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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Loire and Beyond

There are some exciting things happening on the Direct Import side. I found out to my delight that the Boulays of Chavignol inherited some vines in the famed Monte Damnés vineyard, one of the best sites in all of Sancerre. The 1.2ha parcel is exposed fully to the south with vines between 25- to 45-years old, of course completely hand harvested, vinification taking place in 300L barrels with natural yeast fermentation. The 2004 Boulay Sancerre Montes Damnés ($26.99) is the first release, and our allocation is only 300 bottles. Compared to the Clos du Beaujeu, this wine is overtly more aromatic with spicy aromas hinting at pepper. Where the Beaujeu is subtle and fine, this wine is powerful and concentrated. This is a steal at the price. Hopefully here by now is another favorite, the 2005 Château Soucherie Rosé de Loire ($10.99). We get only one shot to order this wine each year, and last time our supply didn’t last long. We will get a few more cases this year, but it won’t be around much past mid June. Made from 100% cabernet franc, this is pale in color yet packed with bright fruit, a slight earthiness and loads of minerality. On the Alsace front, I had the pleasure of visiting with Martine Becker of Zellenberg when she was in San Francisco. Her wines are clean and vibrant, precise and mineral. I am very excited about the Becker Cremant d’Alsace ($14.99) a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay made in the traditional method. We should have it by now (fingers crossed), and you will love this for the summer months. This is a sparkler of real depth that is refreshing, lively and invigorating with a fine bead, soft creamy texture and dry mineral finish. --Jeff Vierra

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