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Beyond Pinot and Chard

In Champagne, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the darlings of producers large and small, and for good reason. That being said, there’s a few other grapes don’t get as much attention or respect as these two.

Pinot Meunier, or this days just Meunier, is by far the largest and most important of the other grapes. There are plenty of fantastic examples of this wine made on its own or in blends. While I could write tons about just grape alone, for the purpose of this blog post I’m going to limit myself to just discussing Laherte Frères and 3 of the 100% Meunier wines they make as this line up inspired this post.

Aurelien Laherte is committed to this grape and has created and interesting set of wines all made from old vines in his home village of Chavot and neighboring villages of Mancy and Vaudancourt. The compelling part of this trio of wines is that each is a different color: Vignes d’Autrefois is white, Les Beaudiers is rosé, and La Troisième Vie is still red wine. Tasting them side by side is a fascinating experience because there are certainly commonalities between the wines due the winemaker, but Meunier certainly shows its true character as well.  If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it.

Rather than go through each wine and the various notes, I’ll share my thoughts on what I often find with this grape in general. For me, one of the most delightful flavors of Meunier is blueberries. Sometimes the blueberry note is subtle, other times it flies out of the glass. Sometimes its fresh but at others its more like the canned blueberry concoction packed with blueberry muffin mix. Its always blueberry though, anytime I get raspberries, cherries, or blackberries I know there’s Pinot Noir in the blend.

Beyond the fruit, other flavors I associate with Meunier are floral tones(usually white floral), gamey notes, earthiness, sometimes an herbal or savory tone comes through. In a great example of Meunier, these aromas are fantastic and in harmony. Unfortunately, at other times one of these flavors can stick out, marring what would otherwise be a delicious wine. This is particularly true of the gamey and herbal notes.

Along with this collection of flavors, Meunier often has a certain rusticity to it. Some in Champagne find this to be beneath their wines and avoid this grape. Others embrace it, realizing that it adds lots of character. Like the flavors above, sometimes it’s a charming component, but at other times it makes a clunky wine that shows its country bumpkin roots.  At their core I think Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are city dwellers who like dressing up and going to fancy galas. Whereas Meunier is more comfortable in the country. When its does go to the ball, it’s more like a Southern gentleman, obviously well dressed and sophisticated while retaining a sense of self in dress and manner.

Meunier based champagnes are well worth seeking out, and are regularly featured at Ambonnay, so get in here!

Grand Marque Rodeo

Grand Marque tasting

Recently, I hosted a fantastic evening where my guests and I tasted 8 of the most well known champagnes in 2 flights. It was fascinating to revisit these wines in a relaxed setting and side by side. I don’t think I’ve ever had all of these side by side ever. It was fun to see which wines actually lived up to their reputation both in terms of quality, but more importantly house style.

Here are the wines with my thoughts. A quick technical note, I did open all of the wines 1 hour before the tasting began, so they all had plenty of time to breath.

Flight 1

1.Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV – This was probably the biggest surprise of the night for me. I always thought of PJ as a lighter, more delicate style with floral tones. This wine however was much bigger than expected leaning toward the yeast, almond, brioche side of the house. I certainly wouldn’t have put this wine in the starting position had I realized how off my palate memory was, or how much the house has been tinkering with their style.

2. Taittinger La Francaise Brut NV – I was pleased with how this wine tasted, it showed its higher percentage of Chardonnay with bright lemon and mineral tones. The wine had a more pronounced acidity and lacked the rounder tones that arise with age. Overall, I feel that the continue to achieve their goal of making a fresh, light champagne that’s ideal for pairing with lighter foods.

3.Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV – Certainly one of the highlights of the night. Despite not owning a significant portion of their vines, Billecart manages to reach impressive heights. The wine showed a spectrum of flavors both on the light citrus and mineral end, as well as a the bolder more pinot dominate notes. Balanced and easy drinking while showing its aristocratic roots.

4. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut NV  - What to say about the most produced champagne in the world? The wine delivered what I expected, it was easy and enjoyable. I would be glad if this was what most people associated with champagne rather than Cook’s or some other garbage. It was also the wine that made the least impact on all of us. I suppose that’s the trade off, to produce that much wine, it’ll be a bit less complex.

Flight 2

5. Veuve Clicquot Carte Jaune NV – I had been hearing rumors that Clicquot was actively working on improving the quality of the Yellow Label, which had been sinking toward a very boring wine for a while now. I am happy to report that the quality of this wine has significantly improved. Possibly due to a good base year, but I’m guessing the work in the winery and vineyards is starting to show.  It wasn’t my favorite wine of the night, but it did make an impression. I will happy accept a glass of this in the future.

6. Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV – I was very happy with this wine, and I feel the additional time being open helped the wine considerably. The last few times I’ve had this wine I thought it showed more reductive qualities that I’d like, but it certainly had blown off at this tasting. The wine showed what I expected of the house and this wine – brioche and yeasty tones mingled with red apples, and minerality with an underlying grace. The ML played a wonderful role in making this wine very drinkable while remaining complex.

7. Pol Roger Cuvée de Réserve NV Brut – This was certainly the favorite of the group. It showed elegance and sophistication. A fantastic blend of almonds, brioche, red apples, and minerality. Well balanced and very drinkable. More or less what I expected from this noble house.

8. Bollinger Special Cuvée NV Brut – Bolli has been in the middle of a rough patch with their former Chef du Cave leaving, however I thought this wine showed very well. It was very much what I expected and enjoy about Bollinger – robust, full bodied champagne with a focus on brioche and nutty tones and the weight and flavor of Pinot Noir. If you enjoy bolder champagnes, this will treat you very well. I can’t help but wonder if some of this is due to their new bottle, which is designed to mimic the air to wine ratio of a magnum.

Overall, this was a fantastic tasting that confirmed that many of the houses are staying true to the perception of their house style. It was also a pleasant change to focus solely on larger producers. I get so wrapped up with the growers and focus on terrior and vintage character. I truly enjoyed tasting the crafted wines. I think in the excitement of wanting new and interesting, we forget that the established houses do truly make delicious wines.

What Gives?

