2011 Chateau Beauregard Ducasse, Graves Blanc

A Superb Value in White Graves

beauregard ducasseI’ve been a big fan of Beauregard Ducasse for the nine and ten vintages, and while this is not as ripe as the 2010 and lacks that vintage’s sweeter concentration nectarine and tropical components, it is still a lovely wine. The cooler 2011 vintage has plenty of the same flavors and complexity, if just a bit dryer, and not nearly as textural and viscous.  The estate, which is located about 20 miles south-east of the city of Bordeaux in the farthest south edge of the appellation in Mazeres. It is interesting to note that several websites indicate it is in Northern Graves. Not so.  Still, this is one of the best values going.

 

2011 Beauregard Ducasse, Graves Blanc        

On the nose, this shows slate and lime, along with that nice ripe nectarine that is fragrant and inviting. The mouth is long and compex with plenty of vibrancy, green apple and green papaya acidity that makes your mouth salivate. There is a bracing quality to this wine, that your palate adjust too fairly quickly, but showing some grip of tannins which release quickly leaving a slight minerality and suggestions of salinity. An excellent wine, and terriffic value.  87 points.  at $11.99 I’d buy this again.  This was fantastic with chicken breast with olive tapenade, and would be equally delicious with Vietnamese food, Dungeness Crab, Mussels, Halibut, you name it.  A superb value and worth buying.  $14     A score would confuse the issue.map-vignoble-de-bordeaux-graves (1)

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2011 Chateau des Capitans -Georges Duboeuf, Julienas

Chateau-des-Capitans-Julienas-BeaujolaisRight up front, I have to say I’m a big fan of the 2011 Beaujolais. As pure as the 2010s are, the 2011 are that much more, and I can’t put enough of a price on purity. Some will find the 2011s too light, but they simply aren’t letting the wine flow to them.  Julienas is one of the more delicate of the Beaujolais villages. The Duboeuf Julienas flower label was remarkably beautiful, so floral with sublime lavender notes. The ’11 vintage as a whole is all about uber-pure cherry fruit, and long, but caressing, acidity. This single estate, Chateau des Capitans is quite a bit deeper, and richer, but still the Chateau des Capitans has on two previous occasions been wonderfully aromatic.

This is the second bottle (the one I had decided to review)  of Chateau des Capitans isn’t showing as aromatically as the previous bottle. It is not obviously off.  Still, the nose is significantly more dead, and a subtle wooden-ness suggests that it may be very-slightly corked. Even off, the Capitans display  its dark cherry fruit, and nicely robust structure excellent balance, rounded but elegant mid-palate I’d give this a mid to high eighties score. But the 2011 Capitans from a good bottle is better than that though, and this bottle is missing its very exciting aromatic dimension.  No score.

Chateau des Capitans is one of four estates in Julienas alone that the the firm Georges Duboeuf owns or controls. Des Capitans is “at the heart” of the  hamlet of Capitans, and its single hectare  of vineyard surrounds the 19th century Chateau. With a south-southeast exposure, the vineyard gets good ripeness.

A Great Producer That Fails Comparison Tastings: Joseph Roty

Stand Alone Producer

At Atherton, one of our best producers is Domaine Joseph Roty. But Roty doesn’t produce the most striking or flashy wines, and they are often overlooked in a flight of its peers. This wasn’t a problem some

From author:" Tast de Gevrey Chambertin: ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia

years ago, before scores from the big periodicals started to influence the insular world of Burgundy drinkers. (who have been remarkably resistant to what Parker and the Spectator had to say.) But today the influence is felt, especially by Allen Meadows @Burghound.com who is closely read by lovers of Burgundy.

“It’s a beauty contest, and Philippe Roty’s wines come unprepared to compete in that arena.”

