May Newsletter: Transcendent de Villaine, Quintarelli New Arrivals, & Top Oyster Wines

The May Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

DeVillaine_BANNER_blog
A. & P. DE VILLAINE

CÔTE CHALONNAISE TRANSCENDence

by Dixon Brooke

2014 BOUZERON >

Pierre de Benoist has crafted a masterful and irresistible Aligoté in what is turning out to be a fabulous vintage for white Burgundy. There is its subtly finessed nose with a very fine notion of creaminess and a wonderfully vivacious personality. Then on the palate it is mineral and suave at the same time—its fine-grained texture is wrapped seamlessly with viscosity. This may truly be the perfect wine for crustaceans. It’s even better than that: it is one of Burgundy’s greatest Aligotés, a fitting tribute to a long and storied history of this beguiling grape in Burgundy, and a wine that provides intrigue and pleasure young, old, and in between.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case

2014 RULLY blanc “LES SAINT-JACQUES” >

The richest white Burgundy in the de Villaine stable, this Rully is an exercise in balance. Hazelnut and quince paste greet the nose, followed by a dense mouthful of ripe, succulent yellow fruits. Despite its voluptuousness, the wine is dry, fresh, very stony, and even salty—mouthwateringly delicious. This vintage is magnificent for Les Saint-Jacques, and ample proof of the high quality of terroir in this southern stronghold of Burgundy. The fact that it isn’t premier cru, well, that’s proof of a talented grower, because it sure does taste like it.

$40.00 per bottle $432.00 per case

2014 BOURGOGNE CÔTE CHALONNAISE rouge
“LA DIGOINE”
>

La Digoine is the first wine I think of—after the Bouzeron, of course—when I think of Domaine de Villaine. The name itself exudes aristocratic class. This noble red Burgundy has always drunk well above its price. It has been produced since the 1973 vintage, and an overwhelming majority of those vintages are still drinking well. To smell it is to know it: noir, peppery, mysterious; these characteristics are a constant. La bouche is masculine and sinewy, very pure, with a beautiful noble tannin and excellent finish. Our longtime clients buy this with the same confidence that they buy Chevillon, Guillemot, and Thivin. I know I don’t want a hole in my vertical and plan on doing the same!

$48.00 per bottle $518.40 per case

2014 MERCUREY rouge “LES MONTOTS” >

What, Les Montots isn’t a premier cru? And here I was humming along for years thinking I understood the origin of its transcendent finesse and ability to be both powerful and featherweight. It is easy to forget that it isn’t a premier cru—or, frankly, that any of the de Villaine wines aren’t. The finesse of the nose alone is somewhat overwhelming. This wine really impressed me at the domaine this past fall. It truly has it all. The palate is fabulously silky, and I couldn’t get over the quality of the tannins. I wrote that down several times. I say you can book this wine into the record book of fine, perfect tannins.

$52.00 per bottle $561.60 per case

Grape-vine-illo

Since time immemorial, the human striving for feeling has in fact had one means ready at hand, one drug, one intoxicant, that belongs to the classic gifts of life and bears the stamp of the simple and the holy, and thus is no vice—one means of stature, if I may put it that way. Wine—the gods’ gift to man, as the humanistic peoples of antiquity claimed, the philanthropic invention of a god who is in fact associated with civilization, if I may be permitted the allusion. For we learn that it is thanks to the art of planting and pressing the grape that man emerged from his savage state and achieved culture. And even today nations where the grape grows are considered, or consider themselves, more cultured than wineless Cimmerians—a most remarkable fact. For it asserts that culture is not a matter of reason and well-articulated sobriety, but rather is bound up with enthusiasm, with intoxication, and the sense of regalement.

—Hans Castorp, from Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain

Quintarelli_Banner_blog

QUINTARELLI

by Dixon Brooke

2012 PRIMOFIORE >

Primofiore doesn’t meet the lofty aging standards of the Quintarellis for Valpolicella, since they prefer to release their Valpolicella with eight to ten years of cask and bottle age. Still, it would be hard to argue that this wine didn’t meet and exceed the expectations of Valpolicella for any other mortal. Just think of it as an opportunity to drink a younger Quintarelli Valpolicella that is not made with the ripasso technique. A ripe and juicy nose of dried grapes is the first thing you’ll notice after admiring its deep purple color. This 2012 is a beautifully balanced effort with substantial tannin and acidity, great spine, and a nuanced finish packed with a plethora of spices.

$59.00 per bottle $637.20 per case

2007 ROSSO “CÀ DEL MERLO” >

The wines of Quintarelli are more a celebration of a region and its history and techniques than of specific grape varieties or terroirs. They are really more about the art of the blend, the patience of extended aging in cask and bottle, and the use of appassimento and ripasso techniques to further enhance complexity and age-worthiness. That’s why Cà del Merlo as a single-vineyard expression is a bit of an anomaly. Rather than being a single-vineyard wine, it is the opportunity for the Quintarellis to have a little more freedom with the blend outside of the school of Valpolicella. Always more primary than the Valpolicella, it showcases dark, palate-staining fruit that one must marvel at, given the wine’s age. Cà del Merlo is succulent and luscious, balanced beautifully by the imprint of the stony limestone and basalt hills on which the grapes are grown.

$89.00 per bottle $961.20 per case

2007 VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE >

There isn’t much to add to the words Quintarelli Valpolicella Superiore other than perhaps a few notes about the vintage. This is very serious stuff. In comparing it to recent vintages, it is 2006-ish but more closed, regal, poised, and spiced; it seems a lot younger than the 2006 did upon release. Compared to 2005, there is more stuffing here. It has more finesse than the bulky, concentrated 2004. Long, fine, and compact, it has everything to go the distance. In short, it challenges 2003 for the vintage of the decade.

