Burgundy 2010 – The Vintage of a Lifetime?

Christopher Massie on Wine

First, a qualifier. Having visited Burgundy more than two dozen times since first stepping foot in these respected vineyards in the 1980s, I have personally experienced many of this generation’s “greatest vintages ever produced” – first hand. Sampling literally thousands of the Cote D’Or’s singular examples, I have compiled volumes of notes spanning more than 25 years. These reports on barrel samples as well as notes on bottled wines represent the wares from producers spanning the full scope of Burgundy. From the northern reaches of Gevrey to the southern tip of Burgundy’s Golden Slope, I have compiled enough literature on the Cote to feel quite confident offering advice on its vintages. Confident enough, in fact, that it was my profession for more than a decade.

During this span since the 1980s, I have tasted, written about and purchased no less than a half dozen vintages that could have been (and…

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Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

Roar – “Among the Finest Produced in California”

 

As I begin to compose my thoughts for this letter, I remember back to that now-famous line, uttered so perfectly by Sean Connery throughout his career, as his character in the 007 series would introduce himself; “Bond, James Bond”.  I think of that phrase every time I hear that a new release of this wine is headed my way.  “ROAR, ROAR WINES.”

ROAR Pinots need absolutely zero introduction for the initiated.  They come to us from the rolling hills of the Santa Lucia Highlands region of the Central Coast – Monterey to be quite specific – and they are quite simply, as Parker so perfectly points out, “Among the finest produced in California”.  From the very first review of these tremendous and full-bodied Pinots ever offered by the Wine Advocate, the world has waited in line for a chance to purchase these singular efforts from the gracious Franscioni couple.

The wines of ROAR Vineyards – so named as to pay homage to the screaming winds that blow through the hills and valleys of this region, originating from the coast – are made by Gary and Rosella Franscioni along with their good friend and wine-maker Gary Pisoni, to bring to light the very best attributes of this part of California.  These are powerful Pinots, rightly so, and yet they retain the elegance that Pinot Noir is so famous for.  Meeting the people behind the wines will completely, as is so often the case, explain the wine you’ll find in the bottles.

What’s more, the names of the vineyards these folks are behind as farmers and proprietors are equally as famous as a source for world class wines in many other folks hands as well.  A bottle of Pinot Noir carrying the Garys’, Rosella’s, or Pisoni vineyard designations, when bottled by an ever-increasing number of fine producers in California, is as close as one can come to a guarantee of a tremendous wine.  The assistance these 3 people have offered to so many folks, in their attempts to produce world-class Pinot Noir, is truly heart-warming.

Today, we have just a small offering (minuscule, to be precise) from this tremendous estate to offer all of you.  As is the case with ROAR, the wines are consistently offered for sale — and completely sold out — before the reviews are printed by the wine writers.  If you look at the previous vintage’s notes, however, you’ll understand the reason behind the quick and consistent sell-through.

Just as a final note, here are some words from the experts on this amazing estate:

“Wow! I was blown away by these Pinot Noirs from Roar. They all reveal unbelievable complexity, richness, and the extraordinary potential that exists in the Santa Lucia Highlands for this varietal.

[It] reminds me of a beautifully ripe top vintage of Grand Cru Corton from the Cotes de Beaune.

This brilliant Pinot Noir is among the finest produced in California.”
— Robert Parker, covering several offers from ROAR

“Gary and Rosella Franscioni, third generation farmers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, are proprietors of Roar Wines, proprietors of Rosella’s Vineyard and partners with Gary Pisoni in Garys’ Vineyard.

With the Roar Pinots, they set out to capture the pure character of the Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards that they are so intimately familiar with….

The Franscionis are perfect proof that an artisan’s wines are a true reflection of the person. Like their wines, Gary and Rosella are beautiful, classy people.”                — Gregory Walter, PinotReport

 

Recently tasted 2015s confirm the unending hot streak here at ROAR…

The single vineyard Garys’ and Rosella’s Pinots were striking…

Happy Hunting…

Brittan Vineyards Pinot Noirs – Lovers of Great Burgundy, It Doesn’t Get Much Better!

Brittan Vineyards

I’ve been at the Burgundy game for 30 years; tasting my way through every village of the Cote, north to south and back again. I’ve personally visited with vignerons through thick and thin on more than 2 dozen occasions. It’s maddening some times, the elusive bottle of mind-bending Pinot.

Oregon ain’t no picnic either, might be even more frustrating. Pinot won’t be tamed, tricked, cajoled, manipulated, masked. Cabernet? Grow it anywhere; it’ll still show its stuff. Try that with Pinot and you might as well sell it off to the distillery.

Estimates put the top performers – those who garner the BIG points – at less than 1% of all growers.

So imagine the look on my face when reading the headlines in the Wine Advocate,

“Brittan’s wines with low pH and firm acidity (without sacrificing flavor) are sure to send bolts of rapture through lovers of great Burgundy” .