But Roty, like some of the most complex wines in the world, can get lost in a flight. They get passed over. When I have poured Roty’s brilliant 2008 Gevrey Champs-Chenys or the excellent 2010 Marsannay next to wines like Frederic Esmonin’s 2011s or Gros Frere et Soeur’s 2010 and 2011s, Roty’s wines fade to the background for almost all but the most experienced tasters.  Esmonin’s wines which are fresher, brighter (and less expensive) and Gros Frere’s wines with their liqueur-driven, lushly-textured fruit, overshadow Roty’s thought-provoking, terroir driven style.

Reviewers who taste blind, or taste in large groups of wines from the same region, recognize these wines as being of quality, but they rarely score highly. It’s as beauty contest, and Philippe Roty’s wines come unprepared to compete in that arena. For the most part, they rarely score much above 90 points. This is hardly a ring endorsement these days for a wine that costs $60. But if you taste Roty’s wines in the context of a flight what Philippe produces, their brilliance becomes immediately clear.

So yesterday I took a flight of Roty’s wines on the road to test my theory that standing alone, Roty’s wines would shine. It was immediately obvious that these wines were showing really well on their own. From the first two wines, The 2009 Marsannay Blanc and 2009 Marsannay Rose, every buyer loved these wines.  While there were some concerns about serving a 4-year-old rose to customers that expect a fresh and fruity (and simple rose) would be disappointed, they all were blown away by the wine’s stunning minerality (not acidity that masquerades as minerality) and surprising complexity.

Each red was lauded as it was poured through the line-up, beginning with the 2010 Marsannay, and the 2010 Marsannay Quartier. The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin showed the continuation of the house style of concentrated, but never over-ripe black fruit, great purity, and never a suggestion of heaviness, and to that added Gevrey’s textbook savage, meaty, truffle-like scents. But it was the 2008 Gevrey Champs-Chenys, which I have repeatedly loved so much, and had never caught anyone’s eye in flights of Burgundy’s before, that really got the most comments yesterday. Here, among it’s previously poured siblings, it shined brightly, with all of its smoke, meat, and underbrush, with plenty of fruit, and none of the sweetness that marks the high scoring wines today. Beautiful!  The last wine was the stunning 2007 Roty Gevrey Fonteny Premiere Cru. This drank like a grand Cru. And being from the softer 2007 vintage, it was lush, and rich, with a full mid-palate was absolutely seamless. There was not a single hard edge to this wine. It was remarkable wine.

Wine Note: 2010 Domaine Ballot-Millot, Meursault

Domaine Ballot-Millot sources it’s Meursault village bottling from a Chardonnay vineyard above the Les Boucheres 1er cru, in what appears to be the Chaumes des Narveaux vineyard,

Français : vendanges à Meursault (Bourgogne)

Français : vendanges à Meursault (Bourgogne) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

although the winery is not specific. Winemaker Charles Ballot (30) sorts his fruit on tables in the vineyard, then presses the grapes lightly using a pneumatic press.  The wine is then racked from its gross lees into oak barrels where it finishes primary fermentation and malolactic (secondary fermentation). After twelve months in barrel, the wine is transferred to stainless tanks for six months, and before being fined with diatomaceous earth before bottling.

The nose is typical for a cool long growing season, and certainly shows what a tight, classic, vintage 2010 had been. While there is Meursault’s typical honey, white flowers, lemon curd, toast from oak, and a touch of sulfur, it doesn’t yet show the gras (fat) and nuttiness you get with a Meursault that is ready to drink. It does smell like a more expensive White Burgundy, like ones I’ve had from Domaine Leflaive’s former winemaker, Pierre Morey, and that is a good thing. In the mouth, it’s got some concentration, but it’s a bit tight and the oak is definitely showing, giving the wine a bit of dryness. Give this another year: the fruit and fat should be more evident, and the oak will have retreated, sweetening the whole package up. A wonderful wine that’s not quite optimal yet – give it enough time and it should come together beautifully.  87 points today.  Potential 90-91 points.

After an hour, the wine shows significant integration, with lime rind, chalk, and minerals showing up on the palate as it opens. This wine is still anything but fat, with a wonderful liveliness – it’s concentration now showing on mid-palate, onto the long, warm, nectarine and lime tinged finish.

