Tag Archive: Chardonnay



The next morning brought us a bit South-West to Limoux. Here, through the veil of plane trees, hillside vineyards dominate the landscape punctuated by the rows of huge stainless steel fermentation tanks and billboards of giant co-op producer, Sieur d’Arques. I regret that I have no photos of the region on the whole as it is a curious mix of idyllic vineyards, hilltop villages, castles, suburban sprawl, and industrial wine facilities.

Limoux is reputed to be the original home of sparkling wine. Historical records detail the specific production and distribution of blanquette (“little white”) sparkling wines by the monks of the abbey of Saint-Hilaire in 1531. Without getting into the specific details of the composition and production of Blanquette and Crémant de Limoux wines, suffice it to say that they are made primarily with the Mauzac grape and largely offer simple and affordable satisfaction.

Some of the vineyard plantings of Domaine J. Laurens

Some of the vineyard plantings of Domaine J. Laurens

The fairly small Domaine J. Laurens was our destination in Limoux. Here we were greeted by winemaker/owner Jacques Calvel, a genial gentleman who would provide a happy and informative tour and tasting.

Jacques Calvel

Jacques Calvel

We got a quick look at some of the vineyards adjacent to the winemaking facility. The vineyards are planted with Mauzac, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

Some of the Mauzac vineyards of Dom. J. Laurens

Some of the Mauzac vineyards of Dom. J. Laurens

The winemaking facility looked so small and innocuous from the outside, but it was like Felix the Cat’s Bag of Tricks on the inside:

The large stainless steel fermentation tanks are efficiently packed into a temperature controlled space.

The large stainless steel fermentation tanks are efficiently packed into a temperature controlled space…

...which opens up to the bottling room where just a few bottles await riddling.

…which opens up to the bottling room where a handful of bottles await riddling.

In this space is also the bottling/crown-sealing line which was in operation during our visit:

I managed to find some bottles at the final stage of the riddling process. The yeasts have collected at the neck of the bottle. From here, the neck will be frozen so that when the crown seal is removed the solid matter will pop out like a cork (disgorgement). Then, in most cases, a small amount of sugars (dosage) will be introduced into the wine and then the bottle will be sealed with the classic cork and wire cage closure we all know.

Rosé awaiting disgorgement, dosage, and corking.

Rosé awaiting disgorgement, dosage, and corking.

The wines are stored in a room full of miraculously stacked bottles. This room can hold the entirety of the roughly 30K bottle production at Domaine J. Laurens.

The storage room.

The storage room.

Finally, we got to taste the wines. Ideal timing, too, as it was about 11:15 am and we were all ready for a little palate-invigoration. We tasted the “Cuvée Stéphi Ebullience” Crémant and Crémant Rosé (made specifically for Bourgeois Family Selections) as well as Domaine J. Laurens’ standard bottlings of Blanquette “Le Moulin” and Crémant “Clos de Demoiselles”. All of these were bright, fresh, fruitful and floral, and fine examples of Limoux sparkling wines.

The tasting line-up.

The tasting line-up.


Deep into Burgundy and into Beaujolais, this afternoon. Here we continue to enjoy some brilliant Chardonnay, but also the criminally underrated/misunderstood (in the US) Gamay grape. 

 

A view from the property of Domaine Marion Pral


It’s substantially warmer here in Southern Burgundy — perhaps in the high-40’s. The walk around the property is not the bone-chilling task of the last day-and-a-half. Owner/winemaker, Pascal Chatelus, gives us a quick tour of the tiny neighboring parcel (just a wisp of the 50 acres under vine) of Gamay vineyard. These vines are planted on rolling hills of a thin layer of top-soil on a bed of granite. The resulting fruit is full and intense in a way most American consumers would find surprising if only exposed to that November outburst of sweet and easy juice. 

 

Hilly vineyards of Gamay.


 

In the vinification room.

