Clos de l'Amandaie Chat Pitre ($14.50)
"Stephanie and Phillippe Peytavy created Clos de l'Amandaie in 2002, taking over vines from Phillippe's family. They focused on making wine from Estate grown grapes and follow the Organic Farming guidelines. The name comes from the almond tree field that once was on the vineyard before grapes were planted. Today, the wines are featured in all French wine magazines and can be found on many higher-end restaurants' wine lists.
Chat Pitre is a pun that in French both means 'chapter' and 'clown cat.' It is a blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 30% Cinsault. The vineyard is located near the village of Aumelas, a terroir benefiting from a cooler micro climate. The grapes are fully destemmed. The end of the maceration is thermo-regulated to soften the tannins and features pump over and load treading to enhance aromas. The wine is aged for 6 months in tanks. Chat Pitre develops aromas of red berries (wild strawberries and currant) with a white pepper finish."
This wine is both well-crafted and approachable, combining the easy drinking table wine style with a finer complexity. This is a wonderful go-to red that will easily pair with a variety of foods, but that is also nice to sip on its own. The cat on the label is pretty cute, too!
Vignoble Charmet Beaujolais Moulin La Blanche 2015 ($19.50)
"The Charmet Family is iconic in the South Beaujolais region. They have been producing Beaujolais wines since 1650 and been a leader for innovation and quality in the region. They, among other, invented the 'Charmet Cut' that is particularly adapted to prune the Gamay grape. Quality is the main driver behind every step of the wine making process: from the field to the cellar. Based 100% on the famous Beaujolais region grape, Gamay, this cuvee comes from a small plot in the southern part of the Beaujolais appellation. The vines grow on a soil with a dominance of shale and are over 50 years old. The low yield (40hl/ha) contributes to give this wine intense aromas and flavors as well as a deep length in the mouth. Only 5,000 bottles are produced on a yearly basis."
Beaujolais is a wonderful summer red, as it is lighter in body and quite easy to drink. This Beaujolais, though sharing those qualities is a bit more complex than one might expect from the style. It has a longer finish and is a bit bolder than other Beaujolais that I have had. It pairs well with deli and cured meats. It also pairs well with an empty glass. The winery practices sustainable agriculture and uses minimal chemical intervention.
Jerome Godon Sancerre ($23.99)
"Every few years the Sancerre area delivers a new upcoming star or young vintner. In 2012 and 2013, it was Jerome! But Jerome is not entirely a newcomer; he is actually the 10th generation of a family that has been strongly involved in the Sancerre region.
Heading the 20 acres estate, he is focusing on transmitting the true expression of the 3 terroir characteristics he cultivates:
Clay and gun flint
White stone and chalk gravel
White clay and shell
Jerome Godon’s Sancerre is a true testimony from what we know from the Sancerre wines: finesse and elegance in the wine with a touch of white peach. The consistency is pure and has just enough boldness to balance the minerality.
This Sancerre reveals great finesse, intensity and much complexity. Aromas of white fruits, citrus, blackcurrant bud and a touch of minerality make up a beautiful bouquet. In the mouth, the powerful aromas settle in with assurance, evoking exotic fruits, before a finish of superb freshness."
Sancerre of this quality at this price is a rare find. What makes this one stand out is the balance; the citrus is perfectly softened, but uplifted by the minerality. There is an elegance to the wine, but it is also fresh and approachable. This is a great introduction to Sancerre, but it might ruin you for others.
Clos des Cazaux Vacqueyras "Les Clefs d'Or" ($26.99)
"The Clos des Cazaux domaine was founded in 1905 by Gabriel Archimbaud. The Archimbaud and Vache families are among the oldest ones in Vacqueyras, dating back to 1635. The 98 acre estate is currently run by Jean Michel and Frederic Vache.
The vines are cultivated with utmost respect to the environment. Only Bordeaux mixture (antifungal agent consisting of a solution of copper sulfate and quicklime) and sulfur are used in the phytosanitary (pertaining to the health of plant) and vineyard treatment. At all times, the vineyards are manually tended, including manual harvest. To ensure optimal quality, only the best grapes are selected during a green harvest in Summer which eliminates at least 20% of the production.
Vacqueyras is also a 'cru' since 1990. The appellation rules are very similar to those of Gigondas, and thus to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, although only half the grapes in a red Vacqueyras haf to be Grenache. The rest are usually Syrah. Mourvedre, and Cinsault. Vacqueyras may be red, white, or rose, although only a miniscule proportion of its dramatically expanded vinyard total of 1,000 ha/2,500 acres is planted with white grape varieties.
50% Clairette, 30% Rousanne, 20% Grenache Blanc
10,000 bottles produced annually
The juice ferments naturally and its temperature is maintained at 16 C all through fermentation. This allows to obtain a pure white wine with a lively acidity. It features flavours of fennel and white flowers. The c
Clairette brings a refreshing acidity. The mouth is long and soft."
This wine is one that you really won't see often. Not only is the production quite limited, but in general white Vacqueyras is a rare find. In the U.S. we have finally embraced red blends, but white blends are still elusive, and that's a shame. White Rhone blends are particularly lovely, and can be enjoyed year-round. This wine is a fine example: it has a full, round mouthfeel, and is soft on the palate, but with just enough acidity to give it structure and character. This is something special.
Etienne Oudart Champagne--Brut Référence ($50.99)
"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.