$89.00 per bottle $961.20 per case

November-oysters-blog

TOP OYSTER WINES

by Anthony Lynch

2014 MUSCADET CÔTES DE GRAND LIEU SUR LIE
“LE CLOS DE LA BUTTE” • ÉRIC CHEVALIER >

A crisp, steely Muscadet like this is indeed the perfect match for oysters, but not only oysters. It comes from a plot of fifty-year-old vines, naturally bestowing additional concentration and viscosity to widen the range of culinary possibilities. Try it with spring asparagus with a squeeze of lemon, young goat cheeses, or any number of minimally prepared shellfish. Its salinity and palate-cleansing acidity allow for countless pairings beyond oysters, although this classic combination remains admittedly euphoric.

$16.00 per bottle $172.80 per case

2015 BORDEAUX BLANC • CHÂTEAU DUCASSE >

Nobody buys Bordeaux anymore because, as we all know, the wines are overpriced oak-bombs made by pretentious enologists in tailored designer suits. Right? Wrong! Make no mistake, Hervé Dubourdieu is quite a snazzy dresser, but his personality and wines are about as down-to-earth as can be. His Ducasse blanc remains one of the benchmark values of our portolio, this crisp Semillon/Sauvignon/Muscadelle blend continuing to punch above its price point. The 2015 vintage brings an extra bit of exuberant fruit to go with its habitual mineral snappiness, all delivered with Hervé’s trademark jazzy flair.

$16.00 per bottle $172.80 per case

2014 CHABLIS 1ER CRU “FOURCHAUME”
ROLAND LAVANTUREUX >

In his comprehensive work The Wines of Burgundy, Clive Coates ranks Fourchaume as one of Chablis’ top premiers crus alongside Montée de Tonnerre, consistently flirting with grand cru quality. He points out the parcel’s proximity and similar exposure to the grand cru vineyards, adding that Fourchaume tends to produce “rich and plump” wines. This stellar 2014 features generous flesh enveloping a wiry core, with a flinty edge that leads to a satisfyingly creamy finish. This is premier cru Chablis at its mouthwatering best.

$40.00 per bottle $432.00 per case

Saint-Aubins from Domaine Larue

Didier-Larue-photo

SAINT-AUBIN

by Kermit Lynch

Long-timers might remember how from the start I looked in all the nooks and crannies for bargain white Burgundies. I needed them for myself and for some of you. The Montagny from Jean Vachet was a huge success, for example. I was also struck by the potential at Saint-Aubin. I visited several domaines over the years—something kept clicking for me and bringing me back—yet never found a source that inspired my confidence. Pity. When Saint-Aubin succeeds, it makes one of white Burgundy’s most charming wines.

About five years ago I wrote to Antoine Jobard and Coche-Dury urging them to look for Saint-Aubin vines to purchase. Damned if Jobard didn’t do it! Try his someday (if ever one is left in stock).

In a Paris restaurant last year, I ordered a Saint-Aubin from Domaine Larue. There it was—my idea of what a Saint-Aubin should act like and what it should cost. I hope you are as charmed by their delicious Saint-Aubins as I am.

DOMAINE LARUE

by Dixon Brooke

2014 SAINT-AUBIN 1ER CRU “LES COMBES” >

The climat of Les Combes sits at the edge of Chassagne-Montrachet, in its cooler, very stony northeastern sector, where you’ll find some of our favorite Chassagnes like Les Chaumées and Les Vergers. Bright and chiseled, this beauty rides a razor’s edge of crushed limestone.

$39.00 per bottle $421.20 per case

2014 SAINT-AUBIN 1ER CRU “LES CORTONS” >

This climat sits next to Saint-Aubin’s En Remilly on its northern side, facing west. Compared to Les Combes, it is fatter and more generous, with a beautiful finish of fossilized stone. This is textbook Saint-Aubin and a classic rendering of the Larue house style.

$42.00 per bottle $453.60 per case

2014 SAINT-AUBIN 1ER CRU “EN REMILLY” >

The tiny climat of Chassagne-Montrachet premier cru En Remilly borders Chevalier-Montrachet. The vineyard expands and continues as it crosses over into the appellation of Saint-Aubin, all the while maintaining the same exposition and soil type. Here, we sense a significant step up in appellation hierarchy: gorgeous noble nose, ample body, great grain and structure, erect and forthright. Both this and the wine below are eight- to ten-year candidates for your cellar.

$52.00 per bottle $561.60 per case

2014 SAINT-AUBIN 1ER CRU
“MURGERS DES DENTS DE CHIEN” >

The most prized terroir of Saint-Aubin, Les Murgers sits above En Remilly and curves south to southeast, sharing the same exposition and altitude as Puligny-Montrachet premier cru Les Champs Gains. It sits between twenty and sixty meters directly above Chevalier-Montrachet. Picture a brighter, higher-altitude version of this storied grand cru! A firm nose leads to a beautiful richness on the palate, then a finish with a persistent and mighty stony grip. The longest ager of the Larue stable, this is a real thoroughbred that you should classify along with the great premiers crus of Chassagne, Puligny, and Meursault.

$52.00 per bottle $561.60 per case

April Newsletter: Spring Pop-Up, New Arrivals from Angéline Templier & Daniel Brunier, and a Venetian Sampler

The April Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Grape-detail

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

SPRING POP-UP

with

DANIEL BRUNIER
OF VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE

and

ANGÉLINE TEMPLIER
OF J. LASSALLE

 

It is our pleasure to announce another Pop-Up in the Kermit Lynch parking lot! Please join us on Saturday, April 23, from 12 to 4 p.m., for a special visit from two of our favorite winemakers—Daniel Brunier of Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe and Angéline Templier of Champagne J. Lassalle. Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar will serve an assortment of Daniel and Angéline’s wines, we’ll have Chris Lee’s Old-Fashioned Butcher take-home sausages for sale, and chef Curt Clingman will grill sausage sandwiches to order. Acme Bread will be open for regular business hours as well.

