Domaine Jean Michel Guillon – Among the most succulent wines in the Cote!

Serious Winemaker, Succulent Wines

Serious Winemaker, Succulent Wines

 

Succulent… Now there’s a word that you might not associate too often with the wines of Gevrey Chambertin. In fact, most tastings involving a large collection of Gevreys would render the participant’s palate rather exhausted from the sheer levels of tannins and the structure these wines are famous for. But one taste of Jean-Michel’s 1er Crus – in particular recently experienced 2011s from the lieux dits of Petite Chapelle and Champonnets – left me so refreshed and with a desire to actually CONSUME a glass of each of those wines that “succulent” (as in ‘juicy, fleshy and thoroughly enjoyable’) just seemed like the most appropriate single-word descriptor I could muster.

 

Jean-Michel set out to conquer this land of Gevrey Chambertin after his first visit to these hallowed vineyards prior to establishing his estate in 1980. A passionate, driven and competitive aeronautics professional, Jean-Michel befriended a local grower by the name of Rene Gallard after purchasing an initial bare plot in Gevrey nearly 35 years ago. Driven by a desire to establish a new legacy, Jean-Michel dedicated himself to emulating those who came before him – the Rousseau, Dugat-Py and Denis Bachelet estates representing his inspiration.

 

From the beginning Jean-Michel obsessed with quality. Having relocated to Burgundy from Paris – retiring from aeronautics and bringing his family in tow – Jean-Michel would settle for nothing less than world class and world renowned wines. His passion and dedication would soon garner him not only the respect and admiration of the national press in France – where he was honored by professional French wine magazines with numerous accolades and stars – but likewise he would be named the president of the Gevrey-Chambertin winemakers syndicate.

 

Jean-Michel’s wines would quickly attract attention worldwide. Consistently among the most impressive of their genre, Jean-Michel’s 1er Crus as well as Grand Crus (to include his Mazis Chambertin and numerous Gevrey 1er Crus bottlings) would begin garnering top marks with the 2002 releases when Allen Meadows (of Burghound) confirmed, “Jean-Michel Guillon is indisputably a man on a mission to make world class wines.” From that singular moment, Jean Michel’s star would begin its epic rise (those 2002s dubbed “Outstanding” by Burghound) and within less than a decade Guillon joined the ranks of the village’s most esteemed.

 

Today, the estate of Jean-Michel Guillon is routinely mentioned as among the top less than a half dozen producers in the town of Gevrey Chambertin. And though this estate is only in its first generation (Jean-Michel’s son has officially joined him as of 2004, yet the reins have yet to pass), one thing is certain: this is an estate where the legacy will most certainly live on. With the foundation that has been established by the passionate and formidable Jean-Michel, the estate he has positioned for the future is undoubtedly worthy of the village known for producing the “King of Wines & the Wine of Kings”.

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2011 Burgundy – A Vintage Certainly Worth Buying – IF You Can Find Them

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

Let’s cut right to the chase: My conclusion on the 2011 Red Burgundy vintage (born from recent tastings as well as ongoing critical analysis of the region’s top estates) is that this is most certainly a collection of wines worthy of representation in any serious Burgundy aficionado’s cellar. Naturally I’m referring to the top estates when I make this statement, as the weather conditions preceding harvest (practically from the moment of bud-break and continuing unabated throughout August) were anything but ideal – Burgundy continues to witness more August harvests in this century than were ever reported in the previous. So it should be repeated (with exclamation point added) that serious consumers of Burgundy should be highlighting serious producers of Burgundy on that proverbial shopping list when it comes to filling their carts with 2011s.

That point being duly noted, 2011 is most certainly a vintage that yours truly will be buying not only as a professional but also as a consumer. Simply put, the wines showcase purity of place – immediately out of the bottle – while offering succulent fruit which is unencumbered by that “classic vintage” tannic spine. I expect to enjoy these 2011s across the span of the next decade (plus) while I’m patiently awaiting the unwinding of my 2005s (which remain tight as nails) as well as my 2010s (which have now quietly slipped into a slumber that I honestly hadn’t predicted). And based on the comments from the wine-makers I’ve spoken to, they concur that the 2011s will make for pleasurable drinking young as we monitor those more tannic wines that are tucked away in our cellars.

