Bourgogne at Village Quality

Today’s Story: Domaine Bachelet

Domaine Bachelet is a small wine estate located in Gevrey-Chambertin consisting of just over 4 hectares of vineyards. The domaine is run by Denis Bachelet who, since 1983, almost single-handedly works tirelessly to produce elegant and honest wines. Denis was born in Belgium, and though his family is drenched in winemaking tradition his father elected to work in the chemical industry there while his grandparents tended the domaine back in France. Denis studied winemaking in Beaune for three years before ultimately joining his grandparents at the estate, though he only became fully involved in winemaking in 1981 shortly after his grandfather’s death. By 1983 when he took over completely, the domaine consisted of only 1.8 hectares and he quickly sought to expand his holdings to make a better living. In 2008, Denis’ son Nicolas joined the domaine and the Bachelet family slowly grew by purchasing more parcels. Today, Domaine Bachelet produces a range of wines including Bourgogne, Village, 1er Cru, and Grand Cru offerings though these gems remain difficult to find but worthwhile seeking out.

For more, there is a great “interview” with Denis here and a background of the domaine and their portfolio here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Rouge

100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Bourgogne Rouge is pale ruby/purple in color but fairly dark and moderately opaque most likely due to its youth. This requires about 1.5 hours to truly open up, and once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, baked cherry, raspberry, violet, saddle leather, freshly tilled soil, steel cut oats, a hint of baking spice, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of blueberry, spiced plum, sour cherry, stemmy strawberry, sweet tobacco, forest floor, charred green herbs, bright mineral, and peppery spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly very tight right now without extended decanting, but this is a very precise wine that needs another 5 years in the bottle.

Price: $65 (cheaper overseas). Certainly not cheap for a Bourgogne Rouge (I saw some stores selling this at almost $80), though you can definitely say its quality puts this near a Village wine. I need to revisit this bottling in a few years and explore the Bachelet portfolio further. Pair this with seared tuna, roasted chicken, or mild goats cheese and charcuterie.

Old-World-Styled Pinot Noir From California

Today’s Story: Mount Eden Vineyards

Mount Eden Vineyards was established in 1945 in the Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation of California, with a focus of crafting small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Located at an elevation of 2,000 feet above the Santa Clara Valley floor, Mount Eden Vineyards is widely considered one of the first “boutique” California wineries and remains true to this philosophy today. Mount Eden believes every bottle is an expression of their terroir and thus winemaker Jeffrey Patterson spends most of his time in the vineyards connecting to his fruit and vines and centering his efforts on producing quality (not high-quantity) fruit. Part of Jeffrey’s focus in the vineyards is also making sure that this land will produce quality fruit for generations to come, so he feels deeply connected to the need to care for his vineyards. In the cellar, Jeffrey practices minimal intervention and all fruit is handled gently before going through fermentation using only natural yeasts. For more on the history of this wonderful winery, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color and moderately opaque. This is incredibly young and needs a couple hours to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of cherry, black raspberry, black olive, mint, freshly ground green herbs, pine, charred cedar, leather, rocky earth, and incense. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of tart cherry, dried strawberry, boysenberry, crunchy cranberry, red licorice, rose petal, sweet tobacco, scorched earth, underbrush, rocky minerality, and exotic spice. This is medium-bodied with an incredibly elegant and velvety mouthfeel, vibrant medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. 936 cases produced.

Price: $65. This is an incredibly high-quality Pinot Noir that drinks on par or better than many $100 Pinot Noirs I’ve enjoyed. The one thing to keep in mind, though, is you need to be patient with this and give it at least another 5-7 years of bottle age. Pair this with rack of lamb, herb grilled pork chops, or eggplant parmigiana.