We will close off the parking lot, but seating is limited. Come and imbibe some very tasty wines—the winemakers will be on hand to answer all your questions!

Saturday, April 23 • 12:00–4:00 p.m.

Event presented by Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar

new arrivals

ANGÉLINE TEMPLIER
& DANIEL BRUNIER

by Anthony Lynch

NV brut ROSÉ 1ER CRU • J. LASSALLE >

The Lassalle women—three consecutive generations to run the estate, with a fourth toddling around the cuverie—craft a pale, elegant rosé Champagne, all about delicacy and lovely, plush fruit. Completing its malolactic fermentation and aged extensively sur latte before disgorgement, this soft, round rosé maintains a great balance of richness and refreshing acidity. It will provide utter satisfaction sipped as an apéritif, or all throughout a meal.

$64.00 per bottle $691.20 per case

2009 BRUT 1ER CRU “CUVÉE ANGÉLINE”
J. LASSALLE >

The latest release of the Lassalles’ tête de cuvée marries the power and drive of the vintage with a velvety texture acquired from a seven-year élevage. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is a Champagne of luxury, from its decadent golden tinge to the fine, persistent bead that playfully caresses the palate. Uncorking this euphoric elixir will guarantee a ceremoniously delicious occasion.

$89.00 per bottle $961.20 per case

2014 VAUCLUSE ROUGE “LE PIGEOULET”
F. & D. BRUNIER >

Le Pigeoulet is a lovely everyday red for even the most modest of circumstances, providing authentic Provençal flavors and straightforward pleasure at excellent value. The blend is mostly Grenache, sourced from around Châteauneuf-du-Pape and then aged in a combination of cement tanks and oak foudres. Le Pigeoulet emphasizes fruit and freshness over concentration, qualities the cool growing season accentuated: this year, we have something especially buoyant, refreshing, and dangerously easy to swallow. A total quaffer with aromas of cherry, raspberry, and réglisse, this could be your new house red.

$18.00 per bottle $194.40 per case

2013 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE “PIEDLONG”
F. & D. BRUNIER >

In a region where raw power usually trumps finesse, we are fortunate that vignerons like the Bruniers are tirelessly striving to bring out the nuance inherent in some of the southern Rhône’s great terroirs. Their Piedlong bottling is an effort to deliver classic, stony Châteauneuf that is accessible both in price and in its early stages of life. It consists of old-vine fruit grown mainly in galets roulés, resulting in a mineral tension highlighted by the relative coolness of the 2013 vintage. Sleek and suave on the palate, the Piedlong culminates in a noble tannin that will remind you of the southern Rhône’s potential for wines of real finesse.

$58.00 per bottle $626.40 per case

Venetian-Sampler-detail

VENETIAN SAMPLER >

by Anthony Lynch

I distantly recall a childhood trip to Venice, when I was too young to revel in the wonders of art, fine cuisine, and wine. Days I would have gladly spent drifting along the city’s canals on a sweetly swaying gondola were instead filled with interminable treks to tedious museums and traumatizing assaults from the hostile mob of pigeons patrolling Piazza San Marco. Today, I would give anything to return to Venice and savor its architecture, music, and prosperous food and wine scene.

Once a thriving trade hub providing a commercial gateway to the East, Venice also enjoys a strategic geographical location for the abundance of vineyards within its reaches. The nearby Alpine foothills, tempered by warm breezes from the Adriatic, create an ideal climate for viticulture across a large band of northeastern Italy. Prosecco, ubiquitous in Venetian bars, is only the tip of the iceberg: the Veneto produces the most DOC wine of any region in Italy, and nearby Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is home to a wealth of its own traditions.

This sampler offers an introduction to the various styles produced around lovely Venezia. So get some polenta started, turn on Vivaldi, and pour yourself a glass of Venetian refreshment while you dream of a gondoliere rhythmically rowing you off into the sunset.

 

PER BOTTLE
Prosecco Superiore Brut • Sommariva $14.95
2014 Bardolino Chiaretto • Corte Gardoni 14.00
2014 Friuli Colli Orientali Pinot Grigio • La Viarte 19.95
2012 Venezia Giulia Malvasia Istriana • Kante 35.00
2013 Bardolino Superiore “Pràdicà” • Corte Gardoni 18.95
2009 Venezia Giulia Terrano • Kante 25.00

Normally $127.85

SPECIAL SAMPLER PRICE

$102

(a 20% discount)

Remembering Jim Harrison

 

Today we remember Jim Harrison, author, poet, and bon vivant. Jim was a  friend of Kermit’s in addition to sharing an appreciation for fine wines such as Domaine Tempier and Domaine La Tour Vieille. He was also an occasional contributor to our newsletter—his essay below was first published in March 2007.

Please join us in raising a glass to Jim tonight as we celebrate the passion and insight he brought to our world.

Jim Harrison
1937 – 2016

Photo courtesy of the NY Times

Photo courtesy of the NY Times

The Spirit of Wine
by Jim Harrison

I have long since publicly admitted that I seek spirituality through food and wine. In France, Italy, and Spain, I seem more drawn to markets and cafés than to churches and museums. Too many portraits of bleeding Jesus and his lachrymose Momma make me thirsty. The Lord himself said on the cross, “I thirst” and since our world itself has become a ubiquitous and prolonged crucifixion it is altogether logical that we are thirsty.

