Fun Natural Red Blend From a Relatively New California Producer

Today’s Story: Lo-Fi Wines

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.

Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a highly-regarded 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.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and rather opaque. Given how young this is, I poured it into the glass and let it open up for about an hour and a half before drinking. The aromas are of medium intensity, however the nose is rather complex and offers gorgeous aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, dried violet, forest floor, mushroom, asphalt, and savory green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, blackberry, a touch of anise, tobacco, purple florals, charred green herbs, a hint of smoke, and crushed rock. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this offers very strong value, particularly given the complexity and terroir-driven nature of the wine at a young age. This is also already beautifully balanced, and certainly benefits from lengthy air time at this stage.

Fresh, Elegant, and Budget-Friendly Red Burgundy

Today’s Story: Marchand-Tawse

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. Much of the fruit is left 100% whole cluster and not destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Furthermore, aging for many of the wines occurs in minimal or even 0% new French oak barrels and there is no fining or filtration before bottling.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Coteaux Bourguignons from Marchand-Tawse, which is a lovely Gamay offering exceptional value.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Côte de Nuits Villages

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2017 Côte de Nuits Villages is pale ruby in color. This needs about 45 minutes to open up at this point, but once it does you find an elegant, fresh, and vibrant expression of Pinot Noir. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, strawberry, red rose, cured meat, dried gravel, underbrush, and white pepper. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of black raspberry, cherry, strawberry, red licorice, dried tobacco, dried green herbs, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 133 cases produced.

Price: $40. This is a red Burgundy that offers very, very good value. It’s incredibly difficult nowadays to find quality red Burgundy for this price-point, and the expression of variety and terroir here is very well done. This is no doubt young, but the elegance and vibrancy are already hard to resist.

Small Production Pinot Noir in a People-Pleasing Style

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small winery in Sonoma, California, however there isn’t much information about them that I could find. They did come onto my radar last year though, when I happened to meet proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant and we struck up a friendly conversation and discussed his wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with winegrower Brad Alper, winemaker William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There is also a rosé and very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir. Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated and boutique wine stores.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. Straight out of the bottle, I wasn’t getting much on this besides some heat from the alcohol so I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes to an hour. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, plum, licorice, leather, baking spice, vanilla, and toasted oak. The heat never really blows off. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of strawberry, black cherry, red plum, leather, green herbs, chocolate, and baking spice. Alcoholic heat carries over to the palate as well. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a medium length finish. While not my preferred style at this stage, hopefully it becomes better integrated and more complex with a few more years in the bottle.

Price: $36. At this price-point I think the wine offers solid value but it still needs some time to come together in the bottle. For me, even though this is young I find it somewhat jammy and it seems heavy-handed in the winemaking process. Personally I prefer very terroir-driven Pinot Noir made in a minimally invasive style, though I think this wine could have broad appeal. The alcohol is a bit too high for me as well, so I’ll be looking for it to integrate.

Remarkable Expression of Terroir in an Incredibly Ageworthy Red Burgundy

Today’s Story: Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of the most highly-regarded wine producers in all of Burgundy, established during the very early 1900s by Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin of the Côte de Nuits. Rousseau inherited several plots of vines at the beginning of the 20th century, however he was able to expand his vineyard holdings, build a winery and cellar, and sell the wines following his marriage in 1909. Rousseau continued acquiring top quality vineyards, including several Grand Crus, up until the time his son Charles joined the family business in 1945. In 1959, Charles took full control over the family’s domain following the unfortunate death of Armand in a car accident. Charles was instrumental in adding additional vineyard sites to the family holdings mainly in Grand Crus, and he also further built out their export markets to include Britain, Germany, and Switzerland before ultimately reaching Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia by the 1970s. Charles’ son Eric joined the business in 1982, beginning in the vineyards by instituting green harvesting, leaf stripping, and avoidance of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Eric was instrumental in steering the estate toward organic viticulture, and since 2014 he has been joined by his daughter Cyrielle who will ultimately carry on the family legacy one day.

