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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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Entries in Pinot Noir (80)

Thursday
Aug082013

Keith's Burgundy Hotline: Ballorin - New Arrival from Burgundy!

By: Keith Wollenberg | K&L Burgundy Buyer

Gilles BallorinHello Burgundy Lovers,

As you know I am always scouting the back roads and alleys of Burgundy for unknown growers, making terrific wine.  Our latest discovery has just arrived. To my pleasure, Allen Meadows also found this grower, so we even have some reviews on a few of his wines, besides out own.

Gilles Ballorin is an iconoclastic guy, who grew up in Dijon, and worked harvest in Corgoloin for many years.  He later went to work for the cooperative in Igé, and then for Antonin Rodet.  But he got bored and wanted to try something new, so off he went to wine school, and he and his wife Fabienne became wine-growers, starting a few years ago with 0.2 Ha (1/2 an acre!), in Chenove, north of Marsannay, while he was still in school.  He then rented the neighboring 04Ha, and started with a whopping 1.5 acres in his first vintage  He has gradually acquired more vineyards, with the help of some investors content to take their share in wine, and now farms about 6 Hectares, he tells me.   These vineyards are scattered from north of Marsannay to south of the Clos de Maréchale in Comblanchien. He does much of his work by hand, since it takes him almost a half-day to drive his tractor from his northernmost vines to his southernmost!

By 2006, he was Demeter certified as biodynamic. He presses his grapes with an old-fashioned plate press, which we prefers, not a more modern pneumatic press.  He believes in a cold soak, using dry ice to retard the fermentation, which is always by native yeasts.  He refuse to pump his wine, but likes to minimize the amount of punching down to ensure gentle extraction.  He solution was to do his remontage (usually translated as pumping over) by hand, with a bucket.  He will draw wine from the bottom of the cuve, and pour it over the cap, as needed. 

He manages to extract a clear sense of terroir from each wine, with little in the way of a house signature.  The aim always to let his careful vineyard work express itself in the finished wine.  As he puts it: “My style is to not have a style.”  In 2011 he harvested later than many, only commencing on September 15th, in order to get riper phenolics, as he felt acidity levels were  good in the vintage.

They say that wines reflect their winemaker.  In this case that expresses itself by almost an excess of enthusiasm and boundless energy, and a restlessness combined with a positively Pablo Neruda like sensuality and intimate connection with the earth.  Try Gilles’s wines, and you will see why I am excited.

 

The Wines:

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Bourgogne "Passetoutgrains" $18.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound

Fabiènne and Gilles Ballorin are behind this new and 100% biodynamically-farmed domaine that was started with the 2005 vintage. 2012 was my fourth visit and the domaine clearly continues to fashion impressive quality emanating from relatively modest appellations. The goal is to craft wine in a minimalist style from their 5 ha of vines that they have put together piece meal with various private investors who want only wine from their investments. Or, as Ballorin so eloquently and aptly puts it: 'My style is to not have a style.' In 2011, Ballorin noted that he was one of the very last to pick as he didn't start until the 15th of September. While he was very happy with the quality of the raw materials, he lamented that he averaged no more than 25 hl/ha, not much in the context of his appellations

K&L Notes  

An unusual AOC, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains may contain both Pinot Noir and Gamay, but must contain at least 1/3 Pinot noir. Unusually, this is 90% Pinot Noir!, since as the vineyard was replanted, it was to hat varietal. the average vine age is 55 years. This is both Organically and Biodynamically grown, and certified as such. The grapes are grown in a vineyard known as "En Bollery". It is just across the RN74 form the Clos de Vougeot, Grand Cru. The wine is open and bright with a very pretty , spicy character, but not a ton of mid-palate. Nice Pinot Noir mouthfeel. Tasty! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Bourgogne Rouge "Le Bon"   $24.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound: "A fresh and bright nose features notes of red pinot fruit with hints of earth that complement the moderately earthy, supple and very round flavors that possess a lovely mouth feel. This delicious effort is already drinking well." (1/2013)   K&L Notes: Named after Philip III, the best of the Dukes of Burgundy, also known as Philip the Good (Le Bon). And, Gilles says with a wink, this is good Burgundy. Fresh and bright, with focus, acidity and a nice mid-palate richness, this is most satisfying. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03 and 08/2013) 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Côte de Nuits Villages « Le Village » $29.95