The vines on the immediate property (10 miles from Villefranche) have an average age of 40-45 years. All vineyards are sustainably farmed. As we passed from the vineyard to the winemaking facility a few of us stopped to inspect the bags of fertilizer (mostly cow manure) to be used for the coming season. Mr. Chatlelus and wife, Marion Chatelus (née, Pral) are the latest in several generations to farm these vineyards in as ecologically sound a manner as possible. Winemaking shows minimalist intervention, as well, with hand-harvestincool simple temperature controlled fermentation, and aging in concrete tanks.

 

 

Harvest is off-loaded through these doors to the vinification area.


It’s all over but the tasting at this point. I carry the basic Beaujolais Cuvée Terroir and Beaujolais Blanc, so I was already familiar with just how wonderful these wines were. They serve as brilliant introductions to the region as well as being fine bridges to Burgundy for the US consumer who may have a predilection for riper domestic stuff. 

 

Mr. Pascal Chatelus presenting his wines.


 

  • Beaujolais Rouge Cuvée Terroir 2012 (juicy cherry lozenge, ripe but young and edgy — bottled just three weeks ago)
  • Beaujolais Rouge Cuvée Terroir 2011 (super-darkly fruited, silky soft with firm tannins, incredibly long finish)
  • Moulin-à-Vent 2012 (unfiltered, big cinnamon nose,bright and prickly raspberry fruit — carbonic maceration has not settled down in bottle yet — very youthful grippy tannins)
  • Moulin-à-Vent 2011 (shows where 2012 will be in time, cinnamon/cherry nose and palate, silky and juicy fruit)
  • Morgon “Les Charmes” 2012 (dusty leather/clove nose, dark and firm but still unsettled, this will be a beast)
  • Morgon “Les Charmes” 2011 (poured from magmun, rich and soft but short and not as deeply expressive as 2012 will prove to be)
This was a lovely visit with some true farmers and winemakers. From here day two will conclude after a long drive to Orange…stay tuned.

 

 

 


Long day today. Early morning travel from town of Beaune to the nearby village of Soultré near Pouilly In the commune of Fuissé. 

 

Solutré Chardonnay vines of Dom. Des Gerbeaux


Here resides the small winery, Domaine des Gerbeaux, guided by owner/winemaker, Jean-Michel Drouin. Production here is roughly 2200 total cases of 10 different micro-climate bottlings. All 17 acres of low-yield, biodynamically farmed vines are Guyot trained and planted in Pouilly-Fuissé (12 acres), Saint-Veran, and in Mâcon-Villages. Vines average 40 years of age with some vines reaching 90 years. Harvest is guided by the lunar calendar and done by hand despite most parcels being planted on dramatic 40° slopes. All sorting and vinification is achieved in a very small, temperature-controlled environment. These are hand-crafted wines in the strictest sense.

 

More Chardonnay vines in Solutré
adjacent to the winery.

Snowy and cold, the landscape is severe and breath-taking. There are pretty much only vines as far as the eye can see wherever they can be planted. These vineyards, planted across the narrow road from Drouin’s modest home/winery facility are within the confines of the Solutré village micro-climate.

 

 

 

 

At the winery, we tasted through 10 bottlings from current vintages (2011 & 2012) and 2010 as well as five barrel samples of 2012 prestige production. These were all exceptional, but here are some highlights:

 

A man and his babies.

  • 2012 Mâcon-Villages (rich, creamy apple and brioche — incredible value)
  • 2012 Mâcon-Chantré (bright and high-toned, but full apple and nougat)
  • 2012 Mâcon-Soultré (pineapple and guava flavors with bracing acidity and a long, mineral finish)
  • 2011 Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes (gentle pear and nougat with a soft mineral fade)
  • 2011 Clos-Pouilly (the star of the show — lush and silky, papaya, pear, marshmallow, exceptional balance)
 

Liquid gold in stainless steel.

 

Back on the road headed to Domaine Debray, a young winery (first vineyard purchased in 2006) that produces bottlings from around 25 different crus. We would soon taste them all. The team of owner, Yvonnick Debray and his oenologist, Jean-Philippe Terreau, have quickly established a prolific range of high-quality wines that will be hard to overlook in the coming years.

