Among The Most Ethereal Wines Of Gevrey Chambertin – Domaine Geantet-Pansiot

Vincent Geantet & Friends – True Artisans in Gevrey Chambertin

 

My most recent trip to visit the Côte was to attend the Grand Jours de Bourgogne, a week-long event where more than a thousand wines are made available for tasting through day-long events at venues from Marsannay to Meursault and from Chablis to the Mâconnais. It was – and always is – a thorough (and thoroughly exhausting) event; thousands of people from around the globe descending upon my beloved Côte – a farming community, to be honest – to taste their most sought after Montrachets and catch a glimpse of the “rock-star” who bottles their must-have Musigny.

For me, it’s a chance to say hello to long-time friends, standing quietly at their booths, unencumbered by the masses jammed together like sardines in a can at the Mugnier table. These are the real Burgundians, the men and women who capture the attention of Burgundy drinkers. They are the winemakers who work their vineyards, and have done so for generations, to produce the most authentic, layered, terroir driven, soul stirring wines of their respective villages. They are the quiet types who make Burgundies for folks like me – and most likely for folks like YOU, too.

Vincent Geantet – of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot – is one of them. He said hello to me as I approached his table at the Maison de Marsannay, his wines ready and waiting for tasting. I’ve been collecting the wines of this domaine for a decade, visited the vineyards a few years back during harvest. Everything is done by hand here. Each row of vines was being hand-picked by a group – perhaps extended family; they seemed to know one another in a familial way – on the day of my visit. The grapes were the deepest, darkest purple, almost black; the domaine’s parcels some of the oldest vines in the region. As they hand clipped each bunch of berries, another was there to sort out all by the finest berries. By the time everything reached the sorting table, everything looked like glass; the berries headed into the crusher glistening in the light.

Vintage 2012, as many of you may know, was a vintage of greatly reduced yields. Mother Nature threw everything she had at the vignerons, and then came through again for a second round. Therefore, the availabilities of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot wines are drastically reduced; one fifth of what they could normally offer. So locating these treasures could be difficult. Take it from someone who knows first-hand, the hunt is worth it! The magic is there in every wine Geantet-Pansiot bottled for 2012.

And just in case you haven’t heard, I’m not alone in my adoration for this family’s tremendous offerings,

“I have been impressed with the Geantet wines over the past 4 to 5 vintages and 2012 definitely continues this run as the wines are terrific.” — Burghound

My favorite for 2012:

2012 Domaine Geantet-Pansiot Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru

(From 50+ year old vines)

While not as elegant as the Poissenots this is not without its appeal as there is excellent layering to the mix of red and dark berry fruit liqueur aromas that see added breadth in the form of pungent earth and discreet spice notes.  The energetic medium weight plus flavors possess an opulent mouth feel as they brim with palate coating dry extract that buffers the robust but not rustic finish that delivers outstanding depth and length.  Note though that this will not be an early drinker and thus moderate patience is required.

93 points – Allen Meadows, Burghound

Servin Chablis – Revisiting a Favorite – Smashing Wines from Chablis

François Servin - Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyant in Person

François Servin – Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyance in Person

François Servin – one of the more flamboyant winegrowers in Chablis – and his Australian-born winemaker Marc Cameron have been on a qualitative hot streak. With three consecutive vintages of the best juice I’ve tasted here, it’s high time these guys are on your radar. Whether Grand Cru, Premier or straight Village, the Midas touch is strong here, and at work across three of my favorite, most-recent vintages.

With parcels of the oldest vines comprising most of their holdings, ROBERT PARKER’S WINE ADVOCATE in particular insists:

“They deserve a berth in your cellar alongside those prized Raveneaus and Dauvissats.”

Having spent more than adequate time tasting the line-up, I get it. You will, too with a few glasses of their recent releases. Acidities are perfectly balanced with the fruit, but more importantly, the “Chablis” spirit is here – in buckets.

What I seek, foremost – my beloved Kimmeridjian vein of lip-smacking salinity – weaves its way throughout François Servin’s selections.

One of the dynamic duo’s top wines, in particular, the 2014 Le Clos Grand Cru is – in a word – smashing! The new oak is barely there; it’s all about fruit (buckets of it) and that classic vein of acidity. Everything graciously wrapped in harmonic salinity.