Yesterday afternoon I was far up a canyon near the Mexican border trying to shoot a few doves to roast when I came upon a calf who was willing to be petted, perhaps because she had no previous contact with brutish humans. While scratching her pretty ears I segued to a tangled group of emotions toward wine. Why does Bordeaux make me feel Catholic, crisp and confident, an illusion indeed; while Burgundy causes an itchy, sexy, somnolent mood? With my day-to-day Côtes du Rhône I am a working writer with vaguely elevated thoughts of my responsibilities, but also with my mind’s eye on a plumpish waitress at a local Mexican restaurant.

Heading back down the canyon with the calf following me, I recalled some splendid wines I had drunk at a private home in Malibu during my manic days in Hollywood. The collector’s house red was a 1961 Lafite, a pleasant substitute for a pre-dinner martini. I was in the kitchen one evening preparing dinner and drinking a bottle of Romanée-Conti from the fifties when a fashion model asked, “How can you drink that shit. It makes me dizzy.” She properly mistook me for a servant and asked for a “Jack and coke” (Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola), surely an inscrutable drink, but then so is taste in general. On Friday nights in college two of my best friends would drink an entire case of beer apiece and didn’t seem to mind the ensuing vomiting. I was the driver and of limited means so my weekend binge only meant a seventy-cent bottle of Gallo Burgundy. Both of these friends, of course, are now dead and I’m still on the lid of earth rather than under, and drinking wine daily.

During a general state of rebellion in my early teens I went to the Baptist church though our family was Congregationalist, a kind of lower-case Episcopalian. I told my dad who was an agriculturalist that the Baptists claimed that in biblical days the wine was simple grape juice. He said, “Bullpoop,” adding that they had been making true wine in the Middle East for four thousand years, and that non-drinkers liked to spread lies about alcohol. He said that when St. Paul maintained, “A little wine for thy stomach’s infirmities,” he was talking about actual wine, not grape juice. Since then it has occurred to me that if Christianity offered a six-ounce glass of solid French red for Communion, churches would be happier and consequently more spiritual places.

In the early seventies during a hokum banquet in Ireland I drank several goblets of mead and was ill for a week with ravaged intestines. The physical mischief caused by bad forms of alcohol is infinite. I have posited the idea, perhaps fact, that heavy beer drinkers must find a type of sexual release in their relentless peeing. One warm day in my favorite saloon in a village near my former cabin in the Upper Peninsula, an old man drank thirty-eight bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon. This is clearly too much, and he just as clearly endangered his body during his dozens of walks to the toilet. This amount comprises twenty-eight pounds of liquids which cannot be retained indefinitely by the human body, thus the walks to the toilet were a necessary peril. Another friend in the area, a huge mixed-blood Chippewa, wasn’t feeling well drinking two fifths of whiskey a day and under my wise counsel reduced it to a single fifth. Last summer in Montana I advised an unruly friend that after a hot day of fishing a quintuple martini might be unwise as the alcohol will shoot through the dehydrated body and land on the brain pan like an ICBM. In the remoter areas of the country my advice is sought whereas on our two dream coasts everyone is smart, albeit petulant, and I am considered a bumpkin. Also a slow study. It took me three years of hard work and unfathomable will power to make a bottle of wine last an hour. Sipping seemed quite unnatural to a mouth disposed toward gulping.

In a lifetime of thousands of visits to country taverns, I have noticed that beer drinking causes fist-fights and wife beating. A French theologian, Michel Braudeau, has suggested that heavy beer drinking cleared the moral way for Germany to begin World War I and World War II. Beer drinking is at the root of the lugubrious sentimentality that makes murder for an idea logical. Conversely, drinking nothing at all is equally dangerous. Try to imagine Washington D.C.’s infamous Beltway as a moral Berlin Wall within which low-rent chiselers concoct wars and other forms of our future suffering. I recently read that there are sixty lobbyists per member of Congress. Think if liquor and beer were forbidden within the Beltway and each day the lobbyists gave each member of Congress a good bottle of French wine. Grace would return quickly to our bruised Republic. I would also like to remind those teetotaler fundamentalist titans, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who are so enamored of political power, that the Catholic Church has maintained its political power nearly two thousand years no doubt because the leaders drink wine. I well remember a group of bulbous priests at a Roman trattoria quite literally pouring down wine. I asked the waiter what they were celebrating and he said enviously that they did it every day. They were drinking Antinori Vipera which is scarcely cheap plonk. Come to think of it, I would gladly contribute to a church that offered a full glass of Côtes du Rhône for Communion.

At a wonderful local Mexican restaurant called Las Vigas, I often begin a meal with a shot of Herradura tequila, a Pacifico beer, and an ample bowl of chicharrones which, of course, are deep-fried intestines, after which I have a plate of machaca and beans (Mexican reconstituted dried beef laden with chiles). I hosted a feast for twenty-five friends last April in this restaurant which included a whole wild pig spit-roasted, giant Guaymas shrimp (eight to a pound), and platters of machaca, Herradura and Pacifico. Wine simply isn’t appropriate for these flavors. We also had a couple of divine mariachi singers who had a dulcet effect on the crowd, singing their melancholy plaints about love and death which neutralized any strident effects of the beer.

Curiously, New York City is the only place on earth where I feel an urgent need for a vodka martini, actually a raving desire. A day of back-to-back insignificant meetings and the sight of thousands of nitwits milling around talking on their cell phones deeply enervates me. My soul becomes splenetic and I need to Taser myself before a pre-dinner nap. A bar next to my hotel on Irving Place is kind enough to serve me a martini for only thirteen dollars, a price at which you can buy four in Montana. In New York City, however, you can hear expensively dressed career people talking about themselves at a speed that will remind you of the old Alvin the Chipmunk phonograph records. You leave the bar in a hurry, thinking that Castro had some good ideas, and take a snooze after planning the evening’s wines.

