Bollinger Special Cuvée – ‘Lily’ Would Be Quite Pleased

Lily in Her Vineyards in the 1940s, Protecting, Promoting, Perfecting.

     Lily in Her Vineyards in the 1940s, Protecting, Promoting, Perfecting.

There are Grandes Marques, “Mini-Marques”, and then there are the TRULY grande marques. Bollinger is so grande (so important) that the most famous quotes on Champagne are attributed to its most endearing owner. Lily Bollinger was not only the most important character in the story of Bollinger, she remains its most charismatic.

The technical side of Bollinger – the unmatched level of investment in every bottle produced – is every bit as important as Lily’s story. Stepping into the cellars of Bollinger will take your breath away. Imagine the greatest collection of Champagne you could ever hope to personally witness in one place. Imagine magnums of the most pristine, Grand Cru Champagne – bottled under cork – resting there before your eyes. How many bottles would it take for you to think, “Holy bubbles, Batman, that’s a LOT of Champagne”?

In the cellars of Bollinger rests 600,000 magnums (100,000 cases) of Champagne reserves. It is this massive – truly mind boggling – stash of reserves which contributes to the unmatched quality and consistency of the Bollinger Special Cuvée. The master blending performed which results in the richness, the depth and full body we love in Bollinger includes 50% of these reserve wines, some of which are up to 15 years of age. This Bollinger Special Cuvée you’re buying today contains a healthy percentage of reserve wine from the vintage of 2000.

Moreover, in keeping with the historical Bollinger tradition and winemaking style – the style Lily championed across Europe – the Special Cuvée is vinified in seasoned oak barrels of varying size, shape and age. This barrel vinification is followed by another 3 years of aging on the fine lees, a process absolutely unmatched across the region. It’s a time consuming, laborious, expensive process that’s driven by passion; as only Lily Bollinger would have had it.

Lily took over the estate upon her husband’s passing in 1941 and is celebrated for greatly expanding the estate’s vineyard holdings as well as the soaring popularity during her time as Director and beyond. Recalling her arrival to London to declare her 1955 vintage, a reporter made public Lily Bollinger’s reply when asked how much she enjoyed her own product. I think of it every day, or least every day I have a bottle of Bollinger:

“I drink my Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty”. — Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Law de Lauriston Boubers Bollinger

One of the finest Bollinger Special Cuvée bottlings to date.

One of the finest Bollinger Special Cuvée bottlings to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got mine, and I know where the best price in the States may be had.

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Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera” – Multi Tre Bicchieri – You’ve Never Had it so Good

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”

 

Genova, the seaside port city and capital of northwest Italy’s Liguria region, is the best – and for many folks the only – place to find authentic calamari, gambretti, sarago, and delicate bianchetti. As high noon approaches on a given spring day, the maze of streets and narrow alleys of this ancient city are filled with the aroma of hot olive oil – tiny fry shops known as friggitorie sizzling to life. You’re elbow to elbow with crowds of hungry locals and tourists, everyone seemingly addicted to the crispy, tender, juicy – but never greasy – specialties piled high on one counter after another.

This is the city where I discovered the magic of those intoxicating, addictive fritti and it’s also where my adventures with Liguria’s greatest white wine began. As maritime rival to Venice, Genova has a culture – a soul – about it that is unique in so many ways, but it’s only the beginning. It’s when you venture to the rugged Italian coastline, to the centuries-old Cinque Terre – 5 towns where vineyards as well as homes defy gravity, clinging to steep terraces – that you (and your palate) are whisked away.

Pesto was born here. And as you traverse the extremely inhospitable yet dramatic landscapes of the eastern inland foothills and hillsides of Liguria – midway between Cinque Terre and the Tuscan border – you suddenly reach the Colli di Luni DOC. Here, between the hills of Castelnuovo Magra (55 miles southeast of Genova, as removed from coastal city living as you’ll ever be) and the

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

ancient, walled Roman village of Luni (the easternmost edge of Liguria and its most important, historical commune) are the most important Vermentino vineyards in Italy – perhaps the world.

