Etienne Oudart Champagne--Brut Référence ($50.99)
From the distributor:
"Jacques Oudart belongs without any doubt to the upcoming stars of the Champagne area. The Oudart Family has been involved in Champagne making since the late 1950’s. They own 22 acres spread mainly over 2 regions: Vallee de la Marne and the Epernay area. This is definitively a major asset as it gives Jacques the possibility to blend all 3 grape varietals and still have the influence of all the various terroirs.
Jacques Oudart is very meticulous about winemaking and insists on extending his Champagne aging in order to hit the perfect ripeness when the bottle reaches the consumer.
Champagne Oudart’s trademark is to create elegant and fine wines. Most of the cuvee blend uses Chardonnay for its strength, Pinot Meunier for the fruit and Pinot Noir to add personality.
Bright gold color with some note of copper. On the tasting aromas of toast, brioche and hazelnuts appear. Long aromatic persistence in the mouth."
This Champagne is produced sustainably with minimal chemical intervention. The production is relatively small at 25,000 bottles per year. I sometimes find Champagne to be too "yeasty" tasting, but this one strikes a nice balance with the fruit and acidity. I find that it is great value for money, and it's nice to be able to support a smaller winemaker. I would much rather drink Oudart than Moët or Veuve.
Domaine du Chateau de Fleys Chablis 2015 ($25.99)
From the distributor:
"Julien Philippon moved from the neighbouring Morvan region to Fleys in 1868 as a lumberjack . Gradually he bought land and vineyards that still today represent the majority of the Estate. Julien Philippon, on the advice of an old winemaker and general counselor in Chablis, was certainly the first to plant the rootstock 161-49 in 1936, vines still in production at the place called 'Les Monts de Milieu.' Since the Estate has been transmitted through the generations. Today the Estate cultivates about 55 acres on some of the best Chablis terroir, all around the central 'mont du milieu.'
An AOP Chablis that has the depth of a 1er Cru! This Chablis comes from a 4 ac 20 year old vineyard adjacent to the 1er Cru 'Les Fourneaux.' Aged 100% in stainless tank, it stays on the lees for 10 months. The vinification gives this wine the minerality of Chablis with a complex aroma structure. This Chablis has an exceptional concentration and length in mouth, which makes it a great choice for seafood,asparagus and goat cheese. It can also just be enjoyed for what it is: a great expression of Chablis!"
It was HARD to rid my mind of the image of a big jug of bad California wine whenever I heard the word "Chablis." I call it wine trauma. I was finally able to accept that proper Chablis has NOTHING to do with Carlo Rossi. Even so, I put off selling one for about a year, and then Thomas introduced me to this beauty. Technically this is entry-level, but it's about as fantastic a wine as you can get outside 1er Cru, and it will, I guarantee, heal any wine wounds you might have when it comes to the name "Chablis."
Domaine L'Amauve Seguret, Côtes du Rhône Villages "La Daurelle" ($21.99)
Rhône Valley, France
From the producer:
"Four grapes varieties typically from the Rhône Valley are grown for making our white wine.
- White grenache (42%).
- Clairette (28%).
- Viognier (18%).
- Ugni-Blanc (12%).
The vineyard : The vineyard is organically grown. The estate is in conversion to organic since 2017. The treatments of the vine are limited, and when some are done, it is always with the useful minimal amount of copper sulfate and sulfur. The crop is naturally small and can be controlled by doing some green harvest if necessary.
Harvest : The harvests are done by hand, in order to do a selection of the best clusters. The harvest is quickly done when the maturity of the grapes is at the optimum.
Winemaking : It is done carefully, in small tanks, at controlled temperature in order to express the best from the grapes. A tiny part (less than 5%) of this cuvee is barrel fermented for more complexity in the wine. After fermentation, the wine is kept on its fine lees until the bottling for a better keeping the aromas and its freshness. The bottling is done 7 months after harvests.
Drinking : A wine who can to be appreciated as young but who has also a great keeping potential. To be appreciated as aperitive wine, or with a dish of fish, or seafoods, or with cheeses."
Drink this wine. White blends, particularly from the Rhône, are notoriously hard to sell in this business, and that's the consumers' loss. A well-made white from this area is a thing of beauty: smooth, round, with strong fruit character balanced by a distinct acidic backbone. I am a little in love with this one, and I hope you fall for it, too!
Domaine L'Amauve Seguret, Côtes du Rhône Villages "Estelles" ($22.99)
Rhône Valley, France
From the producer:
"The appellation area is located on the left bank of the Rhône River, near the city of Vaison La Romaine and the famous villages of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Rasteau, Beaumes-de-Venise and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Two grapes varieties typically from the Rhône Valley are grown for making our red wine "Estelles" - Black Grenache ( 75% ). - Syrah (25%).
This wine is partially aged in new barrels and old barrels for 12 months. The rest of the wine is stored in tanks, on its fine lees in order to preserve its freshness and fruit. At the end of the ageing, a blend is done between wines aged in barrels and the others stored in tanks. The bottling is done about 18 months after harvest.
Our red wine 'Estelles' can be appreciated as young, but can also be kept for many years. It will be fine around its fourth or fifth year and will be able to keep more depending on the vintage and storage conditions. It is a full bodied wine with tight and soft tannins. The aromatic expression is complex, mainly on spices and overripe black fruit. This wine will perfectly go with grilled meat, wild meat, red meat in sauce and cheeses."
Domaine L'Amauve produces very fine wines at superb prices. Estelles is an excellent Côtes du Rhône that demonstrates both complexity and drinkablility. It is ready to drink now, or you can lay it down. Better yet, buy two so that you can do both!
Hesperian "Anatomy No. 1" 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($34.99)
Napa Valley, California
From the distributor:
The Anatomy No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of fruit from select vineyards in Napa Valley and aged 18 months in a mix of 20% new French oak; 30% once- and 50% twice-used French oak. Anatomy No. 1 is a medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon that has cedar, graphite, and pencil lead notes similar to French Bordeaux, but wrapped inside there is California ripe fruit qualities of blackberry, plum, fennel and baking spices from oak aging that emerge through over time. All of Philippe's wines are meant for contemplation and it pays off to experience them slowly. They are made to reflect the land and the influence nature has on the subtle nuances in tannin, aromatics, and flavor.
While at Rothschild-held Château Clarke in the Médoc, Philippe Langner worked alongside Jacques Boissenot and Michel Rolland, the man responsible for some of the world’s highest-scoring and notoriously rare clarets and Cabernets. Following a season in South Africa, Philippe returned to California — he earned his degree at U.C. Davis — spending a decade as head viticulturist and winemaker at Napa’s Sullivan Winery, while simultaneously developing Hesperian. In 2010 Philippe left Sullivan, settling into Hesperian full-time at his current 14-acre plot on Atlas Peak. Philippe Langner, under his Hesperian label, makes single-vineyard (mostly), small-lot Napa Cabs from carefully chosen sites in well-regarded areas of the valley, such as Rutherford, Spring Mountain and Coombsville, in addition to Atlas Peak where he is located."
This is a great example of how Napa Cabs are starting to diverge from the monolithic fruit bombs that they have been. For sure there are some great wines that are big, bold, and fruity, but recently some winemakers are using a more delicate hand to craft an end product that speaks more of terroir and nuance than simple flavor profile. I think there is room for both, and I'm happy to sell this Napa Cab to show what a French influence can have over a California style. It is a lovely marriage of ripe fruit and restrained oaking that is a delight to drink.