Life is rarely instructive. One of the wisest and best writers I know, Peter Matthiessen who loves good wine, once said, “I have never learned from experience.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Anyway, a Hollywood studio had put me up in the Hôtel Plaza Athénée for a significant meeting about the fate of a hundred-million-dollar movie. I was stressed and jet-lagged over the nastiness of the business world which is as morally compromised as the literary world, and went into the hotel bar for a double shot of V.O. Canadian whiskey which was forty-two dollars, a tad stiff price-wise. I’m not comfortable in the Plaza Athénée in Paris or The Ritz in my collection of fifty-dollar sport coats. I’ve been easygoing about taking friends out for a seven-hundred-dollar meal but it would be unthinkable to spend that much on an article of clothing. I said to the Plaza Athénée barman, “Are you f—–g kidding” and he poured me a four-dollar glass of Côtes du Rhône saying that it was the solution to all the problems in life.

I rarely feel spiritual in New York or Paris except when I’ve stopped at the old church across the side street from Les Deux Magots on St. Germain and lit candles for the liver of my friend, the renowned gourmand Gerard Oberlé, who caught hepatitis in Egypt and couldn’t drink wine for two years. His suffering was incalculable and on several occasions I lit five bucks’ worth of candles which brought about his recovery.

The other day on a very warm border winter afternoon, I was sitting on the patio with my wife Linda, sharing a bottle of delightful Bouzeron. We were watching a rare pair of hepatic tanagers at the feeder. These birds evidently don’t get hepatitis. It was all very pleasant and I recalled again a passage from the journal of a Kentucky schizophrenic who had escaped from an asylum. He wrote, “Birds are holes in heaven through which a man may pass.” I had this little epiphany that wine could do the same thing if properly used. We all have learned, sometimes painfully, that more is not necessarily better than less. When Baudelaire wrote in his famed “Enivrez-Vous,” “Be always drunk on wine or poetry or virtue,” he likely didn’t mean commode-hugging drunk. Wine can offer oxygen to the spirit, I thought, getting off my deck chair and going into the kitchen to cook some elk steak and dietetic potatoes fried in duck fat, and not incidentally opening a bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol because I had read a secret bible in France that said to drink red after dark to fight off the night in our souls.

La Famille Montanet

by Chris Santini

The first of many words to come to mind when I think of the Montanets and their wines is unpretentious. In an era of unfortunate and rampant “luxurization” of Burgundy, here is a family that has achieved enormous success in France, as well as in export markets the world over, yet manages to keep a modest approach in all they do. Value, drinkability, organic farming, and noninterventionist winemaking are the pillars of all their wines. How often are those words associated with Burgundy anymore? We’ve been working with the Montanets for nearly fifteen years now, a partnership that was a no-brainer, given that Bernard Raveneau first taught Jean Montanet the techniques and importance of getting things right in the vineyard before anything comes into the cellar, and it was Marcel Lapierre who showed Jean the splendor and purity of natural winemaking. It has always been and remains a great pleasure to work with Jean and his son Valentin, both of whom are ever smiling, ever optimistic, and quick to joke at their own expense. But don’t be fooled. Their wines—every last one of them—are world-class, serious, and, most important, delicious Burgundies.

Domaine Montanet-Thoden

2014 Bourgogne Vézelay Blanc “Galerne” >

The 2014 Bourgogne Vézelay Blanc “Galerne,” from their Montanet-Thoden label, is grown on the ancient limestone soils that put Vézelay on the wine map. That limestone provides a Chablis-like precision, and the local northern wind (Galerne) on this parcel keeps the grapes dry and ripe, giving ample body and character, too. Here’s the perfect representation to show why Vézelay has its own appellation.

$27.00 per bottle $291.60 per case

DOMAINE DE LA CADETTE

2014 Bourgogne Rouge “Champs Cadet” >

Their 2014 Bourgogne Rouge “Champs Cadet” is grown on those same limestone-heavy soils and is all about pure and lively fruit. This is young Pinot at its best: aromatic, expressive, and a true pleasure to drink.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case

2014 Bourgogne Rouge “L’ermitage” >

If you enjoy rarities and curiosities, be sure to try the La Cadette 2014 Bourgogne Rouge “L’Ermitage,” a blend of Pinot Noir and César, an ancient varietal that, legend has it, Caesar himself brought from Rome with his conquering armies to Gaul. This rustic and fruity mix is unlike any other red Burgundy out there today. Hail, César!

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case

 

March Newsletter: 2014 Vieux Télégraphe, Côte d’Or, Alsace—Beyond Riesling

The March Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

PRE-ARRIVAL OFFER

2014 VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE >

by Dixon Brooke

A meaningful number of the most prestigious (expensive) cuvées of Châteauneuf-du-Pape come from the lieu-dit of La Crau. All of the fruit iused for VT’s classic bottling is sourced from old vines on the plateau of La Crau. What would be a reserve wine or a special cuvée at any other Châteauneuf estate is the minimum standard for VT. La Crau is one of the undisputed grands crus of the appellation.

As many of you know, the special thing about this site is the stones. The stoniness of VT is its most exciting quality, and it is always evident. In riper years it may only become evident after some bottle age.

One of the challenges with this appellation of late is achieving balance and freshness. What the Bruniers have accomplished in 2014 is nothing short of remarkable. (By the way, the same is true at Pallières in Gigondas, and 2014 looks to be this estate’s greatest vintage since the Bruniers purchased the estate with Kermit in 1998.) Vintage 2014 produced a VT of exceptional refinement, with a texture of velvet. Power and finesse, fused into one complete package, with all the character we expect from VT—there is no mistaking those La Crau stones. Vieux Télégraphe is returning to its roots and leading the way forward in Châteauneuf toward drinkable, balanced, terroir-driven, elegantly rustic old-vine Grenache that will redefine and reinvigorate the appellation.

