Arnot-Roberts is a boutique winery established in 2001 by Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, two childhood friends who grew up together in Napa Valley. After college, Nathan started working with his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels while Duncan pursued winemaking throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Arnot-Roberts began with a single barrel of wine the duo produced in their basement and over time grew through the purchase of fruit from renowned vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, and Amador counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. When selecting vineyards, Arnot-Roberts makes sure the farmers are both “passionate and conscientious” because their goal is to produce small quantities of honest, terroir-driven, and single-vineyard wines which truly express their unique place. The winemaking style is a mix of Old World and New World, with use of indigenous fermentation, little or no new oak, and often whole cluster.
The 2020 Rosé is pale copper in color with hues of pale salmon. The nose seems somewhat muted and aromas are of medium (-) intensity, showcasing notes of cantaloupe, white strawberry, raspberry, bubble gum, cured meat, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of white cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange rind, bubble gum, and saline. This dry rosé is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, low alcohol, and a medium-length finish. Fun to try given the blend, but this is lacking in intensity and length I was hoping for.
Price: $30 (but you should be able to find this around $25 in some locations). I can’t call this wine a good value, especially since I paid slightly more than the average $30 price-tag online. It’s lacking in intensity, complexity, and length which is somewhat disappointing given the Arnot-Roberts wines I’ve enjoyed in the past. Having enjoyed the Triennes rosé the other day at half the price, I find this a tough sell for me personally albeit it’s fun to try nonetheless given the blend.
Evening Land Vineyards is a producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.
The 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain is deep purple in color with ruby hues. Given some time to open up in the glass, this blossoms into a rather complex wine for its youth. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, raspberry, mulberry compote, blueberry, rose petal, rosemary, pine, and finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cranberry, white cherry, mulberry, blueberry, savory garden herbs, black olive, and stony mineral. This dry red is light-bodied with high acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 595 cases produced.
Price: $35. I think this is pretty fairly priced given the balance, length, and complexity though there are probably better values if you look to Beaujolais for carbonic Gamay. I haven’t had any Bourgogne Passetoutgrain to compare this to, so I found my next tasting task.
Lo-Fi Wines was established in 2014 by lifelong friends Mike Roth and Craig Winchester. Centered in a belief wines should be honest and transparent representations of their vintage and variety, Lo-Fi wines are meant to be consumed as everyday drinkers to pair with a broad range of foods and not locked away in the cellar. Through minimal intervention winemaking, Lo-Fi wines ferment naturally with native yeasts and see minimal to zero sulfur additions and no pH adjustments. The wines age in neutral oak barrels and are mostly bottled unfiltered, with the final product an easy-drinking and low alcohol wine. A number of the wines also see whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration, including the wine I am reviewing today.
Today’s Wine: 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir
72% Gamay, 28% Pinot Noir; 12% ABV
The 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir is pale garnet in color and it almost has hues of deep salmon. This is unfiltered so there is some sediment as well. A bit funky right out of the bottle, I decided to let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and it was singing. The aromas are of medium intensity, though the nose is gorgeous with aromas of bright red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, gamey red meat, hibiscus, white pepper, and stony mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, wild raspberry, freshly picked strawberry, rose, violet, white pepper, and savory green herbs. This dry red blend is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. 710 cases produced.
Price: $22. I think this offers very solid value, particularly given its high quality, balance, and drinkability. While this could be more intense or longer on the finish, I don’t think that’s necessarily a focal point as these are meant to be consumed young and enjoyed by all.