I cannot recall the first vintage I tasted of Diego Bosoni’s spine tingling Vermentino, but I will assure you that each subsequent vintage has only proved his vast superiority over every other producer of this varietal I have ever encountered. So perfect is this Bosoni Vermentino – I’m speaking specifically of their L’Etichetta Nera (Black Label) – that the estate has now recorded EIGHT (count ‘em: 8) Tre Bicchieri; including for this most recent version, the 2016.

This accomplishment is nothing short of miraculous, especially considering the superhuman feats required to plant, cultivate, tend and harvest in these wild conditions. Moreover, Bosoni’s estate vineyard is small, battling for acreage against the far more easy to cultivate – thus popular with local farmers – olive trees. Yet what this family has achieved at this estate – established from the ground up in 1966 – will blow you away with your first sip.

You’ve never had it so good. Unless folks have tried THIS Vermentino, they’ve never truly had Vermentino.

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The Sine Qua Non of the Roussillon – Séverine Bourrier’s Chateau de L’Ou

Séverine Bourrier - Queen of the Roussillon

Séverine Bourrier –
Queen of the Roussillon

 

If you could go back in time to the early 1990s, find yourself in Los Angeles as a frequent and very preferred diner at the über-hip restaurant, Campanile – co-owned and managed at the time by one Manfred Krankl – and be considered “in the know” enough to be part of the inner circle which Krankl and his good buddy winemaker John Alban ran with, well – would you? Because if did – if you could – you would be one of those very lucky few to have been on Krankl’s mailing list when he launched Sine Qua Non with all those freakishly incredible wines that didn’t cost near what they do today.

Krankl launched Sine Qua Non – SQN for those in the know – along with his wife Elaine and their buddy John Alban in 1994. Self-described as “project wines”, each bottling was geared towards the Rhone Ranger category, but there were no rules. They hit gold with Syrah. Syrah in their hands began landing them Parker scores of between 95 and 100 points. They were instantly unobtainable; sold exclusively via mailing list – a list so well managed and guarded that it has a 10 year waiting list.

The wines are unreal. They are about as perfect as anything you’ll ever drink. I once had an employee working for me who did an internship at SQN. He was a generous young man, so I have enjoyed a few of Krankl’s wild masterpieces. I’ve also had to rub my eyes in absolute disbelief when I see the prices the wines trade for at auction as well as on-line. The inaugural bottling from Krankl – his 1994 Syrah-based blend they named Queen of Spades – now trades for $6,000 a bottle.

Okay, so none of us can go back in time. We can, however, go back to the Mother land; the place where Syrah really struts its stuff. Yes, I’m talking about my beloved Roussillon. Home to more wines represented in the “let’s drink this tonight and really blow ‘em away” corner of my personal cellar, you are well aware of my time in this region and my discoveries along these schistous cliffs.

I have tasted what everyone is – or soon will be – calling “the SQN of the Roussillon”. In fact, that’s EXACTLY what Jeb (Wine Advocate) tells us. Known as Chateau de L’Ou, this is the home estate of Séverine Bourrier. Born in Africa, she trained in Bordeaux, working for the top estates of the Medoc before “catching the Syrah bug” (as she says) during her travels and eventual studies in the South. Syrah calls to her, it is her native varietal, and the magic she performs with this varietal directly mirrors what I have experienced in the wines from SQN, John Alban and the rest of the Cult masters.

"SQN of the Roussillon"

“SQN of the Roussillon”

I cannot express enough how passionate I am about the work being performed at this magical estate. In particular the Secret de Schistes – now in its 6th season – is what the young folks call “sick”! It absolutely screams SQN – FOR A PRICE THAT IS INSANELY CRIMINAL!

 

Interested in locating this dreamy wine, at the best price in the States? Let me know in the comments…

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ERIC & JOËL DURAND – Rock Stars of Cornas – Hottest Wines of the Region

                               Cornas Rock Stars

 

Brothers Eric and Joel Durand are precise, authoritative artisans. Perhaps you’ve heard that from professionals such as Jancis Robinson, who, after the most exhaustive, comprehensive tasting of the region’s wines I’ve discovered (vintages spanning 1972 to 1991, multiple Crus, every major estate you can imagine) swooned for the Durand Brothers. Speaking of the Durands’ youngest cuvee at that time, Jancis Robinson reported:

“The wine is testament to some very fine, sensitive winemaking with lots of fruit in the middle to compensate for well-managed tannins.”