Visions of Mortet went dancing through my head. Let me conclude by saying, any bottles remaining after this pre-sale will find themselves quietly resting next to verticals of Aubert’s best in my cellar.

Don’t dilly dally…

Available for a short time…

 

 

2012 Melville Sta Rita Hills Estate Pinot | “Gorgeous, Radiant Wine” says Galloni

Thanks Nancy Pastor, The Wall Street Journal for the picture

Melville Estate – Tops in 2012 for Sta Rita Hills!

If Santa Barbara isn’t squarely on your radar, it should be.

Galloni opened his July 15 review with,

“A palpable energy and the thrill of discovery accompanied my tastings in Santa Barbara this year.”

Looks like big name Pinot producers from Napa and Sonoma have some competition on their hands. Melville in particular.

A long-time favorite, Greg Brewer and his team turned in a set of 2012s that flat out stunned Mr. Galloni. From fruit grown on their estate in the Santa Rita Hills AVA, Melville’s 2012 Pinot was the best of the bunch.

Galloni dubbed it

“One of the most polished, refined and aromatically expressive wines I have tasted from Melville…”

crowning it 94 points and saying

“What a gorgeous, radiant and totally sexy wine…”

Melville’s Lompoc estate, planted on various sub soils – predominantly Lompoc dune sand, clay loam and shale – performed brilliantly in 2012. The increased hang time allowed by the lazy, foggy mornings added up to picture perfect growing conditions. Brewer was able to harvest gorgeous fruit, with acidities to balance the striking fruit profiles and stunning aromatics.

Personally, these remind me of his ’07s – bursting with pleasure, balance like none other.

Gorgeous stuff, indeed!melville-2012-estate-pinot-noir-sta-rita-hills

Lail Vineyards – A TRUE American Tale!

Lail House

Having been in the biz this long, I’m often guilty of wandering back to Europe when writing about California wines – I’ve even been called out on it…

But this is a family’s story so deeply rooted in the vinous fabric of America that even I can’t think of anywhere else but Napa when sharing their story. Follow me now; this one has a lot of forks in the road…

It all began in the late 19th century when Robin Lail’s Great Grand-Uncle Gustav Niebaum (ya’ the one and only!) built Inglenook Vineyards – talk about an American icon. By the turn of the 20th century, American wine had no rival. Niebaum’s Inglenook passed down to his Great-Nephew, John Daniel Jr. in 1936 after Prohibition, and Daniel Jr. would be the catalyst for bringing many of Niebaum’s dreams to life.

Daniel Jr., along with Robert Mondavi, made the Napa Valley appellation a reality. The sale of Inglenook in the 1960s made history, as it signified a family’s legacy in the Napa Valley.

Enter Robin Lail – John Daniel Jr.’s daughter. She inherited the Napanook Vineyard (again, ya’ the one and only!) and, after a brief hiatus, “went on to co-found Dominus in 1982 with her sister Marcia Smith and the brilliant winemaker Christian Moueix”.

Pride of ownership beckoned (obviously) and after a successful run with Bill Harlan, Robin sold her portion of Dominus and Merryvale, hooked up with rock-star wine-maker Philippe Melka in 1998, and gave the world Lail Vineyards!Lail Logo

 

A Jewel in Chateauneuf – Bosquet des Papes Cuvee “A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere”

Captivating Chateauneuf

Captivating Chateauneuf

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape – the place, the wine, and everything about its history and local quirks (a municipal decree in ’54 banned the overhead flying, landing or taking off of flying saucers). The wines are beyond unique. For those who have spent time studying the world’s finest vinous treasures (I’ve been at it three decades plus) it usually comes down to a choice between Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf – in terms of selecting a favorite wine from France. Sure, there are fabulous wines made by a handful of superlative growers sprinkled throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, Loire Valley, and such, but overwhelming majorities of truly phenomenal wines are most often concentrated in the aforementioned Big 3. Burgundy tugs at my heart, but a glance at my collection clearly indicates my adoration for Chateauneuf.

And when it comes to selecting some of my favorites, consistency across vintages is part of my criteria. Nicolas Boiron and family – Les Bosquet des Papes – immediately come to mind. In this century alone, across all of their various cuvees and vintages, I can think of at least 20 individual bottlings worthy of the “outstanding” descriptor. These are wines of extremely high caliber, wines which scream of their cepage and terroir, and which may be identified from one another across vintages; they are not homogenous, uniqueness is their calling card.

At the top of the list for me is their pure Grenache cuvee, which honors current winemaker Nicolas Boiron’s predecessor. Grown in the Gardiole lieu-dit (sandy soils; which seem to produce a lot of my top choices) and fermented 50% whole cluster, Nicolas Boiron and family introduced this mind-bending offering in 1998. Parker has consistently lauded the wine, rendering the tiny production all the more difficult to acquire. Moreover, Jeb Dunnuck recently pegged it as a “Best of Chateauneuf” selection in his 2014 report (may not ever find another bottle, now).

