Outstanding Effort in a Tough Vintage

Today’s Story: Château Montrose

I previously wrote about Château Montrose when I reviewed the 2016 La Dame de Montrose in Incredible Value in a Second Wine, but I wanted to revisit the estate for the “Grand Vin.”

Château Montrose is a historical Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Estèphe and established in 1815 by Etienne Théodore Dumoulin on a patch of land his family purchased from Nicolas Alexandre de Ségur but largely forgot. At the time of Etienne’s death in 1861, the estate spanned 95 hectares though his heirs sold it in 1866 to factory owner Mathieu Dollfus who quickly redeveloped and modernized the buildings and winery with the best technology of the time. One of Mathieu’s most interesting achievements, in my opinion, is the construction of a windmill to pump water aboveground and flood the estate which ultimately saved much of the vineyards from phylloxera. After Mathieu passed away in 1886, the estate fell to the Charmolüe family who, from 1896 to 2006, guided Château Montrose through wars and financial crises while crafting some of the best vintages and providing stability. Martin and Olivier Bouygues acquired the estate in 2006 and engaged in a massive renovation project, propelling Château Montrose to ever increasing heights for decades down the road. Montrose, one of fourteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, produces world-class wines and even placed third with their 1970 vintage in the Judgment of Paris in 1976.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Château Montrose

57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 2012 Château Montrose is opaque deep ruby in color with purple hues. This required a good 3 hours to open up in the decanter, blossoming to showcase a nose of blackcurrant, blackberry, pencil shavings, cigar box, freshly tilled earth, cracked pepper, dark chocolate, dried green herbs, and crushed rock mineral. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of black cherry, dark plum, cassis, dried tobacco, loam, graphite, cocoa, underbrush, and light oaky spice. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high grippy tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $115. Given the vintage and how well this wine performs I think this is very appropriately priced. Particularly relative to other Montrose bottlings from stronger vintages that can be 2-3 times as expensive. There is also quite a bit of life and development left in this bottle, which could make $115 down the road look like a steal.

Refreshing and Well-Made Bourgogne Aligoté

Today’s Story: Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet

I previously wrote about Jean-Claude Ramonet when I reviewed the 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean in Exploring a Red From a Legendary Producer of White Burgundy. Domaine Ramonet was established in Chassagne-Montrachet in the late 1920s by Pierre Ramonet, and quickly became one of the preeminent producers of white Burgundy. Though the domaine has had its ups and downs over time largely due to premature oxidation in the 1990s, Jean-Claude Ramonet has returned the wines to fresh heights and remains a force to be reckoned with in the world of white Burgundy.

In the vineyards, Ramonet likes to work with older vines and keep his yields low. Most of the wines are produced from vines 12 to 50 years old, though they typically like to use vines 18 years or older. The domaine’s vinification practices are traditional in nature, with the whites starting in tanks before transfer to French oak barrels and the reds in cement vats for maceration and fermentation. New oak usage varies by wine and vintage, with the whites typically seeing 10-15% for village wines, 30-40% for 1er Crus, and 50%+ for the Grand Crus. Reds typically see 10-20% new oak for village wines and 30-40% for 1er Crus. None of the white wines are bottled fined or filtered.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Bourgogne Aligoté

100% Aligoté; 12.5% ABV

The 2015 Bourgogne Aligoté is transparent medium yellow in color with deep straw variation. On the nose, the wine showcases aromas of golden apple, white peach, white florals, cotton candy, dried vanilla, mild herbs, and mineral. Once on the palate, this displays notes of lemon citrus, yellow apple skins, snap pea, white wildflower, wax, and dill. The wine is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity and a plush, luxurious mouthfeel into a lingering but refreshing finish.

Price: $50. This is a very well-made, high quality Aligoté that I think justifies the price-point. Pair with oysters, roasted chicken, or cheese.