$828.00 per case fifths >

Also Available in Tenths, Magnums, Jeroboams, Methuselahs,
Salmanazars, and Nebuchadnezzars

Pre-arrival terms: Half-payment due with order;
balance due upon arrival.

brunier_VT_red_nonvintage(13)_hi_res

CÔTE D’OR >

by Dixon Brooke

2013 MOREY SAINT DENIS “EN LA RUE DE VERGY”
RÉGIS BOUVIER >

Bouvier is best known for his Marsannay of all three colors, produced where his winery is based and where the lion’s share of his vines are located. Outside of this inheritance, his greatest acquisition ever was this parcel in Morey Saint Denis, a coveted lieu-dit surrounded by grands crus. Every year it is the top wine in his cellar—the strength of this terroir makes its presence felt. This lush, full-fruited, sensual red Burgundy delivers the type of experience that only Pinot Noir from these parts can.

$56.00 per bottle $604.80 per case

2013 GEVREY-CHAMBERTIN 1ER CRU “LES CORBEAUX”
LUCIEN BOILLOT & FILS >

From a great site in the prime saddle of mid-slope land between Gevrey and Morey, Boillot’s Corbeaux is a quintessential Gevrey-Chambertin experience, decidedly old school. Thanks to his partial full-cluster fermentations in open-top cuves and his use of old barrels for aging, nothing ever gets in the way of the expression of each of his terroirs. Les Corbeaux 2013 shows smooth, silky fruit, solid structure, and tannins that are all finesse. This graceful, harmonious wine will give much pleasure young and old.

$95.00 per bottle
$1,026.00 per case

2013 NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES “VIEILLES VIGNES”
domaine ROBERT CHEVILLON >

How do the Chevillons do it? That is, how do they make some of the prettiest, most elegant Burgundies in all the Côte in what most consider one of Burgundy’s most rustic appellations? Fanatical vineyard management, old vines, and a focus on purity of fruit: very few stems, very little new wood, soft, gentle cuvaisons and racking. This 2013 is as seductive a young Nuits as you are likely to encounter. Enjoy over the next five to eight years.

$90.00 per bottle $972.00 per case

2012 ALOXE-CORTON 1ER CRU “LES VERCOTS”
DOMAINE FOLLIN-ARBELET >

I can’t recall a more inspiring moment in a cellar in Burgundy than when I tasted Franck Follin’s 2012s out of barrel underneath his home in Aloxe-Corton. I have had many great tastings in Burgundy, and I’m not saying this was the best, but I can’t remember one that was better. These are thoroughbred wines: sleek, sinewy, beautifully constructed. This Aloxe-Corton will drink beautifully over twenty years. Follin’s wines are for fans of classically styled, pure, racy red Burgundy. This is what red Burgundy should taste like.

$76.00 per bottle $820.80 per case

2011 CHARMES-CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU
DOMAINE MAUME >

My heart skips a beat every time I contemplate the fact that this is the last vintage of Maume that will resemble what we know as Maume. Indeed, I believe it is the last vintage even labeled with the Maume name. Maume’s collection of ancient vines with their diverse budwood, his rustic and moldy cellars, and his mad-scientist-like personality that came alive between the walls of his Gevrey-Chambertin cave all combined to give us here at KLWM many great memories of some of the most unique Pinot Noir ever made. We stockpiled library vintages in addition to the 2011, Bertrand Maume’s final vintage, but precious little is left. Buy a bottle of Burgundian history that you can drink with pheasant.

$175.00 per bottle $1,890.00 per case

ALSACE, BEYOND RIESLING

by Dixon Brooke

2012 GEWURZTRAMINER “FRONHOLZ”
domaine OSTERTAG >

There is probably no white grape in the world capable of delivering the aromatic and flavor complexity of Gewurztraminer. It is the wine that winemakers in Alsace are most excited about showing off to their colleagues. Drinking one is almost like having a course unto itself at table, though I certainly enjoyed it at home with eel and avocado sushi recently—what a revelation. This 2012 from Ostertag was harvested just shy of vendange tardive concentration, so don’t expect it to be dry!

$65.00 per bottle $702.00 per case

2014 PINOT BLANC “VIEILLES VIGNES”
MEYER-FONNÉ
 >

This gorgeous Pinot Blanc, one of Félix Meyer’s most ubiquitous cuvées, always manages to capture the perfect blend of exotic fruit and stony freshness that is the hallmark of all of his wines. Félix successfully packs (as usual) a lot of complexity into a very reasonably priced bottle that shows incredible versatility at table. I am always thrilled to find it on a by-the-glass wine list.

$19.95 per bottle $215.46 per case

2013 MUSCAT GRAND CRU “BRAND” • ALBERT BOXLER >

A fifty/fifty blend of Muscat Ottonel and Muscat d’Alsace, this is the first Muscat Brand that has been produced at Boxler since the 2008 vintage. It is a truly breathtaking creation. The aromas are pure, soft, and ethereal, with an understated class that comes from the Ottonel. The palate is layered with white fruits, slightly smoky hints, and a heavy dose of granite minerality. Much like his Pinot Blanc Réserve from Brand, it shows its terroir in striking fashion. Dry Muscat doesn’t get any better than this (and, as I discovered with a 1959 the last time I was in the region, it is one of Alsace’s greatest agers).

$79.00 per bottle $853.20 per case

A for Alsace

by Julia Issleib, Beaune Office Manager

Alsace

Let me be frank: Alsace rarely comes to my mind as the solution to the dilemma “What should we drink?” I’m a bit intimidated by the region’s complexity and variety, its many styles of wines and appellations. Yet, when I think back, I cannot remember a single time when an Alsatian bottle (de qualité, bien sûr) was a disappointment and didn’t go delightfully with the food.