That started the ball rolling for the young artisans – European sommeliers couldn’t get enough – and soon the world was calling.

Approaching the Durand vineyards, one cannot help but be awestruck. You wonder how these guys ever mustered the strength – the stamina – to rework these treacherous, crumbling hillsides. After assuming the family estate in 1991, they began reworking their vineyards, but not the vines – not just yet – they had to first secure the terraces which supported their family’s old Syrah vines. One by one, rock by rock and parcel by parcel they rebuilt the terraces on their steeply sloping hillside vineyards – the only method to secure their incredible vineyards and save their Syrah from literally sliding into the valley.

From there, the brothers designed the most intricate trellising system I’ve ever witnessed. Zig-zagging their way up the granitic slopes of the Cornas hills, the vines in each of the Durands’ oldest parcels grow upwards, arching at the top, forming an upside down “U”, reaching the vine adjacent.

                                        Durand Vineyards

This work on the terraces as well as the wildly imaginative trellising spanned nearly 20 years; when I witnessed it, I was taken aback. Words cannot do justice.

Three unique, beautifully individual as well as incredibly limited cuvees (low yields are a given in this environment) are now offered by the brothers. Their soils change as you move gradually up the Cornas slope; silt laden deposits give way to pure granite, which then changes to migmatite (granitic components within metamorphic surroundings). Complexity; awe-inspiring; mind-changing – you have never tasted Cornas quite like this…

Take my advice; seek out the trio of their top offers (Prémices, Empreintes and Confidence). That’s the only way you will truly understand the minute differences and striking, individual personalities of each of these treasures of time, place, mono-varietal, and human endeavor.

If you’re curious where to locate, leave me a reply…

Desparada Wines of Paso Robles – The Most Important Winery In The Most Important Wine Region In California

                     Just a Few of Vailia’s Must-Haves – Desparada Wines

 

Centered at the halfway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles has been one of my favorite hunting grounds for unique, thoroughly one-of-a-kind wines for years. It’s where I first discovered the Rhone Ranger glories of L’Aventure, and stumbled upon the mind-bending Syrahs grown in the western reaches of Paso Robles by Justin Smith of Saxum. Also home to some of the most prized bottlings in my personal collection – Linne Calodo – Paso Robles is one wine region I simply cannot visit often enough.

In the early days, the A-listers could be counted on a few fingers, to include the aforementioned and – of course – the ethereal Zins of Turley. That’s all changed though, with a new group of settlers finding their way to Paso Robles over the past decade, lured to the gentle rolling hills of this chaparral environment. Vineyard owners seem to be everywhere these days – eager to rent their homes when you come to town – thanks to the need for high quality grapes by some big name producers here.

But I’ve fallen in love with the wines of a winery I hope remains as boutique and under the radar as they’ve been for years. That winery is Desparada, and its owner Vailia is among my top 5 – make that 3 – very favorite people in the wine business. My wife and I recently paid a visit to Paso Robles, and our two hours in the cellar with Vailia were unforgettable.

The first thing you notice about Vailia is that smile. It’s real; never departing from her face, it reaches all the way to her eyes. That smile is as real as the wines she makes, wines that now fill at least 50% of our small 15 case “cellar” at home. Wines that speak of Vailia equally as much as Paso Robles and the single vineyards she sources from. Wines that perfectly speak of varietal – she works with so many, so unique – and, just as important, wines that allow each unique vintage to share their story. Vailia is a tremendous winemaker. As such, she thoroughly understands and respects her role as steward.

Working with some of Paso Robles’ great single vineyards and perfectly tended vineyards, Vailia has shown me bottles of shockingly delicious blends spanning multiple vintages. My first experience has turned into a vertical of “Sackcloth & Ashes”, a multi-site, multi-varietal blend which I first encountered with the 2012 vintage. Now into my fourth vintage, I will attest that this striking wine – Cabernet, Petit Sirah, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; hailing from the Happy Canyon, Coghlan, Roadrunner, Santa Barbara Highlands and Vogelzang vineyards – is one of the most profound of its type; worth 2-3 times what we pay.