So unassuming from the outside, but…

This was an intensive tasting inclusive of five 2012 barrel samples and 20 bottle tastings from the 2010 and 2011 vintages. There was about a 60:40 ratio of red to white tasted. The thing that stood out most with this tasting was the precise detail of the entire experience and the intense professionalism of the two gentlemen. These are men committed to creating the best wines possible via exacting methods in the vineyard (sustainable practices, establishing vine-strain, ensuring small yields) through harvest and in the cellar (destemming, gentle pressing, meticulous temperature control, natural fermentation, etc.). The same behaviors were reflected in the nearly ritualistic nature of the tasting.

Where good stuff happens.

It would be foolish and daunting (and nigh-unreadable) for me to post all of my tasting notes here. Suffice it to say that my overarching comment on the wines when asked about possible favorites as we neared the end of the tasting was, “…difficult as it’s all just varying degrees of very good…”. I think that sums it up. There is not one wine in this visit that I would not personally buy or not enjoy drinking. There were, however, highlights:

Never enough Burgundy.

whites

  • 2011 Savigny les Beaune (tropical,spicy/toasty)
  • 2011 Meursault 1er Cru LesBoucheres (fleshy baked red apple, cinnamon, mineral)
  • 2011 Corton Charlemagne (fruit blossom melange, silken mouthfeel, marshmallow finish)

reds

  • 2012 Pommard 1er Cru Les Chaponniéres (mossy/earthy cherry nose, powerful, high-toned, high-extract)
  • 2011 Bourgogne Rouge (modern, sagey, ripe and bright, great value)
  • 2011 Mercurey 1er Cru Sazenay (cherry lozenge, sage, toasted marshmallow, cardamom, lavender)
  • 2011 Aloxe Corton 1er Cru Les Velozieres (black cherry, vanilla, full and rich)
  • 2011 Corton Grand Cru (old-school, black cherry, sanguine, high-toned)
  • 2011 Vosne Romanée Les Barreaux (intoxicating cinnamon/clove nose, über-ripe cherry, baking spice, chewy texture)
  • and the utterly ridiculous 2011 Clos de Vouget Grand Cru (dark and dense, silken, mixed herbs on front with red cherry bringing up the rear, impeccably structured: ripe fruit, sloping acid, velvety tannins)

2nd from left: Mr. Terreau, 2nd from right: Mr. Debray, far right: Philippe Bourgeois

This is a winery to watch.


Following is a repost of a recent wine review from my Facebook wine group, Armin’s Wine Stuff. Going forward, reviews will be here first and reposted to FB.

I have tasted through the last four vintages of this wine. This marks a change in direction stylistically.

Artesa Carneros Chardonnay 2010 shows that Mark Beringer is willing to take what has been a historically (in my opinion) over-rich and chewy, buttery/oaky Chardonnay in a more elegant direction. Perhaps ramping down incrementally from Artesa’s long-established sweet tropical punch slathered in butter, sprinkled in cinnamon and served on a vanilla-soaked bookshelf (not to say that style isn’t worth a sip on certain occasions), this wine shows a few steps in a more restrained direction. The fruit is not as ripe, showing pineapple and mango underneath pear (where prior iterations may have been the opposite). The oak is less liberal—I can only assume (since their website is not updated with tech sheets on the 2010 release yet) that the fermentation/barrel program is similar to 2009: 65% French oak (25% new)/35% stainless steel—than prior vintages which showed much more new oak. The mouthfeel is more mineral and thus more bright and vibrant (curiously, 2009 and 2007 tech sheets show a similar malolactic fermentation regimen, so who knows what differs for 2010).

All-in-all a lighter, cleaner and truer representation of the fruit less adulterated than prior vintages without trying to be anything other than Carneros Chardonnay. It succeeds at what it is trying to be, it just isn’t my cup of tea. Certainly not bad (and decidedly a step in the direction of my taste). Wine Enthusiast hit it with a typically fawning 92 points. I give it a 3.75/5 (yeah, it’s a quarter-star—what of it?!?).

Paired quite nicely with a homemade creamy Chicken Piccatta with loads of garlic, dill and capers on egg noodles and pan-sauteed Brussels sprouts with white Balsamic vinegar. Kickin’ it old-school.

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