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…

Domaine du Clos des Fees – Hervé Bizeul’s Ethereal Cuvee le Clos des Fees

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

Among my most lasting memories of the Roussillon (France’s deep south-west at the border with Spain) was a visit to the region in the early 1990s. My host – pedal to the metal in his classic Citroen – zigzagged us up a seemingly abandoned, steeply angled road as we headed to the summit of a vineyard-capped mountain off the coast, near Port-Vendres.

Suddenly, he slammed on his brakes, summoning me to exit the car. Not quite to the summit, he said we’d made about 2,000 feet elevation, bringing my attention to the crumbling limestone slopes adjacent.

Dangling from the crumbling rock were the roots of vines from several meters above. The scree-covered slopes, eroded from years of wind-swept conditions were now exposing the roots of numerous vines. Yet these ancient roots had somehow remained burrowed into the mountain, their eventual source of nourishment seemingly dozens of meters below. Over the decades – battling every scourge from Mother Nature – these roots of time survived; life support for the ancient bush vines of multiple varieties covering the mountain above us.

These are the types of ancient vines and soils which comprise one fraction of the many complex parts that come together, resulting in some of the greatest wines now being made in the Roussillon. I’ve made this trip many additional times, searching for greatness.

I’m here to say that I’ve found it; and it resides at Domaine du Clos des Fees. Hervé Bizeul works with the most important terroirs on earth, every one of them available to him in the Roussillon. Tasting the fruits of his labor will utterly impress even the most seasoned tasters.

This is the kind of wine you want – it deserves discovery – and you’re going to be talking about it for years.

2012 Domaine du Clos des Fees Cotes du Roussillon Villages le Clos des Fees

My favorite of the lineup, the 2012 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Le Clos des Fées is a sensational effort that’s most likely the wine of the vintage. Made from 50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan and the rest Mourvèdre that was aged 16 months in roughly 60% new French oak, it’s a classic, structured, age-worthy Roussillon that exhibits lots of blackberry and cassis fruit, smoked herbs, licorice and scorched earth. Full-bodied and concentrated, yet light on its feel, with a firm, focused finish, give it 2-3 years and enjoy bottles through 2027. There are few wines from the Roussillon I’d rather have in my cellar.

97 points – Wine Advocate (JD)

Hunt this one down; tell me what you think…

Super Value Minervois from Languedoc Roussillon

Hello to all my FB and blogger friends (especially those who like wine!)

Perhaps you know, but I was in the vinous world for 25 years before O’s platform ushered the shuttering of my wine company.

This week, my long-time colleague Cynthia Hurley ~ one of the most famous American-based European wine importers I’ve ever worked with ~ accepted me as her broker!

I’ll keep this brief and let the wines do the talkin’!

All you do is click, read, decide and follow the instructions. Cynthia & Co. handles the details ~ I make a buck or two. God is good! Thank you for your prayers!

Ordering is easy: email: cynthia@cynthiahurley.com and indicate your desired quantity. In stock and ready for delivery next week.

Here’s this week’s selection:

Remember to tell ’em Massie sent ‘cha ~

Super Value Minervois from Languedoc Roussillon ~

Chateau Fabas Le Mourral 2007<<<<.

 

Updates from The Greats – Donelan Family Wines

 

Donelan Family Wines

If you have plans for being in the Sonoma area in early August, add this event to your itinerary, NOW.

For ME, when it comes to selecting the top 5 or so greatest experiences my palate has enjoyed, considering wines from America, there will simply not be a better offer to come our way this year. For true Syrah aficionados, Grenache fanatics or lovers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, Donelan Family Wines (formerly known as Pax) bottles the most expressive, sublime, powerful and hedonistic single-vineyard-designated and blended wines of this generation.

I have been drinking and collecting these exquisite wines for many vintages now. I encourage you to do the same.

Donelan Summer 2010 Open House and current offers:

via Donelan Summer 2010 Open House.

DONELAN FAMILY WINES – CHATEAUNEUF AND HERMITAGE FROM AMERICAN LEGENDS

 

Donelan Family (PAX)

If price alone predicates your daily “quaffer” selections, vinously speaking, then perhaps this collection will fall somewhere outside your comfort zone. But for ME, when it comes to selecting the top 5 or so greatest experiences my palate has enjoyed, considering wines from America, there will simply not be a better offer to come our way this year. For true Syrah aficionados, Grenache fanatics or lovers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, Donelan Family Wines (formerly known as Pax) bottles the most expressive, sublime, powerful and hedonistic single-vineyard-designated and blended wines of this generation.

I have been drinking and collecting these exquisite wines for many vintages now. I encourage you to do the same.

A Very Special Offer of Pax & Donelan Verticals.

Enkidu – Russian River Meets Ampuis

So I found myself at the conclusion of a highly satisfying wine tasting last week, the final wine at which was a staggering St.-Joseph from the estate of Cuilleron in the Northern Rhone. The guests at my event and I had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during our intimate gathering together at Bistro des Amis and I had excused myself to assist a new client with a wine purchase. Inviting my guests to finish off any wines remaining in the half-full bottles while I was other-wise occupied resulted – quite naturally – in the IMMEDIATE draining of the juice left in the Cuilleron bottle. “What ever am I to drink as I pull orders and do paper-work tonight”, I happily thought upon my return.

Then I remembered the wine I had recently ear-marked for this week’s Wine-of-the-Week!

I gathered up my things, headed back to the wine shop and immediately plunged my trusty wine key into another bottle of this staggering (or at the very least stunning) bottle of Russian River Valley Syrah. YES, it absolutely holds its ground after drinking a $90 bottle of 95 point rated Northern Rhone Syrah! Doubt me? Don’t buy it, please! Leave it for me – this is my latest daily drinker. I’ve already drank 3 bottles and it’s only been here a week.

OK, so perhaps you’d like a bit of background…

The “old fella” behind the project known as Enkidu is Philip Staehle. I affectionately refer to him as I do because he’s been around this business longer than I have. In fact, he’s made Sonoma his professional hang-out since I was just a lad in this business. So deeply rooted in the vineyards of the Russian River is ol’ Staehle that it’s no wonder that another “old man” of the business, Parker, immediately announced to the world that the wines of Enkidu are not to be missed:

Robert Parker reviewed Enkidu’s wines in 2007 and 2008. He was extremely complimentary both years:

“This impressive new producer has turned out some attractive reds that merit serious attention.”­

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (Aug 2007)

“These wines continue to impress me as elegant examples of Rhone Ranger blends.” ­

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (Aug 2008)

And so it is with great pleasure that I offer to you (before I drink it all) my allocation of the great Enkidu 2005:

2005 Enkidu Syrah Odyssey Vineyard Russian River Valley
Enkidu Wine
Syrah Dry Red Table Wine
Russian River Valley, Sonoma, North Coast, California, USA

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2008
Rating: 92
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2008 – 2018

“An absolutely opaque, black, ruby purple robe sets the taster up for one of the most memorable and deeply complex Syrahs of the entire vintage, certainly of the Russian River appellation. Mirroring the aromatics of Northern Rhone super Syrahs from Cote Rotie, this 2005 Odyssey offers nuances of roasted meats, captivating charcoal / graphite, black berry pie, toasted bread / pain grille’ and buckets of decadent fruits allied to deeply complex French Oak. The flavors are captivating to echo the aromas and caress the palate to include the deep black berry and smoky French Oak flavors. Tasted after a near-triple digit Northern Rhone, this was that wine’s equal. Stunning, just stunning.”
– Cepage Noir

for details regarding availability and pricing, contact me at the shop…

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
713-524-9144
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005