Simply put, in the words of Parker,

“Consumers should be looking out for this domaine’s wines as the quality has soared even higher than it already was.”

 

2012 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere

The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted, the inky 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grandpere comes from old-vine Grand PereGrenache vines planted in mostly sandy soils of the Gardiole lieu-dit. Aged in a combination of concrete tank and older, larger barrels, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012 that reveals tons of sweet red and black fruits, lavender, pepper, licorice and hints of garrigue. Beautifully concentrated, seamless and textured, with extraordinary elegance and polish to its tannin, it’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage and will have two decades or more of longevity.

97 points – (JD) Wine Advocate

This may take some special effort to locate (at a price that’s not outrageous), but it’s a truly special bottle from a truly gifted estate…

 

Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in White Burgundy

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up" - Antonio Galloni

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up” – Antonio Galloni

 

The history of Burgundy includes the Citeaux of the Cistercian Monks – a beautiful, fine old Abbey south of Dijon – where wine was fermented on its fine lees in frigid cellars through summer months. The ancient fermentation practices recognized by the Monks of the Cistercian Order during the Middle Ages as well as the practice of selecting specific plots – or Crus – for the production of fine wines were the corner stone for today’s greatest wines of the Cote D’Or. Allowing wines to naturally ferment in barrel on their fine sediment – known as lees – produces beneficial levels of Carbon Dioxide (a natural preservative). This ancient practice allows modern proponents to avoid the overuse of Sulfur Dioxide in the winemaking practice.

 

Meet Mounir Saouma, a Lebanese monk who – along with his wife Rotem Brakir – established what has become the most talked about, Beaune-based micro-negociant in the Burgundy trade today. Mounir’s passion for great Burgundy was born from his work alongside Cistercian Monks not only in Burgundy at the Citeaux, but further blossomed during his time with the Monks while in Israel – where he met Rotem. Through the assistance of the Cistercians, the couple visited Citeaux many times together, and from there a mutual passion for the Cote’s great terroirs and the Cistercian’s vinification practices was ignited.

 

After leaving the order in 1999, Mounir established his micro-negoce with Rotem, naming it Lucien le Moine. Following the practices of old, their first guideline is to work exclusively with 1er and Grand Cru vineyard plots within the Cote D’Or – precisely as the Cistercians deemed appropriate. Taking this practice one step further, each vintage brings a new selection however as Mounir realizes that what makes Genevrieres perfect in 2004 might omit it from selection in 2007. And therein we find the magic that has made this micro-negoce the jewel of the Cote: a selection process to rival the greatest in the region.

 

Each harvest, Mounir visits his friends in Burgundy just after the harvest – when the first pressing has been completed. Once the selections have been made, the juice – jus-wine as it’s known – is placed in the Lucien le Moine barrels for aging. The le Moine barrels add yet another dimension, being from the Jupilles, which provide some of the most consistently tight-grained oak of any French forest. Toasted to the le Moine specifications, each barrel in the cellars is ordered precisely for Mounir, and Jupilles makes up 100% of the barrel selection Chez le Moine.

 

Once barreled, the juice rests on 100% of its fine lees without racking throughout its entire fermentation process. The wine is encouraged to feed upon these fine lees – through the ancient process of “battonages”, or stirring of the lees – which protects, balances and promotes complexity in the fermenting wine. During this process, the barrels are resting in the le Moine cellars, which are closed, cold, humid and very deep. And thanks to this, the malolactic fermentation process is able to last for many months – another aspect of the winemaking process that leads to exquisitely layered and profoundly flavored wines from Lucien le Moine.

 

Finally, when each barrel announces its readiness for bottling, the le Moine team bottles with respect for the ancient ways: never are their wines fined or filtered. This method allows for the naturally occurring Carbon Dioxide to be present in the finished wines, a natural element that ensures the ability for each of the Lucien le Moine wines to age gracefully for decades. And thanks to this element, Mounir recommends decantation for each of the wines when consuming them young. Each and every element of terroir – from the most sublime nuances of minerality to the brilliance of the Cote’s acidity – combine with the almost indescribable layers of extreme flavor alive in the very grapes themselves, and come together to build a taste sensation that one is not likely soon to ever forget. Tasting these wines is truly vinous perfection!

 

Just how good are they?

 

In the words of Antonio Galloni, when describing the 2010 le Moine White Burgundies, he would say:

 

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up…. This dazzling, drop-dead gorgeous wine is a pure pleasure to taste. Frankly, it is impossible to spit.”

 

And Steven Tanzer – after scoring the top wines here 99 points for 2010, succinctly summarized:

 

“The 2010s here should be extraordinary.”

 

Might be terribly difficult to locate – at a price suitable – but I assure you the search is worth it; exemplary wines!