Domaine Armand Rousseau consists of about 15 hectares (37 acres) of vineyards in some of the choicest plots in the Côte de Nuits. Dedicated entirely to Pinot Noir, Rousseau produces 11 wines from Gevrey Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, and Chambertin. Of the 11 wines, they do however produce one from the Grand Cru of Clos de la Roche located in Morey-Saint-Denis. These wines are made in a very traditional style and are meant to be elegant expressions of each unique terroir, with minimal use of new oak depending on wine and vintage. Total production is around 63,000 bottles per vintage, with about 75% being exported to some 30 countries.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques is medium ruby in color. I normally don’t decant red Burgundy or Pinot Noir in general for that matter, however given how young this wine is we decanted it for about an hour. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, licorice, rose petal, gravel, sun-dried earth, sandalwood, and mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, strawberry, blackberry, eucalyptus, rose, mild baking spice, and stony mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very precise and already gorgeous, but I would wait probably 5 more years and then drink this over the following decades.

Price: $600. It’s difficult to address value at this price-point because there are so many better “values” out there and pricing on Burgundy is sky-high. There’s no doubt this is one of the greatest red Burgundies I’ve had though, and since me and my tasting companions had never tried Armand Rousseau before we were incredibly glad for the experience.

Unmatched Elegance in Gevrey-Chambertin

Today’s Story: Domaine Fourrier

Domaine Fourrier is a family wine estate located in Gevrey-Chambertin of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Previously named Pernot-Fourrier, the domain was established by Fernand Pernot during the 1930s/1940s who, since he had no spouse or children, brought in his nephew Jean-Claude Fourrier for help. Jean-Claude took over the domain in 1969 and Fourrier was one of the first in the region to export their wines to the US. Coupled with very highly-regarded land holdings, Fourrier commanded a great reputation and the wines were very high-quality. During the late 1980s, however, Fourrier went through a “dumb phase” of sorts until being rejuvenated by Jean-Claude’s son, Jean-Marie Fourrier, who took over in 1994. Jean-Marie was a pupil of the great Henri Jayer, and brought Domaine Fourrier to preeminent status with wines of elegance and finesse not often found in Gevrey-Chambertin. Jean-Marie remains at the helm today alongside his wife Vicki and sister Isabelle.

Domaine Fourrier consists of about 9 hectares (22 acres) of vineyards planted predominantly in Gevrey-Chambertin, augmented by small plots in Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-Saint-Denis, and Vougeot. Fourrier’s vines typically fall in the 50 to 70 year-old average range, and only their own cuttings are used to replace failing or dying vines. With a strict belief that vines need lengthy periods to fully grow and mature, Jean-Marie never produces wines from his vines aged younger than 30 years and instead sells this fruit to négociants in the region. With his belief that terroir is of utmost importance, Jean-Marie farms his vineyards without the addition of chemical fertilizers and only uses herbicides or pesticides when absolutely necessary if the vines or harvest are in danger.

Come harvest, fruit is hand-picked and sorted in the vineyard before being transferred into small baskets to take to the winery. Jean-Marie’s winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, and the wines ferment separately by vineyard using only native yeasts and no sulfur additions. Fourrier’s wines age with minimal amounts of new oak (typically no more than 20%) to preserve the delicacy of the aromas and flavors, and remain in contact with their lees for anywhere from 16-20 months depending on vintage and bottling. All the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal or no SO2 added. Taking from his training with Henri Jayer, Jean-Marie aims to make all of his wines the truest sense of terroir possible while offering an elegance and balance that are often unmatched.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echezeaux Vieille Vigne

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echezeaux is pale to medium ruby in color. This requires a good 45 minutes to an hour to open up in the glass due to its youth, but once it does this is already a gorgeous wine. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, strawberry, leather, forest floor, savory green herbs, and gravel. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate displays notes of tart cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, tobacco, leather, charred herbs, and peppery spice. This dry red Burgundy is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. While already very elegant and enjoyable, this has decades of life ahead of it.

Price: $110. This is very reasonably priced in my opinion given a red Burgundy of this quality level. Burgundy prices have gone to sky-high levels over the years, and finding one around this price-point especially from a producer like Fourrier makes for an easy decision.