Jean Foillard is one of the most highly-regarded producers in Beaujolais, though his status stretches throughout all of France as well. Jean and Agnès Foillard took over Jean’s father’s domaine in 1980, and their holdings today consist of almost 14 hectares (34 acres) of vineyards with many planted on the famed Côte du Py in the cru of Morgon. Since taking over, Jean follows the teachings of Jules Chauvet who was a staunch traditionalist in Beaujolais. Jean farms all of his vineyards organically with zero synthetic herbicides or pesticides, then harvests the fruit manually before rigorous sorting to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the wines. The fruit sees traditional semi-carbonic maceration and fermentation with only native yeasts, and minimal or zero sulfur is added throughout the winemaking process. Jean never engages in chaptalization, ages his wines in used Burgundy barrels, and bottles the wines without filtration. The end result yields wines that are elegant, complex, and structured while showcasing the terroir in honest fashion. Like most Beaujolais these are delicious in their youth, but they often have the structure of ageworthy examples as well.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Morgon Eponym
100% Gamay; 14.5% ABV
The 2018 Morgon Eponym is deep purple in color and completely opaque. Given some time to open up in the glass, the wine blossoms with aromas of medium (+) intensity and a nose that showcases black cherry, plum, blackberry, granite, mint, underbrush, pencil shavings, cracked black pepper, and crushed rock mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, black plum, anise, red meat, iron, wet gravel, charred green herbs, and smoke. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, low tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This was somewhat jammy out of the gates, so it definitely needs the air time at this point in its life.
Price: $45. I was a little worried out of the gates with this wine in terms of a value perspective (due to how jammy it came across), however as this opened up over the course of 45 minutes or so the quality and value proposition showcased itself. This is a beautiful Cru Beaujolais while being fairly complex and finessed but with the structure to drink well for several years ahead.
Established by Scott Schultz, Jolie-Laide is a small, boutique winery crafting wines in Sebastopol, California. Jolie-Laide is a French term of endearment for something unconventionally beautiful that translates to “pretty-ugly,” and Scott decided to use it in naming his winery following experiences in the restaurant business. When he worked at Bouchon in Yountville, Scott realized that the majority of people didn’t seem to explore the wine list but rather stuck to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon. He thought this was a travesty of sorts, given the wonderful varieties including Gamay, Valdiguié, Vermentino, or Trousseau Gris. Eventually Scott transitioned out of the restaurant business and found himself working alongside Pax Mahle, a wildly skilled winemaker in his own right. One year, Pax allowed Scott to make a wine of his own using 1-2 tons of fruit and he decided to use none other than Trousseau Gris because of how fascinating of a variety it is to him. Alas, Jolie-Laide was born and continues to produce magnificent and wildly fun wines today.
When it comes to sourcing his fruit, Scott works with farmers he has known for years who largely follow organic practices and work incredibly unique sites. After harvest, all of the Jolie-Laide red fruit is foot crushed and left whole cluster with some of the varieties (like Gamay) seeing carbonic maceration. Thanks to Scott’s selection of incredible sites, he can be pretty hands-off during the rest of the winemaking process and lets the terroir and fruit speak for itself. Scott lets his wines ferment naturally and, instead of using temperature control, says “we stick things in the sun if we need to get them warm” (source). Furthermore, Scott adds little SO2 when necessary in part because his wines tend to be bottled young to both preserve freshness in the fruit and provide barrels for the following year’s harvest.
The 2019 Barsotti Vineyard Gamay Noir is pale ruby in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, this opens with aromas of medium intensity and a nose that showcases notes of cherry, strawberry, red plum, cranberry, and dried underbrush. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of ripe red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, licorice, dried green herbs, and cola. This dry red is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Though this is a very enjoyable and chuggable wine, I would like to see more depth and complexity to it especially on the nose.
Price: $30. I think this is priced fairly well given how high the quality is and how enjoyable it is to drink. While it’s not the most complex or expressive Gamay I’ve had, it’s perfect for warmer days when you want a red over a white.
