May 12, 2017
Tonight Peter Buckley of Vineyard Road is in the shop with two French producers. We’ll taste a couple wines from Gilles Bonnefoy in Cotes de Forez, and another two from Domaine Leliévre in Lorraine.
Gilles Bonnefoy’s Les Vin de la Madone is situated so far on the Loire River that it’s actually closer to Beaujolais. Côtes du Forez is located on a geological fault formed in the Tertiary Period when Africa pushed into Europe and formed the Alps. There are up to 105 volcanoes in the greater area of AOC Volcanique Du Massif Central; thirty of them are in Côtes du Forez, and Gilles’ vineyards (in both Cotes du Forez and Urfé) are situated around two of them. So volcanic soil plays a big role here. Gilles has been tending vines here since 1997. He biodynamically farms 8 hectares in the village of Champdieu. Seventy-five percent of his vines are planted on volcanic soils of Urfé, the rest are on clay and granite.
Domaine Lelièvre is located in Cotes de Toul, Lorraine. The Lelièvre family goes back generations here, to the time when Romans first planted vines. At one time Cotes de Toul, situated just 60 miles south of the German border, was a thriving wine-production region, covering parts of Alsace and Lorraine. It was famous for Riesling (this makes sense, as it’s located on the western banks of Moselle River–follow it north and you’re in Mosel, Germany) and as a source of base wine for Champagne. Unfortunately the region was ravaged by phylloxera, war, rabid industrialization and poor vineyard management. During the First World War the German occupation, and subsequent liberation by the Allies, left most of the vineyards as battle trenches. The final blow came in 1919, when a law was passed restricting the name champagne to the wines made from grapes grown in the region of Champagne. By 1951 there were only 30 hectares of vineyards left and most of the wine was bottled by negotiants. In 1998, a handful of remaining vignerons fought for and won AOC status. The Lelièvres were one of the producers to champion the region. After the famous 1971 vintage, Jean Lelièvre decided to no longer sell to negotiants and to bottle everything at the estate. From there the family started to rebuild, replant and recapture the glory of Lorraine. It is still an obscure little region, with most of the wine staying within the area, and very little of it leaving France. Lelièvre makes about 1100 cases annually, and they’re one of the most well known producers in the area.
The wines, not necessarily in order:
Madone Sauvignon Gris et Blanc de Madone, VdP Urfé, 2014
60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Sauvignon Gris, this is an elegant, clean, mineral-driven beauty. Delicate, rocky, with echoes of Sancerre and Aligoté. Think seafood and summer, should we ever see the sun.
Gamay de Bouze and Gamay Noir de Madone, Gamays sur Volcan VdP Urfé, 2014
A blend of two varieties of teinturier (red-fleshed) Gamay, this is a vibrant wine full of cherries, bright acidity, barely-there tannins, and a touch of dried herbs. Sauçissons, roast chicken, fresh and grilled veggies…
Domaine Lelièvre Gris de Toul Rosé, 2015
A blend of 90% Gamay and 10% Pinot Noir from the producers best plots located in Lucey, Bruley, Blénod les Toul and Buligny. The well-drained clayey slopes are protected from the wet winds coming from the West. Grapes were hand-harvested and vinified separately in stainless steel, matured briefly on the lees, and then assembled just before bottling. This wine is salty, tart, tangy, bright; pink grapefruit up front and a dash of cherry on the finish. Delicious. It might be a little too delicate to handle spicy food, but it’s game for just about anything else. Just fill a glass!
Domaine Lelievre, Sparkling Gamay Rosé Leucquois
Come on, it’s fizzy Gamay with a bunny on the label. Fun, crushable, puts a little hop in your step in the midst of grey days. Glug-glug!
Didier Tripoz took over this 13ha domaine located in the southern part of the Mâcon region in 1989. Catherine & Didier work the land like their families have for generations: they allow grass to grow between the rows and plow regularly to encourage an active biological environment. They practice “lutte raisonée” (the reasoned-fight, or sustainable farming) on vines that average 45 years old.
Clos des Tournons comes from a one hectare plot of 48-year-old vines in a nine-hectare monopole that is sub-divided into 12 different parcels determined by the age of the vines. The grapes are vinified separately in stainless steel and cement vats before blending. This wine is dry & lively, with a bit of stony minerality and crisp apple. The palate fleshes out a bit and hints at what this wine will become with a few years or more of age: a touch of vanilla, honey, and the faintest whiff of butter. Enjoy it with seafood, poultry, mild cheeses and appetizers.