Women and Champagne

The other night, I had a delightful group of women come into Ambonnay. They obviously had plenty of money judging by their jewelry, shoes, clothes, and haircuts. Yet, when discussing what champagne to order, they didn’t want to spend a lot of money. This is not the first time I’ve noticed this situation. I’m always a bit confused by it, they love champagne, have plenty of money, and often their husbands spend considerable amounts on wine for their home cellars and at restaurants.  However, when given the option to spend a bit more and have a magnificent bottle, they rarely do. What better time when you’re out with your girlfriends enjoying life than to share a fantastic bottle?

So ladies, as someone who has your best interests at heart, enjoy life more often and quit worrying about $20. 

Terroir of Vrigny

On Wednesday night, I opened a flight of wines from the Premier Cru village of Vrigny in the Petite Montagne. This village is planted with all three of the major grapes and has a collage of soils including clay, chalk, and sand. This was the first time that I’ve ever lined up wines from 3 different producers from this village to explore the question of terroir. Here are the wines I opened: Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny Brut NV, Lelarge-Pugeot Meuniers de Clémence Brut NV, and Roger Coulon l’Esprit de Vrigny Brut Nature NV.

Through this tasting, I definitely learned new things about Vrigny and terroir, but it wasn’t necessarily what I was hoping to learn. First this tasting reminded me terroir is partly dependent on the people that planted the vineyard, the decisions about which grapes to plant, where to plant them, spacing, etc. these all impact the final wine. I bring this up because comparing two wines that are 100% Meunier with one that is a blend of all three grapes is more difficult.

The other big illustration was how much a winemaker can coax out terroir in the wine or completely obliterate it. All three of these wines were top notch and I would happily drink any of them,  however the Coulon showed so much of the work in the winery rather than the work in the vineyard. The wine had at least 5 years on the lees, plus additional time post disgorgement. Essentially this wine was well into all the secondary and tertiary flavors of roasted hazelnuts, coffee, toffee, caramel, honey, and a bit of vanilla. I’m not saying this a bad wine, or that I don’t like these flavors. I enjoy them a great deal, but I am saying its hard to sort through them to taste for terroir.

With these lessons in mind, I still was searching for what this village expresses in its grapes that distinguish them other villages in Champagne. Through all of the wines I noticed a distinct set of flavors involving honey and wheat. Unfortunately these flavors can come from winemaking techniques as much, if not more than, terroir. That being said, I thought it telling that I noticed the trait across all of the wines despite of the significant differences in winemaking and aging.

Beyond the flavors, I definitely noticed a pronounced creaminess across all three wines. It was a very delightful creaminess that felt more like home than something elegant and luxurious. Think a perfect bowl of oatmeal rather than a very expensive lotion. Again, some of this could be from the winery rather than the earth, but still interesting to experience it in all three wines. Overall, I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t find a lot of similarities between these wines that could be obviously attributed to the terroir. Clearly more research is in order. Hopefully next time I’m in Champagne I’ll be able to taste younger versions of some of these wines.

Texture and Terrior

One of the things I’ve been wrestling with lately with  my studies of Champagne is how to detect and discuss terrior of the villages across the region, and how this comes through in the wines. As I’ve explored this topic, I’ve looked a lot at flavors, but I’ve found the bigger piece of the puzzle is texture. How grapes grown in clay, chalk, limestone, and more differ from each other is more apparent in how the wines feel rather than how they taste. Its easy to forget that our mouths are useful for feeling as well as tasting.

Interestingly, the quest to understand Champagne and terrior, has taken a detour through my backyard. I’m lucky to live so close to the Willamette Valley and have so much access to these wines, and the people that make them. Lately, I’ve tasted a lot of Willamette Valley wines, and I’m starting to build a new framework for how I think about them. For a long time the discussion of terrior in the Willamette Valley has been focused on dark vs. red fruit flavors, different spice notes, etc. I’m beginning to see that much of the texture/terrior dynamic I’ve been chasing in Champagne is also present in Oregon. I think the flavor discussions are useful, but I think a focus on texture could be more useful.

Recently I went on a field trip to the Eola Amity Hills and met with many of the producers and growers there. I tasted many of their wines, and started to recognize a common thread.  Higher acid was a big piece, as was the side of my tongue tingling I found in many of the wines grown in basalt soils. These traits appeared not only in the Pinot, but also in Riesling and Chardonnay. If anything it was easier to pick up the basalt notes in the whites, and then I began to notice it in the reds.

These components are helping me grasp the differences between how the wines grown in the basalt soils of the Eola Amity Hills feel different than those grown in jory soils of the Dundee hills, and so on. I feel like the Willamette Valley is maturing into a place where we can talk about texture in addition to flavors. I’m really excited about this because I think this could really help the Willamette Valley continue to distinguish itself from other Pinot areas of the world and create a more compelling story for everyone involved. It’s been years since I’ve been really excited about Oregon wines, and with this new perspective, I’m eager to taste and enjoy a lot more wine from my backyard.

Plus its nice to have another region to think about in similar ways to Champagne and mapping terrior and its impact on the wines.

Champagne and The Matrix

So I was doing some research for an upcoming post about Cramant, Chouilly, and Oiry, and I came across this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbAHV__cXzM

Its amazing and horrifying. This is a company that makes private label champagne for grocery stores across Europe, who knows the Costco Champagne might even be made here. Regardless, it reminded me strongly of this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IojqOMWTgv8

I’m not one to knock size of the house, just as long as they’re making quality juice. That being said, this much machinery is a bit disturbing particularly without any focus on the vines or peopls. Its why many Champagnois don’t talk about anything but the luxury, elegance, and celebratory power of champagne. Its hard to make all that industrial capacity sexy.

This is also at the heart of the argument behind grower vs large house champagne producers. Some champagne is born, the rest is made in a factory.

Food for thought…

Summer of Riesling!

Pop in Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation, turn it to 11 and put some of the best stuff on earth in your mouth, Riesling! Without a doubt, this is the grape with the worst reputation amongst all of its Vinifera peers. Its too sweet, its too dry, its too nerdy, umlauts, and whatever other lame excuse you want to bring up to not drink it. I don’t want to hear any that crap! You need to drink more Riesling, more often. It’ll make you a better person, and if you’re super awesome you might even get laid.

For the second year, Ambonnay is participating in the Summer of Riesling that was started by the Riesling Overlord at Terrior Wine Bar in NYC. All summer long you can join me at Ambonnay as it becomes its alter ego of Awesome and enjoy 4 different Rieslings along with the full compliment of champagne. Seriously its like when David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust. Riesling, like loud and creative makeup, makes you a whole different person.