Youthful but Delicious Nuits-St-Georges

Today’s Story: Domaine Jean Grivot

Domaine Jean Grivot is a relatively small family owned and operated Burgundian estate now under guide of the fifth generation Étienne Grivot, his wife Marielle, and their daughter Mathilde who took over winemaking from her parents in 2017. Étienne took over the domaine from his father Jean Grivot in 1987, and Jean had taken over from his father following his death in 1955. The majority of the domaine’s vineyards are located in Vosne-Romanée, however over time their growth to 15.5 hectares stretches across 22 appellations in additional communes of Vougeot, Chambolle-Musigny, and Nuits-Saint-Georges. The domaine’s holdings include notable Grand Cru vineyards in Clos de Vougeot, Echézeaux, and Richebourg, as well as 8 Premier Crus including Les Beaux Monts and Suchots in Vosne-Romanée. Their vineyards are farmed organically founded in a desire for minimal impact on the environment and removal of chemicals in the vineyards. In Richebourg, Echézeaux, Beau Monts, and Suchots the domaine uses a horse to plough the vineyards in an effort to minimize impact on the soil. Harvest is accomplished by hand and the grapes are 95-100% destemmed before beginning fermentation using only natural yeasts. Unlike other winemakers in Burgundy, Grivot does not like punch downs before fermentation begins but rather pumps over the wines after fermentation is complete and before they spend 15 months in barrels.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Nuits-St-Georges Les Charmois

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Les Charmois is pale ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, gravel, tobacco, forest floor, underbrush, ground green herbs, and slight oak. On the palate, I get notes of cherry, cranberry, ripe wild raspberry, blue and purple florals, sous bois, tar, black truffle, white pepper, smoke, and a hint of oak. This red Burgundy is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. 98 cases produced.

Price: $100. This is a great value Nuits-St-Georges which is drinking surprisingly well with some air at its young age. However, this has the structure to where I’d suggest waiting another 3-5 years and it’ll last for at least 10-15 years beyond that. Pair this with lean steaks, roasted game, or grilled pork.

Quite Possibly My Best Value Bourgogne Rouge to Date

Today’s Story: Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs

Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs was established alongside Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair in 2001. Though the Liger-Belair family owned the domaine for 250 years, it certainly did not fall to Thibault in a linear path. In 1720, Claude Marey who was the mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges and a vineyard owner established C. Marey wine house to sell his wines. Next, Claude’s son Claude Philibert Marey (also a mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges) took over the family business until his death in 1804 when his youngest son Guillaume Felix Marey took over. In 1852, Guillaume Felix partnered with his nephew Comte Liger-Belair (who owned Grand Cru vineyards in Vosne-Romanée) to establish C. Marey et Comte Liger-Belair. The domaine passed through several generations, ultimately until 1892 when Vincent Liger-Belair took over and restructured it with work handled by three sharecroppers. After studying viticulture and oenology for six years, working for a Parisian communications firm, and starting an internet wine sales company, Vincent’s son Thibault transitioned to winemaking and took over the vines to establish his namesake domaine.

Thibault Liger-Belair harvested his first Nuits-Saint-Georges, Nuits-Saint-Georges Charmottes, and Vosne-Romanée Aux Reas in 2002 but quickly set his eyes upon expanding his portfolio. In 2003, Thibault ventured into Richebourg Grand Cru, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Petits Monts, and Bourgogne Rouge, followed in 2009 by Beaujolais. While all of the domaine’s vineyards are certified organic by Ecocert, each appellation is cultivated and worked differently based on their unique soils and climates which Thibault takes great care to analyze. Through harvest and in the cellar, Thibault believes that his grapes need to be treated very delicately and with respect to produce the best wines. Regarding barrels, he selects between three coopers and requires a three year drying period before they are made and he almost never uses more than 50% new oak. Thibault’s wines are aged between 14 and 18 months depending on appellation without racking, and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Bourgogne Rouge Les Grands Chaillots

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2015 Bourgogne Rouge is moderately opaque pale ruby in color with rose variation near the rim of the glass. On the nose, I get aromas of cranberry, wild raspberry, cherry, rose petal, forest floor, faint barnyard, peppery spice, black tea leaf, rocky minerality, and a hint of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of dried strawberry, red cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, violet, tobacco, loamy soil, green underbrush, dry crushed rock, and pepper. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a surprisingly long finish. 1/3 of the fruit comes from one of the domaine’s Nuits-Saint-Georges vineyards (0.8 ha planted in 1986) and 2/3 is purchased from growers in Marsannay, Côtes de Nuits, Beaune, and Ladoix Serrigny.

Price: $35. This is quite possibly the best value Bourgogne Rouge I’ve tried to date. From first smell you can tell this is a well-crafted wine and that first sip is profound. This is drinking well now with some air but certainly has the structure to where I’d hold off on my next bottle for at least 5 years. Pair this with seared duck breast, herb-roasted chicken, or mild goat cheese.