Then there’s the vertical of “Borderlands” I cannot keep my hands off. Another stunning blend – this time equal parts Cab, Cab Franc, Grenache and Syrah – from the Coghlan, Santa Barbara Highlands, Spanish Springs and White Haw vineyards, it is so immensely irresistible that I’ve asked my wife to hide two bottles of each vintage from me. How Vailia bottles such deeply soulful wines at these earthbound prices is one of life’s great mysteries.

But there’s so much more – so VERY much more. So many shockingly delicious versions of Sauvignon Blanc; one that I’ve “blind” tasted my Francophile buddies on and convinced them it was La Mission Haut Brion Blanc (go ahead, look up the price difference). Amphorae fermented and aged wines of every type and description. Barrel fermented, stainless fermented wines based on the same varietal – just so Vailia can follow their evolution. Italian varietals, Spanish varietals – that truly and completely honor their native land while reflecting Paso Robles AND Vailia.

I’ll close now – probably said too much already (just can’t keep a secret) – by encouraging you to (at the very least) sign up for the

Desparada newsletter

the wines will quite possibly change your outlook…

 

 

2016 Bordeaux – My Days with the Big Guns – Chateau Margaux – Wine of the Vintage II

 

                           Chateau Margaux — the Appellation’s Wine of the Vintage

The day I would visit Chateau Margaux for my scheduled tasting of their 2016 during en primeur week – a week involving more than 400 samplings of 2016 Bordeaux – began bright and early with a formal, 9am (sharp) appointment at Chateau Lafite. Indeed, my day which included the unforgettable set of wines at Chateau Margaux (which I scored 97-99 points) – their Grand Vin very easily on par with Mouton Rothschild for Wine of the Vintage honors – included more riches than I can recall in a single day of tasting Bordeaux en primeur.

That brilliantly sunny day – impeccable, real “Chamber of Commerce” kind of day – witnessed yours truly at Chateau Palmer (which I scored 96-98 points), Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou (another 96-98 pour moi) where the “sights” are as beautiful as the Chateau and the many wines offered for tasting, as well as Chateau Leoville Las Cases (yes, another 96-98 points), where it felt I was tasting perhaps the most glorious Las Cases in years.

All of this just one day after finishing up at Chateau Mouton Rothschild (98-100 for me), as well as the drop dead gorgeous Chateau Latour (97-99 points), which we won’t see for years – and years.

Yes, there were more than 100 additional 2016 Bordeaux across those two days – plus an addition couple dozen over dinners and lunch breaks.

But there can be no denying the amazing presence, the glamor, the sheer “gotta have it” of the 2016 Chateau Margaux.

2016 Perfection?

For me, unfortunately, memories will have to suffice, as allocations of Chateau Margaux are so drastically limited that only a few of you will enjoy the opportunity to purchase this gem – I’ll have to rely on the generosity of others.

 

 

2016 Bordeaux – Multiple 100pt Chateau Pavie – Wine of the Vintage?

                                Chateau Pavie – Perfection in 2016 – Profound in Every Sense

My final full day of tasting 2016 Bordeaux during en primeur week culminated just at it should have, two hours at Chateau Pavie.

Approaching the Pavie hills – their historic coteaux rising steeply behind the white-washed stone Chateau – the sky a deep blue, not a cloud to be witnessed, a sense of something very special came over me.

I’d heard from other professionals during the week that the subtle changes at Pavie had returned the most profound wine; not just that Pavie had ever bottled, but quite possibly of the 2016 vintage. As I made my way up the majestic, “Gone with the Wind” staircase to the open air tasting room, you could have heard a pin drop.

Though many were in attendance, there was a reverence in that space that day.

This was my 8th version of Pavie. This was the first time I have ever been so moved.

To say the Pavie terroir spoke through the wine is the understatement of the vintage. There has never been such a profound Pavie.

Wine of the vintage? Certainly better than a few of the Premier Crus.

Unquestionably among the top 3 of the 2016 Bordeaux vintage.