Why yes that is some Riesling on Mr. Stardust's shoulder.

Why yes that is some Riesling on Mr. Stardust's shoulder.

I mean it, if you don’t come in and drink some Riesling, I’m breaking up with you. You’ll have your horizons expanded and your mind blown. Riesling might even reduce you to a puddle of ooze on the floor spouting gibberish, but when you recover you’ll understand how much you’ve been missing in your life.

I’ll constantly be rotating through Rieslings from Germany, Austria, Oregon, Washington, Australia, France, and any other place I can find delicious examples of this grape. Plus its all priced to be friendly to your budget! Flights are available, operators are standing by, order now and we’ll include table side delivery for free! Available all summer long until Sept 21

So This Happened

Recently a fantastic guest brought in the cutest little stubby to ever come out of Champagne – Moët & Chandon Petite Liquorelle NV. Prior to this, I’ve never even heard of this concoction, let alone tasted it. It was fascinating and bizarre.

Its not about how big it is, but how you use it!

Its not about how big it is, but how you use it!

According to the Old Liquor Company, this was an experiment that the folks at M&C designed as a ready to serve champagne cocktail comprised of champagne and marc de Chapagne, and a healthy dose of sugar. It debuted in the early 1980’s but was discontinued in the early 1990s due to poor sales.

Unfortunately there was no vintage or indication of when this oddball was released, but figure even if it came out in 1992, its still over 20 years old and only a 200ml bottle. It had significant tertiary notes revolving around coffee, madeira(in a good way), burnt sugar, and a bit of chalky minerality. It had only the vaguest hint of bubbles, but by no means could be considered sparkling. Definitely sweet, it was too much for most of us to take all but a sip or two. Glad I got a chance to try this little guy.

The bold red sash of a label recommends serving it very cold, which maybe back in the day was a good a idea, overly sweet, high alcohol cocktails are generally better that way. These days I’d serve it closer to room temp like a tawny port or madeira.

If you’re really intrigued the Old Liquor Company still sells this stuff, but at 60 euro plus shipping from England, I’d recommend about 100 other beverages first.

State of the Blog

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about writing, both this blog and as some of you know, a book. Many people have encouraged me to use this blog as a platform to share pieces of the book and talk about champagne. I definitely plan to use it for these purposes, but honestly that sounds a bit boring. I like writing about champagne, and I enjoy writing about other topics as well. The recent Riedel pieces were a blast to write.

I suppose I’m just saying that you should be prepared to see posts about a range of topics here. Most will be wine focused, but some will be about fun stuff that happened at the bar, or just things I find interesting in the world. I suppose this means the blog won’t be as “professional”, but last time I checked wine, and particularly champagne, is for having fun. I want to share the fun stuff too, not just the wine facts.

In addition to all of the recent and future writings, I’m going to consolidate my old blogs, particularly the travel ones here so you can check out my thoughts from yesteryear. This may take a bit of time, but I promise it’ll happen.

Finally, if you have questions or topics you’d like my thoughts on, please let me know!


Killer Whites

Being chosen as Riedel’s Sommelier of the Month has been an honor, and has helped me learn and grow as a sommelier. Throughout this month, I’ve been able to practice what I preach by decanting all sorts of wines, and enjoying the experience and experiment of it all.  Watching my guests enjoy these various wines poured out of beautiful decanters has been awesome. I’ve realized how much decanters heighten the pleasure of enjoying wine, both on the practical level of helping the wines open and removing sediment, as well as the seductive nature of creating a performance that the guests, the wine, and the sommelier are all players.

 

The final tasting of the month focused exclusively on white wines. Without a doubt white wine never gets as much attention or praise as it should, even the world class ones. With this tasting, I wanted to demonstrate that whites are equally, if not more deserving than red wine of being decanted. I chose amazing wines, many from top producers and regions, to illustrate this point. Honestly this was my favorite of the four tastings I hosted with the Riedel decanters because I’ve never gotten to experience how 6 white wines grow with time in a decanter. Below are my thoughts from the tasting, enjoy!

 

Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre 2012 – This was the only wine I didn’t decant. I didn’t think that decanting would do much for the wine, plus starting with a wine from the bottle helped create a bigger spectacle when the decanters were used. As always this wine is a quintessential example of Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre – gooseberries, grass clips, a smoky minerality, some grapefruit, and a sense of summer.

 

Domaine Costal Chablis Vallions 1er 2011 – I did a quick splash decant in the Face to Face decanter, the faces allowed me to beat the wine up a bit helping it open quickly.  This was a rather delightful example of Chablis made in a friendlier style with some ML and barrel. It was loaded with yellow apples, some smoke tones and a rounded minerality. It was not in the lean and ripping acidity camp of Chablis, just delicious with plenty of complexity.

 

Huët Vouvray Le Mont Sec 2011 – Huët is a winery I’ve always appreciated, but after this tasting its one that will be added to my personal cellar in greater quantities! Le Mont is one of the greatest vineyards in Vouvray, and as expected this wine was packed with minerality and ridiculous acid. It was great now, but has a long life ahead of it. I did a quick decant with the Swan decanter, I wanted it to have plenty of air contact in the wider base. Outside of a couple Savennières, I’ve never had a more powerful Chenin Blanc. The wine continuous evolved in the glass showing off lanolin, peaches, honey, smoke, minerality, and just the pure force of a world class wine. Incredible that its only $35 retail!

FX Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Dürnsteiner Liebenberg 2012 – Its always a treat to pull the corks on Pichler’s wines. Every Pichler wine I’ve ever had needs more time to open up, so before the tasting started I poured it into the Bliss decanter and put it back in the fridge. It had more than an hour to open, and it still could have used more time. At first the wine showed a lot of banana esters, but resolved into all of the classic Grüner notes – white pepper, peaches, floral tones, minerality, and plenty of depth. You should always decant Pichler’s wines.

 

Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2012 – Elisabetta is a powerful and elegant woman, and I think her wines mimic her personality. The Manzoni Bianco is a wine that I’ve enjoyed for years, and wanted to see how it stack up next a pile of world class whites, and it performed admirably. I splash decanted into the Face to Face decanter again to help it open and to knock it around with the faces. The wine had so much body and intensity, loads of floral tones, great minerality, and plenty of je ne se quoi.