Fun and Delicious Grower Champagne

Today’s Story: Domaine Francis Orban

Domaine Francis Orban was established in 1929 by Léopold Orban in the small village of Leuvrigny, not too far from Epernay. Though Léopold initially sold his fruit to the larger houses of Epernay, he decided to branch out and make his own wines as one of the first Grower Champagne houses in Leuvrigny. The domaine today spans 18 acres of vineyards between Leuvrigny and Sainte-Gemme, with 90% planted to Pinot Meunier and vines averaging 30-40 years old. The vineyards are farmed utilizing sustainable viticulture, harvesting is done completely by hand, and fermentation is accomplished using only indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. In the NV bottlings, about 50% of the blend is comprised of reserve wines. Francis Orban is today’s 4th generation steward of the domaine, following the footsteps of his great-grandfather Léopold, grandfather Gaëtan, and father Pol.

Today’s Wine: NV Champagne Extra Brut

100% Pinot Meunier; 12% ABV

The Champagne Extra Brut is transparent deep gold in color. On the nose, I get aromas of yellow apple skins, golden pear, brioche, white pepper, almond, clay, and mineral. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of lemon citrus, green apple, toasted nuts, toast, crushed rock, and cream. This is very dry and medium-bodied with high acidity and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Price: $45. Great QPR with this one, which tends to be the case with almost every grower Champagne I’ve had over the years. This wine is also incredibly fun to try, not simply for the fact it is 100% Pinot Meunier (typically a blending variety in Champagne) but also because it is Extra Brut with dosage of 3 g/l. Drink this on its own or pair with caviar or shrimp.

Tasty Gewurztraminer From Centuries of Tradition

Today’s Story: Maison Trimbach

Maison Trimbach is one of the most notable winemakers in Alsace, established in 1626 by Jean Trimbach. Today Trimbach is under the guidance of Hubert Trimbach and his nephews Jean and Pierre, rounding out 12 generations of family ownership and shared knowledge. Pierre’s daughter Anne, the oldest of the 13th generation, also now works in the family business. Though Trimbach’s world recognition greatly expanded in 1898 when Frédéric Emile Trimbach earned the highest marks at the International Wine Fair in Brussels, Trimbach is largely famous for the legendary Clos Sainte Hune vineyard. Located in the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard, Clos Ste Hune has belonged to the Trimbach family for over two centuries and produces some of the most exquisite Alsatian Riesling in existence.

The Trimbach estate consists of 40 hectares encompassing 50 parcels across six villages that include Bergheim, Ribeauvillé, and Hunawihr. Trimbach also operates as a négociant business to produce additional non-estate wines. All of Trimbach’s winegrowing practices are sustainable and they try to preserve the natural environment of the vineyards. Trimbach practices close pruning and soil tilling while encouraging moderate yields and rigorous fruit selection come harvest which is accomplished entirely by hand. When the grapes are gently crushed at the winery, juices flow via gravity and Pierre vinifies and matures the wines adhering to centuries of tradition with both finesse and focus on the terroir. After being bottled each spring, the wines are released by maturity with some spending 5 to 7 years in the cellars to achieve balance before release.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gewurztraminer

100% Gewurztraminer; 14% ABV

The 2016 Gewurztraminer is transparent medium gold in color. On the nose, I get aromas of tangerine, peach, lemon curd, rose, beeswax, and petrol. The palate is quite vibrant and lively, with notes of mandarin, grapefruit, pear, ginger, white florals, herbs, and mineral. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity and a dry, long finish.

Price: $24. I think this is fairly priced and a pretty solid representation for the variety. Pair this with foie gras, Munster cheese, or apple streusel.