And what of “hot spots” for 2011? Where are the “go-to” appellations in this vintage? In my analysis, I have discovered some truly outstanding wines (very nearly rivaling their 2010 counterparts) from the villages of Pommard and Volnay for the southern reaches of the Cotes de Beaune – again, stressing that I have paid primary attention to the top estates. Prime examples of these successes may be found at Nicolas Rossignol, Pousse D’Or and Henri Boillot. Another “hot spot” for 2011, the hill of Corton turned in notable successes to include the estates of the aforementioned Pousse D’Or (whose Clos du Roi is especially worth seeking out) as well as Etienne de Montille’s biodynamic farmed Domaine de Montille where his version of Clos du Roi is quite unique from Landanger’s yet equally thrilling.

Turning our eyes and palates north, a particular favorite of mine may be found in the tiny village of Morey St Denis, where I have discovered a healthy dose of superb Grand Crus to include a host of outstanding Clos St Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes Mares bottlings. These examples offer what may be the most interesting and delicious variations from these hallowed vineyards since the ‘05s and 2010s – they’re THAT good (in particular Virgile Lignier Michelet’s 2011 Clos de la Roche is a showstopper). And across the line-up I found the 2011s from Romain at Domaine Taupenot Merme consistently excellent to outstanding – very nearly equaling his chart topping 2010s.

From there, I’ve found relatively consistent results throughout the Cote de Nuits to include multiple successes specifically in Gevrey Chambertin. In particular I was struck by the generous style at Domaine Jean Michel Guillon (where these folks are bottling some of the most succulent wines in the Cote) – if you can find any of Guillon’s Premier Cru bottlings (Champonnets, Petite Chapelle, etc.) BUY THEM. Other highlights in Gevrey include Dugat-Py and Geantet-Pansiot – to name a couple of the very best (sure to be on my professional as well as personal short list). From there – as long as enthusiasts perform their due diligence – the Cote de Nuits is plentifully packed with excellent to outstanding (90-95+ point rated) wines.

Just how good IS 2011? Well, in the more positive words posited by Allen Meadows of Burghound, he informed us it would be a shame to overlook this vintage and even stressed that he himself would be layering in certain selections. After all, to cherry pick exclusively 5-star vintages clearly isn’t the point if you’re a Burgundy enthusiast seeking to CONSUME the Cote’s treasures products. It’s those vintages nestled between the “classics” that offer daily drinking alternatives.

So there we have it: 2011 is most certainly a vintage worthy of serious Burgundy consumer’s attention. It would be a travesty to overlook such a vintage – one considered “the most interesting vintage after 2005 and 2010” according to (arguably) the world’s foremost authority on the subject. So if your merchant isn’t yet stocking these wines, ask them why. Better yet, if you’re not seeking these 2011s out, perhaps it’s time to begin filling out that shopping list.

Tick-tock…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Domaine Rene Leclerc – Pas de Chêne Pour Moi s’il Vous Plaît

Traditionalists through and through!

Traditionalists through and through!

Generational changes in Burgundy – when responsibilities for the care and management for the family Domaine are passed from pere to fils – often mark a time of exploration, experimentation and growth. As the new generation spreads its wings, intent upon honoring the past while developing their own ineffaceable style, the newly appointed vignerons frequently test the waters with all sorts of trickery. But in the case of Domaine Rene Leclerc, no such “nonsense” is to be witnessed. So rooted in tradition is the “young” Leclerc – Francois, to be specific – that his father’s teachings have actually been antiquated (whereas Rene’s philosophy called for the limited use of one-year old barrels, that recipe has been replaced by a strict avoidance of anything but older wood).