 

Looking to the 2015s, the very old-vine Selection Massale is a killer value, made all the more irresistible by a consumer-friendly growing season. There’s a gravel and Granny Smith bouquet which belies the “buy it by the case” pricing. This is my go-to value buy in classic Chablis for 2015. It’s thoroughly irresistible.

 

Without skipping a beat, the team rolled right into 2016 with one of the best versions of their 1er Cru Vaillons I’ve tasted since the late 1990s. Sit back, take in the aromas of the ocean – oysters, sea breezes – and then be prepared to be all consumed by the fruit of this stunner. Brimming with peaches, mandarin oranges and Granny Smiths, all wrapped nicely in Kimmeridjian complexity, this is a true dream of a Vaillons. And having consumed more of this 1er Cru than any other (it’s my favorite) I will tell you that you absolutely should not miss it!

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!

2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” Pinot Noir – Phenomenal Old-Vine Beauty

 

Where The Rippon Magic Happens

 

I first began drinking these phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, earning the chance to work directly with the estate a couple years ago with a small release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well known to friends, family and colleagues alike, with the Wine Advocate on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as “Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious Burgundy 2005’s”. You’ll be as thrilled as I am to hear that Nick’s most well-priced treasure – the 2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” – has finally landed in the States – ready for your immediate, hedonistic enjoyment!

The site which would eventually become known as Rippon was first planted to 25 various varietals during the 1970s by its founder, Rolfe Mills. Rolfe had spent time in the Douro Valley during the 1940s and the site of schist, rich in foliated mica and quartzite, on his land in Central Otago sparked a great curiosity. Rolfe began experimenting with his soils, isolating a parcel on the western board of Roy’s Bay, Lake Wanaka.

This ancient parcel is Rippon’s north-facing escarpment, and it forms the meeting point of terminal moraines and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick (and his father Rolfe before him) is renowned for.

2012 “Rippon Mature Vines”

For those new to these pages, I’d like to take the time to remind folks how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

 

Save

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Thibault Liger-Belair – Making Monumental Moulin-A-Vents!

thibault-liger-belair

Burgundy, the Cote D’Or. For many, this is the place where it all leads. We begin our vinous journey somewhere else – Bordeaux, Cali Cabs, Italy, anywhere else – but all roads lead to Burgundy. It’s a confusing, confounding, maddening, soul satisfying journey. You’ll spend thousands of hours and even more dollars figuring out the players and the plots, and then, maybe (if you’re lucky) you’ll find nirvana. Generations of men and women dedicate their lives to these nearly desolate hills along a mere 35 mile stretch of vineyards where Pinot and Chardonnay reign supreme.

So why in the name of the Cistercians would anyone now turn to the hillsides of Beaujolais? Why look to places such as Moulin-A-Vent for inspiration? Simply put, the 10 Grand Cru vineyards of Beaujolais – with vineyards as old as 60 to 80 years of age – offer consumers stunning complexity (for absurdly low prices) when handled by a winemaker as deft as Thibault.

I tasted each of Thibault’s individual Crus on two separate occasions last year, more impressed as the wines gained structure in the bottle. These are vinified in the same manner as his Premierthibault-liger-belair-moulin-a-vent and Grand Cru Burgundies – no carbonic maceration for Thibault – and the results are chart topping numbers (year in, year out!) It’s time, folks; discover what every critic has been raving about…

His 2011s are available here

 

Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in Chardonnay

Lucien le Moine

 

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!

Domaine Christian Serafin – A Father’s Perseverance Leads to a Domaine’s Greatest Achievements

 

Where vintage 2010 was “enormously pleasing”!

Where vintage 2010 was “enormously pleasing”!

Tales of perseverance, strife and hardship often lend insight to the character of a wine-maker as well as the wines produced as a result of their steadfastness. One tale of immense perseverance is that of a Polish immigrant named Stanislaus Serafin, who in the late 1930s settled in the village of Gevrey Chambertin with his wife. French immigration laws of the day precluded Serafin from practicing his trade as a skilled woodworker, affording him but two choices: the mines or the fields. Fortuitously, Stanislaus would elect for agricultural work, learning the art of the vine in his own way.

 

World War II would interrupt Serafin’s work as a vigneron however, as Stanislaus would enlist in the Polish Independent Highland Rifle Brigade in 1940. Soon after enlistment, he would land in Norway, only to have his Brigade withdrawn again to France by the Allies to defend the Bretagne Peninsula. After the Armistice signing in June of 1940, Serafin’s Brigade would be disbanded and its members relocated throughout Europe. Stanislaus, however, had Gevrey on his mind.