 

A. Christmann Königsbacher Idig Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2007 – I’ve had the honor of enjoying this wine on multiple occasions, and for me this was the highlight of the night. I knew this wine would need plenty of time, so like the Pichler I decanted it before the tasting and put it back in the fridge. I had at least an hour and a half of time in the Amadeo decanter, used to maximize the air contact, before we enjoyed it. Rich and intense with too many flavors to name but mango, earth, citrus, minerals all played a role. This wine illustrated why Riesling is one of the noble varieties, and frankly I think it was better than the Corton-Charlemagne.

 

Domaine Dublère Corton-Charlemagne Grande Cru 2005 – I hadn’t tasted this wine in years, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. I was hesitant to decant it too far in advance because I didn’t want it to fall apart in the decanter. I opened the wine at 6pm and decanted it in the Swan decanter at 7:45. It was good but not great at the time of tasting. It felt like it had slight premox but was still drinkable. Very round, with lots of lees and a bit of oak showing. Unfortunately, I realized I made a mistake with this wine, I should have decanted hours before the tasting. I revisited this wine, still in decanter at 9:30 after I cleaned up. It was amazing, and came out of its shell.  All the premox notes I thought I was experiencing were just the opening notes of a fascinating wine. I’m sorry that my guests didn’t get to experience this wine in a fully opened state. This wine, possibly more than any other wine I decanted this month proved why you should decant wines, particularly world class whites.

Rhone All Stars

Friday night at Red Slate was awesome! Pulling the corks on so many of the top wines from the Rhone valley was enlightening and delicious.  We enjoyed two flights on wine, the first focused on the northern Rhone followed by one with four Chateauneuf-du-Papes.  We concentrated on just the top producers and wines, so we had a clear look how the wines show both terrior and the hand of the winemakers. 

The first flight was comprised of:

Guigal Chateau d’Ampuis Côte Rôtie 2009 – I served this wine out of the Riedel Swan decanter.  I chose it for a couple reasons, first for such a star studded tasting I wanted to start with a dramatic presentation for which this decant is admirably suited. Next, I figured this wine would be tight, so I wanted to give it plenty of space to breath in the larger base.  The wine itself was interesting, and was the one that evolved the most during the course of the evening. At first it just showed a bunch of oak and a modern take on syrah, but by the end of the night the elements of the wine came into harmony and showed the balance of elegance and rustic tones for which Cote Rotie is known. Floral tones, black pepper, pork, brambleberries, rather delicious and certainly a modern take on the region.

Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard 2009 - I knew this wine would be closed up and need some breathing room, so I poured it from the Riedel Amadeo decanter. This wine was tannic and hard all night, but it still showed an incredible amount of class that will come to the forefront in another 5+ years when the wine softens up.  Without a doubt one of the winners of the night for me, but only as something to put in the back of the cellar and forget about. 

Super sexy decanter next to plastic water bottle due to E coli scare.

Super sexy decanter next to plastic water bottle due to E coli scare.

Alain Voge Cornas Les Vielles Fontaines 1996 – I’ve enjoyed this wine in the past and I knew it would be friendly right away, so I was simply decanting to remove sediment by using the Riedel Bliss decanter. This wine next to the Allemand was a fantastic study in how Cornas ages.  Its always rustic, but the Voge was much more approachable and illustrated why this region is so well regarded.  The wine was definitely showing plenty of tertiary notes and doesn’t need anymore age, drink up.  The biggest surprise of the night was how much acid this wine had, tons! Sommelier wet dream, big bold red with lots of acid…

JL Chave Hermitage 1992 – Like the Voge, I knew this wine would open quickly, so I used the Riedel Face 2 Face decanter to remove sediment and provide some amazing visuals for a top tier wine.  Without a doubt the most regal wine of the evening.  The nose needed a bit of time to come into its own, but the mouth immediately showed the majesty of Hermitage.  1992 was a tough, rainy year in the Northern Rhone, but Jean-Louis and his father Gerard are another example of outstanding winemakers beating the odds and producing a fantastic wine in an off year. I don’t think that this wine will continue improve, but you don’t need to rush to drink it either.

chave.jpg

The second flight Chateauneuf focused  included the following:

Vieux Télégraphe La Crau Châteauneuf du Pape 2007 – The iconic wine from the Brunier brothers is usually pretty friendly right out of the gate, and this wine was no exception.  I decanted into the Riedel Bliss decanter mostly to help it open more quickly, but there was a surprising amount of sediment as well.  In the land of Chateauneuf, I find there are two color spectrums that the wines will display, one is more the reds and browns, the other is purple and inky.  The VT was definitely in the red category, lots of cherry, raspberry, earth, spices, and garrigue.  It was a perfect combination of complexity and approachability.  2007 was a great year for bold styles of CdP, and I think this wine exemplifies this. 

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 2007 – I poured this wine from the Riedel Swan decanter because I figured it would need more room to breath.  Like the Vieux Telegraphe, it was throwning a bit more sediment than I expected.  Unfortunately, unlike its 2007 counter point, it was a bit reduced and never came out of its shell. Its obvious this wine is well bred, but it just didn’t want to show its true potential.  Everyone has off days.  Like the VT, it was definitely projecting in reds and browns. Put it back in the cellar and forget about it for a while.

Clos des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape 2009 – Every Clos des Papes I’ve had is friendly and more accessible so I used the Face to Face decanter from Riedel to help the wine open up more quickly.  This wine was all about purple inky tones! Olives, garrigue, white pepper, blackberries, intense and high alcohol, but still charming.  Worthy of the praise and acclaim it receives, but certainly a wine with limited application on my dinner table.

Pierre Usseglio & Fils Réserve des 2 Frères 2009 – This is the first time I’ve had this wine, not knowing what to expect I used the Riedel Amadeo decanter to give it plenty of air contact.  I’m glad I did because it certainly took its time opening up, and throughout the night had an interesting biscuit note to it.  That being said, it definitely showed the modern face of Chateauneuf, purple and inky with lots of fruit, but some very pleasant lavender and white pepper notes also came into play.  I think this wine would be more enjoyable on its own rather than in the comparative setting, where it was playing second fiddle to some of the other wines. 

Overall this was an incredible tasting both for the hedonistic and intellectual elements. 