The Queen of Burgundy

Today’s Story: Maison Leroy

Maison Leroy was founded in 1868 by François Leroy who was a winemaker and vineyard owner at Auxey-Duresses as well as Meursault, Pommard, Chambertin, Musigny, Clos Vougeot, and Richebourg. Though François sold his wines through Comptoir des Proprietaires de la Cote-d’Or in Beaune, his desire of enlarging his business led to the foundation of Maison Leroy. When François’ son Joseph joined the business alongside his wife Louise Curteley, the two grew Auxey-Duresses by producing liquors and distilled alcohols alongside the wine and garnered significant critical acclaim during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Henri Leroy, son of Joseph and Louise, joined the Maison in 1919 and further extended the family business by creating a subsidiary to produce eaux-de-vie alcohol near Cognac. One of Henri’s great achievements in Burgundy, however, came through his friendship with Edmond Gaudin de Villaine whose wife and brother-in-law (Jacques Chambon) inherited Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in 1912. Though the domaine went up for sale during the financial crises of the 1920s, Henri convinced Edmond not to sell his ownership and later purchased Jacques’ half in 1942 to cement the de Villaine and Leroy families as equal owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (DRC). Henri worked tirelessly at DRC for the following four decades until his death in 1980, having turned the domaine into one of the most famous in the world and a producer of today’s most expensive wines.

Lalou Bize-Leroy, Henri’s daughter, joined Maison Leroy in 1955 and became President-General Director in 1971. Lalou, or Madame Leroy, worked tirelessly to understand the diverse terroir of Burgundy’s vineyards and selects her purchased wine with intense scrutiny and demand for quality. Madame Leroy also accompanied her father Henri at DRC until his death and became Co-Gerante with Aubert de Villaine from 1974 to 1992. While Maison Leroy’s village wines truly drink on par with some of the great 1er Cru equivalents throughout Burgundy and the 1er Crus drink like Grand Crus, Madame Leroy founded Domaine Leroy in 1988 after Takashimaya, an owner of luxury department stores in Japan, purchased 1/3 of the company and funded the purchase of vineyards. Madame Leroy purchased the estates of Charles Noellat at Vosne-Romanée and Philippe-Rémy at Gevrey-Chambertin to get the domaine running and she immediately transitioned to biodynamic farming for all of her vines. While Maison Leroy wines typically start around $70 per bottle and go into the several hundreds of dollars, Domaine Leroy produces wines in the thousands of dollars per bottle up into the tens of thousands of dollars due to their immeasurable quality and rarity.

Though the following is a description of the winemaking practices at Domaine Leroy and not necessarily Maison Leroy, I think it is important to include because of the demonstration it shares of Madame Leroy’s strict winemaking and quality standards. Starting in her vineyards, Madame Leroy follows a strict set of guidelines which includes spreading “Maria Thun”-type compost and manure throughout the vineyards as needed while hand-tilling the soil. At Domaine Leroy, they do not replant vineyards but rather replant individual vines as needed using buds of sister vines in the same vineyards. Leroy practices the Guyot pruning method from mid-January to early April only when the moon is passing the constellations Sagittarius, Aries, Leo, and, if necessary, also Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra keeping with strict biodynamic practices. They also remove a selection of buds to keep yields lower, remove buds from the trunk of the rootstock, and remove excess buds growing between nodes but do not clip the end of vines to keep the last bud in tact. At harvest, Domaine Leroy selects all fruit carefully by hand and carries them to the winery in small baskets before they are double hand-sorted on a stationary table to guarantee selection of the healthiest grapes. Fermentation is accomplished in large wooden barrels without destemming or crushing the fruit to avoid oxidation and preserve natural yeasts on the grape skins. Fermentation is not rushed and the fruit goes through extended periods of maceration before the wine is pressed and sent into the first level of the cellar until malolactic fermentation is complete. Using only gravity, the wine is then poured off the lees into the lower second level of the cellar where wine is stored until it is bottled.