 

Borrowing a motorcycle, Serafin hit the road for Paris. From Paris, he continued on to Dijon; his home, family and vines in Gevrey on his mind. However, just short of his destination, he would be captured and delivered to Frankfurt – where he would spend the next five years of his life. Not until the end of the War in 1945 would Stanislaus Serafin finally return to Gevrey, where his son – born in 1940 – would greet him for the first time.

 

Stanislaus’ first role as vigneron would come as the result of a friendship established with an Italian immigrant – Livera – who had recently become the owner of a Domaine located in Gevrey. Serafin benefitted from the guidance of other vignerons in the village as he worked towards becoming a self-taught wine-maker, and tending Livera’s vines proved the perfect opportunity for the formation of Domaine Serafin.

 

Livera’s son-in-law – a real estate lawyer – assisted Serafin in the acquisition of parcels of land, which had become available at quite reasonable rates after the war due to abandonment, etc. Through these land acquisitions, Stanislaus pieced together what today is known as Domaine Serafin, his son Christian joining him in 1957. Throughout the late 50s and into the 1960s, together they built the house on the property as well as the cave, which is located just below the 1er Cru vineyard of Cazetiers in Gevrey – Christian himself the one who laid the stonework.

 

The wine-making today reflects the father’s meticulous attention to detail in the vineyards – with viticulture being completely organic – while also mirroring the son’s passion for fantastically complex, full bodied wines – Christian incorporates 100% new oak for the 1er Crus, the Vieilles Vignes cuvees as well as the Grand Cru. And while the Domaine only offers two generations worth of history, the results have long been recognized, as evidenced by placements at many of France’s 3-star restaurants. And considering the praise bestowed on the Domaine by international critics from Parker to Burghound, it’s accurate to classify Domaine Serafin among the elite of today’s producers.

 

In particular, it’s worth noting Burghound’s comments regarding his most recent visit Chez Serafin:

 

“I was quite honestly shocked when the normally laconic Christian Serafin, who I promise you is simply never given to hyperbole and has seen some 40+ vintages in his career, announced that 2010 “should be a great vintage. It has everything it needs to be superb.””

 

These are wines well worth the search, wines I personally collect and share – the ’10s are drinking beautifully as of summer 2014 (the date of my latest update).

 

Daniel Barraud – “The King of Maconnais”

For four vintages now, I’ve been singing the praises of not only the man himself, but of every single bottle of wine that emerges from the cellars of this incredible white wine producer in the southern reaches of Burgundy.  Located in the southern Burgundian region known as the Maconnais, just a short drive south of the Cote D’Or, Daniel Barraud’s cellars can be found in the stunning village of Vergisson.  Nestled in the valley between the most massive set of limestone cliffs you’ve ever encountered, the village of Vergisson is home to the most impressive, concentrated, ageworthy and, believe it or not, undervalued white Burgundies of our time.

Daniel Barruad has been quietly and humbly bottling the most magnificent and sublime creations from the Chardonnay grape for more than two decades.  The world began to take notice, however, just 10 years ago, when a now-famous wine writer began to expose these treasures to our eager taste-buds.  That wine writer was none other than our beloved BURGHOUND, and he single-handedly crowned this genius of Vergisson “the finest growers in all of the Maconnais”

The rest, as we say, has been history.

I first began to offer a very small portion of these awesome specimens to my white Burgundy fanatics back with the 2003 vintage.  Those who bought and have subsequently tasted those powerful yet harmoniously balanced beauties have never missed a single additional offer.  These are simply too good to pass up!  And with each passing vintage, as if to show us that perfection grows with time, Daniel just keeps getting better.

This vintage, with the 2006s, once again, BURGHOUND has paid a visit to the master of the Maconnais.  I do not need to tell you the results.  Once again, like a fine Swiss timepiece, Daniel Barraud has performed with perfection.  The allocations, as always, will be small, but the quality, without doubt, is something you’ll not want to miss.