Young but High Quality New Zealand Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Burn Cottage

Burn Cottage is a family-owned wine estate and farm established in 2003 by Marquis and Dianne Sauvage in the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The Sauvage family purchased the property in 2002, but it was previously unplanted and used by sheep for grazing with no surrounding vineyard neighbors. The property consists of 24 hectares (59 acres) with roughly 10 hectares (25 acres) planted to vineyards, and all farming and viticultural activity is biodynamic and has been since the beginning. Though the vineyards are planted mainly to Pinot Noir, there are also small plots of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. The rest of the land is home to livestock, beehives, olive groves, forests, and native vegetation. Marquis and Dianne sought out Ted Lemon of Littorai in Sebastopol, CA to help make their wines and, with a shared vision and philosophy, Ted joined the team. Winemaking is described as minimally invasive, relying on native yeast fermentation by vineyard block and minimal sulfur additions throughout the process. Once all vineyard blocks fully mature, production will peak around 5,000 cases per vintage.

To explore the range of Burn Cottage wines, view pictures of the estate, or read more in-depth information, visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. Given about 30-45 minutes in the glass, the wine opens up nicely. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, spiced plum, violets, leather, dried green herbs, baking spice, and toasted oak. Flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of black cherry, plum, strawberry, thyme, smoke, and oaky spice. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good and enjoyable now, but will improve greatly in another 3-5 years.

Price: $70. I think this is relatively fairly-priced, though I can’t go so far as to say it’s a great “value” at this price point. It reminds me of a number of the California “cult” Pinot Noir bottlings I’ve had, so this could be a good exploration bottle for those who like high quality California Pinot Noir but want to explore New Zealand.

California’s Best Take on Burgundy

Today’s Story: Calera Wine Company

Calera Wine Company is a very highly regarded wine estate established in 1975 by Josh Jensen. Located in the Mt. Harlan AVA in San Benito County on California’s Central Coast, Calera consists of several single-vineyard holdings known for their Pinot Noir. Josh picked up a passion for winemaking and Pinot Noir working harvests in Burgundy, first with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and then with Jacques Seyesses at Domaine Dujac. His mentors taught him that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are best planted in limestone soils, so when he returned to the US Josh searched for land with excellent vineyard potential and, most importantly, limestone. Josh purchased his ideal property in 1974, later planting 24 acres of Pinot Noir in 1975 and producing his first vintage in 1978.

Today Calera produces six single-vineyard Pinot Noirs from Selleck Vineyard (4.8 acres), Reed Vineyard (6.04 acres), Jensen Vineyard (13.8 acres), Mills Vineyard (14.4 acres), Ryan Vineyard (13.1 acres), and de Villiers Vineyard (15.6 acres). They also produce Chardonnay (10.4 total acres), Viognier (2.2 total acres), and Aligoté (0.2 total acres). With an average elevation of 2,200 feet above sea level and coastal influences from the Monterey Bay, Calera’s vineyards are some of the coolest climate sites in the entire state of California. These vineyards are certified organic, and much of the work (including harvest) is done entirely by hand.

Minimal intervention winemaking is the name of the game at Calera, as both Josh and his winemaker Mike Waller share a philosophy of producing terroir-driven wines that are both elegant and incredibly age-worthy. This begins with the structure of the winery itself, which is designed to be entirely gravity-flow and is set across seven distinct levels built into the mountainside. There’s a great schematic of the winery here, as you can clearly tell minimal handling of the fruit and wines is of utmost importance. Calera also utilizes high percentages of whole-cluster fermentation with only native yeasts, and the wines experience little to no pumping to preserve purity and focus. The wines are not racked while they age, which is done using modest percentages of new oak (around 30%) to preserve the variety’s characteristics and wine’s sense of place. The wines are bottled unfiltered but lightly fined after 16 months of aging for the single-vineyard Pinot Noir.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2010 Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir is deep garnet in color and opaque. I let this open up in the glass for 30-45 minutes, which helped to bring out the more nuanced aroma characteristics. The aromas are of medium intensity, but the nose is rather complex and showcases aromas of black cherry, plum, licorice, dried violets, cigar box, forest floor, truffle, garden herbs, and a hint of baking spice. The flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of black raspberry, muddled strawberry, fig, black cherry, tobacco, leather, mild mushroom, and green herbs. Dry and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. This is in a great spot right now, but certainly has the legs to go another 3-5 years.

