but after the harvest of 2003 the monopole premier cru vineyard Clos de la Marechale in Nuits-Saint-Georges was returned to the Mugnier family after being rented to Maison Faiveley since 1950. While NSG is regarded for its dark earth and muscular profile, this vineyard located in front of a quarry has much chalkier soils than is the village norm. Coupled with the gentle hand of Mugnier these wines exploded onto the scene officially with the lauded 2005 vintage.

    While Mugnier's Musigny retails for well over $1,200 per bottle, the same craftsmanship and meditative philosophy is applied to his single monopole bottling in the Marechale. It also cannot be overstated how critical Mugnier's attention to detail in the vineyard is greatly responsible for the wild success of this premier cru over the last decade. This is no doubt the finest expression of Pinot Noir from a village known for it's brawn.
    2014 Jean-Marc Bouley Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Chênes
    $143.95 per bottle

    Down to $129.55 with any 6 bottles or more!

    Family succession in Burgundy can lead a domaine in many directions. The stewardship of Domaine Jean-Marc Bouley by Thomas Bouley starting in 2012 has proven to be a tremendous success. Thomas joined in 2002 to work alongside his father and throughout that time the domaine's popularity grew. However, it's in the last couple vintages that the wines here have seemingly reached a new pinnacle. 

    The success starts in the vineyard with true conscientious work - yields are kept very low with between 6-8 bunches left per vine. In the cellar the wines see partial whole cluster fermentation and new oak usage up to 50%. The wines struck me for their high wire balance between concentrated, ripe fruit and a stunning incorporation of new wood - it's this marriage that really sounded the fireworks upon tasting.

    Volnay, and Chambolle-Musigny, are regarded as the two most feminine and graceful villages in Burgundy. Much of this is due to high active limestone content in the soils. However, Volnay's premier cru vineyards display a rigorous minerality that give these wines serious backbone to age as well as any wines in the region. Iron fist in the velvet glove is a moniker that's used throughout the wine world, but it's an image that's continuously called to mind when tasting top Volnay bottlings. 

    Clos de Chênes is the highest altitude premier cru in Volnay, and its status as a top site within the village is only further cemented when tasting older bottles from Lafarge. Like Clos des Ducs, Clos des Chênes would be the first vineyard to look in Volnay should grand cru elevation finally come to fruition. Catching these top Volnays in their youth provides a thrilling chance to dive into the kaleidoscope fruit spectrum while it's so primary and inviting.
    Posted by Max Kogod