Prior to 1976 there was one Domaine Leclerc, run by the brothers Leclerc: Philippe and Rene. The former – a man who professes to balance modernism with traditionalism, while leaning heavily on a high percentage of new wood – found himself constantly at odds with the latter – a truculent man deeply rooted in what many consider an antiquated style of winemaking. When the two men split their domaine in 1976, a divergent style would emerge from their identical holdings within Gevrey that to this day is as different as night and day. On the one hand there is the Philippe style, with the wines often marked by their 18 to 24 months in oak. While on the other side one witnesses the Rene versions of the exact same lieu dits where (as of 2005) absolutely no new wood at all is used for the wines.

And yet when one sets out to compare and contrast the wines (once bottled), the Leclerc 1er Crus – be they from Champeaux or Combe Aux Moines – while qualitatively similar, consistently split the room. As for professional critics (Burghound comes to mind), vintage reviews tend to run consistent (the 2009s received nearly identical points). However, once the wines are poured for Burgundy lovers, that’s when the tale of style vs terroir makes itself heard. It’s a fascinating experiment. But where does this individuality come from? Who is to be thanked for the style – the magic? – at Rene Leclerc?

Rene Leclerc – father to Francois and brother of Philippe – has long believed in relatively cool fermentations (contrary to many of his contemporaries), minimal handling of his wines and the barest use of new wood (about 20%). And while his wines were certainly drinkable through the 1970s and 80s, they lacked that certain “punch”. Joining the team in 2002, Francois (Rene’s son) – having trained in Oregon – would bring to his father’s domaine nothing particularly radical in terms of vinification routines or viticultural practices, and yet the improvements were immediately obvious. And yet, other than reverting to 100% used oak, it seemed that Francois had done nothing to change his family’s ways. In fact, visitors to the domaine would swear that Rene – not Francois – is running the show, even today.

So what it is; why are these wines (particularly in successful vintages such as 2009), so transparent and laden with fruit? Why, when one compares the brothers Leclerc’s Champeaux bottlings, is one marked by its wood (Philippe’s), and the other so stacked with high toned fruit and minerality (Rene’s)? And why, when one compares the wines across the range is this stylistic diversity so consistent?  The age of the vines is the same, the sites are the same; so: what is it? In a word, the difference is: oak. At the end of the day, when all is said and done, the MAJOR difference between the two Leclerc philosophies (and there are plenty) is oak.

If you’re one who seeks uniqueness, freshness, individuality, and above all else terroir in your wines (and let’s face it, if you’re drinking Burgundy, these are precisely the traits you seek – above all else) then the 2009s from Rene Leclerc will fit very nicely into your collection. From their Village Gevrey to any number of their 1er Crus from Gevrey, each is an individual expression of that particular lieu dit. And with the son’s insightful decision to eliminate the use of new wood (ca 2005), each wine’s expression of terroir is further elevated by beautiful and succulent fruit that is completely unmasked by even the slightest interference by oak.

Add to that sale prices that represent the lowest currently available prices for each of these selections (with some being the lowest prices ever seen for these lieu dits from ANY vintage) and you have one of the more compelling offers to come out of Burgundy in several years.

For a complete listing of currently available 2009s from Rene Leclerc, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~rene%20leclerc%202009

Domaine Denis Mortet – Describing a Master…

Laurence et Arnaud Mortet (courtesy – domaine-denis-mortet.fr)

 

The story of Domaine Denis Mortet is not a long one. It does not begin in some 19th century castle in the ruins of an old family vineyard. And it continues today only because of the will of one very strong widow. And an incredible son…

Clive Coates MW, in his book entitled Cote D’Or, chronicled the Mortet story in a Domaine Profile. That Profile told us all the first tale of Mortet. Clive only produced his “Domaine Profiles” on the very best Domaines for that book. By limiting these reports to the top 60 or so Domaines in all of Burgundy – out of the thousands in existence – Clive set out to establish a “hit list” of the most desirable Domaines of our time. That list still stands as a guide for serious Burgundy connoisseurs in search of the very best.