One of My Favorite CdP’s

Today’s Story: Domaine du Pégau

Domaine du Pégau is one of the great estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and though it became officially established in 1987 its roots and those of its proprietors extend significantly further back in time. Today the domaine is under guidance of Paul Féraud and his daughter Laurence, though the Féraud family can be traced as far back as 1670 in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Titles to the earliest Féraud vineyards reach 1733, though the family sold most of their production in bulk to top négociants (like Jaboulet-Aîné, David & Foillard, and Guigal) when Paul joined the family business. In 1964, however, this all changed when Paul decided to bottle about 420 cases under his own name when estate bottling really started to pick up. 1987 marked the year when Laurence joined her father and the duo changed their name and label from Domaine Féraud to Domaine du Pégau. Pégau spanned a somewhat small 17 acres of vines at this time, with still a significant amount of produce sold to négociants, but as Laurence took a larger and larger role they phased out selling fruit and the 1990 harvest was fully used for their own wines. Today the domaine consists of 21 hectares of vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape with another 5 hectares in Côtes du Rhône, 20 hectares in Côtes du Rhône Villages, and 19 hectares classified Vin de France.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée

85% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 4% Mourvèdre, with the balance Counoise and other authorized varieties (best guess – no tech sheet); 14% ABV

The 2009 Cuvée Réservée is opaque deep garnet in color with medium ruby variation. I decanted this for 3 hours, which allowed some funk to blow off the nose. Once this opens up, aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry, boysenberry, cigar box, graphite, forest floor, truffle, slate, clove, and underbrush leap from the glass. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, figs, black cherry, anise, red and purple florals, tobacco, charred earth, earthy mushroom, rocky mineral, coffee grounds, and game. The wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with added notes of iron and smoke. This is drinking magnificently right now, given the time to open up.

Price: $100. I think this is very fairly priced, as Pégau with the 2009 vintage produced a wine of depth, elegance, and complexity that reaffirms them as an estate to beat in CdP. Pair with herb-grilled lamb, wild boar, or charcuterie.

Excellent Value From One of the Rhône Valley’s Most Famous Domaines

Today’s Story: Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné

Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné is one of the most historic wineries in all of the Rhône Valley, established in 1834 by Antoine Jaboulet in Tain l’Hermitage. Though nowadays we know Tain l’Hermitage (particularly Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage) very well, it was a quiet winegrowing region when Antoine started assembling vineyards there. One of his greatest vineyards, and arguably one of the most famous in the world of wine, La Chapelle in Hermitage has been with the domaine since its origin and created a leaping point for the generational expansion throughout Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas, Gigondas, Côtes Rotie, Condrieu, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape amongst other appellations. When Antoine passed away, his vineyards went to sons Henri and Paul (the latter the source of the domaine’s name) and passed from generation to generation for nearly two centuries. In the latter half of the 1900s, Gerard Jaboulet promoted Rhône Valley wines throughout the world in an effort to expand their reputation even more. When Gerard passed away in 1997, however, Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aîné passed to his sons Philippe and Jacques until, in 2006, Jean-Jacques Frey purchased the domaine. Jean-Jacques’ daughter Caroline is today’s winemaker and viticulturist at the domaine, and her striving for excellence in every facet of the role is bringing this historic estate to new heights. Caroline achieved sustainable farming status in 2006, and has since started moving toward organic and biodynamic viticulture as well.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert

100% Syrah; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert is opaque deep purple in color. I decanted this for 4 hours, with the wine blossoming to showcase a nose of black plum, blackberry, cassis, violet, worn leather, hint of nail polish remover, wet rock, light smoke, and mocha. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackcurrant, black plum, black cherry, licorice, mild tobacco, granite, savory green herbs, chalky mineral, and blood. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $30. Today’s wine is another outstanding value (I do try to find them as often as possible). This drinks with depth and opulence but remains beautifully elegant and with a structure to go for at least another decade. Pair with smoked duck breast, high-quality ribeye, or grilled sea bass.