La Clarine Farm, Sierra Nevada Foothills, CA
La Clarine Farm is 10 acres of grapes, goats, dogs, cats, chickens, gophers, and myriad other flora and fauna, situated at 2600 feet elevation in California’s Sierra Nevada Foothills.
We like the ‘about us’ description on their website: Caroline Hoel and Hank Beckmeyer started La Clarine Farm in 2001 and quickly became swamped with work with little monetary gain. Still, they love what they do… Something about that sounds weirdly familiar…we can’t quite put our finger on it… At La Clarine Farm, they make wine as minimally as possible, without chemicals or additives. Fermentations are spontaneous and can sometimes last up to 6 months. Aging is in neutral containers (never any new oak) without sulfur. Only a tiny bit of sulfur is added at bottling, to ensure that the wine makes it unscathed to its varied destinations.
They grow a field blend of various red varieties, including Tempranillo, Syrah, Tannat, Grenache, Negroamaro and Cabernet Sauvignon, and purchase other grapes from vineyards farmed similarly and that they wish they owned.
La Clarine Farm 2015 Jambalaia Blanc
This is a blend of 57% Viognier, 36% Marsanne, 4% Albariño & 3% Petit Manseng from various plots in El Dorado County. It’s whole cluster pressed, tank fermented, and left on the lees for approximately 10 months, then bottled unfiltered and unfined, with barely any SO2– just 15ppm. The Viognier shows through nicely, with lots of peaches and perfume. Full spontaneous malolactic adds weight and depth to the palate. Lively acidity and juicy fruit round out the flavors, and lead into a slightly nutty and gamy finish. 244 cases made.
La Clarine Farm 2015 Jambalaia Rouge
This is a blend of 59% Mourvedre, 21% Marsanne, 15% Grenache, and 5% Syrah from one single little plot on volcanic loam soil. Yields were way down on Grenache this vintage, so a touch of syrah was added. This wine is all about juicy drinkability, bright red fruit, blueberries and blackberries, vibrant acidity and barely there tannins. It takes a little chill quite nicely, and is versatile with a wide variety of foods, from casual pizza and burgers, to roasted poultry and veggie dishes. 500 cases made.
L’enclos des Braves 2013 Les Gourmands Gaillac Rouge
Importer notes: After having worked at other wineries for over 12 years, in 2005 Nicolas Lebrun found the plot he was looking for: L’Enclos des Braves. This small hilly 6 ha (14.82 acres) vineyard was topped with limestone-rich soils and a thick layer of clay, perfect for drainage. The vines were all 20 to 35 years old, and Nicolas took to them like a father to his kids.
Treating them in accordance with Biodynamic principles, he uses only indigenous yeasts, manually harvests everything, and adds barely any SO2 at bottling. Like children, he lets the wines take their time. To put it mildly, he is making beautifully wild and soulful wines with these local grapes.
Les Gourmands Rouge is a blend of Braucol & Duras that’s fermented in cement, then aged in a mixture of mostly cement, and some large old oak. This wine has a savory nose of licorice, cedar, pepper and dark fruit. On the palate it’s savory again, and herbal, with a touch of smoke and meat. The elegant texture evolves as the wine is exposed to air; the finish is long and lip-smacking, with fine tannins goading you to grab just one more helping of that wild boar stew! Or cassoulet, confit, pate…this is a food friendly little wine.
Info on events, in shop tastings, and new arrivals.
Newsletter, 9/16/16. Click here to read it.
June 3, 2016
This sparkling rosé is from third generation winemaker Alberto Ruggeri and sourced entirely from his family’s estate vineyards in Valdobbiadene. These vineyards have been in the Ruggeri family since the late 1800s. It’s a blend of Merlot and Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel, and kept in tank until ready to ship. It’s fresh, bright and dry and makes for the perfect toast.
The Lieubeau family owns Domaine de la Fruitiere which is certifiedTerra Vitis. They farm over 40 hectares of Melon de Bourgogne on the granite for which the region is known. The domaine also produces Vin de Pays from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. They keep yields as low as possible in order to emphasize varietal expression and not be overtaken by acid. All the vines are planted in rock, usually sheer cliffs, through which the vines must dig for meters to get at sources of water that are awash in wet rock. For this reason the wines of Fruitiere are quite evocative of rock and mineral, and are insanely clean and pure.
This 2014 Vignes Blanches is a blend of Melon de Bourgogne, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It is so delicious. Just get it in your glass. It’s perfectly balanced, subtle – with notes of green apple and lemon – a touch salty, rocky for sure, and the texture (elegant, silty) just brings it all home. Get yourself some oysters and down this baby. When the 2014 is all gone, the 2015 is hot on its heels. It’s just a tad riper, but still hitting all the right notes.