Allen Meadows - Burghound

Pungently earthy aromas of both red and dark pinot fruit lead to attractively textured, delicious and sappy flavors that are quite forward and like the Bourgogne should drink well immediately. (1/ 2013)  K&L Notes: This vineyard was planted just after the war, in 1946. it is below the RN74, just a hop and a skip from Clos de Maréchale, He makes 5 barrels of this wine, with one being new. It is concentrated and spicy on the palate, with a pronounced spine. It is medium in weight, with good charm. The fruit, behind the spine of concentration, is bright and pretty, with a bit of delicacy in character. When tasted in March, it was feminine and lovely. Tasted after arrival, it show more structure and needs some cellar time, as you would expect from a wine next to Nuits-St-Georges. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03 and 08/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Marsannay "Les Echezots" , $36.99

Allen Meadows - Burghound

A perfumed and very pretty nose offers up notes of cherry, black raspberry and a hint of wood influence. There is good richness to the delicious and refreshingly vibrant flavors that possess good volume on the tangy but ripe finish. (1/ 2013)  K&L Notes: Here, the soil is composed of fossilized oyster shells, which results in more red fruit notes, interesting layering and a fruit profile that is both complex and pretty. His holding is relatively high in the small valley that contains this vineyard, so it is a cooler site, resulting in a wine that is sensuous, earthy and very expressive in a most charming fashion,. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F Marsannay "Clos du Roi",  $39.95

Gilles feels that the Marsannay Clos du Roy vineyard is his best site. It is also one of the sites suggested for promotion to Premier Cru, although there is a lot of opposition to this move among some other villages. The soil is a substance called Grèzes Litée. This is type of soil composed of a sandy and gravelly mixture of decomposed limestone bedded in on a slope. This is the same type of soil as is found in the lower portion of Charmes Chambertin, Gilles pointed out to me. This has extremely lovely fruit, and is both rich and expressive. This wine is what the French call Aérienne, "Of the Air", rather than earthy in character. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F. Fixin "Les Chènevrières"  $46.99

89 points Allen Meadows - Burghound

A ripe, pure, cool and unusually elegant nose of essence of red pinot fruit and soft earth aromas give way to rich, delicious and velvet-textured flavors that display a discreet minerality on the mildly austere finish. This is sufficiently ripe and forward that it could be enjoyed now but I would advise waiting for a few years first. Recommended. (1/ 2013)

K&L Notes:

Here, the vineyard name comes from the Old French word for Cotton Fields, to which once, centuries ago, this low-lying vineyard may have been planted. It The soil here is a mixture of soil and gravel, and the character of fruit tends towards that harder character Fixin has been known to. Highly aware of this fact, Gilles tends to treat this cuvee particularly gently, as well as using canopy management and careful control of temperature at fermentation to ensure a gentler extraction. It is more structured that the Marsannays, with bright minerality following on the heels of the rich entry, with rounder fruit from the heavier clays in this soil. The profile of this wine is so pretty and so seamless that I am confident a bit of time in the cellar will richly reward you. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

2011 Domaine Ballorin & F. Nuits-St-Georges "Les Damodes"  $57.99

       The view from Nuits Damodes, looking down to the plain below.

This comes from high on the hill near the Vosne Romanée border. The shallow topsoil overlays a hard white limestone. The result is a much lower vigour for the wines here. In response, Gilles works them entirely by hand and with a horse, doing no hedging or cutting of the wines, merely training the shoots back on to the wire, instead. This is an extremely lovely effort, with a very Vosne-like mid-palate and very attractive floral notes. The fruit here is so gorgeous, it is hard to believe this could be village Nuits! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/2013)

 

A santé,

-Keith

 

Mr. Keith WOLLENBERG

Directeur Commercial Bourgogne

K&L Wine Merchants

http://www.klwines.com

+1-650-556-2724 Direct Line

Keithw@klwines.com

Monday
Aug052013

K&L Trip Reports: This One Time, at Pinot Camp...