Price: $75. While this is on the pricier end for California Pinot Noir, I believe it’s worth every penny and I’d even argue it offers solid value. This is a wine that frequently stands up to the great wines of Burgundy, and its balance, complexity, length, and age-worthiness are profound.

Killer Bourgogne From a Rising Star Micro-Négociant

Today’s Story: Chanterêves

Chanterêves is a very small domain and négociant located in Savigny-lès-Beaune of Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, and it was established in 2010 by the husband and wife team of Tomoko Kuriyama and Guillaume Bott. Tomoko was born in Japan, but cut her teeth making wines in the Rheingau wine region of Germany after graduating with an engineering degree in oenology & viticulture from Geisenheim University. Guillaume, on the other hand, is a native of Burgundy and began his wine career with Domaine Etienne Sauzet in Puligny-Montrachet before moving to Domaine Simon Bize in Savigny-lès-Beaune.

Though Tomoko and Guillaume now own about 5 hectares (~12 acres) of their own vineyards, they continue to purchase small quantities of organic fruit from vineyards throughout Burgundy. All of their owned fruit is also farmed organically, though they utilize biodynamic principles as well but are not certified. Working with the classic Burgundian varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Aligoté, Tomoko and Guillaume practice minimal intervention winemaking with large percentages of whole cluster fermentation, only native yeasts, and very low SO2 additions. The wines age largely in used oak barrels with very little new oak, and SO2 is added only if necessary during aging and prior to bottling. The reds are bottled unfined and unfiltered, while the whites are bottled unfined but with occasional light filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Paris l’Hopital

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2018 Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune Paris l’Hopital is pale to medium ruby in color. This really opens up nicely in the glass over 45 minutes or so, showcasing aromas of medium intensity. The nose displays notes of dried cherry, black raspberry, red rose, leather, crushed rock, and underbrush. There’s a gorgeous stream of minerality on the nose as well, and overall it’s downright pretty and pure. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate showing notes of black cherry, stemmy strawberry, cranberry, dried green herbs, and crushed rock minerality. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly young and therefore not too complex yet, but this is so unbelievably pure it’s nearly crazy.

Price: $46 (less in Europe). This offers incredible value for red Burgundy, and is well worth seeking out. The purity, freshness, and mineral backbone paired with this wine’s elegance and honest representation of its terroir is truly impressive, especially for the price.

Ole Reliable From Reims

Today’s Story: Krug

Krug is a highly regarded Champagne house established in Reims, France in 1843 by Joseph Krug. Krug has maintained a reputation throughout its entire existence of producing incredibly high quality wines, being unique to this day as the first and only house to create only prestige Champagnes every year since its establishment. Krug’s most widely produced Champagne, the Grande Cuvée, is the house’s most popular and a blending of more than 120 wines to craft the best expression of time and place each vintage. The house produces several other wines, including a non-vintage Rosé, vintage Krug, a vintage single-vineyard Blanc de Blanc called Clos du Mesnil, a vintage single-vineyard Blanc de Noir called Clos d’Ambonnay, and Krug Collection back-vintage wines. Though the house is now owned with a majority by LVMH, the Krug family remains actively involved with sixth-generation Olivier Krug today.

Today’s Wine: NV Krug Grande Cuvée 168ème Édition

52% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 13% Meunier; 12.5% ABV

The NV Grande Cuvée 168ème Édition is pale gold in color with lively bubbles. The aromas are of medium intensity, showcasing yellow apple, pear, white blossom, brioche, slight reduction, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity, displaying notes of crisp green apple, white peach, white florals, almond, brioche, and honey. This dry Champagne is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $170. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a great value, but that’s simply because there are so many grower Champagne’s out there that come in at half or less than half the price and drink just as well. Krug is, however, probably my favorite Champagne in this price range and this 168ème Édition is a great bottling based on the 2012 vintage. Krug is consistently exceptional and every Champagne lover needs to try some at least once.