So why not reach for Alsace more often? Put it back in its natural place at the top of the wine alphabet. We like to praise a wine region’s versatility, how there’s “something for everyone.” Nowhere is that more true than in Alsace.

2014 GENTIL D’ALSACE • MEYER-FONNÉ >

Clearly, this Gentil is named after the older meaning of the word—noble. And noble it is: Riesling makes up 50% of the 2014, and 25% is Muscat. The nose is elegant and chalky, on a delicate base of rose petals. But it’s the palate of lychees, yellow raspberries, and chamomile that shows the full complexity of this dry, linear wine. You and your guests might forget your noble upbringing and fight over the last pour in the bottle. My solution: buy a case.

$18.00 per bottle $194.40 per case

2014 PINOT BLANC “BARRIQUES”
DOMAINE OSTERTAG >

Pinot Blanc is not considered one of the “noble” varieties in Alsace. Leave it to André Ostertag to give it the royal treatment in homage to its Burgundian origin. Indeed, this cuvée is aged in barrels, allowing the equal blend of Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois to develop unexpected power. The nose is delicately buttery, the palate rich; yellow peach and white flowers lead to a smoky finish.

$26.00 per bottle $280.80 per case

2013 RIESLING GRAND CRU
BRAND “KIRCHBERG” • ALBERT BOXLER >

One whiff of this might make you want to plunge right into the glass. Once the wine hits your tongue . . . Nope, zingy lemon, delicate white flowers, rich mineral backbone, beautiful mouthwatering finish, incredible length . . . (though all true) will not come close to summing up the experience of enjoying this wine. How’s “Buy as much as you can get” for a tasting note? It’s a classic!

$85.00 per bottle $918.00 per case

February Newsletter: An Abundance of New Arrivals from Italy, White Burgundy, Beaujolais Blanc & Rouge

The February Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

ITALIA >

by Dixon Brooke

Italian Vines

As I hope you’ve noticed, we have invested a lot of energy in revitalizing and growing our Italian portfolio over the past few years. It sure has been a lot of fun. We are just getting started, by the way, so please keep paying attention and help us in bringing you the best from this great land of riches!

Many in the wine world express surprise about our company’s roots in Italy. As far back as the 1970s, Kermit was a pioneer in the region, first importing to these shores what are now household names such as Vietti, Aldo Conterno, Cacchiano, and Gini. For whatever reasons—maybe the quality of the wine and cooking in Provence, Kermit’s home there, and his well-traveled circle of influence from Collioure in the west up to Beaune in the north and (most especially) up and down the Rhône River—KLWM developed a real focus on and expertise in French wine. Still, we never stopped importing Italian wine, and our love of the country, its people, its history and culture, and, of course, its incredible food and wine brought us back with a vengeance during the past decade.

As the New Year gets under way, here are a dozen great reasons to get better acquainted with our Italian selections. Let one of our salespeople help you unlock all of Italia’s glory with a personalized tour of our entire portfolio. Give us a call anytime. Salute!

ANDRÉ & MICHEL QUENARD

by Dixon Brooke

2014 CHIGNIN BERGERON >
“LE GRAND REBOSSAN” >

Selling the ten cases we import per year of this wine may take more work than selling several thousand cases of Sancerre, but it continues to be totally worth it. For every person I introduce to the joys of Roussanne grown on the limestone scree slopes of the Savoyarde, his or her life will be more complete. This bottling is from the Quenards’ finest hillside parcel, fermented and aged in large oak foudres, and released a year after their other whites. Alpine freshness meets Mediterranean charm in an inimitable rendering of this lovely grape.

$35.00 per bottle $378.00 per case

2014 CHIGNIN MONDEUSE “VIEILLES VIGNES” >

Among the Quenard family’s many qualities, their mastery of the intriguing Mondeuse grape is one that I celebrate. Related to Refosco of northern Italy, Mondeuse from Savoie makes a medium-bodied, sleek, pleasantly structured, and peppery wine that is delicious and versatile. I enjoyed a mighty tasty bottle of their 2007 a few weeks ago; you don’t have to age it, but you certainly can. They’ve produced this bottling for years, aged in oak foudres like the Grand Rebossan Roussanne above. It is an imposing presence, with a delicate touch: the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove.

$29.00 per bottle $313.20 per case

2014 ARBIN MONDEUSE “TERRES BRUNES” >

Arbin is another village farther around and higher up the mountain from the Quenards’ home base in Chignin. A vintner they knew there who had worked his old vines by hand for decades was nearing retirement, so they paid him a visit a few years ago and earned the honor of continuing to work his land. High on the limestone slopes and pruned in the gobelet style of the Beaujolais (see the label), these beautifully gnarled old vines eke out a wine with much more finesse and delicacy than the Mondeuse from Chignin. Volnay to Pommard. Terres Brunes is a gorgeous effort from the Quenards, a steal for the price, and a welcome addition to their stable of fine alpine wines.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case

Quenard

POMEROL

by Anthony Lynch

2012 POMEROL
CHÂTEAU GOMBAUDE-GUILLOT >

Bordeaux is back on the rise after years of being shunned by sommeliers and other wine enthusiasts in favor of the novel, obscure, and often downright weird. Is it possible to be classic and trendy at the same time? Gombaude-Guillot, our beloved organic Pomerol grower, proves that it is not only possible but also truly exciting for all walks of the wine world. With incredible depth, power, and fine but grippingly youthful tannins, this is unmistakably Pomerol—in the style on which this great appellation built its reputation. Yet its rich, velvety texture and vivid fruit, suggesting blackberry and plum with an almost wild intensity, are certain to appeal to classically trained palates and thrill-seeking youths alike. Already approachable, the 2012 will improve for twenty years or more.