Rising Star in Cornas

Today’s Story: Domaine Vincent Paris

Domaine Vincent Paris was established in 1997 with 1 hectare of inherited vines in Cornas. Vincent studied enology for four years before working alongside his uncle, famed Cornas vigneron Robert Michel, and desiring autonomy with his own wines. Vincent set about planting vines in St. Joseph and Cornas, ultimately acquiring La Geynale in 2007 and farming a total of 8 hectares today. Vincent farms 1.5 hectares of Saint Joseph, 6 of Cornas, and 0.5 of Vin de Pays with meticulous attention and refuses to use insecticide or chemical fertilizers while limiting treatments. Vincent severely prunes his vines (to only 4 bunches per vine) which helps produce concentrated, high quality berries and cuts down on green harvests. In the cellar, Vincent destems his fruit to varying levels and ferments the wines naturally after cold maceration at relatively lower temperatures. The wines spend 3 months in vats and then a year in oak barrels that are never new but rather 2-8 years old in an effort to not mask terroir, before they are ultimately bottled with light fining but no filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Granit 30

100% Syrah; 13% ABV

The 2017 Granit 30 is opaque medium to deep purple in color. I decanted this for four hours, which allowed the nose to blossom and showcase aromas of blackberry, black plum, overripe blueberry, bacon fat, violet, wet rocky/clay earth, charred herbs, rubber, and gravel. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of dusty blackberry, black cherry, cassis, anise, sweet tobacco, mild smoke, granite, black pepper, chocolate, and iron. There is even a funky note of root beer flavored Bottle Cap candy! This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $40 (might be able to find it a few bucks cheaper). This is a really nice value for Cornas, especially if you can snag it for around $35. While the Granit 30 is the more approachable and modern bottling, this drank significantly less people-pleasing than I was expecting (which is great). Pair with herb roasted lamb, venison steak, or braised beef ribs.

Mouthwatering Village Level Chablis

Today’s Story: Domaine Moreau-Naudet

Domaine Moreau-Naudet is a small estate located in the Chablis region of northern Burgundy. Though Moreau-Naudet has been a family-run domaine for quite some time, it was 1999 when Stéphane Moreau joined his father and drastically shifted the winemaking practices. Stéphane transitioned to fully organic viticulture alongside biodynamic practices, started harvesting his vineyards completely by hand, and practiced a minimal intervention winemaking style that includes natural yeast fermentation, slow élevage in large oak barrels, and minimal added sulphur. Stéphane was a nonconformist for Chablis in this sense, and took significant inspiration from Vincent Dauvissat, Didier Dagueneau, and Nadi Foucault. Sadly, Stéphane passed away incredibly too young (in his upper 40s) in 2016 and the future of the domaine fell to questioning. Shortly thereafter, however, Stéphane’s wife Virginie and his assistant winemaker displayed great adeptness by stepping in and remaining steadfast to Stéphane’s philosophy and style then and to this day.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Chablis

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Chablis is medium gold in color with water white variation near the rim. Give this 30 minutes to an hour to open up and you will be handsomely rewarded. The nose showcases aromas of white peach, lemon peel, stone fruit, summer melon, honeysuckle, and chalky mineral. On the palate, I get notes of lemon zest, baked pineapple, quince, green apple skins, white florals, flint, and saline mineral. This is medium-bodied with vibrant high acidity and a well-rounded mouthfeel into a long, mouthwatering finish. While the wine doesn’t have as much depth as I was hoping for, its precision makes up for that and makes me excited to try it again in a few years.

Price: $35 (though you can find this cheaper, especially in Europe). This is a great value and it’s hard to believe this is a village wine thanks to its finesse and precision. Would love to try this again in a few years. Pair with oysters, snails with garlic butter, or gougères.

Unbelievably Youthful Bordeaux From the 1966 Vintage

Today’s Story: Chateau Pichon Lalande

Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande is a historic estate that traces its routes to the late 1600s and ranks as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) based on the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. I previously wrote about Pichon Lalande when reviewing their 1986 vintage in Bordeaux Battle and the 2003 vintage in Decidedly Opulent Pauillac. To save myself (and yours as a reader) the hassle of reproducing (or reading) such a detailed and lengthy history, I will copy my short previous write-up below.