It is with extreme pride, and with great joy, that I bring to all of you – and to little M’s cellar as well (for her birth year is this wonderful 2006) – these staggering 2006s from Daniel Barraud.  Remember the words from BURGHOUND, “his 2006s deserve to be in your cellars”.

from BURGHOUND, regarding Daniel Barraud, after the cellar visit to taste and report on the 2006s:

“I have said this many times but it’s worth repeating: Daniel Barraud is without question one of the finest growers in all of the Maconnais and there is a credible argument to be made that his remarkable consistency vaults him right to the very top of the list. Yes, there are other fine growers who sometimes make wines equal to those of Barraud but this man almost never misses. And as the scores and reviews suggest, both his 2005s and 2006s deserve to be in your cellars.”
                — BURGHOUND, Issue October 2007

for details regarding current availability, to include regions and pricing, please 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
chambertin@sbcglobal.net

Twenty Four and At the Door – My Afternoon at DRC

My wife and I tucked our daughter into bed last night, our evening’s ritual resulting in our collapsing on the couch as we gathered our reading materials and flipped a coin to select our delivery menu for dinner.  We wouldn’t change our routine for the world, for these are the times in our life that are most precious to us, these are the years we cling to as we watch our little M becoming her own self.  We elected Chinese take out on this Thursday night, my wife settled in to her chic-lit novel and I re-engaged my new, most favorite book – the book my wife bought me for Valentine’s Day – a book by Alice Feiring.

When I read the pages of Feiring’s book I experience something truly surreal.  I have traveled so many of the exact same roads, met so many of the exact same people, tasted so many of the exact same wines – and shouted from so many of the exact same mountain tops.  So many times my writings to the few who read my newsletters and blogs have contained the same passionate expletives concerning the direction of wine and the business that I elected as my career path more than 25 years ago.  When I read this woman’s words, I can very nearly literally imagine myself in a balloon, floating above her as she stands in these vineyards and as she tastes wines and as she shakes her head in front of the vultures of the commercial wine industry.

I read with great glee into the wee hours of the morning on this particular Thursday night, as the clock in the kitchen rang mid-night, as the next chapter beckoned me.  My vinous soul-mate had now captured me for at least another half hour as she ushered me into the story of her relationship with yet another of my heros: Becky Wasserman.  Any person who has ever known me is keenly aware of my affection for the Queen of Burgundy.  I’ve written of The Woman and her wines for many years, publicly offering my thoughts with the launching of my blogs at the start of this year.

It was Becky’s wines, and those of Kermit Lynch, that fostered in my palate, at the ripe old age of nearly 18, a never-to-die love of the juice of Burgundy.  It would be those precious wines that would find me saving every extra dime I could muster to sponsor my more than a dozen trips to the Cote D’Or over my career.  So passionate for the wines from Gevrey to Santenay had Becky unknowingly made me that I found myself spending 2 harvests in Pernand Vergelesses just to understand this land’s terroir even better.  For all my time here, the gracious Paul Cadieu presented me with a framed diploma, something I’m proud to hang on my wall, even if few understand its merit.  So one may understand that reading the pages, discovering that Wasserman and Feiring are friends, well, it gave me joy – and great hope for my future.

Reading those pages also brought back the glorious April of 1990.  I was working for one of the giants of the liquor industry, finding my footing, and the company paying my salary was a major client of Wilson Daniels.  Just prior to that April, over the Christmas holiday preceding, I had sold so much wine for the company – Burgundy to be precise, thank you – that I had found myself in the company of one Mr. Haas, the son of the owner of yet another powerful Burgundy import company, this one called Vineyard Brands.  I had familiarized myself with “lucky’s” brands – Gouges, Mongeard-Mugneret, and others – and had been selling them to my customers in a frenzy.

Young Haas and his side kick approached me in the wine section of this rather imposing liquor store where I was performing my magic and suggested I consider a trip to visit their producers.  The seed was planted, I would not be deterred, I was off to Burgundy; the Mother Land was beckoning.  I emptied my paltry savings account, with absolutely zero regard for how I would pay rent upon my return (WOULD I return?), accepted the bargain that came from my then-Mother-In-Law that allowed for us to use her frequent flier miles, and away I went.  Burgundy, here I come…

I spent a full week in Burgundy on that trip, only wasting enough time in Paris to land, find a bus to the rental car location and hit the Autoroute.  Contrary to what may seem obvious based on my town of current residence, I am not a big city fan, I prefer the country, so the quicker I could escape Paris, the better.  Besides, I had spent the time on the flight memorizing the map of the Cote D’Or so I wanted to test my skills.  Would I be able to recall, without looking, the Villages as we made our way down the R.N. 74?  My travel companions, all 3, were not nearly the Burg-heads as I, yet I remained steadfast in my resolve; this was MY trip.  Burgundy is our ONLY mission.