Soil types at Penner Ash.

By: Jim Boyce | K&L Staff Member

Oregon Pinot Camp 2013 kicked off with a reception at Sokol Blosser winery with fifty producers in attendance. With temperatures in the mid '80s, the weather could not have been any better for soaking up the beautiful wine country view, enjoying great food and wine, and meeting great people. We were informed that Oregon summers do not typically start until July 4th, so (this being early - June 22nd) we best enjoy the sun while it lasted. Sure enough, the next three days had us dodging raindrops and using the graciously provided umbrellas!

The goal of attendees at Pinot Camp is to get the vineyard-to-bottle rundown of what it takes to make wine in the crazy climate of Oregon. We were brought to Penner-Ash, where they had dug two pits - the first of marine sedimentary origin; the second of volcanic basalt only 200 feet away -  to demonstrate the vast difference in terroir characteristics of the Willamette Valley. While there, we were presented with a small group Pinot Noir tasting to highlight how wines grown in each distinct soil type differ. (For example, Pinot Noir grown in marine sedimentary soils usually has a darker fruit profile, with prevalent baking spice notes and “spikey” tannins.)

After that, we were brought to Elk Cove Vineyards for the farming presentation. Here we were educated on vineyard and clonal selections, canopy and water management techniques, and farming decisions for the future. They really emphasized the fact that finding the right sites to plant is paramount, farming in the Oregon climate requires constantly adapting in the vineyard and trying new, innovative technology on all scales. 

Moving on to Lemelson, we learned about (and tasted) the impact that winemaking decisions have on the wines. Decisions that relate to timing of harvest, reception, pre/fermentation, aging, and finishing all have a perceptible effect. Each producer has their own definition of the 'best' strategies, and what works for one producer can differ greatly from the next guy. Steve Doerner illustrates this point very well at Cristom, where he will use different percentages of whole clusters depending on the vintage in his winemaking.

The camaraderie of Oregon winemakers stood out as they told stories of how it is not usual to call around to see how a neighbor is dealing with early frost or migratory birds decimating the crop. Or how they dealt with the 2010 vintage, the coldest on record in the past 30 years of Oregon winemaking. (Only to be outdone by 2011, which had the latest latest bud break in history!) As the winemakers talked about all these tough vintages, they always paid homage to Oregon's pioneer winemakers who,  in the late 1960s and early 1970s, decided against popular opinion that great Pinot Noir could be made here, and dove in head first.

We tasted many Pinot Noirs from the 2010 and 2011 vintages, which offered a refreshing look at how these two difficult vintages are coming along now. (They are coming along beautifully, in case you were wondering).

But what's a Pinot Camp without whites? Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, the faces of Oregon whites, took center stage, but from the very beginning we also saw many other white varietals including Chardonnay, Riesling, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Gruner Veltliner, Gewurztraminer, Moscato, and Tocai Fruilano! While a few of these newcomers have yet to find their footing, the majority were serious winners. 2011 - a cold, wet, and very late vintage - produced some of the finest white wines I've had from Oregon to date.  

Overall, we experienced a nice balance of old favorites and new arrivals, and it was great to see some long lost old faces to make grand returns. The perennial offerings from Bethel Heights, Chehalem, Cristom, Domaine Drouhin, Elk Cove, Eyrie, Ponzi, St. Innocent, and Willakenzie continue to impress, along with new personal favorites like Anne Amie, Stoller, and Trisaetum.