Troublemakers

On Friday night I hosted a tasting that was pretty awesome on a lot of levels.  The tasting was call Troublemakers.  I chose 7 wines from winemakers that I think are causing a ruckus  by either doing something new and different in a traditional region, or being tradition in a region that is influenced by trends and technology.  I also used four Riedel decanters because like these winemakers, I think the Riedel family are a bunch of troublemakers.  In a few generations they have changed how the world serves and appreciates wine. 

The tasting was really cool because in addition to the wines and the glass, the guests ranged from novice to very experienced in the world of wine.  Sharing these fascinating wines with so many palates was great.  Its always a treat to see how people with varying experiences with wine react to things like orange wine. 


Here are the wines I poured, my thoughts on them as well as a bit of background. 

1. Bérêche et Fils Brut Réserve NV (2011) $47

Region – Champagne, FR  Grapes: roughly 1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay

Raphaël has been working at the family estate for 10 years and is really coming in to his own.  He uses a number of controversial practices in including oak fermentation, oxidative wine making, a very definite love of pinot meunier, cork finishing his Champagnes, and making a number of single vineyard champagnes. 


2. Christ Gemischter Satz 2012 $21

Region – Wien, AU Grapes: Field blend of up to 20 different grapes

Rainer Christ is one of the very few winemakers to making a quality version of Gemischter Satz.  Most of the time this is a very boring wine made to be sold by the jug or glass from Heurigers in Vienna.  He and a handful of others are proving this style is capable of making top quality wine. 


3. Patrick Piuze Chablis Terrior Découverte 2012 $27

Region – Chablis, FR Grapes: Chardonnay

Puize moved from Montreal to Burgundy to learn about winemaking and ultimately wound up in Chablis.  He became very passionate about the terrior of Chablis, which has generally been overlooked.  He makes top quality single vineyard Chablis, as well as the more typical single vineyard 1er and Grand Crus.  He uses the same techniques for his Chablis that most use for only their top wines.  He’s definitely changing how people look at the non-cru areas of Chablis.

I did a quick decant of this wine table side with the Black Tie Face to Face decanter.   I chose this decanter because the Piuze only needs a quick bit of aeration to open up.  The base of the decanter is small so it limits the air contact, which is great for this wine.  The small base also helped keep the wine cool. Doing a quick decant  with the Face to Face tableside was also very dramatic due to the exceptionally long neck.


4. Radikon Pinot Grigio S 2010 $46

Region: Venezia Giulia, IT Grapes: Pinot Grigio

Stanko and his son Sasa are part of a handful of producers that helped put orange wine on the map.  They’re making wine like their grandparents did, before lots of technology and winemaking know how influenced the world.  They use long skin macerations and oak aging on whites to create a distinct, intense style of wine. This PG spent 2 weeks on its skin and a year in barrel before it was released. 

I decanted this wine with the Black Tie Bliss decanter before the tasting started.  I chose this decanted due to the small size.  It limits the amount of air contact, and I could put it back in the refrigerator if the wine was becoming too warm.

radikon decant.jpg


5. Luyt El País de Quenehuao 2011 $25

Region – Cauquenes, Chile Grapes: País

Louis Antoine Luyt gets the prize for biggest shit disturbed in this group as he’s actually gotten death threats and bricks thrown through his windows for what he’s doing. He studied in Beaujolais with the OG troublemaker Marcel Lapierre and has applied what he learned to amazing vineyards in Chile.  He’s focused on terrior and farming in a land of bulk crap. The Quenehuao vineyard was planted 300 years ago and it still producing today thanks to regrafting new vines on the old root stocks.


6.Tenuta delle Terre Nere Feudo di Messo Enta Rosso 2010 $50

Region: Etna, Sicilia, IT Grapes:  98% Nerello Mascalese, 2% Nerello Cappucio

Etna has a long history of producing underwhelming wines that nevertheless show off a sense of place.  Marc de Grazia, a wine importer, decided to purchase this estate a number of vineyards over 100 years old and change what’s going on here.  He started using top quality techniques to show off how great these wines can be and how well they show various parts of Mt Etna and its varies soils and expositions. This vineyard was planted in 1933 and expanded in 1973. 

I decanted this wine in the Swan decanter before the tasting began.  I wanted to give this wine plenty of time to open up and the larger base of the decanter and extended time helped achieve my goal. Without a doubt this is my favorite decanter to use.  It combines a dramatic appearance with an unexpected and elegant ease of use while pouring. 


7. Dunn Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $75

Region – Napa, CA Grape:  Cabernet Sauvignon

Randy Dunn came to Napa in 1978 and began making Cab the way they did in Bordeaux. Unlike most of his Napa peers, he never stopped doing this.  He doesn’t bother with the tricks and the tech, he just makes top quality wine with old school techniques.  He’s a troublemaker because in my mind his wines consistently outclass his neighbors due of his focus on tradition.

This wine was decanted in the Amadeo decanter.  I chose the Amadeo because it has the largest amount of surface area for the wine to enjoy contact with air. Anyone who’s enjoyed one of Dunn’s wines know his wines flourish with time to open. 

dunn decanter.jpg

 


Decanting Champagne

Decanting Champagne

 

On Saturday May 3rd, I teamed up with Riedel to do a decanted champagne comparison. The side by side of Demarne-Frison Goustan Brut Nature from bottle and decanter was awesomely nerdy! This was the first good experience I’ve had with decanting Champagne.  In the past I’ve always felt that decanting does more harm than good because the wine ended up losing too much of its fizz.

I chose the Demarne Goustan because I have a lot of experience with this wine and know its much better on day two when its had time to breath and unwind.  I also had a range of decanters to chose from and ultimately decided on Riedel’s Black Tie Bliss decanter.  I chose this model because it has a small base which limited the amount of surface area for the bubbles to escape.  I also chose this it because its compact enough to keep in the refrigerator. This experiment lasted for several hours and the wine needed to be kept cool.  Finally, I served the wine in Riedel Riesling/Sangiovese glasses to allow the aromas to come out of the glass while not losing too many more bubbles.  This glass is a nice half way point between a flute and the burgundy stem that is the usual Ambonnay glass.

The results of this tasting were fascinating. Immediately after opening the first bottle and decanting the second, the wines were clearly different.  The decanted wine was more evolved and expressed the aromas and flavors that I appreciate so much on day two – rich almond and honey tones, raspberries, and limestone minerality.  The taste from the bottle was tight and the flavors were concentrated on a lot of dusty earth, limestone minerality, and hay. 