This is a father and son estate on roughly 18 hectares of mostly south-facing vineyards. This Gruner grows on loess terraces which emphasize terroir and characterize the landscape of the eastern part of the Kremstal. These terraces store heat during the day and reflect it onto the vines at night producing wines with unique fruity, fresh and bright flavors. They use stainless steel and cultured yeasts in order to get slow fermentation and to preserve CO2; this further ensures the fresh, fruity, and clean flavors we’ve come to expect and love from this producer.
So we know we just went on about the Fruitiere, but this 2015 Gruner is so delicious too!! We can love more than one thing at one time. Again, the 2015 is riper, and that just emphasizes the fruit, here peaches, citrus, is that a little bit of banana? Maybe… But the mineral notes are still popping, it’s still light and refreshing and oh-so food friendly. It’s a no brainer, and it’s a liter.
This 100% Cinsault is made in 100 year old amphora or tinajas, (earthenware jugs) that the De Martino family salvaged to bring back this old winemaking tradition. The grapes come from unirrigated vineyards in the coastal mountain region of the Itata Valley, about 14 miles from the Pacific. There is little to no intervention in the winemaking process. After destemming, the grapes were fermented for 15 days in amphora, where they undergo carbonic maceration. It then rests in the same jug and is bottled unfiltered and unfined, with no artificial enzymes or yeasts, and only a small amount of sulfur.
Cinsault is somewhat low in acidity, hence the choice to plant here in the Itata Valley, where the proximity to the ocean, and the cooler climate, help to boost acidity. The wine itself is savory but fresh, with lively acidity alongside earthy, floral, herbaceous notes.
May 27, 2016
We’ve got a little bit of symbolism happening in tonight’s tasting. We open with a French sparkler, and everyone knows that sparkling wine denotes celebrations and all things good and happy. We close our tasting with Forlorn Hope Mataro, in honor of Memorial Day. The phrase ‘forlorn hope’ is from the mid-16th century Dutch expression ‘verloren hoop’, which originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive. Over the years it’s come to mean more of a persistent hope that’s never to be fulfilled. Either way, it’s a strange name for a wine, but it makes sense, as producer Mathew Rorick describes it: we love the longshots. We love the outsiders, the lost causes, the people/projects/ideas abandoned as not having a chance in the world. We love the longshots because we’re all about tenacity, we relish a challenge, and – we admit it – we love us a good tussle… (these wines are) rare creatures from appellations unknown and varieties uncommon, these wines are our brave advance party, our pride and joy – our Forlorn Hope.
That resonates with us on so many levels…from the personal sacrifice to the championing of the underdog – the story is real.
Cheers, congratulations, and Happy Memorial Day from all of us at Campus!
Louis de Grenelle “Platine” NV Brut, Crémant de Loire, Saumur
Created in 1859, this is one of the oldest (and last) family owned sparkling wine houses in Saumur. Platine is a hand-harvested blend of 85% Chenin Blanc, 10% Chardonnay & 5% Cabernet Franc from limestone hillsides outside of Saumur. It’s made in the Champagne-method and aged for at least 18 months before being bottled at 7 grams dosage. This is a bang for your buck bubbly, with stones and hay, lemons and pears, a fine bead, and a delicate and delicious finish.
Pépière 2014 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Clos des Briords
2014 Loire Valley whites have been a real treat, and 2014 Clos de Briords is no exception. Marc Ollivier is tops in his field and it shows with this wine. It’s from 3 hectares of old vines planted on the granite of Chateau Thébaud. He hand harvests, uses natural yeasts, and the wine stays in contact with the lees until time of bottling (about 7 months). It’s then bottled with a very light filtration. 2014 is a bit rounder and richer than previous vintages. An average spring through July was followed by a cold and humid August. The risk of rot was very high, through the end of August, when dry, sunny weather emerged and lasted through October. This allowed the grapes to mature with high sugar and his acidity. The result here is a wine that is incredibly balanced, splashed with bright citrus, texturally appealing, and stony/salty on the finish, just how you want it.