We lingered at the Trisaetum tent more than once to 'cleanse our palates' with some of their insanely good Rieslings. The 2012 Coast Range Dry Riesling (24.99) is full of nervy, racy acid, great weight, and mouthwatering minerality. The 2012 “Estates Reserve” Riesling (a 50/50 blend of Coast Range and Ribbon Ridge fruit - $34.99) is a Spatlese style Riesling with plenty of stone fruit and mouthwatering acidity. The 2010 Trisaetum "Coast Range Estate" Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir ($49.99), made from a blend of four barrels, has huge aromatics, juicy berry fruit, cola notes, and baking spice nuances. Keep an eye out for a K&L/Trisaetum Pinot Noir coming in the near future!

While the summer is still here, make sure to try a bottle of 2012 Patton Valley Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Rosé ($16.99), easily one of the favorites of the trip. Full of fresh strawberry and watermelon fruit, light spice, and impeccable balance, this is a refreshing warm weather winner. The 2010 Stoller "Reserve" Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($25.99) and 2011 Domaine Drouhin "Arthur" Dundee Hills Chardonnay ($29.99) are both shining examples of what Oregon can accomplish on the Chardonnay front, with both showing a combination of new world fruit and old world acidity and balance.

The last night of OPC was a traditional salmon bake at Stoller Winery. This is where the big guns are pulled out, with magnums and jerobaoms of older vintage wines as far as the eye could see! My notes (and memory) became a little fuzzy that night, but I do remember trying some older Argyle sparkling, '05 Willakenzie and '08 Penner Ash “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noirs, in addition to another 20-30 more wines.

Salmon bake at Stoller.

My last day finished up with some important stops in Portland: breakfast at Voodoo Doughnuts, a tour at Clear Creek Distillery, and a house smoked pulled pork sandwich and beer at Cascade Barrel House, all of which are must visits for anyone in the Portland area! OPC really reinforced my adoration of Oregon wine. With the beautiful countryside, great people, and delicious food, wine, and beer, Oregon should be near the top of everyone's travel list!

-Jim

 

Monday
Aug052013

{Terra Ignota}: Introducing New Direct Import - Oakridge Estate

Oakridge Estate winemaker and CEO David Bicknell is a 20+ year veteran of his craft in the Yarra Valley and one of the most highly regarded Chardonnay producers in Australia. His Chardonnays transcend all that you think you might know about Australian Chardonnay. They are the definition of precision, focus, tension and complex minerality. White Burgundy lovers will be amazed by these wines as they have the drive and focus of great Puligny-Montrachet. Oakridge also makes some fantastic Shiraz, subtle, bright and elegant Pinot Noir, and a very textural, complex Fumé Blanc. The scores all speak for themselves, but these wines are not to be missed. They were all instant staff favorites!

Oakridge has many estate vineyards across Yarra Valley, just outside of Melbourne in Victoria. The vineyards highlight the different micro-climates of Yarra and the region's diverse soil types. Yarra has numerous undulations and some pretty dramatic geographical features that effect airflow and temperatures throughout the valley. Many of Oakridge’s sites are elevated and on sloping terrain all adding more nuances to the terroir. 2011 was the coldest vintage on record for much of Victoria and Yarra Valley (that is already a very cool region) was no exception. The season had it's ups and downs with some untimely rains and limited sunshine. However, the white wines that have emerged are some of the most remarkable I have ever tasted. Indeed Mr. Bicknell believes the Chardonnays that have come from this extreme vintage are the best of his long career! 

Oakridge's style, that is deliberatly focused and linear, was exaggerated even further by the high natural acidity and lower ripeness levels of 2011. All the fruit is hand picked and meticulously selected. Whole bunch pressing to top quality Burgundian cooperage, mostly 500L (Puncheon) barrels, where the wine is fermented slowly using all wild yeast. After the ferment is complete the wine is sulphured to prevent Malo. This is distinctive and gives the wines their intense brightness and snappy acidity. I think it also allows the beautiful flinty, stoney minerality to shine through. All of the Local Vineyard Series (LVS) Chards are made in exactly the same way, thus allowing the individual sense of place to come through in the wines. These are precise studies of each vineyard and it's very particular flavor profile.