The other piece of the experience rests with the effervescence.  The Demarne from the bottle had an aggressive mousse that was a bit overwhelming in the mouth, whereas the decanted version was much more elegant. The decanted wine still had plenty of fizz, and frankly was more enjoyable as a result of being decanted both in terms of flavor and bubbles.

Fortunately, there was enough of the wines left two hours after opening them to revisit.  The wine in the bottle had opened up more and was starting to evolve into the richer tones of nuts and honey, and the mousse was starting to calm down and become pleasant.  The decanted Demarne continued to evolve as well the barrel notes became more noticeable, some earthiness emerged, both of which made it fascinating to drink as the honey, almonds, and raspberry notes were all still showing as well. Unfortunately, the bubbles were waning. The wine wasn’t flat, but it wasn’t particularly lively either.  Essentially this is the experience I had the other times I decanted Champagne.  Enhanced flavors demand the sacrifice of bubbles. 

Overall, I appreciated the experience of the side by side, however I am still hesitant to recommend decanting champagne regularly.  I think you have to know the champagne in question rather well to know whether it will take to decanting. If the wine is tightly wound and very effervescent decanting is worth considering, but if it’s a delicate champagne or one that made in a lower atmosphere style, then I would avoid the decanter.  Either way, you need to drink the decanted champagne quickly if you want to enjoy the fizz. The experiment further confirmed that serving champagne in burgundy stems is a good compromise.  The glass helps open the wine without sacrificing too much of the mousse.   

 

 

A quick note

Some of the posts you'll see from this point are writings from my travels. They are not fully edited, I have decided to intentionally leave them this way. It helps remind me of the trips, and gives you a sense of how hectic the time was. I didn't have much time to write, often just between appointments. I was always tired, and often had some wine on board. Just enjoy them for the adventure of my travels rather than wishing they were well edited.

 

Cheers,

David

Sunday in Champagne

Sundays in Champagne are pretty boring, so I ended up driving around and looking at many of the villages and vineyards I wasn't specifically visiting.  Its obvious why many of the grand crus and important 1ers are classified more highly than their neighbors.  

Just some observations:

Hautvillers gentile slopes, mostly south and SE exposure.  The abbey was impressive as well. 

Verzy and Verzenay where very steep and hilly with east facing vines. There's also a facinating park in Verzy with a high ropes corse and a champagne bar, odd...

Ambonnay and Bouzy have a gorgeous SE facing slope that's quite gentle.

Trepail, a 1er next to Ambonnay is clearly inferior to it's neighbor, with less elevation and shallow slopes and more south and north facing vines. 

Tours-sur-Marne, maybe I missed something or didn't see the right area, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out why this was grand cru.  For that matter there weren't even many vineyards,  

Oiry - same deal as Tours sur Marne

Chouilly had one impressive hill with all the right stuff and then a bunch of valley floor, who cares vineyards.  

Cuis is to Cramant, as Trepail is to Ambonnay. Cramant is a steep amphitheater that is quite impressive and obvious as to why it's grand cru.  

Both the cotes de blanc and the montagne de Reims, at the southern end, look very much like the cote d'or in burgundy.  

The Vallėe de la Marne is less uniform, with steeper slopes and a variety of directions in which the vines face.   After seeing all these areas I'm hoping and looking forward to more growers taking an interest in showing off their terroirs. 

Vilmart

I had a bit of time between appointments so I skipped lunch and sat in a nice little park over looking the vines in Rilly-la-Montagne writing about and contemplating all I've learned on the trip.  

I arrived at Vilmart to find a larger than expected operation, and a greeting from a receptionist who was rather stern.  I'm guessing someone who suffers fools regularly that want to taste the wines at Vilmart. Anyway Laurent was running a bit behind, so I hung out in this waiting room/ function extra space for harvest time.  Like many places I waited, I admired the odd French aesthetic of decorating with a mix of time periods, quality, and attention to upkeep. 

When he arrived, Laurent seemed a bit rushed, like he other things to do.  He briefly told me about the family history dating back to the 1890's and he's the fifth generation at the helm.  He also discussed the interesting break down of Rilly-la-Montagne's vines which are 40% chard, 20% Pinot, and 20% muenier, whereas Vilmart is 60% Chard and 40% Pinot.  He showed me the large casks he uses for the younger vines, 30 years old, as well as the barrique which are the for vines that are 45+ years old.  

As we talked, and began tasting, Laurent asked me about my bar and which of his wines I serve, and I ran through the list of pretty much everything he makes including a vertical of coeur de Cuvėe. Once he heard all this he went back to the fridge to get more wine.  This was not the first time this happened on the trip, it seems many of the winemakers underestimated how much I knew about their wines.  

Anyway, we started on the Grande Resėrve NV which is not really available in the US, shame because it's delicious.  Beyond this tease, I tasted a few other wines, include the Grande Cellier 2009, which hasn't been released in the the States yet, but was awesome.  Not quite as amazing as the 2008 though  Interestingly Laurent compared 07 and 09 feeling they have similarities.  We progressed the to the Coeur de Cuvėe 2005, which is a weaker vintages, but after retasting it, I'm happy to have it on my menu.  A cool wine that suffers from poor association with the vintage.  I also found out that the 06 is quick on it's heels, and will be released in March.   This was a quick visit, but good to see what's going on.  Laurent is a reserved guy who clearly is very thoughtful.  Seems like he'd be fun with a few glasses in him.  

Aubry

This was one of the visits that I was least sure about what to expect.  When I told many of the other producers I was coming here, they made a face or told me how grumpy the brothers are.  Interesting, considering they're in to sustainable farming, odd grapes, interesting production methods, and generally pushing the boundaries.  I think it's more a generational thing.  Most of the producers I met with were younger, between 30-45, where as the Aubry twins were older.  Regardless this turned out to be a great visit.  

When I arrived I met Philippe, who was on first appearance a funny little frenchman, he was very proper and helped me with my French.  He spoke almost no English, so another good opportunity to practice.  That being said, I'm really glad this wasn't my first visit,  that would have been rough. We jumped right into the tasting, no tour, no vineyards, which I was okay with.  You can only see so many wineries before your eyes glaze.  He gave me a brief break down of where the grapes come from - Jouy-les-Reims, Villedommagne, Pargny-les-Reims, and Coulommes-la-Montagne, all in the heart of  western part of the Montagne de Reims, also known as the Petite Montagne. The expositions vary between south and west, with soils primarily being chalk and clay.  