Winemaker Chris Howell, Cain Winery, and the Taboo Subject of Brett.

harvest 2005 Spring Mountain District above th...

harvest 2005 Spring Mountain District above the Napa Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Cain Winery, and taste their wines with its longtime winemaker, Chris Howell. Chris has been at Cain for the past twenty three years, starting there as a consultant in 1990.  In the  past, I had dismissed these wines, as having muddied flavors, and rustic tannins, particularly from their flagship wine, Cain Five.  But over the last few years, the wines here definitely improved. Today, these wines really impress me for their elegance, beautiful complexity, and silky, fine tannins. I wanted to find out what had changed there.

“This is where the story really begins. This is where he drops the bomb.”

Of course, I began by telling him that I think he is making the best wines I’ve ever had from the winery.  I ask him what he feels he is doing differently, from, fifteen years ago, when the wines weren’t nearly as clean and polished. He answered by saying “Not much has really changed in my winemaking. Small things mostly.” That, and the vineyard had been replanted, with the rows being planted closer together, and the vines are trained low to the ground with vertical shoot trellising, “which allows us to pick earlier than anyone else; without over-ripeness.”

He hesitated. And then began again, this time in earnest, explaining that for the most part he had cleaned up the cellar of brettanomyces.  Brettanomyces, often referred to as Brett, is a bacteria that infects wine, gets embedded in barrels, and is easily transferred from barrel to barrel, and tank to tank.  A whole cellar can quickly be infected through careless cellar practices, and even if the wine is sterile filtered, the aromas and flavors of brett remain behind.  Brett tends to obscure the fruit in wine, and give wine muddy, musty, re-fried bean aromas and flavors. The English, who have learned to appreciate Brett, used to describe it as giving a wine Barnyard aromas. The French, being more direct, simply described Brett as Merde (shit).  Wineries have spent hundreds of thousands, and some big wineries have spent millions of dollars, trying to eliminate it.

This is where the story really begins. This is where he drops the bomb. In the future he said he wants to increase the amount of Brett from what is currently is in the wines. Chris feels that Brett, in small parts-per-million,  adds tremendous complexity and cohesion to a wine.  These are statements that are unthinkable to most winemakers, and I have to say, it’s not what I wanted to hear having recently become a big fan of the winery.

To this he added a note of caution: before he would open his cellar to brett, he wants to better understand it, and to have better control of it. “You can’t add a little, and expect it not to propagate,” he added.  He admits that there is not a lot known about Brett, if for no other reason that researchers don’t tend to study what most seek to eradicate, and can do so already. 

“Today’s winemakers have a sole focus on making a perfect wine, by selecting  perfectly ripe bunches, and from that, the most perfectly ripe berries.”

Chris expounded on a feeling I’ve increasingly had over the past few years: Today’s winemakers have sole focus on making a perfect wine, by selecting perfectly ripe bunches, and from that, the most perfectly ripe berries. Wines, as a result, are becoming much less interesting, and ultimately beginning to tasting all the same. He wants his wines to be a holistic entity, reflecting the vineyard, and the vintage; carrying with it, a much wider array of flavors, like more red fruits, earth, and some herbal components. there should be elements that make the unique and of a particular place, rather than the current quest for the perfectly ripe and ultimately homogeneous fruit character. He says he is using fewer new oak barrels, rather than running the risk of over-oaking his wines. His ideal of perfection, is to create a wine of great character, with great texture, and he thinks brett can be a tool to get there.

Chris is very  cerebral, and is constantly evaluating, probing, and fine tuning the winemaking at Cain. This is a common thread I’ve found among many of the very best winemakers. . But deliberate introduction of brett, this was a lot to swallow.  I, for one, will certainly be tuned into Chris’ work in the future. He is definitely not a trend follower and is certainly is blazing his own trail here. Maybe he will be the one who can learn to use, and tame Brettanomyces. The results will be intriguing to watch and I’m rooting for his continued success.