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Barkala Ridge Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

Intensely flinty and mineral driven. Intriguing aromas of matchstick and spicy white oak. Bright quince and crunchy Anjou pears are highlighted on the long, linear and chiseled palate. Quite Chablis like. Very much for Burgundian Chardonnay drinkers rather than big butter bomb lovers.

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Denton Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

The softest and most rounded of the Local Vineyard Series wine from Oakridge. Ripe orchard fruit, yellow peach and fresh apricots. Broader and less linear than the other vineyard expressions. Very charming and immediately expressive. Silky texture, elegant. A true expression of place as the wines are all made identically.

 

From their many single vineyards, each year Oakridge picks a few select parcels to release as part of their 864 Single Block program. These are simply the best of the best from all of their estate. Treated with the utmost care and attention. The best hand selected clusters, finest barrels, daily hand monitoring. These are designed as wines to rival the best of what the rest of the world can offer and I can attest that they do exactly that. The two single block wines we have are quite simply two of the best Chards I have ever tasted. My time here at K&L is split between Australia, NZ, South Africa and working with Burgundy buyer Keith Wollenburg. With absolutely no disrespect to the stunning Burgundies I have tasted in the last few years, I would quite happily run these wines against anything that I have tasted from the Burgundy, in any price point. I also believe they will be as long lived in the cellar as many of their French counterparts.

2011 Oakridge 864 Single Block Selection "Charlie's Block: J&J D'Aloisio Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $49.99


96 Points James Halliday

Best young Chard I have ever tasted, period. I am simply amazed by this wine. Drive, texture, complex layers of flavor so dynamic they defy description. Exotic spices, Agarwood, endless mineral tones. Simply amazing.

2011 Oakridge 864 Single Block Selection "Drive Block: Funder and Diamond Vineyard" Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $49.99

95 Points James Halliday

A very worthy if not slightly leaner single block selection. Matchstick wood, oak spices, ginger snap, quince and lime blossom. Crisp acidity drawing out the palate into a linear force. Spectacular wine that I imagine will age for a decade plus.

Beyond Chardonnay...

2012 Oakridge Limited Release Fume Blanc "Fumare", Yarra Valley, $24.99

93 Points James Halliday

Another standout wine! A fascinating blend of Sauvignon Blanc (70%), Semillon (20%) and Gris (10%). The fruit is from three of Oakridge's estate properties and is fermented and matured in neutral french oak puncheons. The wine is a distinct mix of Sancerre like minerality and bright zesty, floral aromatics, with more of the weight, texture and savory lees character of white Bordeaux (without the new oak flavors). Really long on the finish, snappy and racy. Awesome shellfish wine, move over Muscadet, this is what I'm drinking with my next Oysters!

2011 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Denton Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley $24.99

93 Points James Halliday

The Denton Vineyard Pinot is similarly reflective of the cool 2011 vintage. The wine is very elegant, light in color and bodied. However, when it comes to flavor and complexity it is anything but light! Showing lovely aromas of dusty red berries, leaf litter, dry bark and spicy wood notes. The palate echoes the aromatics with nice purity and savory undertones. Not a big blockbuster style, but one that uses subtlety, balance and poise to communicate the true beauty of Pinot Noir. Once again Burgundy lovers should really check this out. If you are studying for your Master Somm exam, this would be a very scary wine to get blind as it might just be 1er Cru Savigny-les Beaune!? Perfect for roast chicken, light game or grilled fish.

Last but not least...

2010 Oakridge Local Vineyard Series "Whitsend & Oakridge Vineyard" Shiraz, Yarra Valley $24.99

95 Points James Halliday

2010 has been hailed as a superlative red wine vintage in Victoria. Good warm growing conditions, but without any too intense heat spikes, provided long even ripening and very little disease pressure. This wine is intense, concentrated and structured Shiraz. This is not a big, over-ripe, fat wine but one of focus, balance and purity. Rich, but not overly extracted, dark red fruits with touches of spice and dried herbs and smoked meat. Food orientated. Quite accessible now but I think it will only get better with time.

Cheers!

Ryan Woodhouse, New Zealand / Australia / South Africa Wine Buyer

***

 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!