Interestingly, the Aubry brothers have all 7 of the grapes of Champagne planted, which is awesome, and even better that I was able to taste these wines with recent experience with the other grapes during other appointments like Bereche and Laherte.   We started with the brut classique which is always an easy and playful wine, followed by the rosė classique. As we tasted, Philippe realized I actually had a pretty good palate, and brought out his book of flavors that I've heard about and for the rest of the tasting we played name that flavor ranging from tangerines, hazelnut cookies, red currants pineapple, tonic, earl grey tea, and lots more fun.  

At some point Philippe's twin brother Pierre came down stairs and kind of grunted a hello before moving along.  Maybe the other winemakers had a point.  Regardless, we tasted through the line, and it was one of the most fun tasting I did during my trip.  Between the complexity of the wines and playing name that flavor I really enjoyed myself.  We moved on the the 2008 of both the Le Nombre d'Or Companie VV and Blanc de Blancs both of which were fascinating and complex.  

We then started moving into some of my favorite wines of the trip:  Ivorie et Ebene 09 which is 70% chard, 25 meunier, and 5 Pinot.  It was loaded with flavor, lots of dark fruits, honeycomb, floral tones, cider notes, overall a delightful wine with lots of complexity but very friendly at the same time.  Sablė Rosė 2008 - without a doubt one of the wines of the trip.  Made with 45% vin tache from pinot and muenier.  Vin tache is the slightly pink juice from the start of the pressing that is usually blended with enough white to remove the color.  The rest of the blend is 15% chard, 20% arbanne, 29% petit meslier, and 5% rouge.  So much complexity here.  Peaches, bark, floral notes, gummy bears, loads of depth, complexity, great acid, and only fermented to 4 bars of pressure instead of the regular 6.   We finished on the Aubry de Humbert, named after the first stone placed in the cathedral of Reims. 1/3 each of the three main grapes with long aging.  This wine was fascinating with lots of aged and oxidative notes - coffee, bark, chocolate, hazelnut, honey, orange, mature wine that was delicious with a long finish and pleasant acidity. 

It would have been great to do a vin clair tasting here, just experience these components on their own.  It would also have been great to have better glassware.  The stems were the awful little flutes that don't do anything good for the wine.  Can't wait to revisit these wines are home with good glasses!  

Jacques Selosse and Les Avizés

Selosse is one of those producers that has so much hype built up around him, it's inevitable to wonder whether he and his wines truly live up to the legend.  I decided to splurge and stay at Les Avizés, his hotel and eat at his restaurant to experience it all for myself.   The hotel is gorgeous, well designed but with plenty of quirks that will prevent it from becoming a tired but very luxurious hotel.  It was a fascinating mix of traditional and modern design elements that was inspiring and made me want to stay longer.

 I had the entire hotel to myself, I was the only guest, which is unfortunate because it would have been nice to see some life there.  I also had the whole restaurant to myself, which was a bit sad but I got over it.  It did make me feel a bit better about my slow days at Ambonnay, even one of the most well known places in Champagne still has slow nights.     The restaurant was smaller than I expected and very integrated into the hotel.

 The husband wife duo of Stephanė and Natalie that run the restaurant are delightful and certainly made the best meal I had in champagne. One of my favorite courses was a veal dish, but it was the accompanying vegetables that truly impressed me.  The dish combined shitake mushrooms, roasted turnips, and mashed sweet potatoes in a soy reduction that was very flavorful and showed me new things to do with winter veggies.  In fact all the courses had a fantastic vegetable component, which I rarely found in France. The cheese course is not to be missed, without a doubt the best cheeses I had in France.  

Since I ordered bottle of Champagne, which I'll discuss in a moment, Natalie was kind enough to share a bit of red wine with the veal course.  Apparently Francis Egly of Egly-Ouriet had been in for lunch and brought a bunch of interesting wines with him.  Natalie gave me a glass of his 2004 Coteaux Champagnois Rouge.  It was an interesting wine that reminded me of an aged Oregon or California Pinot more than a burgundy.  Pretty cool to experience it and it was fun with the food.  The wine list was truly impressive with great names from across France and prices that ranged from reasonable to expensive.

As I was at his house I decided to treat myself to a birthday present of one of Selosse's lieu-dit or single vineyard champagnes.  It was a tough choice, but ultimately I decided on the Bout de Clos from Ambonnay, and I'm glad I did because I learned a lot from this wine.   In typical Selosse fashion the wine was bold, intense, packed with flavor, a bit oxidized, and very fascinating. Throughout the evening it changed and evolved giving me a broad range of flavors always complimented by great acidity.  More important than the flavors though was the experience of the wine.  

The more of the world's top wines that I drink, the more I convinced that to truly appreciate many of them you have to sit with them over the course of an evening. Much like getting to know someone, a long conversation up front helps cement the bond that can be revisited in the future.  Had I enjoyed this wine with a group, I would have missed out on many important pieces of the wine that took a while to truly express themselves.  Due to this wine, I was able to understand that Ambonnay has a core of elegance in the same way Mesnil has a core of precision.  This realization was confirmed during my time in Ambonnay tasting through those wines.  

In addition to the pleasure and new understand of Ambonnay, I gained a better understanding of Selosse's wines.  As you move up his ladder of pricing, I feel that his wine become very much like Miles Davis during the late 60's.  As I drank the Bout de Clos I couldn't help thinking of the times I've listened to the Complete Bitches Brew, it's obviously amazing, but I'm not sure that I am truly understanding it, or at least not getting as much as others might get out of it.   I feel this way about Selosse's wines, which is saying something because my champagne knowledge is far great than my knowledge of jazz. I think it best to view his wines as an experience, or a journey rather than a destination.  All of this being said, this wine exhibited the one true trait of an amazing wine, after the last sip I still wanted more.