I visited as many of the Vineyard Brands’ estates as one could possibly fit into one week’s itinerary.  Literally a dozen rolls of film, perhaps more, were exhausted, and I remember to this day the nearly knock down fight I had with my now-ex when we split; the photos of that trip and the couch were mine!  We visited the 8 fingered Theirry Matrot, finger-less from rose trimming with his wife, if I translated him properly.  And there was the trip to the gorgeous Chateau in the Cote de Beaune with its ivy covered cellar walls and limestone entrance.  Probably the most memorable, though I couldn’t have known it at the time, was the meeting with the Father himself, Henri Gouges.  This meeting was only a few years before his death and the personal attention he gave me on that day, allowing me a tasting of his wines from my birth year – 1966 – is one etched into the deepest corners of my mind.  So many others were so very generous to me that week, exposing my mind and palate to the riches of this land I continue to adore.  But it would be a late arrival to one stop – and the subsequent cancelled meeting – that would change my life forever.

In Burgundy, particular to this region and more so than any other I’ve visited in France, punctuality is demanded; not required, demanded.  I arrived half an hour late for a particular appointment one afternoon that April to find my scheduled host departed.  Deflated but undeterred, I decided to head to Vosne Romanee to try my luck.  We had no appointment, but I knew some names.

In Vosne Romanee proper, the tiny little Village nestled at the base of some of the most sought after vineyard parcels in all of Burgundy – if not the world – there is an address of one Aubert de Villaine.  Many a story has been told of this man’s famous history, of his family’s estate known as Domaine de la Romanee Conti, most tales certainly more glowing and illuminating than one I could dare to offer.  Amazingly, however, as one reads tales of the history of this Domaine producing the much coveted $10,000 bottle of wine, there are precious few collections that include personal photographs of the cellar and chais.  As yours truly waited outside for de Villaine to authenticate my credentials, such a lack of photographic evidence would not be this visitor’s err.

I had knocked at the door on this glorious day in April of 1990 and de Villaine himself, quite unusually, had come to see who was calling.  In my broken French I explained that I worked for a client of Wilson Daniels, naming my employer of the time, and asked if per chance we could have a visit.  Explaining that the Domaine took no visitors without express pre-arranged itineraries, but with a gentlemanly offer to check his cellar master’s availability (in perfect, almost British-like English) de Villaine asked us to wait, leaving us momentarily.  My travel companion, the one burdened with photo-taking responsibilities, went to work. 

The front of the building was covered to the second floor window with the most pristine and well kept budding red roses that I had yet to experience.  Rounding the back side of the house, we gazed into the courtyard at what seemed so innocent.  This was the entrance to the chais itself; the entrance to the barrel room housing finished bottles and resting barrels of Romanee Conti in Francois Freres oak barrels at nearly $7,000 per bottle at that time.  It was all so quaint and unassuming; a yellow garden hose not quite rolled all the way in, little white flowers just in bloom at the entrance to the cellar itself.  Yet everything, including the pebbled drive was immaculate.  Is this really happening?  I am really here?

De Villaine came round to find us, smiling, almost jovial, thanking us for being at the property.  My initial reaction was one of grief.  I just knew we were going to be escorted out with only photos to show for our daring decent on this dynasty.  “Come with me”, he said instead, and we were escorted down the stairs into the cellars of the most remarkable Domaine in all of Burgundy.  The cellar master smiled, grabbed the wine thief and my mind floated away.

I was not even 25 years old in that moment in time yet my palate was as alive and precise as it has ever been.  I was tasting from barrel the 1988s and my amateur tasting notes from those memorable days, to this day kept in a file drawer with so many others I’ve collected over time, contain vernacular that include words we all come to recognize when in the presence of true greatness.  My photo-taking travel companion, Marcy, shot one last photo on that day, God bless her, one that remains today thumb-tacked above my computer.  As we finished our mind numbing affair on that glorious afternoon, just before exiting the chais I was photographed with my hand resting upon a perfect barrel of Romanee Conti.  My eyes are just slightly glazed over, my circa-1980’s horn-rimmed glasses riding high on my nose, my Elvis hair-do in perfect form.

I had done the DRC. 

I had done it; and the proof in pictures and on my palate was forever a part of my life.

All the best in wine and life,

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

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