Pichon Lalande is considered by many to be a classic example of Pauillac, known for its deep, concentrated layers of ripe fruit accompanied by notes of cassis, tobacco, and earth.

With nothing short of a somewhat tumultuous history, Pichon Lalande’s ownership changed hands over the years and earned its name when the founder’s daughter Therese received it as a dowry for her marriage to Jacques de Pichon Longueville. During the 18th century, the estate was dominated by women (Therese de Rauzan, Germaine de Lajus, and Marie Branda de Terrefort) throughout the winemaking process until Baron Joseph de Pichon Longueville took over for his mother. In 1850, with his death, the estate split between his two sons and three daughters and ultimately resulted in the division of Comtesse de Lalande and Pichon Baron.

With no familial heirs, Edouard Miailhe and Louis Miailhe purchased Pichon Lalande following WWI. Edouard’s daughter, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, took over management in 1978 and became a prominent ambassador for Bordeaux wines while dramatically increasing quality of her estate. One of her major endeavors, and possibly most famous, was growing the size of Pichon Lalande from 40 hectares of vines to 89. In 2007, however, May-Eliane sold a majority stake of the estate to the Rouzaud family, owners of Roederer Champagne, and management changes as well as renovations took place.

Today’s Wine: 1966 Chateau Pichon Lalande

45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 13% ABV

The 1966 Pichon Lalande is medium garnet in color and moderately transparent. This wine is singing as a pop-and-pour, with the nose showcasing aromas of graphite, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, and peppercorn followed by faint redcurrant, cranberry, dried violet, and green herbs in the background. On the palate, I get notes of pencil shavings, dried tobacco leaf, leather, black tea leaf, underbrush, gravel, and mushroom with cassis and redcurrant poking through. This is still medium-bodied with lively medium acidity, medium (-) dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Best during the first 1-1.5 hours, but honestly didn’t fall apart too much slightly beyond hour 2 (when it was gone).

Price: $350. Provenance is key here, but if proven and you can find this for sale it is absolutely worth the tag. My bottle threw almost zero sediment, the color and structure were both profound, and this drank incredibly youthful given its age. I would’ve pegged this as 1980s if I tasted it blind. Pair this with wagyu filet mignon, earthy mushrooms and/or truffle, or mild cheese.

People-Pleaser From Cornas

Today’s Story: Domaine Courbis

Domaine Courbis dates back to the 16th century, with the estate today under watchful guidance of brothers Laurent and Dominique Courbis. Laurent and Dominique took over from their father Maurice in the early 1990s, and though they maintain traditional practices such as hand harvesting and rigorous sorting the brothers greatly modernized the winemaking philosophy at the estate. Consisting of 35 hectares under vine, the domaine falls largely in Saint-Joseph with 18 hectares of Syrah and 5 hectares split between Marsanne (95%) and Roussanne (5%). The next largest holding is in Cornas with 8 hectares and the balance is split among Crozes-Hermitage, Saint-Péray, and others appellations. The fruit is sustainably farmed, fermentation occurs in tanks, and aging occurs in oak barriques that vary from new to 3 years old, with the overall style yielding intense and concentrated wines.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cornas Champelrose

100% Syrah; 14% ABV

The 2015 Cornas Champelrose is opaque medium to deep purple in color. I decanted this for about an hour, and it seems that is as long as this needs due to its aim of being approachable young. The nose showcases aromas of jammy blackberry, blueberry, violet, crushed rock, smoke, and light oak. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of blackberry, black plum, black pepper, tobacco, wet granite, chalky mineral, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40. This is a tasty Cornas, but on a value perspective I’d probably look elsewhere. This was lacking complexity compared to others, and certainly fits into a more “people-pleasing” camp that is already highly competitive. Pair this with beef short ribs, grilled lamb chop, or charcuterie and blue cheese.