$75.00 per bottle $810.00 per case

Visit Venice

by Kermit Lynch

An importer of Italian wines, I have now and again found myself on the Italian wine route in need of some shut-eye. I try to pick nice places to relax instead of the more convenient autostrada hotels. Quality of life, that’s my motto. Occasionally I’ll wind up in Venice, a rather picturesque site if a little worse for wear and tear in certain quarters—evidently the sea is lapping away at its very foundations.

© Kermit Lynch

Heed my advice: my favorite visits to Venice have coincided with dreadful weather. One winter the lagoon was frozen, believe it or not, and the temperature enough below to freeze one’s nose off—good-bye, wine-tasting career! However, it was fabulous, because two pals and I had Venice almost to ourselves: empty canals, streets, hotels, and at one of Venice’s impossible-to-get-a-table restaurants, we were the only diners.

Then this past October, my wife and I encountered rain and high tides that flooded much of the town. It was still crowded, but bearable, everyone by necessity wearing knee-high rubber or plastic boots. Along with the art and scenery, we discovered a thriving food and wine scene. In case you go, that’s why I’m writing about it.

Most tourist-ridden sites worldwide are now geared toward the low airfare/tour bus/cruise ship crowds. Crowds, as in crowded. You walk the street one slow-motion step at a time, and even that is jarringly halted, because half the mob is stopping every two steps to take a selfie.

Hey, Mom, it’s me on the Rialto Bridge!

Oops, sorry, Mom, the press of the mob just pushed me over the railing.

© Kermit Lynch

The quality of the food sinks to mediocre and worse. The cooks must be thinking that they’ll never see a customer again, so why take any pains. Near Bandol, where Gail and I live several months of the year, we always cook at home now, because there is not one single restaurant we want to go back to. I had a terrible visit to Rome recently, a place I dearly loved: streets mobbed, tourists eating cheap, restaurants with no soul. And the Amalfi Coast. Yikes. Good luck. Best go in the winter, because the summer is torture despite the glorious landscape. Traffic jammed for miles, tourism become their sole income—bah, humbug!

But that’s not all. Cheap travel is great for égalité, but the result is the destruction of everything that attracts us in the first place, including the local cuisine. When égalité means mediocrity for one/mediocrity for all . . . well, there must be a better way.

Normally I explore and eat around a lot, but I liked a couple of restaurants in Venice so much, I would advise you to return again and again.

Trattoria Antiche Carampane is so off the beaten track, I almost gave up. I walked using Google Maps. Venetian alleys and streets make Google a blithering idiot. Countless times I found myself going in circles—swearing in circles, too.

It was worth it! Service with a smile, interesting collection of diners, unpretentious setting, superb selection of northern Italian whites (including Duline’s Malvasia Istriana), one delicious platter after another, mostly seafood, all local. They passed out a free starter, a paper cone filled with peanut-sized crispy fried shrimps, perfectly cooked. Every note seemed to hit just the right pitch. I wish I lived next door.

© Gail Skoff

My second fave rave: Alle Testiere on Calle del Mondo Novo. I’m sorry, but you can’t imagine how good warm, grilled white polenta tastes next to a cool ball of the best, least creamy baccalà of my life (baccalà is Italy’s brandade de morue). It is so delicious you might order it as your second and third courses, too, because when your plate is empty, you’ll experience a feeling akin to heartbreak. Luca is the perfect host and also author of the short, gem-filled wine list. When the lagoon was frozen, he’s the one who served me and my pals Duline’s Pinot Grigio—rare, expensive, fairly priced, hard to beat. Thank you, Luca, for that first, startling taste. At Testiere you should order both the cheese and the dessert courses, because they’re so good.

Pardon the digression, but I am convinced that Italian cheeses are now better, generally, than French. Same with charcuterie. The French and their bureaucratic fervor have dulled down both, waving the health flag as justification. Yes, both cheese and charcuterie are safely sterile nowadays, and (is it a coincidence?) produced by factories instead of small farmers. When it comes to food and wine—sorry, Big Brother—artisanal wins, and I’ll bet it is better for us, too.

Back to Luca at Alle Testiere—he gave me the address of a teensy wine bar near the Venice market. “Go to Al Merca,” he said. “Their wines by the glass are beautifully selected. I don’t know how they come up with them.” They also have delicious Venetian-style sandwiches. Alert: no chairs, no tables, no roof. I went three times, and now it’s my favorite Venetian snack bar.

Remember, seek out the periods when Venice weather is inclement and make sure it is not a school vacation week in Europe before making your plans. And, oh yes, reserve those restaurant tables way in advance.

A Call to Arms: Rosé All Year

by Anthony Lynch

American wine drinkers have come a long way in the past forty years. It may be difficult to recall—many of us were not even born, and perhaps we subconsciously blocked this dark age from our memories—but there was once a time, in this dearly beloved country of ours, when the average consumer would turn his nose up at the idea of drinking a rosé. Not macho, some said. And that’s not all: it took many years for us to embrace the virtues of good Beaujolais, or to even acknowledge anything other than a Bordeaux or a Burgundy—let alone an oxidative Jura Savagnin.

Progress is in our country’s DNA, and we cannot keep living in the past. That’s right: the time has come for us, as a nation, to start drinking rosé year-round. Our friends in Bandol would scoff at the idea of confining the most versatile and quaffable of wines to the summer months, and rightly so. Why deprive oneself of what is undoubtedly among life’s greatest pleasures?

We’ve put together a couple samplers for you as a reminder that rosé season is as perennial as evergreens and San Francisco fog. So in the name of progress, refreshment, and of course, joy…we urge you to heed this call to arms, by raising your glass of rosé to the sky and joining us in our year-long quest for pleasure, no matter what color it may come in.