Today’s Story: Domaine de la Grand’Cour (Jean-Louis Dutraive)
Domaine de la Grand’Cour is one of the oldest estates in Fleurie of the Beaujolais wine region, established by Jean Dutraive in 1969. A fourth generation winemaker, Jean acquired 9.7 hectares in Fleurie in addition to 1.8 hectares in Brouilly which was part of his family’s property there. In 1977, Jean was joined by his son Jean-Louis (who eventually took over in 1989) and the domain transitioned to organic viticulture under Jean-Louis. A traditionalist at heart, Jean-Louis hand-harvests his fruit prior to low temperature carbonic maceration and fermentation using only indigenous yeasts. The entire vinification process occurs without sulfur additions, and the wines are gravity fed to the cellar for aging. During élevage, SO2 is rarely added or at times only in minimal quantities (often just before bottling) and the wines are all bottled unfined and unfiltered. Dutraive’s wines are known to be highly aromatic and beautifully expressive examples of Fleurie and Brouilly, pleasant in their youth but with the stuffing to develop and age for at least a decade in strong vintages.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Brouilly Cuvée Vieilles Vignes
100% Gamay; 13% ABV
The 2018 Brouilly Cuvée Vieilles Vignes is translucent pale purple in color, certainly showing its youth. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas of pronounced intensity consist of brambly blackberry, pomegranate, cranberry, violet, scorched earth, eucalyptus, dried herbs, and graphite. Meanwhile on the palate I get notes of dried strawberry, pomegranate, blackberry, black plum, violet, savory green herbs, and slate with medium intensity. This dry Beaujolais is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.
Price: $40 (closer to $30-35 in Europe). Jean-Louis Dutraive is a legend in Beaujolais, with absolutely justifiable cause. This is my third time enjoying this wine (because it’s that good) and I think it offers very solid value. While a lot of good Beaujolais can be found for $20-25, I think this sits in a perfect place in the range of Beaujolais where some reach $80 or even higher.
Marchand-Tawse is a Burgundian négociant created through a collaboration between Pascal Marchand and Moray Tawse. Both Pascal and Moray are French Canadians, making their success in Burgundy somewhat unusual.
Pascal Marchand comes from a background in wine (after working a few years as a merchant sailor on freighters in the Great Lakes), having taken over Clos des Epeneaux in Pommard in 1985 at the age of 22. Pascal was one of the early adopters of organic and biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy, bringing heightened quality to Clos des Epeneaux and world renown to its name. Jean-Charles Boisset later approached Pascal to run his family’s Domaine de la Vougeraie in 1999, and he remained there until 2006 when desiring more freedom in his ventures. Pascal took over at Domaine Jean Fery, all the while setting the stage for his own label that would eventually become Marchand-Tawse.
Moray Tawse, on the other hand, has a background in finance and co-founded First National in Canada which focuses on real estate lending. He has had a long-standing love of wine, however, which led him to establish Tawse Winery which is one of Canada’s leading wineries. Thanks to his love of Burgundy, Moray approached Pascal in 2010 and the two established their partnership.
Marchand-Tawse sources fruit from a great number of vineyards, most of which are either organically or biodynamically farmed. The négociant produces a wide range of wines, spanning appellation and village bottlings up to some of the greatest Grand Crus. Pascal’s winemaking style is rather traditional, seeking to have the fruit and terroir express themselves in a most honest and transparent form. Many of the wines, like the one I’m reviewing today, are left 100% whole cluster and not destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Aging for my wine today, amongst others in the portfolio, occurs in French oak barrels 0% new and there is no fining or filtration before bottling.
Today’s Wine: 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons
100% Gamay; 12.5% ABV
The 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons is mostly opaque pale to medium purple in color with ruby hues. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of red cherry, raspberry, baked strawberry, violet, lightly charred soil, finely crushed rock, and stemmy underbrush. On the palate, I get notes of brambleberry, plum, ripe raspberry, pomegranate, dried forest floor, clay, green herbs, and light smoke. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. I could see this developing further over the coming few years, but it’s hard to resist right now. 362 cases produced.
Price: $24. This is an outstanding value wine in my opinion, as it drinks with such depth and terroir expression rarely found in bottles of this price range. The quality of fruit is also spectacular. Pair with seared duck breast, coq au vin, or grilled salmon.