Les Vignobles de Jacques Blanquette de Limoux ($15.99)
From the producer:
"Blanquette de Limoux was created in 1531 in the cellars of the Benedictine Saint Hilaire Abbey when a monk discovered that the wine that he had bottled and carefully corked formed bubbles, after a second fermentation. The first sparkling wine in the world had just been invented in this splendid abbey.
Known as BLANQUETTE for the fine white coating which forms on its leaves, the Mauzac of the Blanquette appellation is the traditional grape variety of the Limoux vineyard. It distinguishes itself by its aromas of green apple, acacia flowers and apricot with toasted nuances. This Blanquette is perfect as an aperitif or with an entrée like marinated salmon.
Grapes : 90 % Mauzac, 10% Chardonnay
We realize that protecting the landscape is very important as well as respecting the biological diversity and we always tried to minimize the treatments. For each of our vines we apply the method of reasoned agriculture by observing the vineyard every day and with the help of a professional technician we know how to use treatments only if it’s really necessary. On the other hand we choose only products that help in protecting the soil : for example we only use organic fertilizer."
I love the idea that this is the original sparkling wine in France, but that it's a fraction of the cost of Champagne. This Blanquette de Limoux is one more wine in the shop that represents my interest in indigenous varietals and in winemakers who seek to explore older styles and techniques. The wine is fresh, bright, and perfect for a New Year's toast.
Champagne Rene Marie Catel Blanc de Noirs ($34.99)
From the importer:
"Varieties : Pinot Noir 100%
Vinification : Traditional
Aging Bottle: 24-month
Radiant nose, revealing white-fleshed fruits (apple, pear, peach white), citrus (lemon) and floral nuances. Ample in the mouth, combining generosity and subtlety. Full, fresh and crisp.
Coming from families who have been growing grapes in Champagne since 1710, René and Marie-Noelle Dautel started producing their own champagne in 1971. Sylvain Dautel, their son, is now in charge of the vineyard located in Loches-Sur-Ource, a small village in the heart of Côte des Bars. Sylvain is perpetuating the tradition of his ancestors, using environmental friendly practices to create the most delicate, yet intense Champagnes. Cuvée René-Marie Catel is a rare Brut Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir), aged for two years on lees before disgorgement."
This wine is incredible value for money. It's a grower Champagne (the people who own the vineyards make the wine), it's 100% Pinot Noir, it drinks like a dream, and it's under $40. This kind of bargain is very hard to find in Champagne, and it is thanks to the source of this product: Côte des Bar in the far south of the region. This used to be considered a second-rate area of Champagne, but in the last decade it has become more prominent, and a place in which winemakers aren't afraid to think outside the box. Read Wine Folly's excellent blurb about it here.
Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($29.99)
Anderson Valley, California
From the producer:
"Founded in 1971, Husch is the oldest winery in the picturesque Anderson Valley. The vineyards are comprised of some of the earliest varietal plantings on the valley floor.
Sustainability at Husch is an ongoing process that began in the 1970s. At that time vineyard manager Al White became concerned with erosion on our hillsides and concluded that a no-till groundcover would solve the problem. That process of making improvements continues to this day.
Our five goals are: 1) reduce erosion, 2) conserve resources such as water and fuel, 3) protect the natural ecosystems that border our property, 4) use organic applications whenever possible, and 5) preserve the legacy grapevines on our properties for future generations.
Because these goals can be in conflict with each other we adapt our practices for each field. For example, erosion is a much bigger concern on our hillside fields. With fields closer to rivers and creeks we want to avoid chemicals - even those produced organically - that are potentially harmful to aquatic invertebrates.
As a result, we have a patchwork of practices. Some of our fields are farmed organically. Most of our fields have a permanent cover crop. All of our fields are certified "Fish Friendly." And we take pride that our farming practices, as a whole, require a minimum use of diesel fuel for each acre we farm.
The Anderson Valley is now world-renowned for its Pinot Noir grapes. Yet back in 1971 when Husch planted the first Pinot in the Valley many nay-sayers thought red grapes were a losing proposition for the region. Since that risky decision, history has proven that the warm days and cool nights of the region are near perfect for ripening Pinot Noir.
2017 brought a mild moderately wet winter, coupled with a warm spring and summer. Our first pick wasn’t until September 1st and we continued hand picking each vineyard block at optimum ripeness through October 6th. Almost all of our picks were scheduled for the wee hours of the morning, when the grapes are cold and covered with a touch of dew. Each batch was fermented with 20% whole clusters in small open top fermenters. The wine was gently pressed and aged 10 months in French oak barrels.
Expressive and inviting, our 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is happiness in a bottle. As soon as you pull the cork, aromas of sweet cherry, currant, rose petal, and graham cracker grace your nose. On the palate the wine expresses flavors matching the aromatics and is held together with sustained richness and bright acidity with a silky texture. Lovely on its own and will pair exceptionally with meals such as coq au vin, pork tenderloin, mushroom pasta, or creamy cheeses."
A good friend introduced Husch to me a few years ago, and I'm thrilled to bring their Pinot Noir to the shop. Anderson Valley wines are by far my favorite from California--it's a cool climate region perfect for grapes like Gewurztraminer, Sauv Blanc, and Pinot. The winemaking style, though varying by winery, is overall much more European in approach. The wines seem more reserved and nuanced, and Husch's Pinot definitely demonstrates this. I don't often choose Pinot Noir to drink, but this is one of the few exceptions.