Cuilleron 2015 VdP Collines Rhodaniennes Rosé Sybel
From the importers website: The Cuilleron family domaine, located in the hamlet of Verlieu (part of the town of Chavanay) was founded several generations ago (1920). Yves Cuilleron’s grandfather was the first to bottle wine for commercial purposes in 1947. Antoine Cuilleron, the uncle and immediate predecessor of Yves, assumed control of the domaine in 1960 and significantly increased the percentage of wine bottled at the estate and extended the scope of the domaine. Yves assumed full ownership and direction of the domaine in 1987 and, since that time, has built an entirely new facility while at the same time acquiring additional vineyard property. The domaine is now…52 hectares of vineyards that cover multiple appellations, including principally, Condrieu, Saint Joseph Rouge and Blanc, Cote Rotie, Saint Péray and a series of Vin de Pays from the Collines Rhodaniennes.
This is a smooth and round rosé, dry but full of ripe red fruit. It’s only 12.5% abv, but it feels much richer than that. It has the fruit and balance to sip on its own, but the weight and acidity to be a refreshing gulp between bites.
Calaveras County, CA
From the producers website: The Forlorn Hope wines were born to connect the thread between California’s boundless viticultural potential and its diverse viticultural history. In addition to the vines my family and I farm, I work with a handful of growers across the north of the state whose plantings might otherwise be misfits: the uncommon sites and varieties that pay tribute to California’s eclectic and often unexpected viticultural heritage. Taking cues from the stones and soil, I endeavor to interrupt the natural development of each of these wines as little as possible in order that the character and uniqueness of each vineyard site may take center stage.
A couple of months ago a friend in the biz introduced us to Joe Swick and his wines; we’ve been anxiously awaiting their arrival ever since. Joe knows wine. Just check out all the places he’s worked since 2003. Swick Wines is a small winery working out of Medici Vineyard in Newberg, Oregon. The wines are the epitome of low-intervention; they are minimally foot-trod and fermented with wild yeast. Many spend time in neutral French oak, they’re not filtered or fined, and sulfur is kept to a minimum or not used at all. Production is tiny. We got to taste though some of the current releases, including a barrel sample of the 2015 Melon de Bourgogne; the cloudy pour was punctuated by buoyant acidity and rocky, mineral freshness. Tasting Swick wines is like listening to a great record for the first time – they’ve got the hooks and the melodies, wrapped around a core of originality, with the artist humming harmonies in the background. Minimal intervention at its best. Come taste some Swick in the shop tonight.
May 6th, 2016
Guillaume Demoulin’s great-grandfather Eugène bought this eighteenth-century château in 1936, the same year as the establishment of the Tavel AOC. Unfortunately the vineyards were in great disrepair and it wasn’t until 1960 that the vines were producing wines worthy of Demoulin’s standards.
This Tavel is a blend of 45% Grenache, 24% Cinsault, 15% Clairette, 10% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, from vines over 30 years old, and planted on sand, marl, limestone, clay and quartz. The wine has a ripe red fruit quality, balanced by Rhone stony-freshness and spicy hillside herbs. Farmed sustainably.
Notes from the producer: Founded by the husband and wife winemaking team of Michael and Anne Dashe, Dashe Cellars crafted its first vintage of Dry Creek Zinfandel in 1996. Since that time, the Dashe’s have focused on producing exceptional, single-vineyard wines using a traditional, non-industrial approach to winemaking.
At Dashe, we are committed to partnering with some of the finest small growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and beyond. We focus on crafting wines with a distinctive sense of place and look for that perfect balance of steep hillside vineyards, older vines, and vigor-reducing growing conditions. With almost two decades partnering with many of our growers, we work together to limit yields and reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in the vineyards. In addition, all harvesting decisions are made by Michael Dashe.
Dashe Dry Creek Zinfandel 2013
Fermented using only the natural yeast and aged for 10 months in older French oak barrels, including 900 gallon French oak casks, which add softness without a lot of oak flavors. Blended with approx 8% Petite Sirah (for structure and aging potential). This is a full-bodied, velvety-soft zin. Lots of blackberries and cassis, chocolate and flowers on the nose. Dark and spicy on the palate, with cherries and hints of licorice and chocolate again.
Producer notes: The Comet is a blend of three wines: a 51-year-old vine Zinfandel from Geyserville, a 130-year-old vine Carignan, and a significant proportion—39% of the blend—of an Alexander Valley Petite Sirah. Together, they make a rich, complex, full-bodied wine with a tremendous depth of flavor.
The Zinfandel and Petite Sirah come from the Todd Brothers Ranch, a steep, red-rock vineyard where the vines struggle to produce a small quantity of grapes, resulting in wines with great intensity and structure. The old-vine Carignan is from the famous Bedrock Vineyard, a vineyard that was originally planted by Generals Sherman and Hooker before the Civil War. The Carignan adds fruit and spice to this luscious, full-bodied wine.