The next morning I was fortunate enough to meet Anselme and spend a bit of time with him.  We talked about the Bout de Clos, he first got access to the grapes in 02, but didn't make the lieu-dit until 2004 which is the one I enjoyed the previous night. The vineyard is mid slope and at the foot of one of the walls in the vineyards. It butts up to Bouzy on the western side of Ambonnay, but still showed the grace and elegance of Ambonnay but maybe some of the power of Bouzy.   He then took me on a tour, via maps, of where all 6 of the lieu-dits are located and told me about the 7th in Oger which won't be out for another 7 years. We both had things to do so we said out good byes and I went and ate breakfast, which was an awesome spread, totally worth €20, and then grabbed my bags and went to the car.  When I got to the car, I discovered Anselme out scrapping the ice off my windshield.  It was a bit odd to have a world class winemaker scrap my car, but it also showed me the humility of a man that has not been overcome by his fame.   If you are in Champagne I highly recommend staying at Les Avizės! 

Chartogne-Taillet

It was quite a start to my birthday to hang out with Anselme Selosse, and the day continued to get better after a 50 minute drive to Merfy for my visit with Alexandre Chartogne.  Fortunately for me Alexandre is a winemaker who believes in drinking.  I was nursing a hang over from the previous night, so a glass of Cuvėe Ste Anne was a welcome way to start this appointment.  

Alexandre was a fascinating and passionate guy.  I enjoyed my time learning about him, his winery, his village, and champagne.  We started by talking about the history of Merfy, which is long and compelling. Long ago it was a Grand Cru, but due to wars, politics, and many growers giving up, the village didn't retain it's standing in the classifications.  Chartogne feels history is very important, but "history doesn't make wine" so we moved on to discuss the soils, terrior and farming methods. 

Merfy is in the Massif St. Thierry, which I hadn't realized, I always thought it was part of the Petit Montagne, but this isn't the case.  The vines are south facing, planted north to south with all three grapes growing in the village.  Alexandre believes in organic farming because it encourages the roots to grow deep and hit the variety of subsoils in Merfy rather than growing horizontally.  Horizontal roots are harder on the plants during summer and winter because accessing water and nutrients becomes much harder.  He uses horses to plow and sheep in the vineyard to maintain the cover crops.  Like many of the other winemakers I met with, Chartogne talked a lot about how he doesn't like tractors because they compress the soil which prevents water from draining and encourages erosion. It was interesting to see his plots vs his neighbors.  His were well drained, flourishing, and green. While his neighbors' plots were brown, compacted and had pools of water between the vines.  Finally he believes in low yields for his plants, 2-3 clusters rather than 10+ per plant. He feels too many clusters for too many years burns out the plants, just like too much work burns out people.  

We tasted though his wines which was a fascinating experience to taste the terrior of Merfy.  He told me more about the single vineyard wines he makes, and how rare they are.  I didn't realize that so little is available, only 250 bottles come to the US of many of these wines so I feel lucky to get them.  He was impressed that I had already enjoyed all 4 previously. It was interesting to taste some of these in barrel or bottle and examine the differences between clay which brings power, sand which brings ripe fruit and acid but is less integrated, and the chalk which brings mineralogy and precision.

 The 2013 Les Barres from barrel was a particular revelation. I've had the wine in bottle and thought it was good, but in barrel I understood more about it bold, dense, lots of blueberry fruit, intense acid a powerful wine coming from ungrafted rootstocks!

After the tasting we walked the vineyards where I saw the pools of water between his neighbors rows.  We talked more about the history of the village which dates back to the 800's.  During WWII the village was heavily bombed, driving away many growers.  However, it had much less phylloxera than other areas due to the sandy soils.  These facts combined with the difficulty of using tractors in the area meant that Merfy was much different than many other villages. They had to charge more for the their grapes, making the negociants were less interested in the fruit.  The Chartogne family managed to capitalize on this and bought plenty of vineyards in Merfy over the years that others no longer wanted.  They now own 10 of the 45 ha in Merfy. As the conversation and walk continued we reached a cemetery in the middle of the vineyards. I thought this odd, but Alexandre was. He is looking forward to eventually being buried amongst his vines and watching future generations care for them.  What an interesting worldview knowing where you'll be buried.   Very fascinating visit. 

René Geoffroy

2/1/14 Going from Prevost to Geoffroy was quite a culture shock, possibly greater than Krug to Bereche. I've enjoyed Jean-Baptiste's wines for years, and he's sharp guy who's doing quite well.  He recently purchased a huge, aristocratic building in Aÿ that used to be the home to the cooperative winery of the village. The co-op out grew the building, and JB our grew his family space in Cumieres, so it worked out well.  That being said, he doesn't have any vines in Aÿ, but plenty in Cumieres, Hautvillers, Damery,and more.  

JB is definitely more of a winemaker than a farmer.  He talks about minimal winemaking, no ML, using traditional presses because pneumatic don't allow you to truly know whats going on. All sorts of vessels - stainless, enamel, various size oak because he likes to keep his 45 parcels separate until blending.  He doesn't like to fine or filter.  He actually had a lab, which was one of the few I saw.  

Interestingly he didn't talk much about the vines, just that he didn't like all the rain they're getting because it makes it hard to work with tractors and washes away the fertilizer.  Quite the contrast with Prevost. 

After the quick tour of the sprawling 3 story winery, we went and tasted his wines.  It was interesting to taste some Vallėe de la Marne wines after so many from the other main regions. They were easier and a bit more friendly.  Less demanding, but very enjoyable. I'm sure that's partly JB's hand as well, but I did notice the "fine" note that Laval talked about in more than one of JB's wines.  

The Empriente continues to be the sweet spot for me in terms of price and quality, and the 07 is just as good as the 06 which I've had on the list since day one, but its expressive of 2007 so a bit leaner and higher acid than the 06.  When it arrives in Portland, it will return to my list.  A newer wine for JB, and one I've never tasted is the blanc de rose, which is an exceptional and serious wine.  Unfortunately it comes with an appropriate price tag for the quality, but worth it.  It's base year 2011, 50 chard 50 Pinot, co-macerated  with 3 g/L.  The wine is more elegant and complex than the rose de saignee, and has more nuanced flavors including pink grapefruit.  Awesome wine.   The other wine really impressed me was his Millėsime 2004.  I've never tried his vintage wines, mostly because of the price tag, about $150.  I'm glad that I finally got to try this wine, it is worthy of the cost.  It's cork finished, see Bereche for a discussion of this, and shows plenty of the "fine" Cumieres note along with loads of complexity, elegance, fruit, coffee, and earth tones while retaining fantastic freshness.  A wonderful end to the tasting.