Domaine Mortet began with 1ha of vines, owned by Denis Mortet’s father, Charles. Charles had no interest in the wine business, so he left the vines to be farmed by others until 1977 when Denis came to work with him at the age of 21. When Denis’ brother joined the team later, in 1982, a company was formed. From the time Denis joined his father until 1982, Denis had worked to increase the family holdings through rental agreements and small purchases. So, by 1982, the family company now had grown to include a total of 8ha, just about 18 acres and by 1984, they were bottling on their own.

Now, while the company may have been young, Denis Mortet had set about to secure contracts on vineyards which were quite old. Of that he was very proud. Denis was an incredible perfectionist – something that would finally, many say, be his undoing. He also went about learning the ways of wine-making from Henri Jayer, of whom Clive wrote, “The history of present-day Burgundy could not be written without him.” Indeed, Mortet knew exactly where he was going!

Domaine Denis Mortet was first exported in 1984 and by 1985, Clive Coates first tasted and reported on them. A star was born! All Denis needed was more land.

His wish came true. Around 1993 or so, a famous land owner, with parcels in some of the most prestigious Crus in Burgundy decided to retire. His name was Guyot and he had watched Denis for a few years, becoming more and more impressed with the care Denis took in the vineyards and the incredible wines coming out of the cellars. He asked Denis if Denis would like to take over the Guyot estate. With one gesture, the Domaine Denis Mortet became what we see today – nearly 30 acres.

Clive Coates described Denis Mortet, saying,

“Denis Mortet is a man of passion as well as perfectionism. Touring round his vineyard parcels shows quite plainly his commitment. You feel he knows every single vine personally. And the wines, full, generous, multi-dimensional, rich and expansive, have a lot more to them than most. This is a splendid domaine. And the wines are getting better and better.”
Clive Coates, MW, Cote D’Or, 1997

further, Remington Norman, in his book on Burgundy, added,

“The quality of the wines is remarkable. From the first skirmish with the Bourgogne Rouge, it is clear that Denis knows the technical skills of wine-making and has its art at his fingertips. The fact that he works his 8ha mostly alone makes the achievement the more extraordinary. These wines are among the best in the commune and would easily earn their place in a cellar of fine red Burgundy.”
Remington Norman, The Great Domaines of Burgundy, 1993

more recently, Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator added,

“Mortet had become one of Burgundy’s stars in the 14 years since he established Domaine Denis Mortet, focusing on single vineyard wines from 28.5 acres of small plots he owned in the Côte d’Or. Dozens of his wines earned rave reviews, including a Clos de Vougeot 1996 that scored 99 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale and a Chambertin 1998 that scored 98.”
Bruce Sanderson, reporting in the Wine Spectator

finally, Burghound considered Denis,

“Nothing if not intense and he’s an open book when it comes to his wines as he loves to explain every aspect, and in detail, from bud break to the bottle. While it sometimes seems that Mortet is in search of the proverbial magic bullet to make his wines even better, very real progress is being made here even if it isn’t exactly in a straight line…And speaking of impressed, both vintages here are excellent but the 2005s should be excellent.”
Burghound – Allen Meadows

I suppose not a lot more could be added by this author except to say that the wine world truly lost a master when, last January 2006, Denis tragically passed away. His son, Arnaud, had been working alongside the master for two full vintages to include the brilliant 2005s. Denis’ wife, too, had been in the cellars and it is her strong will and faith that have lifted the Domaine and kept the work of her late husband alive for us all to continue to enjoy.

I trust you’ll find this offer comes to you with much respect for this family and their incredible – though short – and famous history…

For more information regarding currently available selections, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~denis%20mortet<<<<

 

All the best in wine and life!
Christopher

 

Domaine Virgile Lignier-Michelot – Among the “Must-Haves” for 2010 ~ and beyond

The man behind many of 2010s most memorable wines!

Having heard much recently of the rise in popularity of this estate with multiple international wine critics as well as professional sommeliers, I made a point to elbow my way through the crowd surrounding Virgile’s booth at this year’s Grand Jours De Bourgogne. Tasting his wines revealed not only some of the highlights of the event, but likewise one of the wines of the vintage.