For the source of the information above and more, check out Leroy’s website here.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Côte de Beaune-Villages

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2010 Côte de Beaune-Villages is moderately transparent pale ruby in color with rose variation. I used my Ah-So opener on this bottle, as with almost every Leroy bottle the long corks are soaked and can often display mold on the top due to over-filling. On the nose, this wine showcases aromas of dried cranberry, dried cherry, and dusty wild strawberry but is dominated by worn leather, sous bois, tobacco, mushroom, wet rock, and underbrush. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of crushed raspberry, dried strawberry, rose, gamey meat, forest floor, truffle, dried green herbs, smoke, white pepper, and stone minerality. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish filled with tilled soil and red cherry.

Price: $110 (though some stores sell this for $250). Every wine I’ve enjoyed from Maison Leroy is of incredible value and this bottling is no different. The strict selection process of Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy is palpable and every Burgundy lover should try something from Maison Leroy and, if one is supremely fortunate, from Domaine Leroy. Pair this with feathered game, salmon with roasted mushrooms, or mild goat cheeses.

Aged Terroir-Driven Pommard

Today’s Story: Domaine de Courcel

Domaine de Courcel was founded roughly 400 years ago in the village of Pommard and is a family winery throughout its history. To this end, today the estate is managed by Anne Bommelaer and Marie de Courcel and its owners include three sisters and one brother who are descendants of the domaine’s founders. Production is somewhat limited at the domaine, with annual production numbers never rising above 30,000 bottles (2,500 cases). I previously wrote about them in Rustic, Terroir-Driven Burgundy when reviewing the 2009 Pommard 1er Cru Les Fremiers as well as in Outstanding Pommard from a Superb Vintage when reviewing the 2005 Pommard. For more about the domaine, you can check out either of those two prior posts.

Today’s Wine: 1996 Pommard 1er Cru Les Fremiers

100% Pinot Noir; 12.7% ABV

The 1996 Les Fremiers is pale garnet in color and moderately transparent with some fine sediment that snuck through the filter. The nose emits aromas of muddled strawberry, black raspberry, cranberry, slight barnyard, aged saddle leather, forest floor, truffle, white pepper, dried herbs, and tar. On the palate, I get notes of stemmy strawberry, ripe cherry, dusty wild blueberry, tobacco, damp forest floor, dried underbrush, crushed rock, and mineral. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $220. This is not an inexpensive bottle of wine, though it is difficult to find aged Burgundy from notable producers that are nowadays. This wine still displays great fruit and structure which made it a very enjoyable bottle and I would happily purchase this again. Pair this with herb-roasted chicken, game birds, or filet mignon with black truffle.

Velvety Smooth Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Davies Vineyards

Davies Vineyards is one of the most storied wineries in the Napa Valley, tracing their roots back to 1862 when Jacob Schram purchased 200 acres and began developing hillside vineyards. The winery, at the time called Schramsberg, greatly ramped up production by the late 1800s and proved a success, however after Jacob Schram died in 1905 the winery sold in 1912 and fell out of prominence. Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the 200 acre Schramsberg property in 1965, however, and resurrected the great vineyards and Schramsberg name. Known for their Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Davies also produces sparkling wine under the Schramsberg label and an assortment of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast to the Anderson Valley and beyond.

I first reviewed Davies wines with the 2012 Ferrington Pinot Noir in Who Wants Pie?, then the 2012 JD Cabernet Sauvignon in Easy-Drinking Cab, the 2013 Jamie Cabernet Sauvignon in The Matriarch of Diamond Mountain, and the 2005 J. Schram Sparkling Rosé in Premier American Sparkling. Check them out if you haven’t already for more history of the winery as well as tasting notes across other portfolio offerings.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Piedra Libre Vineyards Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.2% ABV

The 2015 Piedra Libre Pinot Noir is medium ruby/purple in color with rose petal variation near the rim and is moderately transparent. On the nose, this wine showcases aromas of red cherry, blueberry, plum, violet, damp earth, tobacco, baking spice, white pepper, vanilla, and oak. There is also some heat from the alcohol. Once in the mouth, the wine offers notes of cranberry, raspberry, wild strawberry, cassis, cola, loamy soil, chocolate, coffee grounds, and rose. This is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity, light tannins, and a long finish that ends in notes of cherry liqueur and mocha. 225 cases produced.

Price: $65 direct from the winery. Certainly one of my favorite Davies Pinots I’ve tried, but I can never get around to justifying the price-point on these wines. Pair this with pork stir fry, a bacon cheeseburger, or herb-roasted chicken.