Exquisite Loire Valley Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Chevalerie

Domaine de la Chevalerie is a small family-owned estate and winery established in 1640 by the Caslot family. Located in the village of Restigné within the Loire Valley, the domain consists of about 33 hectares of vineyards planted entirely to Cabernet Franc. A true family affair, the domain is run by siblings Stéphanie and Emmanuel who joined their father Pierre in the early 2000s. Pierre’s first task he set upon his children was to convert the entire domain to organic viticulture and winemaking, which they received certification for in 2008. By 2012, the domain transitioned entirely to biodynamics and received the Demeter certification. Though Pierre unfortunately passed away in 2014, Stéphanie and Emmanuel carry on the legacy aided by their younger sister Laurie who joined in 2018.

In their goal to produce terroir-driven wines that showcase a true sense of place, the Caslot family goes further than biodynamics alone and practices a minimally invasive winemaking style. All fruit is hand-harvested into small baskets before being sorted, destemmed, and sorted again. The grapes are not crushed, but instead transfer into vat by gravity to begin fermentation with only indigenous yeasts. After fermentation, the wines move to demi-muids and large 400 to 500 liter neutral barrels for aging. They add minimal SO2 and generally bottle the wines unfined and unfiltered.

To explore the family’s vineyard holdings, portfolio of wines, or read more I recommend visiting their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Bourgueil Galichets

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2014 Bourgueil Galichets is medium ruby in color and nearly opaque. This is an absolutely gorgeous wine out of the bottle, but really needs 45 minutes to an hour of decanting to truly open up and shine. On the nose, I get pronounced aromas of redcurrant, bing cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, slight barnyard, tilled earth, crushed rock, mild chili pepper, and dried underbrush. Meanwhile the palate showcases notes of crunchy cranberry, stemmy strawberry, raspberry, cigar tobacco, scorched earth, gravel, charred bell pepper, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $30 (might be able to find this closer to $25). This is an outstanding bottle of wine, particularly given its price-point, balance, and complexity. A very solid value play here, and definitely worth seeking out.

A Refreshing Sancerre

Today’s Story: Guilbaud Frères

Guilbaud Frères is a family-owned winery and wine merchant established in 1927 by Edouard and Marcel Guilbaud in the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine appellation of the Loire Valley. Edouard and Marcel came from a long family history of winegrowers and took their culminated knowledge of the land, quality producers, and attention to detail in creating the principles of their new venture. Now nearly a century later, a fourth generation guides the Guilbaud Frères brand and, in addition to sustainably farming around 60 hectares of their own vineyards, purchases and produces wine from carefully selected growers. To check out their broad range of AOP wines, you can visit the link here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Sancerre Les Chênes Vieux

100% Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2018 Les Chênes Vieux is transparent medium straw/yellow in color. The nose is quite expressive with aromas of tangerine, honeydew melon, lemon peel, honeysuckle, grass, slight smoke, and chalky minerality. On the palate, the wine displays notes of white peach, grapefruit, green apple skins, chamomile tea, finely crushed rock, brioche, and bright mineral. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity and a lush mouthfeel into a crisp and refreshing medium length finish.

Price: $30. This is a very nice Sancerre for the price and drinks with beautiful precision while making me excited for a warm day outside again. Pair this with sole, lobster, or roasted chicken.

One of the Last Remnants

Today’s Story: Château de la Guimonière

Château de la Guimonière was a very historic 15th Century estate with origins dating to the château built there in 1487. The estate’s vineyards were located on the hillsides of Layon à Chaume in the town of Rochefort sur ​​Loire and occupied 19 hectares under vine. 16 hectares of vineyard land was planted to Chenin Blanc, while the remaining 3 hectares consisted of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, based on my research, it appears the château is now simply a cottage designed for family or group travel accommodations. Perhaps you can stay there when visiting the area for some Loire Valley tastings.

As recently as the late 1990s, under ownership of the Germain family, the estate produced sweet wines after Bernard Germain purchased Château de la Guimonière, Château de Fesles, and Château de la Roulerie. Shortly thereafter, thanks to how difficult it can be to make sweet wines in the Loire Valley, the family sold off Château de la Fesles and Château de la Guimonière. They maintained ownership of Château de la Roulerie, however, which seemed to have the greatest promise thanks to its origins way back in the 11th Century. Perhaps I will try to find one of their wines to review someday.

Bonus fact: Bernard Germain, the former owner of Château de la Guimonière, is the father of Thierry Germain whose Domaine des Roches Neuves I reviewed a wine from in early November. Bernard’s other son Philippe runs Château de la Roulerie.

Today’s Wine: 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume

100% Chenin Blanc; 13% ABV

The 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume is a disconcerting pale to medium brown in color, almost more reminiscent of a sherry or white Tawny Port. There is zero sediment in the bottle and the wine is almost entirely transparent. Though many people would probably dump this out on first sight, I gave it the old college try and was handsomely rewarded. The nose offers still delicate aromas of dried apricot, baked peach, orange marmalade, honey, white florals, mixed nuts, and slight earthy game while remarkably not really showing signs of oxidation. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of candied orange, quince, marmalade, marzipan, licorice, caramel, toffee, and white floral liqueur. Medium- to full-bodied, this peculiar wine shows medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded finish that ends medium (+) in length.

Price: $100. At this price, I would not buy this wine again. While it was certainly a fun wine to try (I don’t have many wines from producers no longer in existence, or wines that come out brown but taste pleasant) I wouldn’t call it worth trying again. Pair this with rich, pungent cheeses or drink it alone for the odd experience.

Rockstar Value from the Loire Valley

Today’s Story: Domaine des Roches Neuves

Domaine des Roches Neuves was founded in 1992 by Thierry Germain following his move to the Loire Valley from his native Bordeaux. At 23 years old, Thierry soon met Charly Foucault from Clos Rougeard who would become an inspiration behind some of his winemaking practices. Thierry converted his domaine to biodynamic viticulture, as well as being certified organic, in an effort to let his vines guide him rather than play a heavier hand that removes truth and transparency from terroir to bottle. This practice helps Thierry’s wines showcase vibrant ripe fruits (thanks in addition to relatively early harvesting) with incredible purity while avoiding rustic vegetal notes. Also, his red wines do not typically have high tannin but rather integrated, soft tannins conducive to drinkability.

When harvesting his fruit, Thierry practices very traditional methods such as hand harvesting and hand sorting at the winery. Further, all of his wines are fermented with natural yeasts in no new oak barrels or tanks. For the wine I am reviewing today, grapes are 100% de-stemmed and fermented in conical tanks. There is a great overview of Thierry’s history and practices here, as well as an overview of his wine portfolio. The domaine’s website also contains fact sheets and an overview of the history and people here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Les Mémoires

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

I picked this up based on a recommendation from an employee at one of my local wine stores. He believes that Thierry Germain is making some of the best wine in Saumur Champigny, and while I need to explore more offerings from the region this already seems tough to beat. The wine is a deep ruby color, though I almost want to call it purple especially near the edges of the glass. The nose showcases aromas of crunchy blackberry, steel cut oats, chocolate, cigar box, damp forest floor, violets, slight bell pepper, and mineral. Once in the mouth, we get flavors of tart blueberry, blackberry, pomegranate, loamy earth, pepper, and limestone minerality. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Give this a few more years of bottle age, though if you can’t wait it is drinking well with some air.

Price: $70. This is a rockstar wine well worth the price tag, especially compared to some of their neighbors. The traditional style does a beautiful job portraying the “place,” and this wine comes from 110+ year old vines. Pair this with beef, pork, roast chicken, duck, or lamb.