Based in Morey-Saint-Denis on the Rue des Jardins, just around the corner from Domaine Perrot Minot is one of the oldest properties in the village. Originally established at the end of the last century (circa 1900), today’s Domaine Lignier-Michelot – its stone walls modernly adorned with a strikingly red metal Domaine placard – reflects the dedication and determination of one man: Virgile Lignier. As the third generation of vignerons to tend the family’s holdings, he is the first – and only – Lignier insistent upon estate bottling – and so much more.

Virgile’s ancestral line before him witnessed the splitting of the family property throughout the 1900s, with his grandfather (Maurice Lignier) being the first to plant vineyards on their holdings, which spans some 21 acres across Morey, Chambolle and Gevrey. In the 1960s, Virgile’s father continued the vineyard work, taking over for Maurice, being content to sell the family’s production to local negociants. Joining his father in 1992, Virgile would begin instituting many of the improvements witnessed in his wines today – beginning with estate bottling.

By the 2000 vintage, Virgile was the sole director of the Domaine upon his father’s retirement. Advancements Chez Lignier-Michelot included Virgile’s move to a vineyard management philosophy known as lutte raisonnee, which further led him to experiments with biodynamic viticulture. This move to agriculture Biologique now complete – since the 2006 vintage – Lignier-Michelot is in the process of obtaining certification. Further advancements Chez Lignier-Michelot (some as recent as the 2008 vintage) include higher percentages of whole clusters during vinification; a move that no doubt resulted in a collection of the most elegant and transparent 2010s one is likely to experience.

As a leader amongst the finest estates in the village of Morey-Saint-Denis – all of whom seem to be annually meeting together towards further refining their wares – Virgile Lignier is producing wines of undeniable complexity, as well as purity and transparency that are simply stunning. These traits are no doubt thanks in part to the average age of his vines, which often exceed 50 years of age. Burghound has for the last several vintages characterized these as “among the most elegant in the Cote D’Or”; while particular 2010s from this Domaine were described by the Wine Advocate as “striking, impeccable, elegant, racy and absolutely irresistible.”

Indeed it is appropriate to conclude that today’s Lignier-Michelot is on that list of must-haves for those serious about Burgundy’s very best.

For currently available 2010s, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~lignier%20michelot%202010<<<<

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet – A Gevrey-Chambertin Superstar

Nicolas Rossignol in the cellar.

 

I first encountered these 100% biodynamically farmed (certified as of 2005), increasingly transparent and terroir driven wines in 2002, while traveling Burgundy to sample the newly bottled vintage. Tasting Nicolas Rossignol-Trapet’s wines again this year at the GJDB reveals a Domaine truly on their game.

 

Rossignol-Trapet is a Domaine that was formed by the marriage of the Rossignol and Trapets. The Rossignol family hails from Volnay dating to the 1500s and the Trapet side of this family landed in Gevrey circa the 18th century. Through the marriage of Nicolas Rossignol to Florence Trapet, today’s Domaine Rossignol-Trapet now encompasses roughly 35 acres, spanning nearly a dozen unique lieu dits.

 

Recognizing that improved vines and healthier grapes naturally result in superior wines, in 1997 brothers Nicolas and David embarked on their mission to convert their vineyards to biodynamic agriculture. In a recent interview, Nicolas clarified this decision by stating that in the beginning, the decision to move to biodynamic agriculture was not necessarily to produce better wines, as his family had been offering top quality for many years. The decision, however, was based on his desire to pass down to the next generation a healthy and vibrant land capable of producing higher and higher quality wines for the decades to come.

 

Today’s offers from the Domaine Rossignol-Trapet reflect the attention to vineyard management and improvements in the cellars that were launched in the late 1990s. Recently released vintages as well as newly reviewed offers of this Domaine’s entire range have garnered the most impressive reviews to date from the professional press – worldwide. In the words of Burghound, “They are becoming a truly excellent domaine.”

 

For details on currently available offers from this estate, please visit:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~rossignol%20trapet%202010<<<<

 

and:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~rossignol%20trapet<<<<